The St Thomas More Society was founded in Sydney in 1945.
The Society is a fellowship of lawyers inspired by the example of St Thomas More (1478-1535), as exemplified by his life of public service, and his martyrdom at Tower Hill on 6 July 1535.
We encourage lawyers, law students and any non-lawyers who share the ideals of the society to register.
To this end, the specific objects of the Society are to provide opportunities to members for acquiring a deeper understanding of the principles of Christian ethics and morality in relation to the profession of the law, through the presentation of those principles by experts, and a free and enlightened discussion of them amongst the members themselves, and, to promote the constant application of the same principles by members in their everyday practice.
- Commences the Law Term each year by convening the Red Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral
- Convenes an Annual Retreat for members
- Convenes Breakfast Seminars on subjects of ethical importance to the profession
- Publishes an official organ, Utopia
- Celebrates the feast day of St Thomas More annually on 22 June with Mass
- Promotes the interaction of its members with people and societies who hold similar ideals; and
- Prays for its deceased members
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Who is St Thomas More?
St Thomas More is an English jurist and humanist, who served as Chancellor of England under King Henry VIII from 1529 to 1532. St Thomas More’s Utopia is a classic of world literature, part of the literary tradition, including writers such as Plato, the author of The Republic, and George Orwell, author of 1984 and Animal Farm. On 6 July 1535, Thomas More was executed at Tower Hill, the King’s good servant, but God’s first.
What is the goal of the St Thomas More Society?
The goal of the St Thomas More Society, consonant with the juris praecepta of the Justinian Code – honeste vivere, alterum non laedere, suum cuique tribuere – is to extend amongst lawyers the highest ideals of culture and morality. To this end, the specific objects of the Society are to provide opportunities to members for acquiring a deeper understanding of the principles of Christian ethics and morality in relation to the profession of the law, through the presentation of those principles by experts, and a free and enlightened discussion of them amongst the members themselves, and, to promote the constant application of the same principles by members in their everyday practice.
What are the principles of Christian ethics and morality?
The Christian ethic is expressed in the Ten Commandments as understood by the Church, and in the Sermon on the Mount which is the ‘magna carta’ of Christian living – and more generally, in Sacred Scripture and in the Tradition of the Church.
This is explained in a contemporary fashion in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, as well as St John Paul II’s encyclicals, Veritatis Splendor, and Evangelium Vitae. St John XXIII’s encyclical Pacem in Terris (1963) is a contemporary expression of natural law thought. Also important to an understanding of Christian ethics, especially as regards lawyers, is the social teaching of the Church outlined in the Compendium of the Social Teaching of the Church, and for instance, in Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical Caritas In Veritate: Integral Human Development in Charity and Truth.Also relevant is the Doctrinal Note of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: On Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life (2002), and the Instruction by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Dignitatis Personae: On Certain Bioethical Questions (2008).
Are there any other helpful sources of Christian ethics and morality?
Important in understanding the principles of Christian ethics and morality is the Pontifical Biblical Commission’s The Bible and Morality: Biblical Roots of Christian Conduct (2008) and the International Theological Commission’s In Search of a Universal Ethic: A New Look at Natural Law (2012).
What is the fundamental principle of Christian ethics and morality?
The fundamental principle of Christian ethics and morality is the Personalist Principle – men and women are the living image of God himself. This image is to be found anew, ever deeper and fuller in the mystery of Christ, the Perfect Image of God, the one who reveals God to man, and man to himself.
Who are members of the St Thomas More Society?
Members are lawyers who are practising Catholics, as well as law students.
Is membership open to non-Catholics?
Yes. There are a number of associate members who are non-Catholics.
Who is the Patron?
The Patron is the Archbishop of Sydney. Until his appointment to Rome, the Patron was His Eminence George Cardinal Pell AC, now the Emeritus Archbishop of Sydney.
What does the Society do?
The principal events in the Society’s calendar are the Red Mass, which is celebrated each year at the beginning of the Law Term, and the Annual Retreat. Additionally, the Society organises talks and social functions.
Amongst the speakers at functions held by the Society have been:
- The Hon. Tony Abbot MP
- Hon. Kevin Andrews MP
- Rev Fr Frank Brennan SJ AO
- Hon. Sir Gerard Brennan, former Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia
- Hon. Tony Burke MP
- Dr Michael Casey
- His Eminence Cardinal Edward Clancy, former Archbishop of Sydney
- Rev Fr John Doherty, canon lawyer
- Ros Everett, President, Law Society of New South Wales
- Professor John Finnis, author of Natural Law and Natural Rights
- Bishop Anthony Fisher OP
- The Hon. Chief Justice Robert French, Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia
- Hon. Mr A M Gleeson, former Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia
- Dr Sam Gregg
- Mr Brian Harradine, former Senator
- Professor J Hitchcock, University of Notre Dame
- Hon Kristina Keneally MP, Premier of NSW
- Hon. Justice Dennis Mahoney, former Justice of the NSW Court of Appeal
- Professor Michael Quinlan
- Professor Hayden Ramsay
- Professor Tracey Rowland
- Hon. Greg Smith SC, MP, Attorney General and Minister for Justice
- Hon J J Spigelman, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales
- George Weigel
- Roy Williams
When is the Retreat held?
The Retreat is held each year during Lent.
The Retreat is a day of prayer and reflection. Members of the Society are encouraged, as far as possible, to be present at the Red Mass and to participate in the Annual Retreat.
What obligations do members have?
Members of the Society are encouraged as far as possible to be present at the Red Mass, and to participate in the Annual Retreat. Otherwise, members of the Society, like all Christ’s disciples, are called to holiness. In all temporal matters they are to be guided by a Christian conscience, since no human activity may be withdrawn from God’s dominion. Especially by the witness of their life, splendid in faith, hope and charity, they are to manifest Christ to others.
Who is the Society’s Chaplain?
The Society’s Chaplain is Fr Peter Joseph. Fr Joseph is the editor of Sheehan’s Apologetics, a lecturer at the Wagga Wagga Seminary, and Administrator of St Dominic’s Parish, Flemington. Fr Joseph welcomes the opportunity to provide spiritual advice to lawyers.
What is the relationship between Christianity and Law?
As Augusto Zimmerman, Senior Lecturer in Law at Murdoch University, has commented, the English common law has a rich, Christian heritage. England’s most celebrated jurists – including the likes of Blackstone, Coke and Fortescue – often drew heavily from their Christian faith when expounding and developing what are now well established principles and doctrines of the common law. Christian values and principles underpin the English common law. Decisions of the courts such as Donoghue v Stevenson  AC 562 and Mabo v Queensland [No 2] (1992) 175 CLR 1 are influenced by Christian thought, which is concerned to uphold the dignity of each and every person. Law is for the person, not the person for law.
Does the Society have any political aim?
No, the Society’s aims are non-political. Amongst the Society members are supporters of the major political parties. It is important that there be practising Catholics in all political parties – who know and take seriously the teaching of the Church on marriage and the family, education, and bioethics –as well as the social teaching of the Church. However, political opinions and decisions are a matter of individual choice – as are professional decisions. Members of the Society in their professional work, and in their activities of daily life, act individually in their own name, and on their own responsibilities, but guided by the dictates of a Christian conscience. Sometimes their Christian vision will suggest a certain solution. Yet others, with no less sincerity, may see the situation quite differently. No-one is permitted to identify the authority of the Church exclusively with his or her opinion. Moreover, those have a claim on our respect and charity who think and act differently from us in social, political and religious matters.