Journal Title

Journal of Law and Religion





First Page


Document Type


Publication Information



Notre Dame Law Professor Robert Rodes advocates for Pilgrim Law, which is based on the preferential option for the poor. Pilgrim Law is the jurisprudential manifestation of liberation theology. Rodes used Milovan Djilas, author of anti-socialist works such as Conversations with Stalin and The New Class, for insight. Drawing from Djilas, Rodes concludes that class will always count, but count in a nuanced way. This revelation was discovered within Djilas’ self-aware and trenchant analysis amid the reality of the theoretically “classless” societies of Soviet (and Yugoslav) socialism. This empirical insight is what Rodes finds crucial to his Pilgrim Law advocacy. Rodes’ argument is that all of humanity need to prefer the poor because, without being fully conscious of it, we otherwise only tend to prefer ourselves.

Rodes has not reconciled his multiple transcendent values. Rodes embeds himself as part of the very paradox he must try to illuminate. The paradox being that voters will continue to elect elites who are not accountable for economic justice so long as they can be bought off by promises of conservative transcendent values. Additionally, Rodes demonstrates that the teachings of the church on social justice and law are constrained by the tensions inherent between authority and specificity. The church cannot issue specific directives to the concrete political system. This humility on behalf of religious authority is crucial to an understanding of how religion can participate in politics, and to how one can function in a church Rodes himself describes as “managerial” because it is a human, bureaucratic institution.

Recommended Citation

Emily Albrink Hartigan, Pilgrim to Nowhere - The Mysterious Journey of Robert Rodes, 22 J. L. & Religion 481 (2007).

Included in

Law Commons



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.