Law Professor Charles Rice dies

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Charles E. Rice, professor emeritus at the University of Notre Dame Law School, an expert in constitutional law and jurisprudence, champion of the rights of the unborn, and leading Catholic scholar, died Feb. 25. He was 83.

Rice served as an advisor to the board at Christendom College in Front Royal and was a recipient of the school's Pro Deo et Patria Award. He delivered the college's 2010 commencement speech, in which he referred to Christendom as a "superbly Catholic college."

"Charles Rice was a great man and an extraordinary Catholic," said Christendom President Timothy O'Donnell. "Throughout his life he was a staunch defender of the Catholic Church, which he loved, and a faithful servant of Jesus Christ in every facet of his life, from the raising of his family to the teaching of law at the University of Notre Dame.

"His passing is a great loss for all of the church, the nation and us," said O'Donnell. "It truly is an end of an era. We thank Almighty God for the gift of his life and pray for him."

Rice, an international speaker and the author of 13 books, was an early leader in the pro-life movement. He worked ardently for a Human Life Amendment to the Constitution and restrictions on federal funding of abortion. He authored numerous amicus briefs to the Supreme Court in abortion-related cases.

"Professor Rice formed and inspired thousands of Notre Dame lawyers," said Richard Garnett, a law school colleague. "His love for the church and Our Lady's university, his commitment to justice for the vulnerable, and his tireless, generous support for students made him a model for all of us who had the privilege of working with and learning from him. He cannot be replaced but he will be remembered by the law school community with respect and affection."

A man who loved teaching and defending the faith, Rice wrote a bi-weekly column in the Notre Dame student newspaper, The Observer, for many years, arguing in support of the positions of the church on contraception, abortion, the death penalty and marriage.

At the law school, he developed and taught his signature course, "Morality and the Law," an in-depth study of natural law jurisprudence aimed at providing future lawyers with a solid understanding of Catholic social and moral teaching. While on the faculty, he was twice honored with the law school's outstanding teaching award.

A recognized expert in constitutional law, Rice was a member of the Education Appeal Board of the U.S. Department of Education from 1981 to 1993, served as a consultant to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and various Congressional committees on constitutional issues, and was an editor of the American Journal of Jurisprudence.

A former Golden Gloves boxer, Rice dedicated himself for over 40 years to coaching students participating in Notre Dame's annual charity boxing tournament, the Bengal Bouts.

Born in 1931, Rice received his B.A. from the College of the Holy Cross, a J.D. from Boston College Law School and the LL.M. and J.S.D. degrees from New York University. He served in the United States Marine Corps and was a Lt. Col. in the Marine Corps Reserve (Ret.) for many years.

He practiced law in New York City and taught at C. W. Post University, New York University Law School and Fordham Law School before joining the Notre Dame faculty in 1969. While at Fordham, he founded and served as head of the St. Vincent de Paul Re-Entry Program in Long Island for ex-offenders.

His continuing 13-part series, The Good Code: The Natural Law is available from the Eternal Word Television Network. His most recent book, Contraception and Persecution, has been called by some his greatest work. Previous books include What Happened to Notre Dame; The Winning Side: Questions on Living the Culture of Life; Freedom of Association; The Supreme Court and Public Prayer; The Vanishing Right to Live; Authority and Rebellion; Beyond Abortion: The Theory and Practice of the Secular State; No Exceptions: A Pro-Life Imperative; 50 Questions on the Natural Law.

Rice leaves behind his wife, Mary, 10 children and 41 grandchildren.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015