Thursday, April 30, 2015
As so many generous contributors to MOJ have already recorded here, the Ninth Annual Scarpa Conference, held at Villanova Law last week, offered a welcome opportunity to ponder, probe, and pray about (and for) that for the sake of which those engaged in "Catholic legal theory" are laboring. I remain overwhelmed by the gifts that true generosity of intellect and spirit delivered one week ago.
MOJ has served for more than a decade now as a crucible for refining both questions and answers about what Catholics who care about the common good, and therefore about law, should be doing. My own sense, reached with sadness but openness, is that true care for the common good today cannot shrink from acknowledging that the Church labors in the throes of a crisis. We can (and must) debate and determine the sources and causes of the crisis, but crisis it is, and any refusal to acknowledge the crisis for what it is should be prepared to demonstrate, beyond a reasonable doubt, how (with a few exceptions) the unwinding of the institutional Church from shore to shore gives witness to that "new springtime" one hears about all the time. I comprehend that souls can be saved even as institutions collapse, but where, exactly, is the evidence of spring in the visible life of the Catholic Church in the United States?
My principal point at the recent conference at Villanova was that Catholic legal theory worth its salt must recognize and fathom, first, what the culture needs, for the salvation of souls, and, second, how the Church's ministers must re-shoulder a burden that was sidelined by a bizarrely elitist preference (since 1965 or so) for "dialogue" instead of evangelization undertaken in the fullness of charity.
Catholic legal theory must start from what the world needs, and my submission is that what the world needs from the Church is, first (and last), a Church who cares more visibly and effectively for the salvation of souls, rather than so much about (say) equal wages for equal work (no doubt a matter of great importance for the jurisdiction of the civil ruling authority). In my view, Catholic legal theory isn't worth the name Catholic unless it be about saving souls, and the salvation of souls begins, if at all, in this world and under its principalities.