On Thursday, May 18, 2023, we invite you to the JP2 Lecture, which will be given by Rev. Franciszek Longchamps de Bérier, Professor of Law at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków. The lecture entitled “Hominum causa: ‘All Law is Established for Men’s Sake’ and the Dispute on the Essence of Man” will begin at 4:30 p.m. (CET) in Aula 11 at the Angelicum.
Lawyers are specially trained in providing legal services. They are necessarily aware that the regulations that the law has recourse to are in fact only tools, and that the law is actually designed to promote certain values and it is these values which find their expression in the law. It was pointedly noted in 1991 that, “as history demonstrates, a democracy without values easily turns into open or thinly-disguised totalitarianism”. The experience of the enormous change in political systems which took place in late twentieth-century Europe led the author of this observation to further comment: “Authentic democracy is possible only in a state ruled by law, and on the basis of a correct conception of the human person”. The first part of this last citation is best known and often repeated. It is the second, however, that touches the main problem of our times, i.e. anthropology. How should one respect human beings as bearers of rights? Is there any correct anthropology, the only correct anthropology to be used as a basis for law?
The experience of discussions with Marxists before 1991 could be instructive with regard to the challenges that any concept of persona and/or individual and/or bearer of rights has to confront in present times. And by contrast with this, the jurisprudential framework of Roman law could provide a useful independent perspective on this issue. Research in this area starts from Hermogenianus’ celebrated precept, cited in Justinian’s Digest, that “all law has been established on account of mankind”. The precept that hominum causa omne ius constitutum sit has always been taken as inspiring and full of promise. This precept expressed the centrality of man in Roman law, an idea which emerged explicitly in the mature phase of that culture’s law and became a message from Roman civilization for the European legal tradition as a whole. Along with the rest of the legacy resulting from the Roman legal experience, there has been passed on to us the importance of homo for law as well as the concept of persona: it is man who creates the law and not the law that creates man.
A totalitarian system claiming to implement Marxist ideology was the personal experience of those who lived in Central and Eastern Europe in the post-World War II era. Academic work and research—and not only that of philosophers—was deeply marked by the confrontation of Marxism with Thomist phenomenology. The core of the controversy was over anthropology and the understanding of man. It is not surprising, then, that a philosopher-personalist should enthusiastically refer to the relationship between man and law, citing ancient legal experience which proved to be even pre-Christian. This experience revealed the foundations of legal anthropology in the world of the European legal tradition.
The anthropological significance of referring law to man would appear to be universal. No doubt it remains instructive also for democracy. The relationship between man and law makes law a meaningful tool for the realization of human values and for serving man as an existing being, prior to law. This relationship also points to man as a person, and so to the fact that this latter relationship—that between homo and persona—is an enquiry long overdue.
Rev. Franciszek Longchamps de Bérier – Professor of Law and the Head of the Department of Roman Law at the Faculty of Law and Administration of the Jagiellonian University in Kraków (Poland); he also teaches at the Faculty of Law and Administration of the University of Warsaw (Poland). He has an LL.M. from Georgetown University. He is a Catholic priest and an expert on bioethics for the Polish Episcopal Conference as well as a member of the COMECE Legal Affairs Commission. He has also been elected to the Committee of Legal Sciences of the Polish Academy of Sciences. He researches in the fields of Roman and civil law, legal history, European legal tradition, law of succession, methodology of private law, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion in US law.