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New Notre Dame center seeks to bring Catholic social teaching into political discussions

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by Matt Hadro

Washington D.C., Aug 6, 2021 / 15:01 pm

A new center at the University of Notre Dame seeks to bring Catholic social teaching into current-day political and constitutional debates.

In May, the university announced it was launching the Center for Citizenship and Constitutional Government, to feature discussions and scholarship on constitutionalism, Catholicism, and the common good.

“Our hope is to bring Washington to campus – by hosting politicians, policy makers, and leading public intellectuals to Notre Dame – and to bring Notre Dame to Washington – by hosting conversations and events featuring ND faculty in the nation’s capital,” said Dr. Vincent Phillip Muñoz, director of the center, told CNA in a statement on Friday.

Muñoz is also associate professor of political science and concurrent associate professor of law at the university.

The center is still planning events for this fall, but Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has already been scheduled to deliver a Tocqueville Lecture. In addition, more than a dozen scholars – as well as federal judges – will gather for a conference on the Reconstruction Amendments on Oct. 28-29, Muñoz said.

“A number of ND faculty have written legal briefs and/or provided commentary on Dobbs v. Jackson; I’d like to bring them to DC for a conversation about the case,” Muñoz said, referring to the pivotal abortion case to be considered by the Supreme Court this fall.

The center supports the university’s minor in constitutional studies, Muñoz said, and students will read a number of documents from a number of Catholic authors: St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, the Second Vatican Council’s document on religious liberty Dignatatis Humane, and writings of contemporary Catholic authors, he said.

The center has also invited Catholic law professor Helen Alvare of George Mason University’s law school to speak, as well as Stanford University law professor Michael McConnell.

Muñoz told CNA that a full lineup of speakers and events for the fall 2021 semester will be announced soon.

Various donors and organizations are providing grants for the center’s work, including the U.S. Department of Education, the Charles Koch Foundation, the Napa Institute, and other individual donors.

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