Saturday, January 29, 2005
I have a quick follow-up to Rick Garnett's post on Catholic legal education from a few days ago. I think the most useful starting place in these discussions is to reflect on Ex Corde Ecclesiae, the Apostolic Constitution on Catholic Universities. The title conveys an important insight. Many in Catholic institutions of higher education view themselves as independent of the Church and envision their task as somehow providing a bridge between the Church and the world (of higher education). Ex Corde's orientation is totally different. The Catholic university is born from the heart of the Church. The Catholic university is not somehow independent of the Church, it is a part of the Church. A university that wants to stop calling itself Catholic is of course in a very different position. But a university that wants to claim a Catholic identity is properly viewed as part of the Church and as Rick notes is necessarily committed to the cause of the truth and to the supreme Truth, who is God (as Ex Corde states in paragraph 4). It does this not with fear or embarassment but with enthusiasm and with an awareness that it has been preceded by Jesus Christ--the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
The Catholic university is one of the principal means through which the Church engages modern culture. In so doing, the Catholic university must, according to Ex Corde's paragraph 13, have 4 essential characteristics: "1. A Christian inspiration not only of individuals but of the university community as such; 2. A continuing reflection in the light of the Catholic faith upon the growing treasury of human knowlesge, to which it seeks to contribute by its own research; 3. Fidelity to the Christian message as it comes to us through the Church; 4. An institutional commitment to the service of the people of God and of the human family in their pilgrimmage to the transcendent goal which gives meaning to life."
A Catholic law school ought to begin reflections on its identity by considering the extent to which it is being faithful to this charge.