Desmond M. Clarke

On this date in 1942, Desmond M. Clarke, a distinguished political philosopher and former Catholic priest, was born in Dublin, Ireland. After secondary schooling, Clarke joined the Capuchin Order and after novitiation attended University College Cork, completing a B.S. degree. Clarke earned a licentiate of theology from the University of Lyon followed by a bachelor of philosophy from the University of Leuven in Belgium. Later he earned a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Notre Dame, where he met his future wife Dolores Dooley, a former nun.

In 1974 he started teaching at University College Cork with his wife. They remained members of the university’s department of philosophy until retirement. Clarke published internationally recognized works on 17th-century philosophy, human rights theory and legal theory. In 1991 he was awarded a doctor of letters degree by the National University of Ireland. In 2014 he was awarded the gold medal by the Royal Irish Academy for his outstanding scholarly contribution to the humanities.

Unafraid to challenge authority with intellectual truth, Clarke was known as a courageous fighter for justice. Despite his Catholic roots, he was a fearless speaker against religious interference in Irish government. In his highly influential book Church and State: Essays in Political Philosophy (1984), Clark offered a powerful criticism of the Catholic Church’s stranglehold on Irish society, outlining how the autonomy of the individual citizen is one of the first victims in the oppression of the state by religious ideologies. It is a tribute to Clark’s bravery that he published this book at a time when few Irish academics were willing to address the controversial subject of religiosity in government. D. 2016. 

Freedom From Religion Foundation