Oxford supports emeritus professor accused of ‘transphobia’

Oxford, England, Jan 9, 2019 / 04:05 pm (CNA).- Oxford University is standing by an emeritus law professor after more than 400 people have signed a petition calling for his removal from the university. Petition organizers say the professor holds discriminatory views about homosexuality and transgenderism.

“John Finnis, Professor at Oxford’s Law Faculty, has a long record of extremely discriminatory views against many groups of disadvantaged people. He is known for being particularly homophobic and transphobic,” the petition reads.

Finnis, 78, is in fact an emeritus law professor at Oxford; he retired from full-time teaching work in 2010, but co-teachers seminars for postgraduate students. He also holds a chair at the University of Notre Dame’s law school.

The professor is known in philosophical circles as a proponent of the “new natural law” theory, which holds that by recognizing certain basic human goods, moral norms can be identified through practical reasoning.

In response to the petition calling for Finnis’ removal, an Oxford spokesperson said that the university and its law school “promote an inclusive culture which respects the rights and dignity of all staff and students. We are clear we do not tolerate any form of harassment of individuals on any grounds, including sexual orientation. Equally, the University’s harassment policy also protects academic freedom of speech and is clear that vigorous academic debate does not amount to harassment when conducted respectfully and without violating the dignity of others.”

Alex Benn, an Oxford law student and petition organizer, told The Oxford Student that “John Finnis has built a career on demonisation. His so-called ‘arguments’ about disadvantaged people are hateful, not to mention widely discredited. His position at Oxford ignores his decades-long promotion of discrimination and, in particular, his active role in worsening the lives of LGBTQ+ people. Meanwhile the Law Faculty—in its silence—is content to give him its stamp of approval.”

But Finnis told The Oxford Student that “the petition travesties my position, and my testimony in American constitutional litigation. Anyone who consults the Law Faculty website and follows the links in the petition can see the petition’s many errors. I stand by all these writings. There is not a ‘phobic’ sentence in them.”

Referencing a 1994 essay on homosexuality especially criticized in the petition, Finnis said it “promotes a classical and strictly philosophical moral critique of all non-marital sex acts and has been republished many times, most recently by Oxford University Press in the third volume of my Collected Essays.”

Finnis made headlines in 2017, during the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, who wrote a dissertation under the professor’s supervision. In February 2017, Robert P. George, McCormich Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, praised Finnis as an “internationally acclaimed philosopher of law and a theorist of natural law and natural rights.”

The professor is a Fellow of the British Academy, and was a member of the International Theological Commission of the Holy See, the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace, and the Pontifical Academy Pro Vita.


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  1. There is nothing that can be construed to be “phobic”, about recognizing that “when psychology is not ordered to biology, a disorder exists”.

    The Rights and Dignity of all human persons can only be affirmed with the recognition of the universal truth, that can be known through both our Catholic Faith and reason, that from The Beginning, every human person Is Created In The Image and Likeness of God, equal in Dignity, while being complementary as a beloved son or daughter, Willed by God, The Most Holy And Undivided Blessed Trinity, worthy of Redemption, as a Reflection of Love, though not yet Perfected, through Salvational Love, God’s Gift of Grace and Mercy.

    Disordered Love is Love’s counterfeit.

    There is order in Truth, as there is order in Love. Just as every element of Truth will serve to complement and thus enhance the fullness of Truth, so, too, will every element of Love, serve to complement and thus enhance the fullness of Love.

    Truth and Love cannot serve in opposition to one another.

    “Caritas In Veritate; Veritas In Caritate.”


  2. “The phrase “sexual orientation” is radically equivocal.”

    It is important to note that the phrase “sexual orientation” is not radically equivocal, but rather, necessarily serves to sexually objectify the human person, who is not, in essence, an object of sexual desire/inclination/orientation, but first and foremost a beloved son or daughter. The phrase “sexual orientation”, which by denying personhood, through its sexual objectification of the human person and denial of the essence of being first and foremost, a beloved son or daughter, necessarily discriminates against being, in essence, a son or daughter, brother or sister, husband or wife, father or mother.

    The erroneous notion that private morality and public morality can serve in opposition to one another and are not complementary, has led to grievous error in both Faith and reason.

    Since it is true that the desire to engage in a demeaning act of any nature, does not change the essence of a demeaning act, and it is true that every beloved son or daughter has the inherent Right to be treted with Dignity and respect in private as well as in public, refusing to condone the engaging in or affirmation of any act, including any sexual act, that demeans the inherent Dignity of our beloved sons and daughters is an act of Love, not an act of discrimination.

  3. John Finnis a Transphobiac! Good news. Another label I’m happy to share along with Homophobic [although it’s not the literal meaning of fear of men rather fear of predatory gay men]. He deserves Oxford’s support because he defends the faith. Although defending the faith and defending human life can sometimes seem at odds. I just wrote a refutation of the distinguished professor’s position on infant craniotomy. Prof Finnis parses the interior act of the will known as intent arguing that one may not will the death of the infant lodged in the birth canal if the actual intent is to modify the skull’s dimensions for passage. Even if death is inevitable. The argument has merit if the surgeon does in fact attempt to modify by instruments designed to modify while seeking utmost care in preventing death, assuming a case when the mother cannot withstand a caesarean. However the works of Finnis I’ve read do not mention that. Instead they reference forceps which in such a case are designed more for crushing as in craniotomy than for modification of dimensions. His argument makes sense if one may rightfully will a good rather than the actual outcome of the procedure. Again the countermand remains. Craniotomy does not support that thesis. The reason as quoted elsewhere is stated by Aquinas. “The proximate end of an act of virtue must be entirely good because every privation of a good in any subject is an evil” (ST 1a2ae 21, 2). Aquinas distinguishes the interior act of the will, the will here the form of the act from the external act of the will [proximate end], its matter [materia circa quam], the latter as the object of the act. The end which is the intent and the end which is the external choice of the will, the act itself must both be good. Otherwise it’s not possible to distinguish good from evil since ultimately that is determined by what we do. Otherwise I fully support Prof Finnis in his exemplary witness to the truth of our faith.

    • “Homophobic [although it’s not the literal meaning of fear of men rather fear of predatory gay men]”

      I thought the “homo” in that case was from the Greek for “same.”

      Those who shriek “Homophobia! Haters!” or “Transphobia! Haters!” are the ones who are actually filled with hate. They are stigmatizing moral judgments as irrational fears. They hate truth; they hate normality. Ultimately, they hate God.

      • Leslie you’ve prompted me to be a language policeman. The Greek Homos means the same. The word I used Homo in Latin simply means Man. I’m turning in my badge now because I don’t like the job.

  4. Oxford “supports” him.

    How nice.

    How about “defending” him?

    There is such a thing as overplaying the ‘victim card’, at the same time assuming moral superiority over the accusee and that seems to be becoming increasingly common.

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