In creating the Columbus School of Law’s first-ever endowed professorship, the Knights of Columbus wanted to put a stake in ground, just as they did in 1899 when they created a chair for American history at The Catholic University of America to fight against anti-Catholic bigotry.
“The simple fact is that Catholic teaching is essential to our experiment in self-government. But the flipside is also true. If the Catholic intellectual tradition is forgotten or driven from law and driven from public life, then our American experiment will falter,” said Patrick Kelly, the Supreme Knight for the Knights of Columbus and a University Trustee in remarks given at a November 8 installation event. “We cannot let that happen. And the work of this excellent faculty will help ensure that it doesn’t.”
Indeed, the person accepting this charge - Kevin C. Walsh - said that in becoming the Knights of Columbus Endowed Professor of Law and the Catholic Tradition that he sees it as his duty to use his position to teach students about how Catholicism and a proper understanding of the U.S. Constitution are not mutually exclusive.
“Law and the Catholic tradition is not - or ought not - to be the special domain of one faculty member,” said Walsh. “All of what we study and teach about the law ought to be received and transmitted in the light of Catholic tradition … the Catholic tradition is not an add on, it is not an extra.”
In thanking people in the audience, Walsh singled out the benefactors of the endowment, clergy and religious, his teachers, and family.
“I am filled with overflowing gratitude for those who have come before,” noting his late parents.
Walsh, a Fourth Degree Knight of Columbus, also told a story of the fortuitous circumstances that likely put him on the path to receiving his professorship. While serving as a clerk for Judge Paul V. Niemeyer on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, Walsh was in the office on Columbus Day when the office, like other federal departments, was closed. Fortunately for him though, his future boss - the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia called. And Walsh was there to pick up the phone. That conversation, along with many others, turned into a clerkship with Justice Scalia.
Before turning it over to Provost Aaron Dominguez and Law School Dean Stephen C. Payne to present Walsh with the Knights of Columbus Endowed Professor of Law and the Catholic Tradition Medal, Kelly said that Walsh’s “ work and that of your colleagues will help bring a religious sensibility back into our country’s most important constitutional and legal discussions. You will promote a view of the law that respects religious practice and welcomes it in the public square. And most importantly, you’ll remind Americans of the deepest truths at the heart of our highest laws.”
Kelly continued, saying “These are the things that nearly every law school used to do. And these are the things that you will do here. The Knights of Columbus is immensely proud that the Columbus School of Law, at The Catholic University of America, is taking new steps to proclaim the age-old truths at America’s core. Our Constitution, culture and our entire country will benefit from your work.”