At the University of St. Thomas School of Law building dedication on Oct. 17, Dean Thomas Mengler announced that the law school was joining with the Center for Catholic Studies to create a new institute. The new Institute for Catholic Thought, Law and Public Policy is a response to an invitation from Catholic Studies to the School of Law to expand collaboration. A joint program permitting students to earn a law degree as well as a master’s degree in Catholic Studies is already in place.
The institute has several broad objectives. First, it will continue a program that faculty in the center began several years ago that was aimed at recovering the Catholic intellectual tradition for professional education. Over the past two summers, the center has hosted symposia for professors in business, law, philosophy and theology from around the country. The purpose of the symposia has been to explore certain topics (such as property and corporate governance) from an interdisciplinary perspective, and to see how the Catholic tradition might be helpful in teaching these subjects to business and law students. Collaborating schools have included the Catholic University of America, the University of Notre Dame, the University of Dallas, Marquette University, St. Mary’s University of California and Seton Hall University. The institute will continue to take a leadership role in this project, with the hope that, over time, professors can become more thoroughly acquainted with the Catholic intellectual tradition, and that useful curricular materials can be developed.
A second area of attention will concern scholarship. A handful of legal theories have come to dominate legal education in recent decades, and this has led to the marginalization of older, and often richer, theories of law. The institute will encourage scholarship that explores the Catholic tradition of legal thought that blossomed over the past several centuries and that exercised a considerable influence on many areas of Anglo-American law.
The third area of attention will be public outreach. In this regard, the institute plans to host events for the general public as well as for lawyers in the Twin Cities. These events may focus on individual speakers or provide an opportunity for interested parties to discuss important current topics, such as the vocation of Catholic attorneys or the nature of marriage in a pluralistic society. The institute also hopes to act as a resource on issues of public policy for various individuals and groups.
Professors Thomas Berg of the School of Law and Robert Kennedy of the Center for Catholic Studies have been named co-directors of the institute, which will be housed in the new School of Law building.