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Stability is an essential quality of any good legal system because a community's laws are an expression of its identity, and there is no identity without permanency. Many times we hear in the United States that we are a country held together by our laws. Although the statement cannot be the full truth, it is obvious that if our laws ever lost their stability, the nation's identity would be imperiled. In a religious community where the source of its identity is in the common memory of a divine revelation, the demand for stability is even stronger. Fidelity to the "Word of God" becomes the principal virtue.

Yet, any good legal system must be open and receptive to developments. No community, secular or religious, can be frozen in time and live; absolute stillness means death. In a political community, the internal energies of the citizenry and the pressing forces of history have their unrelenting impact on the laws and demand changes. Similar forces operate in a religious community: the "gathering" of the believers, ecclesia, is never a static monument; it is a living body animated by internal resources and responding to external influences. The eschatological destiny of the members (their expectation of eternal life) does not protect them from the vicissitudes of history.

Thus, the demand for stability and the imperative of development are vital forces in any living community; they operate in nations and churches . . . I wish to pursue this inquiry on two levels, the abstract and the concrete. On the abstract level, I will be searching for principles: how to build a good balance between stability and development and how to recognize an authentic development - a modest inquiry. I do not expect to discover the "best rules" that could serve as magic measures in all cases. Rather, I wish to search for some orientation and a working method that can prove helpful in handling real-life situations. On the concrete level, I shall examine a recent case of legislation about "definitive teaching" and make an attempt to assess its impact on the freedom of research.


Vol. 76 Notre Dame Law Review, Page 865 (2001). Reprinted with permission. © Notre Dame Law Review, University of Notre Dame.

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76 Notre Dame L. Rev. 865-879 (2001)

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