The Catholic University of America Press

Recovering Self-Evident Truths

Catholic Perspectives on American Law

Michael A. Scaperlanda and Teresa Staton Collett, Editors

Paper 978-0-8132-1482-5 $39.95
June 2007 In Print Add to Cart
E-Book 978-0-8132-2089-5 $39.95
August 2012 In Print Add to Cart

This book presents an engaging collection of essays exploring "catholic" and "Catholic" perspectives on American law--catholic in their claims of universal truths, and Catholic in their grounding in the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. What emerges is a model of human freedom and flourishing that has its foundation in the transcendent vocation of each and every human person.

The 2000-year-old Catholic Church played a pivotal role in the formation of the western legal culture. Does it have anything of relevance left to offer that culture in the 21st century? The contributors to Recovering Self-Evident Truths answer with a resounding yes.

The opening essays present the guiding premises of the volume as a whole: human persons must be respected by governments and law because their objective dignity arises from being made in the image and likeness of God. Reasoning from these premises, the next set of essays situates the person within community, exploring the implications for the American legal system of taking seriously Catholic understanding of subsidiarity, solidarity, the common good, and the relationship between freedom and truth. The next set of essays concludes the foundational material by engaging dominant secular political and legal theory from a Catholic perspective.

With the foundation set, the essays in the second half of the book explore eight specific substantive areas of the law--Contract Law, Property Law, Tort Law, Criminal Law, Labor Law, Family Law, Immigration Law, and International Law--through a Catholic lens.

Recovering Self-Evident Truths is particularly timely: a majority of the justices on the United States Supreme Court are Catholic; Catholics represent a pivotal voting demographic in the American political landscape; and the issue of religion and religious values in the public square is hotly debated as some warn against a creeping theocracy. This book demonstrates that religiously founded values can serve to provide constructive proposals for building a more just society.


Michael A. Scaperlanda, the Edwards Family Chair in Law at the University of Oklahoma College of Law, is author or editor of numerous works including The Journey: A Guide for the Modern Pilgrim and Immigration and Constitutional Law. Teresa Collett, professor of law at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis is the author of numerous works including Cases and Materials on the Rules of the Legal Profession and The King's Good Servant, But God's First: The Role of Religion in Judicial Decisionmaking.


In addition to the editors, contributors to the volume are: Lorenzo Albacete, Robert Araujo, Benedict Ashley, John Coughlin, Avery Cardinal Dulles, Richard Garnett, Francis Cardinal George, Robert George, Mary Ann Glendon, James Gordley, Thomas Kohler, Kevin Lee, Randy Lee, Vincent Rougeau, Russell Shaw, Amelia Uelmen, Robert Vischer, and Christopher Wolfe.


"This is a wonderful collection of essays edited by two of the finest Catholic legal scholars writing today. Professors Michael A. Scaperlanda and Teresa Stanton Collett have assembled an august group of scholars and legal practitioners who offer a readable account of what the Catholic legal tradition may contribute, and has contributed, to American law. . . . [T]his book is a fine contribution to the growing literature on theology and law. This is an ideal tome for anyone interested in exploring Catholic legal theory and how the Church's theology shapes its understanding of law, politics, and faith. This book could also be used as one of several required texts in courses on religion and law, theology and law, or Catholic legal theory. Scaperlanda and Collett have published an important anthology that deserves a wide reading." -- Journal of Church and State

"Recovering Self-Evident Truths defies simple classification; it is neither a textbook nor a series of tightly interrelated essays on a single theme. Rather, this collection of essays poses the central question whether 'our society can recover and build upon the self-evident truths proclaimed by our predecessors more than 225 years ago' (14)? . . . [T]hese essays will provide useful supplemental reading for courses on Catholic Social Thought and Modern Political Thought in Religion, Sociology, and Politics Departments. With its extensive bibliography and sketches of the contributors and their publications, the essays are a useful addition to university libraries and provide important materials for students researching issues on law and society." -- Michael Dillon, American Catholic Studies

"An extremely useful collection of informed examinations of how natural law theory can constructively engage American legal and political traditions. Included are essays by some of the heavy hitters in Catholic theology, philosophy, and law: Avery Cardinal Dulles, Robert P. George, Richard Garnett, Mary Ann Glendon, and others. This is a necessary text for students of Catholic social doctrine and its interaction with the American experience." -- First Things

Product Details

Pages:xvi, 403 pages

Dimensions:6x9 inches


CIP Information: 2006014951/ KF358.R43 2007/ 349.73--dc22


1. Law--United States

2. Religion and law--United States

3. Christianity and justice--Catholic Church

4. Catholic Church--Influence