Brian Lewis, one of Australia’s senior moral theologians, died in early March at the age of 90. For over twenty years, he taught us Redemptorist seminarians moral theology in Ballarat. His course on social justice set a new trajectory to my life, linking justice with the core elements of faith.
He had a profound influence on many priests and religious around Ballarat, highlighting the key elements of flexibility and compassion in pastoral situations, and opening up moral theology as a vehicle for inner transformation and the freedom of the Gospel.
Brian also had a keen interest in Social Policy Connections and the Yarra Institute for Religion & Social Policy, for which he wrote numerous articles in recent years, shedding light on some difficult moral issues.
Brian had been ordained in 1949, and studied moral theology in Rome for four years, developing a keen insight and love for the moral theology of St Thomas Aquinas and St Alphonsus Liguori, the founder of the Redemptorists, particularly for the role of prudentia, or good judgment, in how to help people discern moral truth and the human good in often complex circumstances.
He was enthusiastic about the renewal of the Second Vatican Council, though he found difficult the contentious debates of those years. Naturally somewhat shy and sensitive, his health deteriorated, and after 25 years as a priest, he was granted laicisation. He later lectured as a layman in ethics and theology at the Catholic Teachers’ College in North Sydney and later the Australian Catholic University.
He retired to Ballarat in 1987 with his soul-mate and wife, Jean, as he devoted himself to writing about issues in moral theology, publishing regularly in reputable theological journals.
He was buried on 6 March 2015 from St Alipius Church in Ballarat East, where he and Jean were very active parishioners.