About Germain Grisez

For thirty years—from 1 July 1979 to 30 June 2009—Germain Grisez was the Most Rev. Harry J. Flynn Professor of Christian Ethics at Mount Saint Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Founded in 1808, the Mount is a unique combination of a seminary that trains men for the Catholic priesthood and a four-year, co-educational, undergraduate college (with a few graduate programs). The college is the second oldest Catholic college in the United States and the seminary is the second oldest Catholic seminary. The seminary also is one of the largest Catholic seminaries in the United States and is widely regarded as one of the best.

Grisez’s main work at the Mount has been researching and writing The Way of the Lord Jesus; his teaching contributed to that work. Now that he is Professor Emeritus, his schedule is no longer ruled by deadlines and responsibilities that must be fulfilled at specified times. Rather than retiring, however, Grisez continues working. He still resides on campus and receives ongoing support: office space, an expense account, computer support, and the use of University facilities.

Grisez’s great-grandfather, François Xavier Grisez, was born in Plancher-Bas, Canton de Lure, France, in 1797. In 1833, he sold his farm and, along with other families, moved to northeastern Ohio, where they eventually established a farming township, Maximo. His youngest son’s youngest son was Germain’s father, William Joseph Grisez, who was born on the farm in 1883. He studied bookkeeping in Alliance, Ohio.


Germain’s Parents
9 January 1905

There he met Germain’s mother, Mary Catherine Lindesmith (born in Alliance in 1885). Her mother’s parents had been English and Irish Catholics. Her father, a Catholic descendant of a mostly Lutheran, Swiss-German family, was killed in an accident while working as a railroad switchman when Mary Catherine Lindesmith was fourteen. She and William Joseph Grisez married on 9 January 1905. He was the first member of the French community around Maximo to marry someone outside it, and she was the last Catholic member of her family who would have children and hand on her faith to them.

Handing on the faith was something she did with both enthusiasm and wisdom. During the next quarter-century, William and Mary Grisez had nine children, the last of them Germain, who was born 30 September 1929. Two of his brothers and one of his sisters became members of institutes of religious life and devoted their lives to Catholic education. Mary Grisez hoped one of her sons would become a priest, and Germain was the last to disappoint her, though eventually she was pleased that he committed himself to the apostolate of Catholic intellectual life as a layman.

Grisez did his undergraduate studies at John Carroll University, University Heights, Ohio (1947–50). As a freshman in 1947, he thought he might become a lawyer—to seek justice for victims of injustice—or perhaps a Catholic journalist.

In 1948–49, however, a young and enthusiastic philosophy instructor, Marshall Boarman, who was just beginning his career by teaching a required course in logic to four large sections of mostly reluctant students, brought together a small group of the more promising students, including Grisez, in an informal seminar that spent an evening a week reading and discussing the beginning of St. Thomas Aquinas’s Summa theologiae. That thirteenth-century book is among the greatest philosophical and theological works. Beginning to read widely on his own in the Summa and Thomas’s other works, Grisez decided in the fall of 1949 to major in philosophy.

While reading Thomas’s treatment of heaven after midnight Mass on Christmas morning, 1949, Grisez discerned that he was called to serve the truth God revealed in Jesus by becoming a professional philosopher. His task, he supposed, would be to explain and defend the existence of God, the human ability to make free choices, and other truths that are necessary presuppositions of a reasonable commitment of faith. Aware that Christian students in secular universities seldom encounter the work of St. Thomas, Grisez thought he should pursue a doctorate in a leading secular philosophy department with a view to becoming a professor in a secular college or university.

At John Carroll, Grisez had received a full scholarship during his freshman year, and was allowed to accelerate his studies after the first semester. He completed his work for the A.B. in three years, with a major in philosophy and minors in English and history, and formally received his Bachelor of Arts degree, magna cum laude, on 11 June 1951—two days after he received his M.A.

How did that happen? To prepare for graduate study in a secular university, Grisez spent the year 1950–51 obtaining a stronger foundation in the work of Thomas by carrying out an individualized program of studies at the Dominican College of St. Thomas Aquinas, River Forest, Illinois. His classmates were seminarians, but Grisez, already engaged to be married, was enrolled as a layman on a full scholarship. On 9 June 1951, he received the Master of Arts degree.

On the same day, he and Jeannette Eunice Selby married. (To learn about her contributions to his life and work, please click on Jeannette Grisez in the column to the right.) For his work with the Dominicans, Grisez also received a Licentiate in Philosophy which was awarded summa cum laude on 7 September 1951. (A Licentiate roughly corresponds to a Masters degree, and is awarded only by institutes chartered by the Holy See.)

In the summer of 1951, Grisez began six years of study for a doctorate in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Chicago. In those years, the senior professors in that Department differed radically among themselves in both their methodologies and views, and engaged in constant and very lively debate. As a fortunate consequence, their standards for evaluating a student’s work did not require the students to agree with any professor, and able students, including Catholics, were challenged to develop their gifts and become equipped for creative work in philosophy.

As a graduate student at Chicago, Grisez was an Asher Fellow (1953–54), a University Fellow (1954–55), a University Scholar (1955–56), and a Charles E. Merrill Fellow (1956–57). During four and one-half of those years of graduate study, Grisez also worked full time at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, and during three-quarters of another year he worked there half time. By August of 1957, he had met nearly all the requirements for the Ph.D. and began teaching that fall, but completing his dissertation delayed reception of the degree until 28 August 1959.

When Grisez went job hunting in late 1956, no secular university would hire him. An official at one university explicitly told him that, despite his academic qualifications, he was unaccaptable due to his faith commitment. Reluctantly applying to Catholic universities, Grisez received many offers and accepted Georgetown University’s offer to begin teaching as an assistant professor in the fall of 1957.

To meet a need in the philosophy program at Georgetown, he began working on ethical theory and teaching ethics as soon as he received his Ph.D. in 1959. Although teaching full time at Georgetown, Grisez also taught a two-semester course on medieval philosophy during 1961–62 at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. In 1963–64, with the help of a Lilly Foundation Post-doctoral Fellowship in Religion, Grisez had a full-year’s sabbatical. That year, too, Georgetown granted him tenure and promoted him to associate professor.

During 1963, a controversy over contraception broke out among Catholics. Earlier Grisez had doubted the Church’s teaching that contraception is always wrong, but he never thought it safe to act on that doubt or appropriate to mention it to anyone. Nevertheless, it had led him to examine arguments similar to those used in 1963 to justify contraception. Finding them wanting, he had become convinced that the teaching was true and could not change.

Expecting Pope Paul VI soon to reaffirm the teaching, Grisez nevertheless also thought that existing explanations of contraception’s wrongness were unsound and believed he could provide a better account. He also expected his career to suffer if he came out against contraception. During the week after Easter 1964 he outlined an article on the subject while prayerfully pondering what to do. With the outline finished, he discerned that he had to proceed and in two months wrote, not an article, but his first book, Contraception and the Natural Law.

That book was published early in 1965. The Bruce Publishing editor who accepted the book and saw it through the press was William E. May. Soon after the book was published, a national Catholic weekly, Our Sunday Visitor, asked Grisez for a brief, easily understandable summary. He needed help to popularize his argument, and a friend suggested Russell Shaw, a young and able writer with NC News service. Grisez contacted Shaw, who produced a summary of the book in the form of an interview, which was published in four parts and later as a pamphlet. Both Bill May and Russ Shaw became lifelong friends of Grisez and important collaborators in his later work. (For more about them, please click on their names in the column to the right.)

Before submitting the manuscript of the contraception book for publication, Grisez had enlisted the Rev. John C. Ford, S.J., a very able moral theologian who had worked on marriage questions, to check it out. Soon after he did so, Ford was asked by Pope Paul VI to serve on the Pontifical Commission for Population, Family, and Birthrate—the so-called birth control commission. Grisez helped Ford with that work from the spring of 1965 until early July 1966.

During the final month of that period, the two worked together full time in Rome as the Commission completed its agenda and they then prepared a commentary on its final report at the request of Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. (For more about Grisez’s work with Father Ford and about Ford himself, please click on his name in the column to the right.)

In 1966–67, Grisez grew increasingly concerned that the widespread acceptance of contraception, including methods that bring about early abortion, would lead to the legalization of abortion. The false premises and sophistries characteristic of arguments for legalization made it clear that a carefully researched and argued treatment of the subject was necessary, and Grisez began working on that project in the spring of 1967.

In July 1968, Pope Paul VI finally reaffirmed the constant and very firm teaching of the Catholic Church regarding contraception, sterilization, and abortion in his encyclical, Humanae vitae. Around the world, some Catholics openly dissented from the reaffirmed teaching, and some theologians at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., promoted public dissent.

A group of priests in the Archdiocese of Washington publicly undertook to apply the dissenting opinion in pastoral practice. To help deal with that situation, Patrick Cardinal O’Boyle, Archbishop of Washington, employed Grisez, obtained a leave of absence for him from Georgetown during 1968–69, and kept him very busy for five months. He then gave him time off to complete his book on abortion.

That book was published in 1970: Abortion: The Myths, the Realities, and the Arguments. Also during 1970, without additional leave from Georgetown, Grisez again worked for Cardinal O’Boyle, this time preparing a book-length report for the Holy See’s Congregation for the Clergy regarding the Cardinal’s disciplining of his dissenting priests. In 1972, Pope Paul VI honored both Germain Grisez and his wife, Jeannette, with Pro ecclesia et pontifice medals in recognition of their service to the Church.

Georgetown University promoted Grisez to full professor in 1971 and offered him a sabbatical during 1972–73. Early in 1972, however, Grisez gave notice that he would quit at the end of that year’s summer session. During his fifteen years at Georgetown, Grisez taught both undergraduate and graduate students. Among the latter, the best was Joseph Boyle, who became a lifelong collaborator. (For more about Boyle, please click on his name in the column to the right.)

During those years, Grisez also gave many public lectures, and besides the books on contraception and abortion, he published many scholarly articles, including seminal ones in the ethical theory he was articulating. In support of his research and writing, he received several grants from the Medora A. Feehan Charitable and Educational Trust.

When Grisez resigned from Georgetown in 1972, he had accepted an invitation to become a professor of philosophy at Campion College, a Catholic college that is an integral part of the mostly secular University of Regina, in Saskatchewan, Canada. Campion was striving to carry on collegially an apostolate along the lines Grisez had hoped to undertake individually. His new job would also free him from many burdensome responsibilities and leave him more time for research and writing.

Grisez was with Campion for seven years—from 1 July 1972 to 30 June 1979. During the first six of those years, he not only carried a normal teaching load but published several books and articles. In collaboration with Russell Shaw, he published an ethics textbook, Beyond the New Morality: The Responsibilities of Freedom, which provided a non-technical summary of his ethical theory. Grisez collaborated with Joseph Boyle and Olaf Tollefsen—whose Georgetown doctoral dissertations he had mentored—on Free Choice: A Self-Referential Argument, which employed Boyle’s groundbreaking work on self-referential argumentation.

By himself, Grisez preesented many elements of an original metaphysics in Beyond the New Theism: A Philosophy of Religion. With Boyle’s help, Grisez complemented his work on abortion with Life and Death with Liberty and Justice: A Contribution to the Euthanasia Debate. And he also encouraged and helped several Campion colleagues to complete and publish manuscripts on which they had been working.

During 1974–75, Grisez was one of seventeen co-authors who worked on The Teaching of Christ: A Catholic Catechism for Adults. Having read Grisez’s early books, John Finnis, a Fellow of University College, Oxford, had begun using the ethical theory set out in them. When the editors of The Teaching of Christ invited Finnis and Grisez to prepare two chapters each on morals, they agreed to collaborate on all four chapters. Finnis did most of the work on the four chapters, while Grisez contributed to the catechism project mainly by making extensive comments on the whole first draft. (For more about John Finnis, please click on his name in the column to the right.)

In preparing those comments, Grisez for the first time carefully studied some of the documents of Vatican II and in a passage of the one on the Church, Lumen gentium, 25, discovered the basis for more cogently formulating an argument that Fr. John Ford and he had offered in 1966. So, in 1976–77, Ford and Grisez used that passage to show that the Church’s day-to-day catechesis over many centuries had already infallibly affirmed that choosing to contracept is always gravely wrong. The article appeared in the June 1978 issue of Theological Studies: “Contraception and the Infallibility of the Ordinary Magisterium.”

In the 1970s, Grisez also often contributed to the work of committees of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Most significantly, he helped Auxiliary Bishop John B. McDowell of Pittsburgh, chair of the committee that prepared To Live in Christ Jesus: A Pastoral Reflection on the Moral Life, which the U.S. bishops issued in November 1976 and which Pope John Paul II singled out for commendation when he addressed them in Chicago in October 1979.

While working on the The Teaching of Christ project, the article on contraception and the ordinary magisterium, and the pastoral on moral life, Grisez became convinced that the Church needed a new moral theology. Until the mid-1970s, very few Catholic moral theologians had responded more than superficially to Vatican II’s mandate for renewal in this field. Even before the dissent against Humanae vitae, many moral theologians, including several of the most prestigious, tried instead to help Catholics who judged themselves guilty of mortal sin to feel free of it without repenting and amending their lives.

Having been trained in philosophy rather than theology, however, Grisez at first did not think he could meet the need for a new moral theology. He tried to persuade able theologians to undertake the project, but none was willing. So, in 1977, he began to think he might be called to this task.

But Campion had neither a graduate theology program nor a theological library. Reflecting on this, Grisez realized that he could not undertake the new project unless he had a position on the faculty of a major seminary with several features: his teaching duties would be shaped by his research and writing, he would have a substantial expense fund and adequate office space, and he would be free of the departmental and committee responsibilities that had been so burdensome at Georgetown.

Obviously, no seminary was likely to offer him such a position. But, Grisez reasoned: If the Lord wants me to carry out this work, he will give me the means to do it. Still, he did not expect to be given the means unless he did what he could to obtain them. So, in May 1977, he drafted a description of the project and of what he needed to undertake it, and sent that grant application to one hundred foundations that supported Catholic causes and to every Catholic bishop in charge of a diocese in the United States.

Although a few bishops soon responded favorably, after a month it began to seem unlikely that adequate means would become available. But Bishop McDowell volunteered to promote the support of other bishops, and his efforts quickly obtained what was needed. He also set up a Trust for Theological Studies to receive and hold contributions and by September 1977 told Grisez to find the place to do the work. Grisez received that message as God’s call to write The Way of the Lord Jesus and as an assurance that the Holy Spirit would enable him to do what he had earlier regarded as impossible.

Looking into possibile places to do the work, Grisez encountered resistance by some and discerned unacceptable conditions at others. But Father Harry Flynn, then Rector of Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary (and later Bishop of Lafayette in Louisiana and still later Archbishop of St. Paul-Minneapolis), encouraged Robert Wickenheiser, then President of the Mount, to invite Grisez to discuss the possibility of coming there.

Wickenheiser did so, and they met in his office on 16 February 1978. Grisez expected many questions and a lengthy negotiation. But the two agreed that day to work out a plan for the Mount to host the project. Five days later, Wickenheiser obtained the Mount Board’s approval and established the Rev. Harry J. Flynn Chair of Christian Ethics, and on 23 June 1978 the Mount’s contract with Grisez, including his appointment to the new Chair, was signed.

Meanwhile, in May, Campion College gave Grisez a full year’s sabbatical, and the Grisezs moved back to Maryland near Washington, D.C., where Germain had access to excellent libraries. He and Joseph Boyle worked together during the summer of 1978 developing the plan for Christian Moral Principles. During 1978–79, Grisez did a great deal of research and obtained others’ help, not least of John Finnis during a week together in Oxford right after Easter 1979.

On 18 July 1979, Grisez began drafting the first chapter of Christian Moral Principles,, and on 8 September the Grisezs moved to the campus of Mount Saint Mary’s. On 21 April 1980, Grisez completed a one-half million word, first draft of the book; and a few weeks later he finished using that first draft as the textbook for more than fifty seminarians in first theology. With a additional help by Joseph Boyle and a great deal of help by Russell Shaw, that draft was thoroughly revised, as were subsequent drafts each year, until the volume was completed during 1982–83 and published just before the end of 1983.

Grisez at once began working on the second volume, Living a Christian Life. Although colleagues again provided substantial help, work on that volume took ten years, partly because Grisez had to research the many topics new to him and be very careful in drafting to ensure that all the Church’s specific teachings would be stated as accurately and understandably as possible.

When the second volume was finished in 1993, Grisez went to work on Difficult Moral Questions. It was much easier and more enjoyable to write, because it involved working with a great many people who had the problems treated or were especially interested in them.

When the third volume was published in 1997, Grisez began working on the fourth: Clerical and Consecrated Service and Life. Work on that volume proceeded very slowly, again partly because of the extensive research required but partly because Grisez was growing less efficient as he aged. By the end of 2013, it became clear that volume four would never be completed, and the work that had been done, despite its unfinished state, was published on this website. (To see it, please click on the Vol. 4 tab in the ribbon at the top of this page.)

Then too, while at the Mount, as Grisez’s publications list (accessed by the Other Works tab) makes clear, he has done a great deal of other scholarly work, much of it closely related to his main work but some of it in response to urgent, wider needs of the Catholic Church and the world. He also participated in several international theological meetings and provided help and advice on many occasions to various offices of the Holy See, to bishops, and to others.

During his years at the Mount, Grisez received supplemental grants from the De Rance Foundation and received awards from the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars, the Catholic Medical Association, and the Center for Bioethics and Culture. In the spring of 2009, the Mount’s Board of Trustees and President Thomas H. Powell recognized Grisez’s work by designating him Emeritus Professor and conferring on him the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity.

Earlier, in 2005, tragedy struck Grisez. On the morning of 27 January, he had left for Houston, Texas, to give the annual St. Thomas day lecture at the University of St. Thomas. That day, his wife, Jeannette, suffered a devastating stroke. Late the following evening, he arrived home and found her lying in a coma on their bed. Although she recovered consciousness so that she was able to answer questions by tightly closing and widely opening her eyes, she never spoke again, and, despite intensive care and many people’s fervent prayers for her recovery, she died on 13 February 2005.

A few months later, Grisez met Mariazinha Filomena Rozario, and the couple married on 25 February 2006. However, after four years of striving to live happily together, they agreed to separate on 21 September 2010. While they expect this separation to be permanent in this world, they hope and pray that they will remain faithful to each other and to the Lord, meet again in the Kingdom, and live happily there forever with each other and all their loved ones.

Colleagues

Over the years, many people helped Grisez and/or made significant use of his work in their own. He came to regard them as colleagues, and often helped them with their own work. Each of those listed below has contributed a page to this site. Press on his name to view it. For those with pages on other websites, links are provided.

Joseph Boyle was the most gifted philosophy student Grisez ever had and became one of the most able philosophers he has known. Boyle’s doctoral dissertation, on the logic of self-reference, provided a powerful tool for philosophical argumentation, and as soon as he completed it and received his Ph.D. (in 1970), he and Grisez, along with Olaf Tollefsen, began using that tool to develop the book-length argument they published in 1975: Free Choice: A Self-Referential Argument. Boyle and Grisez later co-authored other books and important articles, and helped each other with many of their works that were not co-authored. The greatest instance of that help was Boyle’s work on the first two volumes of The Way of the Lord Jesus. Not only did the two men work together in planning and outlining those volumes, but in working out many of the new arguments in them and revising the drafts that Grisez produced. All told, between 1978 to 1997, Boyle devoted about one full year of his time to helping Grisez with The Way of the Lord Jesus, and Boyle’s help contributed greatly to the logical tightness and clarity of the volumes. Indeed, in a less vast project, Boyle’s contribution to the first two volumes would have grounded a just claim to coauthorship. Boyle also contributed substantially to the ongoing development of the ethical theory that Grisez had worked out and used in his early books on contraception and abortion. Moreover, after Grisez began concentrating on moral theology, Boyle continued independently developing and applying their ethical theory to a wide range of issues, especially in bioethics.

Gerard V. Bradley was working on an undergraduate term paper, critical of Roe v. Wade, when he encountered Grisez’s Abortion: The Myths, the Realities, and the Arguments. During the next twelve years, Bradley read more of Grisez’s work, and the two finally met at the 1986 convention of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars. After that, as his interest in natural law theory and friendship with Robert George grew, Bradley increasingly drew on Grisez’s thought in his own professional life and work. Beginning in the early 1990s, Bradley and Grisez often participated together in professional meetings, and in the mid-90s Bradley helped Grisez work up several of the cases in his Difficult Moral Questions.

E. Christian Brugger first sought Grisez’s advice on 27 June 1994 about doing doctoral work in moral theology, and the two men have been friends since then. John Finnis mentored Brugger’s Oxford University doctoral dissertation on capital punishment. That fine work, subsequently published by University of Notre Dame Press, fully developed—and in some respects corrected—Grisez’s sketchy treatment of the theology of capital punishment. Brugger also has made use of Grisez’s work in much of his subsequent teaching and writing, and has helpfully commented on some of Grisez’s drafts.

Basil Cole, O.P., was beginning his graduate work in 1967 when he read some of Grisez’s first works and asked him for help. Grisez responded, and the two became friends. Over the years, Father Basil commented quickly and helpfully on all the drafts of The Way of the Lord Jesus and on many other things Grisez sent him. While the two men disagree on some matters, Father Basil has also made good use in his own writing and teaching of Grisez’s work.

Go to Fr. Basil’s Web Page

John Finnis, already a Fellow of University College, Oxford, sent Grisez a congratulatory note on the publication of his Abortion: The Myths, the Realities, and the Arguments (1970), and Grisez, then a Professor of Philosophy at Georgetown University, was delighted. The two first met face to face for about one week, in Rome, in the spring of 1974; they radically rewrote and reoriented Finnis’s first draft of the moral chapters of an adult catechism, chapters which Finnis eventually did more of the work completing. During that week, the two also discussed the metaphysics of Bernard Lonergan, and, in doing so, began to appreciate each other’s gifts and to sense the possibility of fruitful collaboration. Finnis spoke about his work on Natural Law and Natural Rights, and Grisez offered to help, but Finnis never took up that offer. Instead, he helped Grisez, for two weeks in the spring of 1979, study the major documents of Vatican II, in preparation for drafting Christian Moral Principles. During that exercise, Grisez was amazed by Finnis’s ability to analyze Latin texts and to criticize translators’ misinterpretations of them, which enabled him to make one of his many important contributions to all the volumes of The Way of the Lord Jesus. While Grisez and Finnis subsequently collaborated closely on many projects, each of them also has done a great deal of independent work, and much of Finnis’s work on law and legal philosophy has been little affected by their collaboration. Perhaps their most important collaboration, and surely the most difficult and fulfilling, was their work, along with Joseph Boyle, at many sites and over several years, on Nuclear Deterrence, Morality and Realism. They thought through each sentence in that book until all three were entirely satisfied with it, and each of them learned a lot in the process. Some of the best work Grisez and Finnis did together was in service to the Church and very likely will never be published.

John C. Ford, S.J., then the leading American Catholic moral theologian, in 1964 checked out for Grisez the manuscript of his first book, Contraception and the Natural Law. That fall, Ford was appointed by Pope Paul VI to serve on his Commission on Population, Family, and Borth-rate—the famous ‘birth control commission.’ Ford welcomed Grisez’s help with that work in 1965–66 and again invited him to collaborate in helping Cardinal Patrick A. O’Boyle deal with pastoral dissent from the teaching of Humanae Vitae after Pope Paul issued that encyclical in July 1968. Ford and Grisez together published a major theological article, “Contraception and the Infallibility of the Ordinary Magisterium,” in 1978. While working with Ford, Grisez received mentoring in theology that providentially contributed to his preparation to research and write The Way of the Lord Jesus.

Robert P. George encountered Grisez’s work while studying with John Finnis at Oxford. George asked Grisez to answer some challenging questions. That began a fruitful exchange. While the two have been focusing on different subject matters—Grisez on theological topics and George on philosophical questions underlying contemporary political debate—they have helped each other significantly on some projects. George not only has defended against philosophical critics many of the key ideas that Grisez and Finnis developed and made good use of their thought in his own original work but has promoted their work, notably by organizing a symposium and editing the proceedings: Natural Law and Moral Inquiry: Ethics, Metaphysics, and Politics in the Work of Germain Grisez.

Jeannette Grisez (neé Selby) and Germain Grisez married on 9 June 1951. Jeannette not only was Germain’s loving wife, their children’s attentive mother, and the family’s diligent homemaker, but also was a real colleague in Germain’s work. She died on 13 February 2005.

Robert G. Kennedy was recommended to Grisez in 1981 by Joseph Boyle, as a potential advisor on the use of Scripture and the Church Fathers in The Way of the Lord Jesus. All three volumes, and especially the first, profited from Kennedy’s scholarly skills, his advice about research tools, and his detailed criticisms of every draft. While Grisez was preparing Difficult Moral Questions, Kennedy also offered advice on business ethics, in which he has done a great deal of independent work, and arranged discussion sessions for Grisez on some of the questions in that field. Kennedy’s extensive research on the topics to be treated in volume four was so fruitful that it has contributed to the long delay in the completion of that volume!

Patrick Lee was still doing his doctoral work at Marquette when he became interested in Grisez’s work. The two philosphers began helping each other, and Lee commented on all the drafts of The Way of the Lord Jesus. Besides using Grisez’s work in his own teaching and writing, Lee, both working with Robert P. George and on his own, has continued developing and defending lines of thought initiated by Grisez in his 1970 book, Abortion: The Myths, the Realities, and the Arguments, which is available on the Other Works page of this website.

Go to Prof. Lee’s Web Page

William E. May—a publisher’s representative when he first visited Grisez’s office at Georgetown around 1962—became aware of Grisez’s work by editing his first two books, and adopted the main lines of his fresh account of natural law. In the late ’70s, the two men began helping each other regularly with their work, especially by commenting on drafts, and became closer friends. While the two occasionally disagreed on details of theology, May ably defended against criticisms and misinterpretations by other scholars many of the positions that he, Grisez, and John Finnis held in common. In May’s teaching of many graduate students, worldwide lecturing, and extensive writing, he made more use of The Way of the Lord Jesus than any other theologian did, and thus helped make that work known throughout the world.

Russell Shaw and Grisez began working together in 1965. Shaw not only has co-authored three books with Grisez but did a great deal of re-writing and editorial work on all three volumes of The Way of the Lord Jesus, so that he deserves credit for their readability. The two men have also collaborated on many articles and helped each other with much of their other work over the years. Moreover, Shaw not only helps Grisez express his ideas but often contributes to working them out and getting them published by offering pointed criticisms, helpful suggestions, and prudent advice.

Christopher Olaf Tollefsen—the son of Olaf P. Tollefsen—has been using and developing in his own teaching and writing many aspects of the philosophical work begun by his father, Joseph Boyle, John Finnis, Grisez, and other colleagues. While Christopher has not coauthored any publication with Grisez, he has worked directly with other colleagues, especially Robert P. George.

Olaf P. Tollefsen did his doctoral work at Georgetown University in the late 1960s, and was one of Grisez’s best students. After receiving his Ph.D., Tollefsen collaborated with Joseph Boyle and Grisez in using Boyle’s work in the logic of self-reference to develop a more cogent argument than any previously proposed for the position that human persons can make free choices. In teaching ethics, Tollefsen also made good use of Grisez’s work in that field.