Good Catholics Should Be Rawlsian Liberals

79 Pages Posted: 14 Jul 2007  

Leslie C. Griffin

University of Nevada, Las Vegas, William S. Boyd School of Law


This article defends John Rawls' Political Liberalism against charges that it is too secular and not sufficiently inclusive of religious opinions and commitments. Rawls's position, and the criticisms of it, is reminiscent of the complaints made about John Courtney Murray's writings in the 1940s and 1950s. Murray was the American Jesuit whose arguments justified American Catholic support of the First Amendment. I first examine Rawls's account of religion and identify the features of Rawlsian religion that appear objectionable to adherents of religion. I then examine Murray's thought and note the similarities between Rawls's and Murray's attempts to resolve the problem of pluralism. There are continuities, e.g., between Murray's "natural law" theory and Rawls's account of "public reason." In addition, both Murray and Rawls recognize the independence of law and politics from certain religious arguments. After examining the dissatisfaction among some Catholic writers with Murray's public philosophy framework, I conclude that politics and law are better served by the autonomy of law and politics from religion that Rawls and Murray propose.

Keywords: Rawls, religion, liberalism, public reason, John Courtney Murray

Suggested Citation

Griffin, Leslie C., Good Catholics Should Be Rawlsian Liberals. Southern California Interdisciplinary Law Journal, Vol. 5, No. 3, 1997. Available at SSRN:

Leslie C. Griffin (Contact Author)

University of Nevada, Las Vegas, William S. Boyd School of Law ( email )

4505 South Maryland Parkway
Box 451003
Las Vegas, NV 89154
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