Conversation in Aid of a 'Conspiracy' for Truth: A Candid Discussion About Jesuit Law Schools, Justice, and Engaging the Catholic Intellectual Tradition
19 Pages Posted: 24 Jun 2008
Date Written: June 23, 2008
This essay responds to the critique of Jesuit legal education developed by John Breen in two recent articles. I endorse Breen's call for a candid discussion of how Jesuit Catholic law schools might go about embodying a characteristic that should be at the heart of their mission: a commitment to engaging the Catholic intellectual tradition in the intellectual life of the law school. Law schools that wish to be taken seriously as Jesuit law schools must in fact be places where engagement with the Catholic intellectual tradition is part of the air that gives life to the academic mission of the institution. I reject, however, Breen's stark conclusion that Jesuit legal education must be characterized as an "abysmal failure" as Jesuit education. His conclusion is rooted in a mistaken understanding of what the Jesuit commitment to higher education as an apostolate is about. My reflections suggest two points in the hope of furthering the discussion Breen desires. First, we need to look more carefully at what might be meant by references to the "Catholic intellectual tradition," and then explore what engagement with the tradition might actually look like in the contemporary Jesuit law school. Second, we need to recognize that the tone and style of engagement that one adopts with respect to this issue is critical. We need to invite our colleagues into a genuine conversation about two central issues: (1) What this unfolding, as-yet-unfinished project of the Catholic intellectual tradition is really about; and (2) Why the participation of a diverse community of scholars in this project is central to realizing a richer and more life-giving intellectual environment in the Jesuit Catholic law school (richer and more life-giving as a law school, precisely because it is a Jesuit Catholic law school).
Keywords: Jesuit legal education, Catholic intellectual tradition, justice and legal education
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