Featured Research

  • Analyzing "Religious Covenants" on Church Property
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    Garnett and Reidy analyze an important issue the Church and other religious organizations face when alienating real estate in their new working paper on "Religious Covenants":


    When religious institutions alienate property, they often include religiously motivated deed restrictions that bind future owners, sometimes in perpetuity.  These “religious covenants” serve different purposes and advance different goals.  Some prohibit land uses that the alienating faith community considers illicit; others seek to ensure continuity of faith commitments; still others signal public disaffiliation with the new owners and their successors.  Some religious covenants are required by theological mandates, but many are not.  This paper examines the phenomenon of religious covenants as both a private law and public law problem.  We conclude that most, but not all, of them likely are enforceable, and, furthermore, that traditional private law rules governing covenant enforcement represent a bigger impediment to their enforcement than public law principles. 

    Fr. Reidy, C.S.C., published another piece, "Condemning Worship: Religious Liberty Protections and Church Takings," in the Yale Law Journal.

  • Designing Churches of Great Beauty

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    Stroik is a well-known scholar and architect of Ecclesiastical architecture. His portfolio includes churches and church renovations across the United States. Stroik’s works include Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel in California, the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Wisconsin, the Jesuit Chapel of the Holy Cross in Florida, and the Cathedral of St. Joseph in South Dakota. He has done masterplanning for college, parish and monastic campuses.

    His scholarship includes The Church Building as a Sacred Place: Beauty, Transcendence and the Eternal. In 1998, Stroik founded the Institute for Sacred Architecture and edits its journal, Sacred Architecture.

  • Evaluating Sacred Easements

    Reidy's paper, "Sacred Easements," forthcoming in the Virginia Law Review, analyzes the role of Congress and the courts in recognizing easements on the sacred sites of Native American tribes.

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    In the last forty years, Native American faith communities have struggled to protect their sacred sites using religious liberty law. When confronting threats to sacred lands, Native Americans stridently assert constitutional and statutory free exercise protections against public authorities. But unlike litigation involving non-Indian religious property, cases involving sacred sites seek to protect land that tribal faith communities do not themselves own. Because they lack an explicit ownership interest, Native Americans struggle to protect their sacred sites from desecration and destruction. Courts asked to weigh Indian religious liberty claims against non-Indian property claims always side with the landowner. Since most sacred sites are located on land owned by the federal government, the government always wins. Religious liberty precedent leaves sacred sites effectively unprotected.

    This Article proposes a new approach, rooted in property law. It makes the novel argument that courts can imply easements in favor of Native American tribes’ persistent land use at their sacred sites. Before the federal government severed their ancestral lands—by force, sale, or broken treaty—tribes used certain, inherently sacred parts of their territory, regularly and necessarily, to benefit other parts of that territory. Insofar as these historic land uses may be conceived as quasi-easements, property law affirms the possibility of use rights in sacred sites, a kind of “sacred easement” over government land.

    This Article also argues that Congress can, and should, create a statutory property right for tribes to claim an explicit ownership interest in their sacred sites, corresponding to their sacred land use. Modeled on conservation easements, such nonpossessory ownership interests would preserve sacred sites for Native American religious practice. Tribes granted “sacred easements” could monitor, and constrain if necessary, both present and future uses of government-owned lands, ensuring compliance with the needs of their religious practice without barring public access to sacred sites.

    Divided property rights can help Native American faith communities and the federal government assuage fears of mutual exclusion from sacred sites located on public land. By allowing tribes to claim sacred land use easements in their ancestral territory, the government can help to cure lingering defects in title created by tribal land acquisition efforts during the nineteenth century. Sacred easements accord with the government’s trust responsibility for tribal religious exercise. Historic federal efforts to suppress Native religions warrant present federal accommodation of Native sacred land use.

  • Investigating the Effects of Suburbanization on Catholic Parishes and Church Properties
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    Fr. Koeth's current book project, Crabgrass Catholicism: How Suburbanization Transformed Faith and Politics in Postwar Long Island (forthcoming U of C Press), is under contract with The University of Chicago Press’ Historical Studies of Urban America Series. Based on his doctoral dissertation, which received the American Catholic Historical Association's 2019 John Tracy Ellis Dissertation Award and Columbia University's 2020 Bancroft Dissertation Award, the book examines the creation and expansion of the Diocese of Rockville Centre in suburban Long Island. It argues that suburbia revolutionized the sacred space of the parish, the relationship between clergy and laity, conceptions of Catholic education, and Catholic participation in American politics.







  • Measuring the Resiliency of Catholic Churches in Italy

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    Walsh, along with Elizabeth Kerr (Engineering) and David Pirchio, received a grant from the Global Gateway Faculty Research Awards program and Fitzgerald Institute for Real Estate for their work on risk assessment of churches in Italy entitled, “Seismic resilience of Catholic Churches in Italy incorporating the development of an operational framework for assessment, case study non-destructive testing, and numerical modeling.” 

    Through these grants, Notre Dame faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate students serving as research assistants, have the opportunity to help assess the resiliency and structural soundness of churches that the Catholic Church would not otherwise have the resources or expertise to evaluate.   

    This research, which is taking place through the Rome Global Gateway, has led to three scholarly publications. 

    See feature on "A Future for the Past: Notre Dame researchers help Italian church communities address seismic risks."


  • Understanding the Effects of Catholic School Closures on Urban Neighborhoods

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    Garnett published Lost Classroom, Lost Community: Catholic Schools' Importance in Urban America (University of Chicago Press) (with Margaret F. Brinig), an important book on the effects of Catholic School closures on urban neighborhoods in Chicago, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles.


    In the past two decades in the United States, more than 1,600 Catholic elementary and secondary schools have closed, and more than 4,500 charter schools―public schools that are often privately operated and freed from certain regulations―have opened, many in urban areas. With a particular emphasis on Catholic school closures, Lost Classroom, Lost Community examines the implications of these dramatic shifts in the urban educational landscape. 

    More than just educational institutions, Catholic schools promote the development of social capital―the social networks and mutual trust that form the foundation of safe and cohesive communities. Drawing on data from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods and crime reports collected at the police beat or census tract level in Chicago, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles, Margaret F. Brinig and Nicole Stelle Garnett demonstrate that the loss of Catholic schools triggers disorder, crime, and an overall decline in community cohesiveness, and suggest that new charter schools fail to fill the gaps left behind.

    This book shows that the closing of Catholic schools harms the very communities they were created to bring together and serve, and it will have vital implications for both education and policing policy debates. 

  • Working to Preserve the Taj Mahal

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    What if, in an instant, one of the world’s most renowned, most beloved, most iconic sites was destroyed? Across the globe, many important cultural heritage monuments face the real threat of ruin by human or natural disaster. Scholars at Notre Dame are helping to ensure the preservation of these treasures.

    Krusche has launched a Digital Historical Architecture Research and Material Analysis (DHARMA) initiative, which is mapping World Heritage Sites like the Taj Mahal and the Roman Forum with unprecedented precision and detail. The digital assessments will be translated into 3-D models which will provide essential information to best preserve and restore these sites in the future.

    Krusche’s comprehensive mapping technology and expertise have led her to be recognized as a leading expert on the construction of the Taj Mahal. After earthquakes devastated much of nearby Nepal last spring, authorities called on Professor Krusche to assess the condition of the Taj Mahal and identify any deterioration to ensure the future of the Indian landmark.