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Recovering Self-Evident Truths

Recovering Self-Evident Truths: Catholic Perspectives on American Law

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    Recovering Self-Evident Truths
    Book Description:

    This book presents an engaging collection of essays exploring "catholic" and "Catholic" perspectives on American law--catholic in their claims of universal truths, and Catholic in their grounding in the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church

    eISBN: 978-0-8132-2089-5
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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    (pp. xi-xiv)
    Francis Cardinal George

    The blow the Second World War dealt to humane ideals and values was so great that when it ended world leaders and their peoples were ready to declare: “This shall never happen again.” In the new start that was made then, a fundamental legal structure was decided upon on the basis of “responsibility before God.”¹ It stated the connection of law and politics with the great imperatives of biblical facts.

    Sixty years later the hopes of that postwar moment seem to have evaporated in face of a moral crisis of humanity, a crisis taking new and desperate forms. In the...

    (pp. 1-14)

    As the dark clouds of division threatened to pull the United States apart limb by limb, Abraham Lincoln dared to speak of America’s great vocation. In a speech given during his ill-fated senatorial race in 1858, Lincoln attacked the Supreme Court’s crimped understanding of the Declaration of Independence as it had been expressed in the infamous Dred Scott case. Where the Court saw a document of political expediency that claimed rights mainly for the British colonials who had suffered under King George’s tyranny and few others, Lincoln saw universal possibilities in the Declaration’s understanding that all persons “are created equal”...

    (pp. 15-36)

    Catholic lawyers and legal educators have found a renewed interest in the Catholic intellectual tradition. They are hoping to find a distinctively Catholic voice that is both capable of addressing some of the problems faced by contemporary society and broadly persuasive to appeal to diverse audiences of lawyers, judges, policymakers, legal scholars, and political theorists. New law schools have been founded with explicitly Catholic missions,¹ and new journals stressing explicitly Catholic themes are appearing.² These are hopeful developments, but ones that should not be viewed glibly or triumphantly.

    The desire to recapture the best that the Catholic intellectual tradition has...

  4. PART I The Nature of the Human Person

      (pp. 39-51)

      The teaching of Pope John Paul II has been tied recently to American law by no less a figure than Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in his “Frances Boyer Lecture” to the American Enterprise Institute on February 13, 2001. Justice Thomas decried a politicization of the interpretation of law that stands in the way of tolerance for divergent viewpoints, seeking to destroy with vilification what it cannot overcome with reasonable argument. When this happens, he said, “the rule of law surrenders to the rule of fear.” To those contemplating silence in the face of such vilification, Justice Thomas commended the...

    • 3 A PHILOSOPHICAL ANTHROPOLOGY OF THE HUMAN PERSON: Can We Know the Nature of Human Persons?
      (pp. 52-66)

      Some persons today deny that human persons have a human nature. Others claim that a “human being” or an “individual of the human species” is not necessarily a human “person.” They sometimes argue that terms like “human person” and “human nature” are merely “social constructs” whose definition depends entirely on the particular “culture” in which they are used. Hence, it is useless, some say, to try to distinguish between “nature” and “culture,” or, as it is often phrased, “nature versus nurture.”

      People in different cultures certainly do have different notions about what makes one really a human person, and as...

  5. PART II The Person in Community

    • 4 TRUTH AS THE GROUND OF FREEDOM: A Theme from John Paul II
      (pp. 69-84)

      For Lord Acton, according to Gertrude Himmelfarb, liberty is no mere social arrangement recommended by convenience but is on the contrary “the highest ideal of man, the reflection of his divinity.”¹ Another great historian of the concept of freedom, Mortimer Adler, writes that “there is perhaps no philosophical idea which has had so much impact on political action.”² For centuries, he points out, the world has been divided by rival conceptions of freedom. Whether liberty consists in doing what one likes or in doing what one ought makes an overriding difference in practice. A great rift exists between those who...

      (pp. 85-103)

      Catholic social teaching is, by design, ill-suited to abstract formulation. It can be understood only through exploration in the context of pressing social problems, as underscored by the Church’s consistent and deliberate recitation of relevant real-world circumstances in tandem with invocations of the theoretical principles on which the social teaching is based. At the same time, the value of the Church’s teaching emanates from its grounding in truths that are not cabined by the contingent nature of modern epistemological understanding. The Church offers lessons to particular participants in a particular scene of the human drama because the content of its...

    • 6 THE CONSTITUTION AND THE COMMON GOOD: A Perspective on the Catholic Contribution
      (pp. 104-128)

      With these words, the Constitution of the United States outlines the purposes for which the Constitution was created. The goals to which the American people commit and bind themselves in a political union are identified in this pledge. But what do these words mean from a Catholic perspective? That is the subject of this short chapter. This chapter will first consider how the words of the Preamble contribute to establishing a framework in which the Constitution and the laws promulgated in accordance with it were intended and are designed to promote the common good,¹ an idea that has long been...

  6. PART III Catholicism in Dialogue with Political and Legal Theory

      (pp. 131-151)

      I want to ask in this essay whether “we” should be liberals. The “we” of the title has three dimensions. First, it refers to Americans generally. Should we as Americans want to have liberalism as the foundation of our public philosophy? Second, it refers more specifically to Americans who believe in classical or traditional (not Lockean) natural law. And third, it refers to Americans who take the Catholic intellectual tradition as their overarching perspective on political life. Should we think of ourselves as liberals, as advocates of a liberal public philosophy, or should we think of ourselves as opponents of...

    • 8 REASON, FREEDOM, AND THE RULE OF LAW: Reflections on Their Significance in Catholic Thought
      (pp. 152-160)

      The idea of law and the ideal of the rule of law are central to the Catholic (and, more generally, the Western) tradition of thought about public (or “political”) order.¹ St. Thomas Aquinas went so far as to declare that “it belongs to the very notion of a people [ad rationem populi] that the people’s dealings with each other be regulated by just precepts of law.”² In our own time, Pope John Paul II has forcefully reaffirmed the status of the rule of law as a requirement of fundamental political justice.³ For all the romantic appeal of “palm tree justice”...

  7. PART IV Catholic Perspectives on Substantive Areas of Law

    • 9 LABOR LAW: “Making Life More Human”—Work and the Social Question
      (pp. 163-190)

      An expanding economy with an increasingly disproportionate distribution of income and markedly uneven rates of development, even within national boundaries. High rates of unemployment and increasing instability in employment relationships. Innovative forms of economic organization accompanied by unparalleled concentrations of economic power. An intensification of population shifts to urban areas, coupled with an unprecedented migration of people from East to West. An astounding disintegration of families and the progressive erosion of other forms of community life. These are the conditions captured by the term the “social question.” They also represent the conditions in which unions and labor laws first developed...

    • 10 CONTRACT LAW: A Catholic Approach?
      (pp. 191-204)

      I am going to describe the approach to contract law of an influential group of jurists in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Historians call them the “late scholastics,” or the “Spanish natural law school.” As I have shown elsewhere, they were the first to give the law of contract a theory and a systematic doctrinal structure.¹ Before they wrote, the Roman law in force in much of Europe had neither. For all their subtlety, the Romans were not theorists. Neither were the medieval professors of Roman law, who were concerned chiefly with reconciling every Roman legal text with every...

    • 11 PROPERTY LAW: CATHOLIC SOCIAL THOUGHT AND THE NEW URBANISM—A Shared Vision to Confront the Problem of Urban Sprawl?
      (pp. 205-219)

      South Bend, Indiana, is a city of close to 100,000 people that lies some ninety miles east of Chicago, just south of the Michigan state line. Its smaller sister city of Mishawaka, which is home to about 50,000, is immediately adjacent to the east. Together, the two form the urban center of St. Joseph County, which has a total population of around 250,000. Strategically located between Chicago and Detroit, South Bend and Mishawaka were once thriving centers of automobile-related manufacturing, but that era ended over forty years ago when the Studebaker Corporation, long a South Bend institution, closed its doors...

    • 12 TORT LAW: Toward a Trinitarian Theory of Products Liability
      (pp. 220-253)

      It may come as a surprise to theologians and philosophers who are experts in Catholic Social Thought that its profound and multilayered social critique has not yet been fully integrated into American jurisprudence. Among legal specializations, several obvious candidates for integration leap to mind. The Church’s extraordinarily deep and extended reflections on human labor could do much to enrich theories of labor law. The principle of subsidiarity, and reflections on the dignity of the human person and on the role of religion in public life, readily go hand in hand with the theoretical underpinnings of many aspects of constitutional law....

    • 13 CRIMINAL LAW: “EVERLASTING SPLENDOURS”—Death-Row Volunteers, Lawyers’ Ethics, and Human Dignity
      (pp. 254-274)

      A few years ago, in an episode of the award-winning juris-drama The Practice, Rebecca Ward—one of the idealistic, if occasionally overzealous, young lawyers in Bobby Donnell’s high-powered trial boutique—is asked to assist John Mockler, a legendary capital-defense lawyer, by serving as local counsel in a federal death-penalty case.¹ Rebecca’s enthusiasm for the project wanes briefly upon learning that the condemned inmate, Walter Dawson, has elected not to fight his impending execution, but quickly waxes again as she sets out for the federal prison in Indiana, determined to convince him to cling to life.

      She fails. Dawson insists that...

    • 14 FAMILY LAW: Natural Law, Marriage, and the Thought of Karol Wojtyla
      (pp. 275-291)

      At the midpoint of the last century, Dean Roscoe Pound wrote that the legal profession constituted “a learned art as a common calling in the spirit of public service.”¹

      Yet, contrary to this wonderfully noble appreciation of our profession, lawyers may sometimes take an unreflective and mechanistic approach when counseling a client who is considering a divorce.² Over the course of the last five decades, the national divorce rate has risen to approximately 50 percent.³

      Recent significant statistical evidence indicates that generally the culture of divorce has left neither divorced spouses nor their children in a more advantageous situation.⁴ The...

    • 15 IMMIGRATION LAW: A Catholic Christian Perspective on Immigration Justice
      (pp. 292-316)

      Throughout recorded history individuals have left families, cultures, and nations to take up residence in foreign lands. Migration of individuals and families within and between nations occurs for multiple reasons. A variety of factors push people toward the decision to emigrate from their homes. These include lack of economic opportunity in the home region due to unemployment or underemployment; governmental instability or oppression; lack of educational opportunities; regional hostility toward one’s religious, cultural, ethnic, or political identity; absence of family ties; famine; civil war; and, in a few cases, just plain adventure. At some point, these reasons for emigrating aggregate...

      (pp. 317-332)

      Over the two years it took them to draft the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the eighteen members of the United Nations’ first Human Rights Commission had surprisingly few discussions of why human beings have rights or why some rights are universal.¹ After the horrors of two world wars, the need for a minimal common standard of decency seemed evident. One of the first tasks assigned to the new commission chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt was the preparation of an “international bill of rights.” The commissioners, in haste to complete their work before the deepening Cold War made its acceptance...

  8. AFTERWORD: Catholics and the Two Cultures
    (pp. 333-340)

    Some people can tell you when their eyes were opened to the pleasures of good wine, religion, or the fiction of Henry James. I remember when I really began to understand the culture war. It happened like this.

    One day in December in the early 1990s I found myself at the upscale headquarters of the Educational Testing Service in Princeton, New Jersey, attending a conference on religion and the media. Also there were some present or former staff members of such estimable publications as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the Philadelphia Inquirer, together...

    (pp. 341-348)

    When the editors of this book allowed me to read it in advance of its publication and then invited me to write my thoughts on how Catholic lawyers and lawmakers might respond to it, I was both hesitant and humbled. With contributions from so many people whose insights, lives, and work I have so long respected, this book, I felt, needed no additional words from me. But when Michael Scaperlanda persisted that I might at least be able to offer some brief words about “where we go from here,” I offered the matter up to prayer, and then, ultimately, began...