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.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Updated Call for Papers: "Christian Realism and Public Life: Catholic and Protestant Perspectives"


November 20-21, 2009


The Terrence Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law, and Public Policy at the University of St. Thomas will sponsor a conference titled "Christian Realism and Public Life: Catholic and Protestant Perspectives," on November 20-21, 2009, in Minneapolis.


An examination of “realism” in religious and political thought is timely indeed.  The term has been at the forefront of recent American foreign-policy debates over the role of moral values and the use of force.  Pope Benedict XVI has spoken in several contexts of a “Christian realism” that offers a more sober and solid hope for social life than do alternative views.  And President Obama has identified the Christian Realism of Reinhold Niebuhr as among his chief philosophical influences.  Niebuhr’s approach was in several ways distinctively Protestant.  But it is evident that the impulse for Christian public theology to be realistic—to be based in a clear-headed assessment of facts about God, human beings, and the world—cuts across Catholic and Protestant thinkers, although the themes and the definitions of realism vary.


The goal of the conference is to explore the role and meaning of “realism” in a Christian ethic of public life, with attention to topics of interest to both Catholics and Protestants. Committed plenary speakers include Jean Bethke Elshtain (social and political ethics-Chicago), Robin Lovin (social ethics-Southern Methodist), David Skeel (law-U Penn), John Carlson (just war thought-Arizona State),  William Cavanaugh (theology-St. Thomas), James Turner Johnson (just war thought-Rutgers), and Jeanne Heffernan Schindler (Catholic social thought-Villanova).

  This call for papers is for concurrent sessions.  Examples of relevant topics include:


- Theological assessments of human nature and its relevance to public policy

- Categorical approaches to moral reasoning vs. pragmatic approaches

- Loci of hope: for example, the extent to which it rests in the church or the world

- Assessments of Niebuhr or other thinkers who have emphasized realism

- The foundations or details of just-war thought

- Realism in Christian approaches to economic matters

- The place of Christianity in American public life


Abstracts of proposed papers should be one page and should include the author’s name, affiliation, mailing address, and e-mail address.  The deadline for submission of proposals is Monday, June 30, 2009.  Notification of acceptance will be sent by July 20, 2009.  Abstracts should be sent by e-mail to murphyinstit[at]stthomas.edu  or by first-class mail to


Terrence J. Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law, and Public Policy

Re: Christian Realism Conference

University of St. Thomas

MSL 400

1000 LaSalle Avenue

Minneapolis, MN  55403-2015


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