Faith-Based Persuasion in the Public Square: Natural Law and Its Competitors.

A Conversation Among Scholars

Monday, October 14, 2-5 p.m. in the Reese Room at Smith House

123 Vernon Street, Hartford, Connecticut

The concept of natural law, deeply rooted in many forms of religious and secular advocacy in Western Culture, has been used by theologians and philosophers to argue that their positions, when derived from the use of reason to analyze human nature can deduce binding rules of moral behavior enforceable on both those who accept their particular ideologies and those who do not. Confidence in natural law approaches has been eroding, even with one-time bastions like the Catholic Church.

The conversation, which draws together scholars from religious and secular traditions that have emphasized natural law, as well as traditions that take alternative approaches, comes as a response to the publication of Mark Massa’s “The Structure of Theological Revolutions: How the Fight Over Birth Control Transformed American Catholicism,” which explores and evaluates the tumultuous debate the continuing relevance of natural law in Catholicism since the late 1960s.


Chair: Michael Sean Winters is a senior fellow at Trinity’s Leonard E. Greenberg Center and visiting fellow at Catholic University’s Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies. Winters writes Distinctly Catholic, an acclaimed blog for National Catholic Reporter. His books include Left At the Altar: How Democrats Lost the Catholics And How Catholics Can Save The Democrats.

Response: Mark Massa, S.J., is director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College. He received a M.Div. from Weston Jesuit School of Theology and his Th.D. from Harvard University. Massa founded and served as director of the Curran Center for American Catholic Studies at Fordham. Massa’s books include Catholics and American Culture: Fulton Sheen, Dorothy Day, and the Notre Dame Football Team.

First Panel: The Natural Law Pitch

Cathleen Kaveny is the Darald and Juliet Libby Professor at Boston College, serving in both the theology department and the law school. She received her J.D and Ph.D. from Yale University. Kaveny has published four books and over a hundred articles and essays, in journals and books specializing in law, ethics, and medical ethics.

Joel Lohr serves as the President of Hartford Seminary and as professor of Bible and Interreligious Dialogue. He attended the University of Durham in England where he received his MA and PhD. He has published 10 books, most recently a tri-authored book The Abingdon Introduction to the Bible: Understanding Jewish and Christian Scriptures.

Paul Brink is professor of political science at Gordon College. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Notre Dame. He serves on the board of Christians in Political Science, the national Christian learned society in political science.

Maurice Wade graduated from Stanford University with a Ph.D. in Philosophy. He now serves as professor of philosophy at Trinity College, as is a contributing faculty member in the Public Policy and Law Program and International Studies. He has published on Rawls’ theory of justice, philosophy of sport, ethics and medical technology, ethics and public policy, and Frantz Fanon.

Second Panel: Coming From Elsewhere

Mark Silk is director of the Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life and professor of religion at Trinity College. He received his Ph.D. at Harvard University. Silk was editor of the Boston Review and worked at the Atlanta-Journal Constitution. He is the founding editor of Religion in the News, and in 2005 became director of the Trinity’s Program on Public Values. He has published five books and many articles.

Ellison Findly graduated from Yale University with a Ph.D. in Hinduism and Buddhism. She taught at Mt. Holyoke College until 1978, until joining the Trinity faculty in religious studies. Findly has published six books including Nur Jahan: Empress of Mughal India and Women, Religion and Social Change, and the forthcoming Spirits in the Loom: Religion and Textiles in Northeast Laos.

Hossein Kamaly is the associate professor of Islamic studies and the Imam Ali Chair for Shi’i Studies and Dialogue among Islamic Legal Schools. Before obtaining his Ph.D. in history from Columbia University, he graduated from Shahid Beheshti University in Iran. His first book in English was God & Man in Tehran: Contending Visions of the Divine from the Qajars to the Islamic Republic, and A History of Islam in 21 Women, is forthcoming.

Elizabeth H. Prodromou is visiting associate professor of conflict resolution at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, where she directs the Initiative on Religion, Law, and Diplomacy. She holds a Ph.D. in political science from MIT. She has published widely in scholarly and policy journals. Prodromou has served on the U. S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and the U.S. Secretary of State’s Religion & Foreign Policy Working Group.