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, September 23, 2013

The Pope Francis interview, integration, and the lawyer's vocation

Count me among those who is disappointed by the cherry-picking, political spinning, and unattractive revelling in "the other side's" presumed discomfort that has characterized much of the coverage and commentary regarding Pope Francis's recent interview.  My understanding is that I am regarded as a "conservative" and so I gather I'm supposed to be mad -- even on the edge of schism! -- about the interview and just about everything else about Francis but -- go figure!-- I am not.  (If I thought he thinks or had said that, say, efforts to protect educational and religious freedom or increase respect for the dignity of all human life aren't that important after all, I would be disappointed, and think him naive.  But, I don't think he does or did.  I imagine we'd disagree, over Malbec, about some points of policy, but that's been true of every Pope in my lifetime.)  If his style and substance -- if the very appealing humility and care that really come through in the interview -- result in people of good will in less-faith-friendly regions of the interwebs asking themselves, "hmmm, this guy seems great . . . and he is a Catholic . . . and he was elected by a bunch of old guys who I thought were just obsessed-with-'no' reactionaries . . . maybe I should take a look, and re-visit some of the impressions I've formed -- maybe because of hostile and ignorant news coverage, maybe because of encounters with uncharitable and unjoyful Christians -- about the Church, and about the faith", then . . . good! 

Obviously, the Pope is saying things that are challenging for those of us who believe that the "conservative" side of American politics is, all things considered, the better vehicle for achieving better policies, but my view is that there's nothing wrong with that.  I hope I respond to this challenge with the humility and open-mindedness that I expect of those on the "other" side.  I don't think the Pope's admonitions and exhortations and challenges are supposed to make those on the political left of American politics feel good about themselves or abandon critical thinking about their preferred policies, either.  And, who -- left or right -- can doubt the urgency of Pope Francis's challenge that Christians do some soul-searching about the dangers of presenting to the world a Christianity that is merely a set of rules, or a social ethic, or a litany of warnings, rather than one that has at its heart the Eucharist and the person and love of Jesus.  And who -- left or right -- can think that the reaction Pope Francis is hoping to inspire is either a "thank you" from NARAL or gleeful cackling at the presumed unhappiness of Bishop Whomever?

Anyway . . . this blog is not supposed to be about "Catholic stuff generally" but about law, so . . . Two of the themes I've been hearing in the Pope's many interventions is an emphasis on the whole person (very Jesuit!  and, very John Paul II!) and also on unity, wholeness, and integration rather than partition, selectivity, dis-integration, etc., when it comes to hearing, understanding, and living out the Gospel.  As we've often discussed here at MOJ, these are themes that should also loom large in our conversations about legal education and formation, and about the practice and vocation of law.  What, I wonder, would an open-minded and open-hearted effort to really hear what Pope Francis is saying, on a variety of topics, and "put it to work" in how we teach and talk to law students about what they are doing and preparing for look like?


Garnett, Rick | Permalink


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thank you

i've never been a law student, so maybe what i say doesn't make much sense, but i would like to see the difference between discernment and judgment addressed;

i cried reading the interview (partly of joy of sensing the church revival with papa Francesco) because of how papa repeatedly mentioned the first, in and between the lines, and i struggle with even opening American Catholic blogs permeated by the latter

Posted by: elena | Sep 23, 2013 9:17:14 PM

Let's be honest. the media is not responsible for the content of the pope's interview in America Magazine, nor is the media responsible for the failure of the person at America Magazine who interviewed the pope to ask the pope to clarify any red flag statements. The interview is what it is.

Throughout the Gospel, Christ tells us to be prepared, and always be able to read the signs of the Time we are living in, so that we can respond properly in Light of our Catholic Faith. We are living in a Time when those who deny the inherent personal and relational Dignity of the human person, created in The Image and Likeness of God, equal in Dignity, while being complementary as male and female, seek to objectify the human person, by denying the fact that we are wholly human because God ordered us from The Beginning, as sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers...

Posted by: Nancy | Sep 24, 2013 7:40:57 AM

While I agree with most of your comments, Prof. Garnett, I wish I could share your sanguinity about the "effect" of the interview on efforts to protect the religious liberty of institutions. I see many "progressives" for example interpreting this as a prooftext of their criticisms, for example, of the bishops' efforts against the contraception mandate (never mind that they have no problem with the Bishops taking positions that accord with their own political positions). And in yesterday's Times, Sr. Simone was saying the interview repudiates a "narrow" "right-wing" agenda. I hope this interview bears long-term benefits of the kind I think MOJ seeks to advance - but I fear in the short-term it only stirs the partisan Catholicism that seems to have become de rigueur. See, e.g. Mark Silk.

Posted by: Josh DeCuir | Sep 24, 2013 10:41:47 AM