Professor discusses court in light of recent changes

Santo Caruso

The Wynnewood Institute hosted Professor Robert B. George on December 1st in the Conference Center, just in time for new Supreme Court justice John Roberts Jr.’s first major ruling.The topic was “Liberalism and Catholicism in the Public Square,” most appropriate considering the Supreme Court will be ruling on the constitutionality of a New Hampshire abortion law that requires parental notification.Though not entirely about abortion, nor directly pro-life or pro-choice, the speech centered on the idea of expressing Catholic moral values in open forums. The room was, for the most part, filled with people of similar ideology of the Wynnewood Institute, a conservative group based in Philadelphia “which conducts research and education concerned with contemporary questions of culture, society and public policy,” according to their website.George, a professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University explained the concept behind his most recent book, A Clash of Orthodoxies. The focus of the lecture was the “morally conservative religious against the secular liberalists in disputes over life-issues.” He listed a few of these issues as stem cell research, suicide, euthanasia and abortion, or as he called them “neuralgia inducing issues.”He said the conflict arises from the basic idea of the source of morality. Catholics, he said, draw from religious doctrine whereas secularists follow the idea of a natural law. George also wrote a book called In Defense of Natural Law, a foundational tome for his political philosophy.Though he is a practicing Catholic, George presented both Catholic and secular ideas, and said that his ultimate goal was to “identify principles and morals that can be accepted by believers and non-believers alike.” Dr. Colleen Sheehan, a political science professor at Villanova, brought her “Lincoln/Douglas Debates” class to the lecture, hoping they would see the parallels between those discussions from the 1858 Senatorial race and the current situation. Dr. Sheehan, a friend of Prof. George, challenged the lecturer to bring the main ideas of “Liberalism and Catholicism in the Public Square,” into reality by applying the concept to the Lincoln/Douglas debate over slavery.The lecture was part of a series paid for by the Wynnewood Institute at Villanova, all focusing on current issues viewed through a distinctly conservative lens. When asked how he felt Chief Justice Roberts would rule in regard to his personal faith, George said, “I think Justice Roberts would say rightly, that while his faith governs his conduct, in reading the Constitution faith does not dictate what the Constitution says. It’s the judges’ role to interpret what it says. It’s completely possible to say what the Constitution says, without compromising one’s faith.”