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 12, 2014

Painting a Portrait of the Mirror of Justice on Our Tenth Anniversary

Because so many other longtime and more recent members of the Mirror of Justice have posted their reflections on our tenth anniversary, the birthday portrait already has taken nearly full shape.  The likeness of the Mirror of Justice sketched by my colleagues has multiple facets, can be perceived from many angles, and reveals a slightly different profile depending on who is painting (and who is observing).  At the considerable risk of great over-simplification, I see the panorama depicted to include:

  • Asking the question “what is the nature of the human person, and what does that mean for law” (Rob Vischer)
  • Offering “a living witness to Christ’s love and mercy” by “being present to others” (Michael Scaperlanda)
  • “Captur[ing] something about the self-evident truths that are a part of our national legal fabric and beyond” (Robert Araujo)
  • Reminding us “that we cannot make decisions about law and public policy divorced from the teachings of our faith” (Susan Stabile)
  • Showcasing “feminist jurisprudence, in particular the concept of complementarity, and how that concept plays out in both Catholic teachings and legal theory” (Lisa Schiltz)
  • Presenting “the law of love” (Russell Powell)
  • Focusing on “the Catholic law school and ‘Catholic legal theory,’” while remembering always that “we are educating souls, not merely imparting skills training for budding bureaucrats” (Michael Moreland)
  • Recognizing “that Catholic thinking supplies something even more cosmic—knowledge and beliefs about the cosmos itself, and about the place of law in that cosmos” (Kevin Walsh)

So now, ten years after we started down the path, which of these things has the Mirror of Justice become?  All of them, of course.  How then should we explain the nature, categorize the genus, describe the distinctive characteristics of this virtual animal?  We could do little better than returning to the first words ever posted here, describing the Mirror of Justice as “a group blog created by a group of Catholic law professors interested in discovering how our Catholic perspective can inform our understanding of the law.”

Our messages have ranged from the political to the athletic, from the jurisprudential to the practically professional, from the sociological to the literary.  But central always has been our collective commitment to a Catholic theory (or sensibility) of the law and to a Catholic understanding of the legal profession.  Wherever else we have gone in the past ten years, and we have ranged widely in our mission to share the “profoundly countercultural elements in Catholicism," we have never wandered for too long away from driving questions about law and public life in a society that allows human thriving for the children of God.

And, as often expressed in these tenth anniversary reflections, at our best, we remember our priorities and maintain our humility.  In words written by Richard John Neuhaus to which I often return as a reminder to myself:

Whether the political dimension is major or minor in our vocations, we will all do our work much better if we understand that we are not doing the most important thing in the world.  It may be the most important thing for us to do because it is what we believe we are called to do, but not because it is the most important thing in the world.

Too many academics, political figures, and leaders in the legal profession believe they are engaged with the most important things that could occupy the attention of a human being. Without any sense of triumphalism, as we know our faith is a gift, we simply know better—even if we do not always act or speak as if we do and even if we too sometimes forget the higher things.  As Catholics, we must never forget that the Church is about salvation; that our friends, neighbors, and all others are beings of eternal significance; and that souls are at stake.


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