Building on the success of its first two Thomistic Summer Conferences, Thomas Aquinas College hosted scholars from across the United States for the third conference last weekend. Old friends and new came to the California campus from June 13-16 to contemplate the moral life, under the guidance of St. Thomas Aquinas.

Organizing the event was Dr. John Goyette (’90), a tutor and the former dean of Thomas Aquinas College, California, who traced the inspiration for the gathering to the late Dr. Ralph McInerny’s summer conferences at the University of Notre Dame. The theme of this year’s conference, “Virtue, Law, and the Common Good,” centered around St. Thomas’s teaching on morality and politics. “The aim of the conference,” says Dr. Goyette, “is to bring together scholars from around the country — young and old — to discuss the thought of St. Thomas in a spirit of friendship and collaboration.”

Some 27 presentations addressed questions about the relationships of virtue to happiness, of natural to human law, of law to justice, and of the political common good to the common good of the heavenly city.

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Representing a wide array of institutions, such as Ave Maria University, Baylor University, The Catholic University of America, the University of St. Thomas (Houston), St. John’s College, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, the University of Dallas, Loyola Marymount University, and Wyoming Catholic College, the visiting scholars spent the mornings and afternoons listening to and discussing each other’s papers. Titles included “Religio as a Natural Virtue,” “The Wisdom of Human Things,” and “Law as Ineluctably Moral.”

Thursday featured lectures by Dr. John Francis Nieto (’89), a tutor on the California campus, who delivered the address, “God as the Common Good of the Church,” and Rev. Sebastian Walshe, O.Praem. (’94), of St Michael’s Abbey, who presented a paper entitled, “Public Enemy Number One: How Situational Ethics Undermines the Common Good of Society and Destroys Human Happiness.” On Friday, Dr. Michael Pakaluk of The Catholic University of America spoke on “Natural Law and the Virtues.” Then on Saturday, Dr. Christopher Kaczor of Loyola Marymount University discussed “Just War, Pacificism, and the Common Good,” and Dr. Goyette concluded the gathering with “St. Thomas on the Virtue of Legal Justice and the Political Common Good.”

But the conference was more than an academic exercise. Guests attended daily Mass in Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel, and nurtured friendships over conversation at shared meals and receptions. This friendly atmosphere, together with the beauty of the campus and surrounding hills, made the conference an unforgettable experience for all in attendance.

“This conference was a wonderful opportunity to meet new people, develop answers to some questions, and walk away with new questions — all in the pursuit of the Truth,” reflected LTC Joshua Lehman, an instructor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. “I loved it.”