College of Fellows

College of Fellows

John Thomas Noonan, Jr.

Citation at the Induction into the College of Fellows - Fr. Michael Sweeney, OP
May 2009

DSPT Fellow - John T. Noonan, Jr.John Thomas Noonan Jr., husband and father, scholar, author, teacher, distinguished jurist, faithful son of the Church, the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology salutes you.

You have written of the great Dominican Saints, sometimes lawyers by training, nearly all of them employed the methods of legal argumentation; Thomas the poet and Catherine the mystic not least. But they did not stop at the law. They sought what is beyond legal argumentation, what is reached only in the free response of the human conscience: the Truth; and responding to the Truth they were creative in marvelously diverse ways. Doing so, they are all moral models for us. They are moral models for us, but not merely moral models. Like Thomas and Catherine, you have sought what is “beyond legal argumentation” and, responding to the Truth, you have shown yourself to be “creative in marvelously diverse ways.”

A native of Boston, you completed your undergraduate studies at Harvard University and then your master's and doctoral degrees in philosophy from the Catholic University of America. Returning to Harvard, you were rewarded the LL.B. degree from Harvard law school in 1954. Having practiced law in Boston, you accepted appointment in 1960 to the University of Notre Dame and, in 1966 to Boalt Hall at the University of California, Berkeley, where you remain as Robbins Professor, Emeritus. In 1985 you were appointed by President Reagan to the Ninth Circuit Court. You have been generous in your service to your nation and your Church: as a consultant for the Presidential Commission on Population, the National Institutes of Health, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the American Law Institute; and as a consultant for Pope Paul VI’s Commission on Problems of the Family, and for the U. S. Catholic Conference’s committees on moral values, law and public policy, law and life issues, and social development and world peace. You have authored fourteen books on such diverse subjects as abortion, bribery, usury, contraception, divorce, euthanasia, family law, legal ethics, religious freedom, and the development of moral theology. You have insisted throughout upon the uniqueness of the American Constitution, particularly in its guarantee of religious freedom and the consequent truth that society is a greater reality than can be expressed in government or the courts. You have, indeed, “employed the methods of legal argumentation" but you have not stopped at the law; rather, you have never ceased to seek the Truth that is beyond legal argumentation.

Your contribution to your nation and to the Academy has been widely recognized: you have been awarded honorary Doctor of Laws degrees by seven universities and received, in 1984, the University of Notre Dame's Laetare medal, and, in 1995, the Aquinas medal from the American Catholic Philosophical Association. Foundational to Dominican education is the necessity to understand and to appreciate the culture in which we are immersed in order that we may address it. In this task we can have no greater assistance than yours. We are therefore both honored and gratified that you have consented to collaborate with us as a Fellow of the School. Therefore, as an expression of our esteem and gratitude, and in virtue of the authority invested in me by the Board of Trustees of the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, I am privileged to bestow upon you, John Thomas Noonan, the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters honoris causa, and to name you as a Fellow of the School.