Monday, January 4, 2010
Peggy Noonan looks back at the failures of the past decade as examples of institutions forgetting their missions, foremost among these the Catholic Church:
The Catholic Church, as great and constructive an institution as ever existed in our country, educating the children of immigrants and healing the weak in hospitals, also acted as if it had forgotten the mission. Their mission was to be Christ's church in the world, to stand for the weak. Many fulfilled it, and still do, but the Boston Globe in 2003 revealed the extent to which church leaders allowed the abuse of the weak and needy, and then covered it up.
It was a decades-long story; it only became famous in the '00s. But it was in its way the most harmful forgetting of a mission of all, for it is the church that has historically given a first home to America's immigrants, and made them Americans. Its reputation, its high standing, mattered to our country. Its loss of reputation damaged it. And it happened in part because priests and bishops forgot they were servants of a great institution, and came to think the great church existed to meet their needs.
I wonder whether a similar indictment can be leveled against American law schools, including Catholic law schools. Has the modern law professor shown a tendency to think that the law school exists to meet his or her needs? Have we let the reflected glory of the US News rankings become our raison d'etre, overlooking debt-laden students and minimizing the role we should be playing in their personal and professional formation?