Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Call for Papers: Public Policy, Prudential Judgment, and the Catholic Social Tradition

Call for Papers

2006 Annual Conference

“Public Policy, Prudential Judgment and the Catholic Social Tradition”
April 6-8, 2006

Terrence J. Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law, and Public Policy
University of St. Thomas, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota

In the Catholic moral tradition, prudence is understood to be a moral virtue that enables a person to reason well about things to be done. Prudence concerns reasoning both about goals to be pursued and means to be employed to accomplish them. The tradition acknowledges the importance of moral principles, which shape practical reasoning in very fundamental ways, but it also insists that concrete actions are also determined by prudential judgment, which wisely takes account of particular conditions.

In recent years a number of public policy questions, such as the permissibility of the death penalty, the morality of the war in Iraq, and the justice of welfare reforms, have provoked controversy among Catholics. Advocates of very different policies have claimed that their positions follow from the Catholic social tradition and, at times, some have even insisted that their positions alone are faithful to this tradition. These controversies highlight enduring questions about the proper relationship between moral principles and prudential judgment.

In much the same way, controversies have also accompanied some of the formal positions adopted by the American bishops and even the Vatican on questions of public policy. Here again there has been an indistinct line between direct inference from moral principles and sound prudential judgment, where the former invites commitment and the latter tolerates disagreement.

Because of the importance of prudential judgment in public policy matters, we believe that the time is ripe for a careful and comprehensive discussion of the topic. We therefore welcome proposals for papers in the following categories:

Prudential Judgments in General: What different functions are played by fundamental moral principles and prudential judgments in choosing and acting? Which sorts of questions or challenges are best resolved by direct appeal to general moral principles and which require prudential judgment? What should be the scope of prudential judgments in the application of the Catholic social tradition to concrete situations? To what extent should the principles of the Catholic social tradition be shaped over time by the experience (and prudence) of Catholic laity active in public life?

The Bishops and the Laity: With their experience of political and economic life, should the voice of the laity play a special role in the development of the Catholic social tradition? Do the bishops teach with different authority on matters of principle and matters of prudence? What difference in response is appropriate for the laity when the bishops teach about principles and when they teach about prudential application? Should the bishops, as bishops, publicly address matters of prudential judgment? What are the implications of the character and influence of professional staff on the teaching of the bishops?

Specific Applications and Case Studies: Insight into the role and scope of prudential judgments is likely to be limited if it is based only on abstract considerations. The line between fundamental moral principles and prudential judgments is likely to vary from subject to subject and among concrete issues within various subjects. Proposals are welcome that assess specific cases such as: (1) the role of prudential judgments in a particular area of law or legislation, such as economic policy, foreign affairs, or sex and the family; (2) particular historical examples of the role of prudential judgments, or the historical development of prudential judgments on particular subjects.

Submission Information:

Please submit a 1-2 page proposal no later than 15 November 2005. Authors should indicate in the proposal how they intend to treat their topic and, if necessary, provide a rationale for inclusion of this topic in the conference agenda. It would also be helpful if authors would include brief biographical information and an e-mail address. Acceptance decisions should be made by 15 December 2005.

For further information or to submit proposals, please contact us at the address below:

Prof Thomas C Berg ([email protected]; 651 962 4918)
Prof Robert G Kennedy ([email protected]; 651 962 4823)
Terrence J Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law, and Public Policy
University of St Thomas School of Law
MSL 400, 1000 LaSalle Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55403-2015


Berg, Thomas | Permalink

TrackBack URL for this entry:


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Call for Papers: Public Policy, Prudential Judgment, and the Catholic Social Tradition :