Living in the Light of the Law

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How might you recognize a modern Man for All Seasons?

(A) When you learn he became “hooked” on canon law while reading a commentary on early English property law at the University of Missouri?

(B) When you discover he was once a wine critic for a Catholic literary magazine?

(C) When he invites you to wear yellow and black and cheer for “Mizzou” football?

(D) When you read he has speaking ability in Ecclesiastical Latin, Mexican Spanish, and standard French; regularly uses American Sign Language; has research ability in Classical Latin, standard Italian, and German; and has studied Koine Greek, Etruscan, Umbrian, and, of course, Oscan?

If you chose “all of the above,” you might sense the richness of experience and learning Dr. Edward Peters brings to his position as Edmund Cardinal Szoka Chair of Faculty Development at Sacred Heart. Since his appointment in 2005, Dr. Peters has taught in the licentiate, masters, and undergraduate programs. In his teaching and in his remarkable collection of scholarly and general writings, Dr. Peters genially presents opinions that advance his goal of showing canon law to be a “vital component of ecclesiastical stability and a genuine force for renewal in the Catholic Church.”

Raymond Cardinal Burke, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, once said that the study of “canon law is not for the faint of heart!” As the first layman appointed as a referendary, or advisor, to the Signatura and only the second American to so serve, Dr. Peters has a sense of how vitally canon law promotes and protects the redemptive mission of the Church. He researches complex canonical topics to be considered by the Signatura, the Church’s highest court, in its decision making.

His prolific writings and popular blog, “In the Light of the Law,” illustrate the precision with which he boldly responds to contemporary “hot topics” including denying Communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians, extending the fast for reception of the Eucharist, and safeguarding the rights of parents who homeschool. Even his blog’s sidebars offer adventure and amusement.

His recent election to the board of directors of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars, an organization of Catholic academics whose members “accept as the rule of our life and thought the entire faith of the Catholic Church,” is reflective of Dr. Peters’ enthusiasm for the work of colleagues in other disciplines. This outlook was nurtured during his teen years at Chaminade College Preparatory School in St. Louis. There, in addition to earning academic honors, he played the clarinet and received the John Philip Sousa Award for musicianship.

Like Chesterton, Belloc, and Lewis—the British authors of the twentieth century Christian literary revival he admires—Dr. Peters trusts the light of faith by which he sees everything else. In the light of their faith, he and his wife Angela have homeschooled their six children. Although Angela has done most of the teaching, Dr. Peters is the gentle but challenging “principal” who teaches Latin and serves as literary critic for his children’s writings.

Language is an important theme at family dinners. They feature, for example, grace in whatever language one of the children is studying. One daughter, Margaret, is deaf and now attends the Michigan School for the Deaf in Flint. She is home on weekends and often entertains the family by introducing the freshest slang terms in American Sign Language.

In many ways, the description of family life at the Peters’ home is evocative of that of St. Thomas More, another lawyer and another man for all seasons.

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Martha Demerly

Martha Demerly graduated from Sacred Heart with an MA in Theology. She now is involved in the Faith Formation and Women’s Ministry in her parish, St. Thomas More, in Troy, Michigan.

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