15th Annual John F. Scarpa Conference on Law, Politics and Culture, 4/23

"Taking Measure of the 'Biden Effect': American Catholics and The President"


Friday, April 23, 2021

8:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m.

Virtual Event



When Joseph R. Biden was sworn in as President of the United States on January 20, 2021, he became the most prominent Catholic layman in the world. For better or worse, the “Biden effect” on American Catholicism will be substantial. Some Catholics celebrate President Biden’s public embrace of the Catholicism they associate with Pope Francis’s emphasis on mercy. Other Catholics are scandalized by President Biden’s embrace of the Democratic Party’s pro-choice agenda. And, as never before, there are many Catholics who do not know what to think about how their faith should function in the public square. To add to the discord, the American Catholic bishops, in an unusual display of disunity, are in public disagreement over what to do about this Catholic President.

The time is ripe to consider the “Biden effect” on American Catholic life from historical, cultural, theological, pastoral and legal perspectives. The distinguished conference speakers will address the many and controversial issues in a spirit of respectful and constructive engagement, cognizant that the “Biden effect” will be settled in part by how Catholics and others choose to respond to one another and the teachings of the bishops and the Pope as they inform their consciences.

This symposium is approved by the Pennsylvania Continuing Legal Education Board for 4.5 Distance CLE credits (2 Ethics, 2.5 Substantive). Please note registration is required. Attendees will receive an email from Eventbrite with the Zoom link on the day of the event.




8:30 a.m.: Welcome & Session 1 (.5 Substantive Credit)

Patrick McKinley Brennan, Professor of Law and John F. Scarpa Chair in Catholic Legal Studies, Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law


9:00 a.m.: Session 2 (.5 Ethics Credit)

Francis X. Maier, Senior Fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center & Former Senior Adviser and Special Assistant to Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.


9:30 a.m.: Session 3 (.5 Substantive Credit)

Helen Alvaré, Professor of Law, Antonin Scalia School of Law George Mason University


10:00 a.m.: Break


10:15 a.m.: Session 4 (.5 Ethics Credit)

Fr. Luke Mata, Chaplain, Leonine Forum & Moral Theologian


10:45 a.m.: Session 5 (.5 Substantive Credit)

John McGreevy, Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History & Former Dean, College of Arts and Letters, University of Notre Dame


11:15 a.m.: Session 6 (.5 Ethics Credit)

Joseph E. Capizzi PhD, Professor of Moral Theology/Ethics & Executive Director, Human Ecology Institute, The Catholic University of America


11:45 a.m.: Lunch break


12:30 p.m.: Session 7 (.5 Substantive Credit)

Stephen P. White, Executive Director, The Catholic Project, The Catholic University of America


1:00 p.m.: Session 8 (.5 Ethics Credit)

Rev. Gerald E. Murray, JCD, Pastor, Church of the Holy Family & Canon Lawyer


1:30 p.m.: Roundtable discussion (.5 Substantive Credit)


2:15 p.m.: Conclusion