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.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

MOJ at 10: Scaperlanda's reflection

My first post, written on February 10, 2004 was titled “Anthropology and the Structures of Injustice.” In that post, I suggested that “A (maybe THE) major structure of injustice in our society is a malformed anthropology, which provides the foundation for many of the other structures of injustice.” I continue to think this. 

A Chronicle of Higher Education (1/27/2014) article, “When I Was Young at Yale,” written by an English professor who co-taught a course with Richard Rorty at Virginia, where the objective of the course was “de-divinization,” supports my hypothesis. He writes: “We were out to wipe the highest aspirations of humanity off the blackboard—they were an encumbrance, a burden, a major inconvenience. Courage, compassion, the disinterested quest for ultimate truth: Let’s drop them. They were forms of oppression. They weighed people down.” Although this professor confessed to being “slow,” he finally realized that “If there were no ideals, or no creditable ideals, then the kids who were headed from Skull and Bones to Wall Street and the CIA were absolved, weren’t they? They didn’t have to be honorable; they didn’t have to seek the truth; they didn’t have to do what Auden told us all we had to try: ‘love one another or die.’ No, the kids from Yale [and, I would add, the rest of us] were free.”

I too am slow. I ended my first post with “We cannot force someone to accept our anthropology - our understanding of what it means to be human - but I think (like Rick) that there is good reason to raise the question and also hope (not to be confused with optimism) that this anthropological perspective will resonate with others. More on these two points later ...”

Ten years later, I continue to hope, but I am much less optimistic that this hope will be realized in the near term than I was a decade ago. Ten years ago, in my youthful (I wasn’t even 44 yet) naiveté, I imagined that the new springtime of the Church was just around the corner. I thought that if people understood the beauty of the Catholic Church’s teaching on the nature of the human person (instead of obsessing over and twisting a few aspects of this teaching), they would gravitate toward that worldview in large numbers at least philosophically. My co-edited book (with Teresa Collett), “Recovering Self-Evident Truths: Catholic Perspectives on American Law,” was an attempt to show that the Catholic Church had much to contribute to the discussion about labor law, immigration law, property law, contract law, etc.

My sense today (and maybe I am just an overly pessimistic nearly 54 year old) is that far from gaining traction, a Catholic anthropology is actually losing ground in the public sphere where debate is being shut down in the name of tolerance and diversity. I now expect a long winter before the coming spring. 

I am grateful for Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI and their sound philosophy and theology (I suspect that the Theology of the Body will take root in the long run) in the decades after Vatican II.  Rational argument still needs to be made, and the two of them along with faithful theologians and philosophers, have kept the Church on solid intellectual ground. But, I sense a shifting of the wind, and I am equally grateful for Pope Francis with his emphasis on being a living witness to Christ’s love and mercy. I suspect that love and mercy showered on those who have lost hope will have a greater impact in the long term than any argument the best of us could make.  As a result of my shift in emphasis from arguing with others to being present to others, I have become one poor correspondent on MOJ.


Scaperlanda, Mike | Permalink