Tuesday, February 5, 2019
This week marks the 15th anniversary of the Mirror of Justice blog. Tempus fugit, and all that. I dug up my first substantive post, and I suppose I should not have been surprised that it was, like a lot of the things I've put up on this blog, about Christian "moral anthropology" and its implications for law and the legal enterprise:
One of our shared goals for this blog is to -- in Mark's words -- "discover how our Catholic perspective can inform our understanding of the law." One line of inquiry that, in my view, is particularly promising -- and one that I know several of my colleagues have written and thought about -- involves working through the implications for legal questions of a Catholic "moral anthropology." By "moral anthropology," I mean an account of what it is about the human person that does the work in moral arguments about what we ought or ought not to do and about how we ought or ought not to be treated; I mean, in Pope John Paul II's words, the “moral truth about the human person."
The Psalmist asked, "Lord, what is man . . . that thou makest account of him?” (Ps. 143:3). This is not only a prayer, but a starting point for jurisprudential reflection. All moral problems are anthropological problems, because moral arguments are built, for the most part, on anthropological presuppositions. That is, as Professor Elshtain has put it, our attempts at moral judgment tend to reflect our “foundational assumptions about what it means to be human." Jean Bethke Elshtain, The Dignity of the Human Person and the Idea of Human Rights: Four Inquiries, 14 JOURNAL OF LAW AND RELIGION 53, 53 (1999-2000).
We've covered a lot of ground these past 15 years - and not just, although it sometimes might have seemed like it, four presidential elections. We've had about 15,300 posts and (I estimate) about 5 million page-views. Bloggers have come and gone -- although more than a few of us have been on board the whole time -- and engagement and activity have waxed and waned with current events, the life of the Church, and the academic calendar. We've talked about current events and politics, sure, but at our best the blog was not another "blog about current events and politics (by people who happen to be Catholic law professors)." We've argued some, and thrown some elbows, but I like to hope that, all things considered, we've shed some light and not just "thrown some shade."
I continue to think it is the case -- it just has to be -- that the Christian proposal and story have something to say about law -- again, about the purpose and nature of law and the legal enterprise, not just the substantive content of particular enactments. There needs to be, I think -- and we should want there to be -- a meaningfully, interestingly "Catholic legal theory." Such a theory is -- or, at least, should be -- of interest and value to Catholics and non-Catholics alike. That we are Catholic should make a difference for how we teach, practice, study, understand, and craft law.
The flow (as well as the speed and, perhaps, the snarkiness) of the public conversation has changed over the last 15 years. Twitter wasn't around. Facebook, believe it or not, was launched on the same day as Mirror of Justice. (Arguably, we've done better at our mission than they have at theirs!) Legal practice, legal scholarship, and legal education have changed significantly, reflecting the ongoing Digitization of Everything. A lot that used to be said, in paragraphs, on blogs is now said, with a few words (or emojis or gifs) on Twitter.
It's not clear to me what the future holds for this blog-venture, or for blogging generally. I'd welcome others' thoughts! In the meantime, I want to say "thank you" to the many thousands of people who have checked in with MOJ over the years and to my co-blogging colleagues and friends. Let's all pray for the Church, for our vocation, and for each other.