Law, Religion & Philosophy
Law and religion have shaped each other for centuries, and at Villanova Law their mutual interaction can be studied in an environment that invites critical engagement from the widest range of perspectives. Courses in Jewish Law, Law and Literature, Catholic Social Thought, Justice and Rights, and Jurisprudence, as well as a wide range of clinical offerings, complemented by many special academic events and programs throughout the academic year, assure a lively communal engagement with the questions that have always animated the Catholic intellectual tradition and the Catholic university.
The Catholic intellectual tradition traces its beginnings to the earliest Christians’ efforts to articulate the complementarity of faith and reason. For the Catholic, thinking is a part of believing, and the Catholic mind discerns no conflict among faith, knowledge, and reason. In a conversation spanning two-thousand years, Catholics have developed a tradition of inquiry that is dynamic and open, marked both by its continuity and capacity for change.
Today the Catholic university remains the home for the conversation that draws on, explores, and advances the Catholic intellectual tradition. To understand, teach, and enrich the Catholic intellectual tradition is at the core of the mission of Villanova University. For that tradition to achieve the wholeness – catholicity – to which it always aspires, it must be engaged in the search for truth in every discipline, including law. In the authentically Catholic university, every voice that is in sincere pursuit of the truth is welcome in the conversation. In the Augustinian Catholic tradition of which Villanova is a part, students and teachers working together as a community of scholars are not simply pursuers of academic excellence; they are “servants of the truth.”
The Catholic conviction concerning the unity of all knowledge assures that the study of law must be leavened and guided by genuinely humanistic questions. The architectonic disciplines of philosophy and theology have a special place in the intellectual life of a Catholic university, for they bring order and direction to the learning that is specific to other disciplines such as law. The study of law as understood in the Catholic tradition is inclusive. It includes human hopes, human failings, human abilities, and human obligations to neighbor and to God. Villanova’s Catholic and Augustinian identity expands the range of inquiry concerning law; it does not restrict it. If the Catholic tradition proposes answers to all the questions with which human beings come to make and study law, it imposes none.
Villanova Law School is home to an impressive roster of faculty whose teaching and writing lie at the intersection of law, religion and philosophy. Villanova’s faculty includes experts such as Kathleen Brady, whose work on the religion clauses of the First Amendment draws on theology and philosophy of religion, Chaim Saiman, who teaches and writes in the area of Jewish Law, Michelle Dempsey, who teaches and writes in the areas of Feminist Legal Theory and Jurisprudence, Michele Pistone, who writes in the area of Catholic Social Thought on immigration and teaches our asylum clinic, and Patrick Brennan, whose scholarship mines the resources of the central western philosophical and theological tradition. Students can take advantage of their expertise through the wide array of courses in these areas and by working with professors individually on independent study and other projects. Here is a listing of full time and affiliated Law, Religion & Philosophy Faculty:
The Law School offers students the opportunity to explore the intersection of law, religion and philosophy. We offer a wide range of courses, including:
- Bioethics and the Law
- Canon Law
- Catholic Social Teaching and the Law
- Feminist Legal Theory
- Jewish Law
- Justice and Rights
- Law, Politics and Human Nature
- Law and Literature
- Religion in Public Life
- Religion and the Constitution
- Religion Law and Lawyering
- Tradition in Law and Religion
Journal & Blog
Villanova Law School is home to the Journal of Catholic Social Thought, which is jointly published by Villanova University School of Law and the Office of Mission Effectiveness of Villanova University. The Journal is a peer-reviewed interdisciplinary publication that brings together authors from the fields of law, theology, philosophy and political theory. Its focus is the rich field of Catholic social teaching and its implications for both theory and practice. The Law School also co-hosts the Mirror of Justice, which is a blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Lectures, Symposia and Special Events
The Law School has a number of conferences, symposia, lectures, and other special programs and workshops that focus on law, religion and philosophy. Significantly, our annual John F. Scarpa Conference on Law, Politics, and Culture and the annual Symposium on Catholic Social Thought and the Law are widely considered to be among the preeminent such events in Catholic legal education. The Donald A. Giannella Lecture brings a leading scholar on law and religion to Villanova each year. Last year, the Law School hosted the Law & Literature Symposium, and will do so again this year.
Student Retreat to Discern Their Vocation in the Law
Villanova Law School holds a retreat for students to find their purpose in the legal profession and the community at large. For more information about the retreat, please contact Fr. Joseph Calderone, OSA.
Catholic Relief Services Partnership
The Law School is active in the Villanova University and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Partnership. CRS is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States and provides assistance to people in need in more than 100 countries around the world. Through the partnership, CRS and the University collaborate in education, research, advocacy and service to deepen the shared missions of their institutions to further global justice and peace and to build solidarity with people around the world. Law school faculty and students participate in the partnership in various ways, including hosting and attending conferences on issues of global concern, collaborating on service projects, and participating in internships with CRS and its international partners. Over the last few years, law students held internships at the CRS Headquarters in Baltimore, MD and at Caritas Lebanon Migrant Center in Beirut, Lebanon.