In his recent book, Fordham University Law School: A History, Robert J. Kaczorowski has authored an informative and scholarly history of Fordham Law School.I can’t speak for Professor Kaczorowski, but I found it very hard to address the comparable “thinning” of Catholic and Jesuit identity at Georgetown Law in The First 125 Years (1995). When I joined the law faculty thirty years ago this summer, many of my senior colleagues were lay Catholics who had either participated in or supported the wresting of control of the school from a Jesuit regent. My impression was that this generation originally believed that lay control would make Georgetown better without making it secular. Over the years, it seemed to me, they decided that although they had been right about the former, they had been wrong about the latter.
In this Review of the book, we first briefly summarize the overall history that Kaczorowski conveys. It is the story of an urban law school founded in 1905 to serve the professional aspirations of the children of New York's Catholic immigrants - a school that rose from modest beginnings to be among the nation's finest, but then languished in mediocrity for decades due to the syphoning off of revenue by university administrators. This period of unfulfilled potential came to an end in the 1990s, when Fordham Law School returned to elite status.
After describing Kaczorowski's history, we then explain how the narrative Kaczorowski sets forth exemplifies the gradual attenuation of Catholic identity in Catholic legal education. Professor Kaczorowski's account of Fordham Law School provides evidence of this attenuation of Catholic identity in legal education over time, and is itself proof of the thinness of this identity in the present day. Thus, while Fordham Law School's Catholic and Jesuit identity feature prominently in the early chapters of Kaczorowski's book, by the end of the story, this identity is an afterthought - a passing descriptive attached as a kind of certification of continuity with the past. Although this loss of identity is part of the history of Fordham Law School, Kaczorowski's book does not address it directly, nor does it reflect upon the significance of this change.
I could not confirm my impressions without asking my senior colleagues to revisit battles they preferred to leave in the past. After two oral histories, I realized I could be either a good historian or a good colleague and chose the latter. I took the story through the deanship of the lay Catholic Paul R. Dean and then left the writing of Georgetown Law’s more recent past to others. Although I am listed as the author of the sections I wrote, the Georgetown University Law Center appears as the book's author on its title page.