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Kaveny Awarded Library of Congress Fellowship

Professor is using residence to research a new book as this year's Cary and Ann Maguire Chair in Ethics and American History.


Professor Cathleen Kaveny, a prominent voice in the public discourse surrounding law, religion, and morality, was named the Cary and Ann Maguire Chair in Ethics and American History at the Kluge Center of the Library of Congress, according to the the Library of Congress’ Insights blog. She is using her August-to-December residence to work on a book.

“I am honored and delighted to be the Maguire Chair at the Kluge Center at the Library of Congress, for so many personal and professional reasons,” Kaveny says. “From the time I was a child, I have been mesmerized by the Library of Congress—the largest library in the world—the home of (almost) all the books. What a privilege to work at the Kluge Center, which places the resources of the Library at the fingertips of its scholars. I so admire my predecessors in the Maguire Chair. In fact, its first occupant was the Hon. John T. Noonan, Jr., for whom I clerked on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and whose scholarly writings remain an inspiration and ideal for me.”

The John W. Kluge Center welcomes scholars and practitioners at the height of their fields for residencies. Among prominent thinkers in disciplines ranging from American law and governance to foreign policy, technology and society, education, and modern culture, have been MacArthur Fellow William Julius Wilson, the late Czech president Václav Havel, and political commentator Morton Kondrake.

Kaveny’s book pertains to people’s complicity with the wrongdoing of others. “It is, in my view, the quintessential problem of our globalized, pluralistic era,” she says. “I’m hoping to work in an interdisciplinary manner, drawing together resources from philosophy, theology, anthropology, and law. The questions can be deeply technical. But they are also deeply practical and pervasive in popular discussions.

“For example, every couple of months there is a discussion about boycotting companies whose policies we find morally offensive. The most neuralgic questions in the Catholic Church now have to do with complicity—the cover-up of sexual abuse. In the governmental realm, lawmakers regularly vote for unwieldy bills, which accomplish much good, but also perpetuate much harm. How should they think about their complicity in the harm they cause?” Kaveny asks.

“It’s a big topic, and I’ve only scratched the surface,” she says. “But I hope to make great progress, this fall, given the resources of the Library of Congress.”

Kaveny, who is Boston College’s Darald and Juliet Libby Professor and holds appointments in the Law School and Department of Theology, is the author of four books and more than 100 articles and essays, including frequent commentaries in Commonweal.

Her books include Law’s Virtues: Fostering Autonomy and Solidarity in American Society (Georgetown University Press, 2012); A Culture of Engagement: Law, Religion, and Morality (Georgetown University Press, 2016); Prophecy without Contempt: Religious Discourse in the Public Square (Harvard University Press, 2016); and Ethics at the Edges of Law: Christian Moralists and American Legal Thought (Oxford University Press, 2018).