Priest, philosopher and ethicist awarded University's highest honour

Thursday, 7 May 2009

4 May 2009: Jesuit priest Father Bill Uren was awarded Australian Catholic University’s (ACU) highest honour today in Melbourne, Doctor of the University, in recognition of his leadership and contributions in the area of bioethics.

The Rector of Newman College at the University of Melbourne, Father Uren is a graduate of the Universities of Melbourne, Sydney and Oxford and of the Melbourne College of Divinity; and has lectured in moral philosophy and bioethics at the University of Melbourne, the University of Queensland and Edith Cowan University in Perth.

photo: Bill Uren

He has served on numerous ethics and bioethics committees - with Catholic Archdioceses, both public and Catholic hospitals, community institutes and foundations, and government commissions and boards.

Father Uren began his Jesuit training after finishing secondary school at the well-known Jesuit Xavier College, Melbourne.

The tradition of Jesuit training was that it included university studies at a secular university, and Father Uren completed both a Bachelor and a Master of Arts at Melbourne University, each with first class Honours in Philosophy.

He then studied for a postgraduate diploma in Jurisprudence at the University of Sydney and later, as an ordained Jesuit, read for his Master of Letters, in Philosophy, at Oxford.

Father Uren has since become one of Australia’s best-known thinkers about the many legal-philosophical quandaries of contemporary issues, particularly those of a medical nature.

He has published widely and is in constant demand as a speaker on issues such as: the law and abortion, moral and ethical aspects of assisted reproduction, euthanasia, stem cell research, treatment of the human embryo, gene therapy, ethical dilemmas in rationing the health dollar and informed consent for research.

From 2000-06 Father Uren was a member of the Australian Health Ethics Committee which produced for the Federal Government a National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research, which is used as a guide for those involved in research, research governance and ethical review.

Vice-Chancellor of ACU, Professor Greg Craven, said Father Uren was to be commended for articulating such important sentiments that are both Christian and an index of our common humanity.

“We owe him a debt for his lifetime of reflection on difficult moral issues; for bringing to bear both his strong faith and immense scholarship in philosophy and its relation with law, medicine and science; and his tireless action to put forward a strong fixed point, for society to take its bearings,” he said.