Monday, October 22, 2018
Here's a post I did, the day after Blessed Pope John Paul II's death, back in April of 2005:
I'm sure that many of us are reflecting on the effect that the Holy Father had on our faith and lives, and thanking God for the gift of his ministry and example. It also makes sense, here on MOJ, for us to consider what the Pope's work and thought might mean for law and legal theory. A few thoughts:
First, many of the Pope's writings focus on the importance of culture as the arena in which human persons live, thrive, and search for truth. His was not a reductionist Christianity -- one in which the choices and hopes of persons drop out of the analysis, and are replaced merely by one "dialectic" or another. Nor is Christianity merely a matter of a rightly ordered interior life. We are precious and particular, bearing the "weight of glory," but also social, relational, political -- and cultural. And, he recognized, law both shapes and is shaped by culture.
Second, the Pope returned again and again to the theme of freedom. Certainly, for lawyers -- and particularly for lawyers living and working in our constitutional democracy -- questions about the extent to which law can and should liberate (and, perhaps, liberate-by-restraining?) are appropriately on the front burner. It's fair to say that John Paul II proposed an understanding of freedom -- and of its connection with (T)ruth -- that contrasts instructively with the more libertarian, self-centered understanding that seems ascendant in our law (particularly our constitutional law) today.
Third, I imagine we will be working out for decades the implications of the Pope's proposal that the God-given dignity of the human person, and the norm of love, richly understood, should occupy center-stage in our conversations about morality -- rather than utilitarian calculations, historical movements, or supposed categorical imperatives. This proposal seems particularly powerful when it comes to the matter of religious freedom.
Finally, there is the (perhaps, at first) surprising fact that, at the end of the 20th Century, it was a mystical Pope who "stepped up" and reminded a world that had been distracted, or perhaps chastened, by reason's failures, and had embraced a excessively modest, post-modern skepticism, of the dignity and proper ends (without overlooking the limits) of reason.
There's a lot more to say, of course. I would, for what it's worth, encourage any MOJ readers who work with or advise law journals to consider commissioning essays, or even symposia, on John Paul II's jurisprudential legacy.
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- "Catholic Thought and the Challenges of Our Time"