On the evening of November 16, Elizabeth R. Kirk, Director of the Center for Law & the Human Person, Research Associate, and Lecturer at Catholic Law, delivered the 2022 Mirror of Justice Lecture entitled, “Reflecting Our Lady: Radical Hospitality to the Child.” The audience was welcomed to the Walter A. Slowinski Courtroom with opening remarks from Emily Johnson (2D), President of the Saint John Paul II Guild of Catholic Lawyers. Johnson introduced Fr. Aquinas Guilbeau, O.P., Chaplain and Director of Campus Ministry, to give the opening prayer. Dean Stephen C. Payne followed with his own welcome and acknowledgement of the work Kirk has achieved while at the law school.
Following the Dean, Johnson outlined Kirk’s career and her considerable experience in matters pertaining to the family in law and policy. She then welcomed Elizabeth Kirk to the podium. Kirk thanked the Dean and the Guild for the honor of speaking and began her address on theme of radical hospitality to the child.
Kirk opened her lecture by describing the inspiration for her work, drawn from Pope St. John Paul II’s Ex corde ecclesiae: “together with my students, my task in studying law is to search for truth and, as their teacher, to transmit it to them as best I can. The fruit of this search for truth and its transmission is right action and service of humanity. Therefore, our scholarly pursuits are never purely academic.” She then described the purpose of the Center for Law and the Human Person: "The phrase “the Human Person” communicates that the Center’s mission is to explore law, the foundations of law, what justice requires, what is the common good, etc. in relation to “Christian anthropology,” i.e., what we believe to be true about the human person, his or her nature, his or her end, his or her good." Kirk noted that the original title proposed for the center was "Center for Hospitality to the Human Person" and she reflected on how the biblical mandate to practice “radical hospitality” is based in part on Christian anthropology. She noted, "Pope St. John Paul II described this orientation to the “other” – this radical hospitality – as the “law of the gift.” Notice that he called it the “law” of the gift, i.e., this is not merely a ethical practice or aspiration, but a law, i.e., a truth, about the human person." Kirk said that Mary, for whom the Mirror of Justice Lecture is named, demonstrated this orientation to others throughout her life and said that “Reflecting her, we too “are [as Pope John Paul II said] at our best, we are most fully alive and human, when we give away freely and sacrificially our very selves in love for another.”
Kirk’s lecture was divided into four parts. First, citing social science data, she described the contemporary crisis of the “orphans of the living,” i.e., the children languishing in foster care and the child at risk of abortion. Next, she reflected on the phenomenon of adoption as an expression of the “law of the gift,” drawing on the Catholic intellectual tradition. Third, she described barriers to adoption in the contexts of foster care, women facing unexpected pregnancies, and families welcoming children into their homes. Finally, she discussed the role that law ought to play in promoting adoption, highlighting some of her relevant legal work.
Kirk closed with, "Every one of us is made from love and for love, and so as an expression of gratitude we have a duty to practice radical hospitality and to welcome the stranger. It is my hope that more people will see adoption as a way of practicing radical hospitality to the modern “orphan” – the child at risk of abortion and the child languishing in the foster care system."
The Saint John Paul II Guild of Catholic Lawyers' officers, Emily Johnson (2D), President; Alejandra Linz (2D), Vice President of Events; Jessica Alhanouch (2D), Vice President of Service; Taylor Abshire (2D), Social Media Chair; and AJ Abate (2D), Treasurer; then presented Kirk with her award.
Founded in 1989 by the Saint John Paul II Guild of Catholic Lawyers, a student organization of Catholic University's Columbus School of Law, the Mirror of Justice Scholars Award recognizes law school faculty members whose commitment to the teaching of the law and whose scholarship advances our insights towards achieving justice through law in contemporary society. The award and lecture are founded on the consciousness of the demands of justice that arise from our professional responsibility as students of law. The Mirror of Justice Award and Lecture are dedicated to the ideals of charity and wisdom that are summed up in the title of the Guild's Patroness: Mary, Mother of Justice. You can view a recording of the lecture below.