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Thursday, May 17, 2007

"Law and the Catholic Social Tradition" seminar

Yesterday, I finished teaching my seminar, "Law and the Catholic Social Tradition," at the University of Chicago.  We met for 8 weeks, two hours each week.  The group was a bit large for a seminar (30 students), but the class still proceeded -- for the most part -- as a discussion, rather than a teacher-led lecture.  The students were a wonderfully diverse and engaged group -- Catholics and non-Catholics, religious believers and non-believers, liberals and conservatives, etc.

I enjoyed the experience immensely.  I was curious how such a course would go -- and I wondered how it should go -- at a non-religiously-affiliated institution, but was encouraged by reports from my friend Eduardo Penalver about his experiences teaching the class at Harvard and Yale.  The goal was to approach this particular Tradition from the "outside," to identify its claims and proposals, and then to consider them and their implications, not so much as religious adherents but as lawyers, legislators, and citizens.  The aim was not catechesis, but critical engagement and application.

If anyone is interested:  I hope, over the next few weeks, to post -- on another blog -- some short reflections by some of the students who took the course.

Here is a link, if you are interested, to a syllabus that I posted at Mirror of Justice.

Posted by Rick Garnett on May 17, 2007 at 05:10 PM in Teaching Law | Permalink


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So we see things a bit differently here (it may be due to the fact that you're a Catholic and I'm not), but I'll spare everyone my tiresome argumentative self.... I don't get the reference to the NY Times, which I rarely read (I subscribe to the Los Angeles Times), having drawn my conclusions from books and journal articles, as well as vigorous discussions with a former fellow graduate student who specialized in Liberation Theology. I do wish Penny Lernoux was still with us so we could solicit her thoughts on the matter!

Posted by: Patrick S. O'Donnell | May 18, 2007 3:01:09 PM

For what it's worth, I don't think that's really true, Patrick. The New York Times notwithstanding, my own sense (Gutierrez is a Notre Dame colleague)is that the "Rome silenced Liberation Theology" storyline has, despite repetition, missed a lot. So far as I can tell, *lots* -- not all, certainly -- of what the Liberation Theologians had to say has (quite appropriately, I think) been taken on board by the Social Tradition, and by this Pope and his predecessor.

Posted by: Rick Garnett | May 18, 2007 11:23:22 AM

Alas, Liberation Theology (its theologians and the comunidades de base they inspired) have not been allowed, for some time now, to be 'on the margins,' and in a good way. And here I find the analyses and perspectives provided by Penny Lernoux and Phillip Berryman both perspicuous and perspicacious.

Posted by: Patrick S. O'Donnell | May 18, 2007 10:39:20 AM

Patrick, you're probably right. The CW is probably "on the margins," but in a good way. As I see it, it's healthy for the Tradition for their to be people living and acting in ways that challenge us, regularly, to ask whether we are conscientiously (faithfully?) seeing the sometimes-radical implications of the preferential option for the poor, the solidarity principle, and so on.

Posted by: Rick Garnett | May 18, 2007 9:48:23 AM

I've been getting and reading The Catholic Worker newspaper for many years (who can beat the price?). And I wrote my last paper in graduate school on 'The Catholic Worker movement and Modernity,' so I have a soft spot for them. But I was under the impression they've always been on the margins of Catholic social thought, not theologically mind you, but socially and politically. Perhaps I was/am mistaken.

Posted by: Patrick S. O'Donnell | May 18, 2007 1:07:52 AM

Patrick -- Looks good, so far as I can tell. One of my students, actually, apparently lives in a Catholic Worker house.

Posted by: Rick Garnett | May 17, 2007 11:38:12 PM


What does the Catholic Worker Movement of Day, Maurin, and others in our own time look like from the perspective of the Catholic Social Tradition?

Posted by: Patrick S. O'Donnell | May 17, 2007 7:26:31 PM

Will do!

Posted by: Rick Garnett | May 17, 2007 5:21:44 PM

Rick, looks fascinating. Can you post a syllabus of the materials you read (after the jump)?

Posted by: Dan Markel | May 17, 2007 5:15:18 PM

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