Justice Neil Gorsuch’s Speech to Catholic Group Closed to the Media

Recent weeks have seen other Supreme Court justices allow coverage of their remarks at events

Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch’s doctoral study on a conservative philosophy called natural law is a prime reason right-leaning legal thinkers recommended him to President Trump. But the public won’t have a chance to learn the jurist’s latest thoughts on the theory when he speaks Friday at a conference of Catholic legal scholars seeking to expand Christian influence on public policy.

The sponsor, the Thomistic Institute, is barring journalists from covering the conference, titled “Christianity and the Common Good,” being held Friday and Saturday at Harvard Law School.

“The focus of this event is on the students having a fruitful encounter and exchange with the justice on an academic theme,” Father Legge said by email. “The decision that the event would be closed was mine, not the justice’s, and it was made in accord with our normal policy for such events.”

Neither Justice Gorsuch nor Father Legge responded to requests for a transcript or audio of the justice’s remarks that would not identify students.

.. Founded in 2009, the institute is devoted to the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas

While it has different strands, in general natural law posits that certain values or rules are permanent, universal and intrinsically knowable to all people regardless of their culture or beliefs. Many natural-law adherents believe that this higher law originates from God rather than humanistic values, although not all versions of the philosophy are explicitly religious.

.. As a Marshall Scholar at Oxford University, he studied under John Finnis, a legal philosopher who in recent decades revived academic interest in natural law.

Mr. Finnis has argued that natural-law principles can justify state action to promote moral virtue, which he suggests may be furthered by restricting contraception or prohibiting same-sex marriage. .

.. While some justices have attempted to avoid activities that could suggest a continuing role in politics, Justice Gorsuch hasn’t drawn a bright line.

The Trump appointee last year addressed a group at the Trump International Hotel and accompanied his Senate patron, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.), on visits to Kentucky universities. Those events largely were open to press coverage, although a January dinner he had at the home of Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas) with several Republican senators and a Trump cabinet secretary wasn’t.

Richard Rohr Meditation: Creation Reflects God’s Glory

St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) stated, “The immense diversity and pluriformity of this creation more perfectly represents God than any one creature alone or by itself.” [4] However, most Christians thought humans were the only creatures that God cared about, and all else—animals, plants, light, water, soil, minerals—was just “food” for our own sustenance and enjoyment.

.. God created millions of creatures for millions of years before Homo sapiens came along. Many of these beings are too tiny for us to see or have yet to be discovered; some have seemingly no benefit to human life; and many, like the dinosaurs, lived and died long before we did. Why did they even exist? A number of the Psalms say that creation exists simply to reflect and give glory to God (e.g., Psalm 104).

The Reformation is over. Protestants won. So why are we still here?

Roman Catholicism is rich and vibrant. But someone has to keep the Church honest.

 .. In short, the Reformation seemed to us to be “back there,” and I felt no need to defend Protestantism because it seldom occurred to me that being a Protestant was all that important or interesting. The antagonism of the past simply seemed no longer relevant. It was the ’60s; we were attracted to theology as part of a general attempt to make the world better. Protestant-Catholic sectarianism didn’t feel current.
.. In 1974, I interviewed for my job teaching theology at Notre Dame. Things were going well until a professor on the hiring committee asked what I wanted to teach graduate students. I said I would like to teach a seminar on Aristotle and Aquinas. The response was immediate: “Why would you, a Protestant, want to teach a course on a Catholic thinker?” Christianity did not begin in the 15th century, I replied. I argued that Aquinas was not a possession of Roman Catholics but a resource for all Christians, whether Protestant or Catholic.

.. It was a small moment, but in that exchange, I began to understand that we were in a new day: Five hundred years after its inception, we are witnessing the end of the Reformation. The very name “Protestant” suggests a protest movement aimed at the reform of a church that now bears the name of Roman Catholicism. But the reality is that the Reformation worked. Most of the reforms Protestants wanted Catholics to make have been made
.. Over time, historians have helped us see that there was no one thing the Reformation was about, but that if there was a single characteristic at its heart, it was the recovery of the centrality of Christ for making sense of why Christians are not at home in this world.
.. That the Reformation has been a success, however, has put Protestantism in a crisis. Winning is dangerous — what do you do next?
.. The result is denominationalism in which each Protestant church tries to be just different enough from other Protestant churches to attract an increasingly diminishing market share.
.. Yet, perhaps tellingly, a number of my Protestant graduate students have become Roman Catholics over the years. (So many crossed the Tiber that my colleagues joked I was an agent for Opus Dei.) They convert because Catholicism is an intellectually rich theological tradition better able to negotiate the acids of our culture. They also take seriously that Roman Catholicism represents a commitment to Christian unity, not only toward non-Catholic Christians but between the poor and those who are not poor.
.. But I also remain a Protestant because I have the conviction that the ongoing change that the church needs means some of us must be Protestant to keep Catholics honest about their claim to the title of the one true Catholic Church. The Reformation may be coming to an end, but reform in the church is never-ending, requiring some to stand outside looking in.