St. Thomas More Society hosts Father Samuel Maul for discussion on legislation of morality
FORT WORTH — Father Samuel Maul, parochial vicar of St. John the Apostle Parish in North Richland Hills, gave the St. Thomas More Society a lot to chew on when he spoke with them over lunch on March 7.
The priest discussed the debate in England between Oxford professor H.L.A. Hart and British jurist Lord Patrick Devlin from 1959-1967 regarding the legal enforcement of morality, specifically the appropriateness of laws concerning homosexuality and prostitution.
More than 50 lawyers attended the lunch, which was the second event for the Fort Worth chapter of the St. Thomas More Society, founded last year as a local community of Catholics in the legal profession.
Fr. Maul, who wrote his thesis on the Hart-Devlin debate while earning a licentiate in philosophy, delved into many questions raised by their arguments, including whether the government should legislate morality, what holds a society together, what is the purpose of law, and is immorality a crime.
After explaining their positions, Fr. Maul didn’t choose a side. Instead, he proposed that the two were “arguing about the wrong thing, because the question they posed to each other is, ‘Are you allowed to enforce morality with the law?’”
Citing St. Thomas Aquinas and Professor of Law Robert P. George, Fr. Maul said the goal of law “is to find justice in every situation, as much as possible.”
Determining what is just requires a well-formed conscience, and Fr. Maul recommended seeking “authoritative sources and old books.”
Fr. Maul encouraged the attendees to add their voice to decisions about lawmaking, saying, “We, ourselves, who are informed by the Gospel, who have willingly submitted ourselves to the Gospel, bring the Gospel [to the public square] because it’s true.”
The lawyer and saint
Fr. Maul is the chaplain of the Fort Worth chapter of the St. Thomas More Society, which plans to schedule three lunchtime lectures each year, co-sponsor the annual Red Mass for those in the legal profession, and offer some informal social networking, according to Courtney Taylor, president and chairman.
Taylor added that the topic of legislating morality is especially timely, given that the Texas State Legislature is in session.
Taylor, an assistant criminal district attorney in Tarrant County, said, “We’re facing a lot of hard questions. What do we want our laws to be?”
The address was “a fascinating topic, I wish it were longer,” said Stephen Wyse, a patent lawyer. “There was a lot to absorb, and it was interesting to see the roots of [today’s] thinking.”
The namesake of the legal society, St. Thomas More, was a lawyer and a powerful administrator in the court of King Henry VIII, who was martyred for his refusal to acknowledge the king as head of the Church in England or to accept the king’s annulment from his first wife.
St. Thomas More, said Taylor, “is a great example for his courage and perseverance for Catholics in today’s world. He’s an important reminder to do what’s right even when it’s hard.”