I am on my way back — having a beer in the airport — from the annual AALS hiring conference. (This is, for the unitiated, a several-days-long affair, at a huge hotel, where aspiring law-professors run from one 30 minute interview to another, and the appointments commitees of dozens and dozens of law schools hole up in suites, waiting to pepper candidates with questions about their goals, lives, work, etc.)
One result of spending the day meeting and talking with a contingent of talented, engaging, and intimidatingly credentialed would-be law professors (that is, an effect besides the “good Lord, I’m glad I got my job ten years ago” feeling) is reflection on what it means — beyond slogans, inoffensive generalities, or uncontroversial bromides about “justice” — to profess and aspire to be a “Catholic law school”.
To their credit, most of the future law-teachers with whom my Notre Dame colleagues and I spoke asked us about — “called us” on — the “Catholic mission” thing. As a rule, we would say, among other things, that there are dozens of faculty and each would likely express and live out the “thing” in different ways. Fair enough. But, what else? Some affirmations of the importance of community, collegiality, social-justice, etc., were also appropriate, and regularly provided. We talked some about how a Catholic law school’s mission finds natural expression in indisciplinary work (that is, “interdisciplinarity” is not, on the Catholic understanding of a university’s work, a fad or an add-on; it’s a natural, necessary feature of the search for truth.) And, I emphasized, as I usually do in these conversations, my view that a Catholic law school should call its students and faculty to “integration.”But . . . what else is needed? What else should be said? I’ve been teaching at a Catholic law school for nine years, blogging about “Catholic legal theory” for nearly five, and have talked to dozens and dozens of potential hires. I know — I just know — there’s more to the “mission” of an authentically, meaningfully Catholic law school than what I usually manage to articulate, and I feel like I’m not doing right by those who say, “that sounds interesting, even attractive . . . what does it mean?”