Joseph T. McCullen Symposium on Catholic Social Thought and Law: Symposium on Jean Porter - Ministers of the Law: A Natural Law Theory of Legal Authority

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Conference Proceeding

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Panelists Patrick McKinley Brennan, John F. Scarpa Chair in Catholic Legal Studies and Professor of Law, Villanova University School of Law, Francis J. Mootz III, William S. Boyd Professor of Law, William S. Boyd School of Law, University of Nevada-Las Vegas, Maris Kopcke Tinture, Lecturer in Law, Oxford University, and Penelope Pether, Professor of Law, Villanova University School of Law, discuss Jean Porter’s 2010 book, Ministers of the Law (Eerdmans, 2010). Porter articulates a theory of legal authority derived from the natural law tradition. As she points out, the legal authority of most traditions rests on their own internal structures, independent of extralegal considerations—legal houses built on sand, as it were. Natural law tradition, on the other hand, offers a basis for legal authority that goes beyond mere arbitrary commands or social conventions, offering some extralegal authority without compromising the independence and integrity of the law. Yet Porter does more in Ministers of the Law than simply discuss historical and theoretical realms of natural law. She carries the theory into application to contemporary legal issues, bringing objective normative structures to contemporary Western societies suspicious of such concepts.