The Road Not Taken: Catholic Legal Education at the Middle of the Twentieth Century
American Journal of Legal History, Vol. 51, 2011
87 Pages Posted: 1 Feb 2012
Date Written: December 1, 2011
The Road Not Taken describes the history and animating themes of American Catholic legal education. The heart of The Road Not Taken is a now forgotten episode in the history of American legal education. In the late 1930s, a number of leading Catholic legal scholars issued a call for reform — a proposal which urged Catholic law schools to educate in a manner distinctive from their non-Catholic peers. While open to students from diverse faith backgrounds, the proponents of this reform argued that teaching and scholarship at Catholic law schools should be grounded in the Catholic intellectual tradition. As we demonstrate, however, this call for reform went unanswered. Had it succeeded, it could have profoundly changed both the landscape of legal education and the face of the legal profession.
In this Article, we accomplish three goals. First, we describe the founding and early years of Catholic legal education. Second, we detail the national effort to reform Catholic legal education that began in the 1930s and which was driven, in large measure, by the rise of Legal Realism at home and the threat of totalitarianism abroad. Third, we explore the social, institutional, and historical reasons that explain why the reform effort failed.
Keywords: legal education, Catholic, legal realism, thomism, scholasticism, Catholic intellectual tradition
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation