Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date


Publication Information

74 St. John's L. Rev. 609 (2000)


When I was first asked in March of 2000 to speak at this conference on the topic of "law and theology," many thoughts crossed my mind. I could address: the role of religion in American political life, euthanasia, medieval canon law and theology, the death penalty, the Jewish origins of the Pauline perspective on law, the ethics of DNA experimentation, Muslim theology and law, the relation between Marxist political theory and Christian eschatology, or several other "light" issues. Upon second thought, perhaps a more straight-forward approach would be beneficial. I might review the plan of salvation history, and then as a true academic, propose alternatives! Because the ten days in March, during which I prepared these remarks, coincided with a not uneventful time in my own life, I decided to remain on familiar terrain. As an unworthy disciple of the "lesser brother" from Assisi, I chose to speak briefly about Franciscan theology and law.

Specifically, I shall consider a question that has been the focus of a great deal of theological discussion during the course of the last century: "What does it mean to be a human being?" The perennial nature of this broad issue, the "anthropological question" as the theologians refer to it, guarantees that its discussion will continue well into the current century. Desiring to maintain at least some semblance of intellectual prudence, I have elected to use my twenty minutes simply to introduce the question within the context of my own modest understanding of Franciscan theology and spirituality. I must acknowledge that the Jesuits sponsor most of the Catholic law schools in this country. Moreover, our own beloved St. John's University abides in the tradition of the great Vincentian visionaries, Saints Vincent de Paul and Louise de Merillac. As a product of both Vincentian and Jesuit education myself, I am certainly deeply grateful. Among us at today's conference are also representatives of law schools from other faith traditions. Aware of the various faith traditions, what I shall discuss from a Franciscan perspective is a fundamental anthropology in the best meaning of the words "catholic" and "ecumenical." My remarks this morning are shared with the hope that the connection between the theological query and the law will be evident. Please allow me to speak first of liberal theory, then of the Franciscan insight, and finally to pose some questions for us as legal educators.


Reprinted with permission of St. John's Law Review.

Included in

Religion Law Commons



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