January 07, 2021

Dean PayneDear Catholic Law Community,

Our democracy was won and has been defended and preserved by the blood of many brave Americans. When I committed as a 17-year-old to serve our country in its military services, I could not have imagined that near my 50th birthday I would witness an armed mob forcing its way into the U.S. Capitol, explicitly and implicitly encouraged by the President of the United States, seeking to overturn the political basis of our freedom. It is sad and ironic that many who are involved are now attacking the institutions, especially the rule of law, they have always said they cherished. In the sight of our good God, who has blessed this nation beyond measure, I condemn it. I hope you will join me.

I've said previously that protest is a legitimate part of our democratic process, but violence and threats of violence are not. Let us pray for those who have been killed or injured and do our best to see that it cannot happen again.

But let's also consider the protest itself. We are called as human beings, and especially as lawyers and law students, to use well the divine gift of human reason. That means we need to gather and assess evidence in an objective way in order to make meaningful distinctions and good judgments. There are always some cases of fraud in our electoral process, and they should be investigated, prosecuted, and prevented from happening again. Thank God, in contradistinction to many other countries, they ordinarily are not significant. As our courts have told us again and again, there was no fraud in this election that made any difference in the outcome. It's not even close.

Those courts, full of Republican and Democrat appointees alike, have given me great hope through this that the rule of law will prevail. Their independence and performance in this moment should make us proud to be a member, or near-member, of our profession. I think we are now finally seeing more leaders of the political branches catch up and sign on to a better future. Let us continue to hope, work, and pray to make it a reality.


Stephen C. Payne
Dean, Columbus School of Law
Knights of Columbus Professor of Law
The Catholic University of America