Claude Ryan Lecture
Forgiving Your Political Enemies

Prof. Nigel Biggar, University of Oxford
Tues. January 12 at 5:30 p.m. at the Newman Centre

Nigel BIGGAR is the Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology at the University of Oxford, where he also directs the McDonald Centre for Theology, Ethics, and Public Life. A former President of the Society for the Study of Christian Ethics (UK), he has sat on the ethics committee of the Royal College of Physicians and on a Royal Society working party on population growth. His publications include: In Defence of War (OUP, 2013), Behaving in Public: How to Do Christian Ethics (Eerdmans, 2011), Religious Voices in Public Places (OUP, 2009), Aiming to Kill: The Ethics of Suicide and Euthanasia (DLT, 2004), Burying the Past: Making Peace and Doing Justice after Civil Conflict (Georgetown UP, 2003), Cities of Gods: Faith, Politics, & Pluralism in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (Greenwood, 1986), and Between Kin and Cosmopolis: An Ethic of the Nation (Lutterworth/Wipf & Stock, 2014). He has written on the possibility of a truth commission for Northern Ireland for the Irish Times, on the Iraq war for the Financial Times, and on the raison d’être of universities and Scottish independence for Standpoint magazine.

The History of the Claude Ryan Lecture

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Photo of Claude Ryan c. 1965.

The Claude Ryan Lecture on Catholic Social Thought was instituted in 2004 as one of the major lectures of The Newman Centre of McGill University. Named in honour of the late Claude Ryan (1925-2004), the lecture aims to tackle questions at the crossroads of politics and theology, an area of deep and abiding interest to Mr. Ryan.

Mr. Ryan (pictured), a Companion of the Order of Canada and a Grand Officer of the National Order of Quebec, led a life of unremitting service to Canada and the Church for over four decades.

As a public figure in Quebec, Ryan served as Director of Le Devoir, an influential French-language newspaper from 1964-1978. He was then elected leader of the Liberal Party of Quebec, a post he held until retiring from public service in 1982, after victoriously leading the “No” vote in the 1980 Quebec Referendum on the question of sovereignty.


Ryan lecturing on Catholic social doctrine at McGill University in 2002.

As a devout lay Catholic in the public eye, Ryan exercised his role as a leader with sensitivity to the questions and concerns of his times, never failing to seek solutions in Catholic doctrine. In the last decade of his life, he devoted himself to teaching courses related to theology and politics at McGill University, where he was deeply admired by students and faculty alike. Ryan found a home for his classes at the Newman Centre, where he became actively involved in various teaching initiatives, offering courses on John Henry Newman and Catholic Social Thought. The courses Ryan taught at the Newman Centre would serve as precursors to McGill’s Catholic Studies Program.

In 2014, on the 10th anniversary of his passing, McGill University and the Newman Centre partnered to host a major symposium on the life and legacy of Claude Ryan. The symposium attracted the participation of former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and former Quebec Premier Jean Charest, as well as over two dozen scholars, including award-winning Canadian historian Dr. Michael Gauvreau.

Past Claude Ryan Lectures Include

Media coverage of past Ryan Lectures:

Kennedy Smith Chair’s Inaugural Lecture

Professor Douglas Farrow, Catholics and the ‘Neutral’ State, Jan 22, 2014.

With responses by Dean Christopher Manfredi, Faculty of Arts, and Bishop Thomas Dowd, Archdiocese of Montreal.


Marguerite Bourgeoys Lecture on Education

The Marguerite Bourgeoys Lecture on Education, established by the Newman Centre at McGill in 2004, takes its inspiration from the life of St. Marguerite Bourgeoys, the seventeenth-century co-foundress of Ville Marie (renamed Montreal).  Marguerite Bourgeoys established the “stable school,” the first educational institution in Montreal. This lecture series explores the ways in which faith, ethics, and culture influence education in a constantly changing world.  Past Marguerite Bourgeoys lecturers include:

  • Tracey Rowland, “Catholic Education and the Bureaucratization of Grace”
  • Lorraine Caza, CND “Facing New Frontiers: Challenges for Educators”
  • Rex Murphy, “Education and the Media”
  • Helen Raham, “Educational Pluralism in Canada”
  • Brian Stewart, “On the Front Lines: Choosing to Make a Difference”