University of Notre Dame Professor of Law Richard Garnett is in Rome this week as a guest of the Embassy of the United States of America to the Holy See. He joins other leading scholars as a presenter at a conference celebrating the 25th anniversary of formal diplomatic relations between the U.S. and the central government of the Catholic Church. The conference is titled “The American Model of Church-State Relations.”
Garnett’s talk, “Competing Models in Contemporary America,” analyzes several models of church-state relations in the U.S. that are vying for dominance. Says Garnett:
“James Madison once expressed his view that America’s distinctive commitment to religious liberty would add ‘lustre to our country.’ We, his successors, have for two centuries been struggling to work out the content and implications of that commitment. Although we do not always agree what religious freedom means, we agree that it matters. For us, the goal has been, and remains, not to use the law to achieve freedom from religion, but rather freedom of, and for religion. And, as Pope Benedict XVI has remarked, this American model of “positive secularity” is one that tends to promote both the flourishing of persons and the common good of the community.”
In addition to Garnett’s talk, Prof. Philip Hamburger of Columbia Law School and Prof. Joseph Weiler of New York University School of Law will speak. Others involved in the conference include Mary Ann Glendon, U.S. ambassador to the Vatican and a professor of law at Harvard; Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for interreligious Dialogue; and Marcello Pera, a member of the Italian Senate and a retired professor of philosophy at the University of Pisa.
“I am deeply honored to have been asked to participate in this conversation, with such a distinguished group of scholars,” says Garnett. “This conference is not only a worthy celebration of the relations between the United States and the Holy See. It is also a fitting tribute to Ambassador Glendon, whose own work on, and for, human rights and religious liberty is an inspiration.”