Professor Germain Grisez passes at age 88
February opened with the loss of a legend.
On the first of the month, Professor Germain Grisez passed away. Grisez was a renown philosopher and one of the most prominent defenders of Thomistic theology. He is perhaps best known for his defense of Humanae Vitae in the face of raging criticisms of the 60s and for his famous text, The Way of the Lord Jesus, still used in seminaries today.
He was something of a pioneer in philosophy, rejecting “neo-scholastic interpretation[s] of Aquinas” and instead emphasizing the importance of free will and natural law.1 Despite being Thomistic, however, Grisez prioritized intellectual integrity and this dedication led him to disagree with Aquinas on various points.2 Branching from Thomistic philosophy, he co-founded a new school of philosophy called “New Natural-Law Theory“ according to an interview by the National Catholic Register.
People like Professor Grisez understand and can defend Humanae Vitae on a level that most of us never could, and for that, we at CCL are truly indebted and most grateful.
The mechanics of philosophy are intended to mirror those of reality, acting as a way to describe objective truth at its most basic level. Although many laypeople struggle to see the value of philosophy, it undergirds all of our thought processes, worldviews and conversations. Intellectual battles are fought on a philosophical level before anywhere else, which puts philosophers like Grisez on the front lines. Further, since philosophy is the foundation of theology, his skills also put him on the front lines of theological questions in the Church.
It was this academic positioning that brought Grisez to the defense of Humanae Vitae when it was released to fierce criticism. Grisez did not stand beside Pope Paul VI’s document simply for the sake of political loyalty, obedience or personal preference, but from a deeply consistent intellectual drive to discover and promote objective truth. The study of philosophy led him to discover what is, and ethics drove him to defend the Truth at all personal and professional costs.
With the loss of Grisez, the world has lost a great mind, a fierce defender of natural law and a deep lover of the beauty of humanity.
— Forest Hempen
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[1.] The First Principle of Practical Reason: A Commentary on the Summa Theologiae (1965), I-II, Q. 94, A. 2.
[2.] George, Robert P. (1995). Honderich, Ted, ed. The Oxford Companion to Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 328.