Law School Public Lecture — The Hon. Michael Kirby AC CMG

The Hon. Michael Kirby AC CMG

Image: The Hon. Michael Kirby AC CMG

Engaging with the Catholic Church on Homosexuality

Date: Thu 18th Jul 2019 1:00pm-2:30pm

Location: Belshaw Lecture Theatre, W40 EBL
Contact: Anna Lawlor  akirk@une.edu.au 67733585

Michael Kirby was a Justice of the High Court of Australia from 1996–2009. Since his judicial retirement he has been engaged in a number of UN and other international activities. Most recently these have included as co-chair of the Human Rights Institute of the International Bar Association, the world's largest global organisation of lawyers. Like many international organisations, the IBA has advocated the abolition of the criminal punishments imposed on LGBTIQ people for adult, private, consensual sexual activity.

In April 2019, a delegation of the IBA travel to Rome at the invitation of Pope Francis. The purpose was to encourage the Holy See to urge the abolition of criminal laws which cause violence and hostility towards gay people in many countries. The IBA delegation included its chief executive, Dr Mark Ellis (USA); the executive director of the Human Rights Institute, Baroness Helena Kennedy QC of the UK; and Michael Kirby. He was included so that the voice of a person who identifies with the LGBTIQ minority would be heard in the Vatican. The delegation was received by the highest official, Cardinal Pietro Parolin. After hearing the submissions, the Cardinal Secretary of State declared that he would report to the Pope. He expressed his view that there was ‘’much common ground ‘’between the IBA submissions and the Catholic Church.

But will this dialogue be fruitful, given the centuries-old doctrines that appear to condemn homosexuality? Will it make a difference in Africa and the Caribbean where hostility is rife and laws antagonistic? Will it overcome past teachings?

These are issues important to countries that still criminalise gay sex. But they also have importance in Australia which is considering the introduction of new laws on 'religious liberty'. How will those laws impinge on gay students in religious schools and institutions?

These and other issues will be addressed in this public lecture at the UNE on Thursday, 18 April 2019 in Armidale.