The Mission of the Center for Criminal Justice, Law, & Ethics

To shine a beacon of Christ’s light in the darkest corner of the world by magnifying the critical role of the natural law in our justice and legal operations.

Restoring a World Devoid of Moral Sense

To say that contemporary legal and justice systems are properly functioning would be inaccurate and naïve. Today, instead of reliance on a common core of moral principles, the system is beleaguered by boundless more relativism, self-interested political and ideological determinations, as well as secular justice theories.  This is a stark contrast to the founding principles of our nation and the various systems once respected and the envy of the world.  Today, our system has largely abandoned the natural law principles and Judeo-Christian moral teachings that shaped the world’s best justice system.

Without a foundation of fixed and dependable moral-ethical principles , today’s justice system all too often produce policies and protocols devoid of moral sense or correctness, and as a result, lead to decisions that have little regard for the dignity and virtuous development of the human person.

The Center for Criminal Justice, Law and Ethics believes the current state of affairs is completely fixable.  Justice practitioners can restore order, right, and good within the system and be prepared to confront the serious challenges of their professions through a renewed understanding and application of the time-tested, perennial principles of the natural law. Natural law principles are unchanging first principles that have long been the rule and measure of all human conduct in Western society.

Revisiting these principles, grounded in the Judeo-Christian, Catholic heritage, gives justice leaders a deeper capacity and a dependable measure to discern human action which is right and just action.

Thus, the Center for Criminal Justice, Law, and Ethics at Franciscan University seeks to change the landscape of the justice system nationally and internationally by:

  • forming justice professionals who measure the idea of “justice” and its aligned systems by the perennial principles of the natural law and Catholic moral tradition,
  • advancing the integration of natural law principles into legal decision making and the implementation of justice policy.

Center for Criminal Justice, Law, & Ethics

Continuing Education Courses and Continuing Legal Education Courses

The Initiatives of the Center for Criminal Justice, Law, & Ethics

Founded on the understanding that the most effective justice system derives from the natural law, the Center for Criminal Justice, Law, and Ethics achieves its goals through initiatives that reach into the professional practitioner community and undergraduate and graduate students who aspire to be ethical leaders acting consistently with truth and goodness. The Center fully supports the integration of justice agencies and their operational needs by support for and participation in annual Career education events.

This broad ambition is accomplished by the following initiatives:

  • Continuing Education that advances this perspective
  • Publications and Public Affairs
  • Research and Mentorships
  • Designation of Center “Fellows”
  • Career Education and Events
  • Integration of the Franciscan Mission into Justice Policy and Practice
Professional Development

The Center’s educational programs teach justice professionals to apply the wisdom of natural law reasoning and the Catholic moral tradition in their practice whether as police chiefs and law enforcement personnel, judges, lawyers, legislators or corrections officers.

The Center’s programs explore topics on a host of topics, including but not limited to:

  • Leading by Virtue, Lawyers and Judges in the Courtroom of Cicero
  • A Comparative Analysis of Aquinas and Cicero as to Nature and the Natural Law
  • Human Trafficking and its Moral Dimensions
  • Aquinas on Crime
  • The Legal Theory of Aquinas
  • The Thomist Concept of an Unjust Law
  • A Discourse on Civil Disobedience: Aquinas & Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Health Care: Legal and Ethical Challenges
  • Happiness for Lawyers: Rules from Aristotle and Aquinas
  • Law as a Spiritual Vocation
  • Moral and Ethical Questions Involving the Use of Force by Police Professionals
  • Proportionality and Sentencing in Contemporary Practice
  • Lawyers and Judges in the Courtroom of Thomas Aquinas
Speaker Series

The Center’s Speaker Series features practitioners concerned about the justice system’s current moral state and convinced of the critical role of the natural law in justice and legal operations. The invited parties bring their perspectives to the Franciscan community and the practitioner community in the surrounding region.  The chief rationale for the Series is to give a forum to those whose vision and outlook is fully compatible with the mission of Franciscan University and the Center for Criminal Justice, Law and Ethics.

Topics cover a comprehensive range of questions and highlight the correlation of the natural law to day-to-day operations.

Natural Law Journal and Publications

Natural Law and Justice, is a bi-annual, student-initiated journal, dedicated to the analysis all facets of the justice system from policing to corrections, lawyers and judicial process, private sector justice to forensic science, as well as the intensive analysis of case law through the prism of natural law theory and jurisprudence.

The journal welcomes submissions from Franciscan scholars in criminal justice, law, political science, philosophy, theology, sociology, business, and other academic disciplines who seek to address modern dilemmas using the natural law as the rule and measure. Students enrolled in the CRJ Thesis project, or a designated course that stresses natural law theory as well as an independent study project, are encouraged to submit their scholarly product to the journal.  Academic faculty may also recommend submission based on quality and content.

In addition, Natural Law and Justice will accept submissions from students at other college and university settings

If interested in submission, please contact the Editor, Dr. Charles P. Nemeth at [email protected]

Program Director

Shining Christ’s Light in Justice and Legal Operations

For more information, email Dr. Charles Nemeth, Program Director

Criminal Justice Bachelor's Degree Program

The Criminal Justice Program at Franciscan University prepares students for a variety of careers in the justice and legal professions. Students learn to view justice and law through the lens of Catholic social teaching and natural law, taking into consideration the dignity of all people.