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.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Welcome to Mary Leary / "Catholic Schools Week"

First, I'd like to welcome to the MOJ crew Prof. Mary Leary, of Catholic University's Columbus School of Law. Professor Leary is a former AUSA, and her scholarship examines the intersection of contemporary social problems, criminal law, and criminal procedure.  (Read more about Mary and her work here.) 

Second, here is her inaugural MOJ post, on Catholic Schools Week:

This week marks an important week for the over two million students attending Catholic school in the United States.  Of course, I speak of the time honored tradition of “Catholic Schools Week.”

While this annual week of reflection and celebration is reserved for the primary and secondary Catholic schools throughout the country, there is certainly some room for its consideration on the university and post-graduate level.  Indeed, many a legal professor has either lamented a particular student’s struggles resulting from inadequate skill development, or praised and reaped the fruits of a well-equipped and inquisitive mind initially shaped in the student’s early education. One could argue that the success or failure of students in law school is directly affected by the effectiveness of many students’ early education.

This week may present an opportunity for us in legal education to think about the importance of Catholic education in the 21st century.  This year’s theme is:  “Faith, Academics, Service.”  Such educational goals are not foreign to many Catholic law schools which seek to provide, not only outstanding academic preparation for the practice of law, but to produce highly ethical lawyers armed with the moral compasses necessary to navigate a challenging profession and serve those most in need.    This goal can be more easily achieved when students come to our law schools familiar with such priorities.

The importance of such an educational emphasis at all levels of education can be seen in the highest echelons of the legal system.  During the appointment of Justice Sotomayor much was made of the fact that six of the Justices could be categorized as Catholic.  However, it is important to note that four of the Justices are also the products of Catholic education at some level. 

Of course any law-school-based reflection on what it means to be a Catholic institution brings to mind Judge John T. Noonan’s 1992 Essay, A Catholic Law School, 67 Notre Dame L. Rev. 1037 (1992), where he writes, “[t]he main attraction of a Catholic law school should be the historical, jurisprudential, and ethical dimensions….”  (MOJ contributor Patrick Brennan revisited this piece on this blog after speaking at the Catholic University of America’s "Realizing the Promise of Religious Mission in Legal Education" in 2009. 

No doubt this is a valid observation, but one more achievable when the previous education of the students possesses these same characteristics as well.  The words Pope Benedict XVI shared with Catholic educators during his 2008 address at the Catholic University of America speak to all levels of Catholic education.  “It comes as no surprise, then… [that] society in general has high expectations of Catholic educators…. More and more people . . . recognize the need for excellence in the human formation….” 

Therefore, as we celebrate and reflect upon Catholic education this week, we may wish to consider the reality of financial burdens on American Catholic schools which are serving some of the most diverse and  needy populations in the country.  With an increasing number of Catholic schools closing their doors, the resultant cost is not only to primary and secondary education, but also graduate education and the nation itself when fewer students are trained in “Faith, Academics, and Service.” 


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Welcome, Prof. Leary!

Posted by: Catholic Law Student | Jan 30, 2012 11:31:14 AM

Welcome, Prof. Leary. I agree on "catholicizing" the "catholic schools" celebration. Not only should higher education be included, all parental choices for Catholic education should be included and seen as one tapestry. That should include Catholic home education, which unfortunately is seen by some catholic institutional school advocates (I'm not talking about anyone here specifically) as an aberration or a second-class approach. Not only is there no inherent reason for this latter view, a truly Catholic approach to education starts with informed parental choice and opens itself up to a range of methods that sit on at least equal footing, rather than starting with a particular method chosen. My hope is that Catholics in education will begin to see different Catholic educational forms parts of the authentic diversity and richness of the Church that are all on the same team, and if they don't have personal experience with the intrinsic Catholic qualities of good Catholic home education approaches, I hope they have an opportunity to form those. Parishes and dioceses should be geared towards Catholic education, in which Catholic institutional schools are included of course, but among other methods such as home education. Just wanted to share that with you, since you take an interest in this subject.

Posted by: Matt Bowman | Feb 2, 2012 4:30:14 PM