Skip to main content


Notre Dame Professor Gerard Bradley: Defending Marriage Is an Opportunity

11/4/2003 - 5:00 AM PST

Advertisment

Notre Dame Professor on the Trials of Being Catholic and a Lawyer

SOUTH BEND, Indiana, NOV. 3, 2003 (Zenit) - Gerard Bradley readily concedes that most Americans generally don't hunger for the truth about marriage.

But the Notre Dame Law School professor recognizes that these times of overturned sodomy laws and recognition of same-sex unions give Christians a privileged moment in which to relay the true meaning of marriage in and out of court.

Bradley, who is a scholar in the fields of constitutional law as well as law and religion, shared with Zenit his thoughts about the challenges that confront Catholic lawyers who want to engage in evangelical activity in an increasingly secularized world.

Q: In a secularized age like ours -- an era of legal abortion and the overturning of sodomy laws, for instance -- what is the biggest problem a Catholic attorney faces in trying to live his faith and still be an effective lawyer?

Bradley: The challenges of lawyering in a secular age are distinctive and great, but they are best understood as complications of two perennial challenges.

First, the Catholic attorney faces the same challenge to integrate his vocational commitments that everyone faces all of the time. Each one of us has a personal vocation, a unique way of cooperating with Jesus in building his Kingdom.

One's personal vocation is comprised of several major responsibilities: career, family and lay apostolate of some sort. In any age, integrating these commitments can be daunting, and good people will always wonder whether they are doing justice to each responsibility.

Integrating these responsibilities today is especially difficult for the Catholic attorney. The successful practice of law is more demanding than ever, less forgiving of other responsibilities and often scarcely compatible with decent rest and recreation.

This particular complication owes something to secularization; in a Christian culture the professions would not be such jealous masters. But secularization does not necessarily lead to such conflicts, as the more relaxed lifestyles of so many European professionals suggest.

It seems to me that in many areas today the successful practice of law is incompatible with family responsibilities. Young attorneys may face a stark choice between career and marriage, unable to do justice to both. This choice between "success" and family is starker for women than men, just because the responsibilities of mothers are typically more consuming than those of fathers.

The second complication grows right out of secularization. The perennial part of this challenge is the task of all the laity, attorneys included, to engage in evangelical activity in the temporal realm; to bring the Gospel to the world, to be leaven.

But, as the Second Vatican Council fathers told us in "Apostolicam Actuositatem," the lay apostolate "becomes more imperative in view of the fact that many areas of human life have become increasingly autonomous."

This "autonomy" of science, culture, the market and the positive law from Gospel values is secularization. We -- that is, the Church -- have been trying to cope with secularization at least since the Council and nothing has clearly worked.

Q: What specific contributions or changes can Christians realistically introduce to law in the West?

Bradley: If by "realistically" one means wholesome proposals about morally important matters such as marriage that are likely to be enacted, the news is not good.

With regard to almost all such matters the positive law of developed societies is so deeply enmeshed in lies, rationalizations and false ideologies that a "realistic" view is not an encouraging one.

Although fighting against legal recognition of "same-sex marriage," for example, may seem quixotic, we live in a privileged moment: Never before in our lifetimes has our society been so focused on the true meaning of marriage -- why marriage is possible only between a man and a woman, and what is the relation of culture and law to the effective maintenance and support of marriage.

I am not saying that the American people hunger for the truth about marriage. By and large, they do not. But many of them are prepared to give serious consideration to the truth because the question of why marriage is just for a man and a woman perplexes them.

Many Protestant evangelicals, for example, have come to see the truth of "Humanae Vitae" during the debate over same-sex unions. They see it because they see that contraception reduces the sexual acts of spouses to an exchange of affection, intimacy and pleasure which is not necessarily unavailable to two men, or to two women, in a long-term relationship.

Q: Given the U.S. Supreme Court ...

1 | 2  Next Page

Rate This Article

Very Helpful Somewhat Helpful Not Helpful at All

Yes, I am Interested No, I am not Interested

Rate Article

0 Comments

Leave a Comment

Comments submitted must be civil, remain on-topic and not violate any laws including copyright. We reserve the right to delete any comments which are abusive, inappropriate or not constructive to the discussion.

Though we invite robust discussion, we reserve the right to not publish any comment which denigrates the human person, undermines marriage and the family, or advocates for positions which openly oppose the teaching of the Catholic Church.

This is a supervised forum and the Editors of Catholic Online retain the right to direct it.

We also reserve the right to block any commenter for repeated violations. Your email address is required to post, but it will not be published on the site.

We ask that you NOT post your comment more than once. Catholic Online is growing and our ability to review all comments sometimes results in a delay in their publication.

Send me important information from Catholic Online and it's partners. See Sample

Post Comment


Newsletter Sign Up

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Jeremiah 2:1-3, 7-8, 12-13
The word of Yahweh came to me, saying, 'Go and shout this in ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 36:6-7, 8-9, 10-11
your saving justice is like towering mountains, your judgements ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 13:10-17
Then the disciples went up to him and asked, 'Why do you talk ... Read More

Saint of the Day

July 24 Saint of the Day

St. John Boste
July 24: One of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. He was born ... Read More