The Boston College Law School and department of theology recently announced that Cathleen Kaveny, a scholar of both law and moral theology, has joined the faculty. Given her experience, Kaveny will teach law and theology, the first professor to hold such a dual position in the University’s history.
The Darald and Juliet Libby professorship is an endowed chair provided by the gift left by Darald R. Libby, a 1995 graduate of the BC Law School, to honor his mentor Michael G. Pierce, S.J., of Boston’s Jesuit Mission Bureau, who passed away in 1998. Current Libby Professor Emeritus, Sanford Katz of the Law School, was named the inaugural holder in 2000.
For Kaveny, the position offers an opportunity to pursue her two academic passions-law and moral theology. “From the time I started my career, even as an undergraduate at Princeton 30 years ago, I wanted to combine the study of law with the study of ethics, particularly Catholic ethics,” she said.
“I prepared myself after graduation by pursuing a J.D. [Juris Doctor, a doctorate in law] and Ph.D. at same time,” Kaveny said. “It took a little longer, but I was able to complete both.”
Following her graduation from Yale, Kaveny practiced health care law in Boston for three years as an associate for the Ropes & Gray law firm. For the better part of her academic career, though, Kaveny has been able to combine law and theology, authoring Law’s Virtues: Fostering Autonomy and Solidarity in American Society as well as over 100 journal articles and book chapters, and most recently, serving as a John P. Murphy Foundation Professor of Law and professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame.
Given her background in health care law, she uses the recent debate concerning the Affordable Care Act as an example of the ways in which the law and ethics intersect in modern society. “For instance, with the Affordable Care Act, and all the ethical challenges, legal challenges, and access challenges that have come with it, the intersection of law and morality is going to be even more important,” Kaveny said.
“The health care debate is going to be very important in this community, as well as on a larger scale, as we think about expanding global access to health care.”
She hopes to share this experience in both disciplines with BC. “What I’m most excited about is joining in the BC community,” said Kaveny. “It’s a fabulous law school and a fabulous theology department, and it’s an honor to be able to work with both.”
“Every institution has its gifts and I think one of Boston College’s is being part of one of the most vibrant intellectual cities in America,” she said.
“Boston is a diverse city, a city of people thinking about a lot of issues in a different ways, and the BC faculty is at the heart of these discussions.”
She is particularly excited by the Jesuit character of BC. “The Jesuit mission is very unique,” Kaveny said. “The Jesuits are an international order, and so they’re already thinking about globalized challenges. I want to put law and theology in a global context.
“I’m really excited about the possibilities,” she said. “The global reach of Jesuit community means that BC is part of an emerging worldwide conversation, and I’m so excited to be a part of it.”
After officially joining the faculty on Jan. 1, Kaveny began her BC career with Faith, Morality, and Law, a graduate seminar in the theology department dealing with the intersection of her trademark subjects. She will then contribute to both departments alternately.
“Next fall I will teach Contracts to first-year law students, as well as an interdisciplinary seminar on ‘complicity,’ which deals with the question of whether and when it is wrong to facilitate the wrongdoing of others,” Kaveny said.
“In the fall I’ll be teaching mainly in the law school and in the spring more in theology.
“I’m very honored to be on the BC faculty, and excited by the future here,” Kaveny said on her position as the first individual in BC’s history with a position in two departments. “I think that doing interdisciplinary work here is tremendously rich with possibilities. It’s a great honor.”
Ultimately, she hopes this type of interdisciplinary work will benefit not only the law and theology communities, but also the entire BC academic community, and that it will demonstrate how various disciplines can benefit from each other.
“There are so many conversations to be had,” Kaveny said. “I’ve found that it’s always enriching to talk to people in other disciplines, because they know things that you don’t know, and there’s always more to learn.
“That’s why it’s so important to be part of an academic community-no one could do on their own what we can do together as a community.”