|May 8, 2017 • VOL. 55, NO. 9 • Oakland, CA|
Judge John T. Noonan
left mark on Catholicism
Senior Judge John T. Noonan Jr. of Berkeley, a member of the U.S Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit for 31 years who died April 17 at age 90, grew up in a world of privilege but always took into account the common humanity that binds people together when he decided cases, said a Boston College professor who worked as a law clerk for him.
Remembering Noonan — a towering, generous intellect
My delegation today is to express the appreciation of the church of Oakland of which John T. Noonan was a member almost as long as the diocese was in existence. Arriving in Berkeley in 1966 as professor of the Robbins Collection at the University of California Law School, he established himself at St. Mary Magdalen Parish, where his children attended school and where he developed the treasured relationship with the community of the Dominican Fathers.
He came already a prominent scholar, particularly in church circles. He engaged us early through the vehicle of a group of Catholic professors who met for lunch at the Faculty Club monthly and invited a number of us priests to participate. The group occasionally referred to itself as "The Irish Mafia" though it was established by an Italian professor of mathematics. It found agenda in the post-Vatican II years. John had a special role in his participation at the Pope Paul VI Commission on Marriage and Family, a role he shared one evening with the Catholic Club in the auditorium at Mills College.
In perhaps his first year here, he participated in a gathering of members from the Canon Law Society of America as part of a series of gatherings to study the impact of the Vatican Council on church law. I invited him to join Father James Coriden of the Catholic University and some others for dinner at my folks' house in Berkeley. John was hesitant indicating that he would have to be home early. With that guarantee, he came but when I approached him for transportation at the end of dessert he did not move except to respond with language tinged by his Boston upbringing, "I did not know it was going to be such a party."
At the initiation of the California Catholic Conference in Sacramento, in 1971, John was available for consultation along with others from Boalt Hall — David Louisell and Jack Coons and Steve Sugarman — on educational and public policy issues.
John was enthusiastic participant in the annual dinners of faculties from the university and the Graduate Theological Union held at Newman Hall. He brought support and suggestions.
This association provided again generous opportunity to participate with the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops. He offered a particular presentation at Boalt Hall with the committee preparing the pastoral letter on the American economy published in 1986.
A particularly charming incident took place in 1988 as we were preparing for our Ad Limina visit to Rome — a pattern of reporting that took place every five years. John called to state that his book on bribery had been translated into Italian. He wanted the two volumes, signed, to be given to Pope John Paul II since he felt the issue particularly relevant to the Catholic country of Italy.
Discovering that we were going to be in Prague, he recommended that I make some effort to rehabilitate John Hus, the Bohemian martyr, stating that the martyrdom remained "still a sore point in the Bohemian church," a sentiment expressed by Pope John Paul II within the decade of "deep regret for the cruel death inflicted."
On the cover of his book, "The Lustre of Our Country," he was identified as of a "towering intellect." He made that gift available to us, for which we are grateful.
The nomination of John for the Laetare Medal from the University of Notre Dame in 1984 read well, "whose genius has enabled the arts and sciences, illustrated the ideals of the church — and enriched the heritage of humanity."
(The Most Rev. John S. Cummins served as bishop of Oakland from 1977 to 2003.)
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