August 03, 2012
Scholarly Impact and Catholic Legal Education (Part Three)
A few days ago, I began a short series of posts on why scholarly work and scholarly impact are especially important to Catholic legal education, which I conclude with this post today.
The first point, made here, was that a meaningfully Catholic law school must be an intellectually engaged law school, which is not possible without a faculty also engaged in the quintessential intellectual activity of scholarly research and writing.
My second point, made here, was that through scholarly excellence and law school scholarly prominence, we witness to society the vibrancy of intellectual discourse by persons of faith and counter the anti-intellectual stereotype often attaching to religiously-affiliated law schools.
My third point today is that, as Catholic Christians, we have are called to share the Gospel, both directly and indirectly. The central role of scholarly research in our academic vocation is affirmed by no less a Catholic authority than Pope John Paul II the apostolic constitution for Catholic universities, Ex Code Ecclesiae: “The basic mission of a University is a continuous quest for truth through its research, and the preservation and communication of knowledge for the good of society.”
For some of us on law school faculties that directive means writing directly on Catholic legal theory and applying Christian-grounded principles to the legal and social issues of the day. For all of us it means conducting the search for the truth with integrity and dedication. The search for the truth is hard work -– and for Catholic academics that hard work requires scholarly engagement.
Turning again to the words of Ex Corde, for a Catholic university “included among its research activities, therefore, will be a study of serious contemporary problems in areas such as the dignity of human life, the promotion of justice for all, the quality of personal and family life, the protection of nature, the search for peace and political stability, a more just sharing in the world's resources, and a new economic and political order that will better serve the human community at a national and international level. University research will seek to discover the roots and causes of the serious problems of our time, paying special attention to their ethical and religious dimensions.”
Through our work –- through the excellent quality, regular production, and integrity of our work (comporting with the standards of our discipline) –- we may have a significant influence on the development of the law and of the legal culture. As my former Dean Tom Mengler emphasized (here), one of the most compelling needs for Catholics in this present age involves “the integration of Catholic social and intellectual thought into the mainstream of American legal education.”
And on the call to challenge and inform the culture, Ex Corde speaks as well to the vital importance of scholarly work: “By its very nature, a University develops culture through its research, helps to transmit the local culture to each succeeding generation through its teaching, and assists cultural activities through its educational services. It is open to all human experience and is ready to dialogue with and learn from any culture. A Catholic University shares in this, offering the rich experience of the Church's own culture. In addition, a Catholic University, aware that human culture is open to Revelation and transcendence, is also a primary and privileged place for a fruitful dialogue between the Gospel and culture.”
While our teaching in Catholic law schools advances these goal, we cannot fully participate as academics in the search for the turth without also contributing to the scholarly literature, which reaches audiences well beyond the walls of our own institution and which is preserved in medium so that we can affect the scholarly discourse long after we have departed.
What a tremendous privilege – and a grave responsibility.
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Thank you for this excellent post, Professor Sisk!
Posted by: N.D. | Aug 4, 2012 9:49:17 AM