Monday, September 22, 2008
If you're like me and (I'm guessing) most of the rest of the US legal academy, you last week received a card "Annoucning Dean Eric A. Chiappinelli," the new dean of Creighton University School of Law. Among Dean Chiappinelli's "priorities" for his administration is "[m]aking our successes known around the country." What might those successes be?
The card neither says a word nor includes an image that would suggest, let alone claim, that Creighton, or Creighton Law specifically, is or aspires to be a Catholic institution. Under the prior regime, the Creighton Law website said this remarkable thing: "The School of Law is an integral part of Creighton Univesity, providing professional legal education within the framework of a Jesuit University committed to a comprehensive and value-centered education. The faculty of the School believes these commitments are compatible." Holy Ghost! They "believe!" And they believe that "professional legal education" is "compatible" with "value-centered" education carried on within the "framework of a Jesuit University." Last I checked, the website continued to include this breathtaking profession of belief. Will one of Dean Chiappinelli's "successes" be to modify this state of affairs?
The aforementioned state of affairs is especially remarkable given Creighton University's otherwise conspicuously strong commitment to its place in the Catholic Church and tradition. The University's homepage says this (inter alia) about the whole University's commitment to the mission:: "As Catholic, Creighton is dedicated to the pursuit of truth in all its forms and is guided by the living tradition of the Catholic Church." But, as far as the Venn diagrams are concerned, how can Creighton University accomplish its mission while the members of law-school subset of the community are busy assessing the mutual compatibility of legal education and "value-centered" education. And what if value-centered education turns out not to be compatible with legal education? I'm sure there's a lesson here from Dudley and Stephens.
I hope that Dean Chippianelli will join those such as Mark Sargent, John Garvey, Veryl Miles, Patty O'Hara, and Tom Mengler, who, along with their respectives faculties and administrations, are struggling to discern what Catholic legal education can and should be about today. I have already written to Dean Chippianelli to offer our support. The possibility of a great reawakening awaits our friends in Ohama! Or more of the same.