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Notre Dame Professor Gerard Bradley: Defending Marriage Is an Opportunity

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 ...

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