Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.

Friday, October 9, 2015

John Henry Newman on Arguments

Today is the Feast of Blessed John Henry Newman (the date of his conversion in 1845). Newman is the towering Catholic intellectual figure of the nineteenth century, but he seems to me unduly neglected outside of somewhat narrow historical and theological circles. For those of us working on broadly legal, moral, and political questions, the fact that Newman wrote little directly on what we would conventionally term "ethics" or "political theory" explains a good deal of that neglect (as he wrote late in his life, "I feel myself to be so little of a judge on political and even social questions").

But in addition to his magnificent sermons, The Idea of a University, and other occasional writings, there is a feature of Newman's thought that might be an important consideration for how legal scholars go about making arguments and how legal arguments come to have persuasive force. It is Newman's account in The Grammar of Assent (and also earlier in such places as Sermon 13 of his Oxford University Sermons) that acceptance of an argument depends on a variety of prior beliefs and dispositions of the person considering the argument. As Alasdair MacIntyre summarizes Newman's view in God, Philosophy, Universities: A Selective History of the Catholic Philosophical Tradition (2009):

Newman himself contended that arguments—outside mathematics and formal logic—do not have compelling force as such, and he therefore spoke of such arguments as probable rather than demonstrative. A probable argument is one that may be found compelling by one individual, but not by another because of the different antecedent background beliefs that each brings to her or his evaluation of that argument. It is these background beliefs—what Newman called “that large outfit of existing thoughts, principles, likings, desires, and hopes, which make me what I am” [Grammar of Assent, Ch. 10, §2]—that make us find a particular probable argument compelling or not. So how we respond to an argument may be a test of us and not only of the argument. We have to become the kind of person who is open to just those arguments that directs us toward the truth. And if, because of our character and our antecedent beliefs, we fail to be open to the truth, this failure will determine our philosophical as well as our other stances. But which then are the arguments that direct us toward the truth?

They will be, if Newman’s conclusions in The Idea of a University are correct, arguments that enable us to integrate our theological understanding of the created universe with the understanding of each of the different aspects of that universe that is afforded by the enquiries of each of the secular disciplines, by Newman’s old age an ever-growing multiplicity of independent and wide-ranging enquiries in the natural and social sciences as well as in the humanities (pp. 149-50).

There is much more to say, of course, but my modest suggestion for now is that Newman makes a vital point here about how reason (including legal reasoning) operates. Legal arguments are neither mathematically demonstrative (as I suppose a caricature of legal formalism would have it) nor radically under-determined and relativistic. As first-year law students come to figure out (ideally before final exams), learning about the law is neither a mechanical application of memorized rules to cases nor a free-for-all exercise in which any answer is as good as the next. Legal concepts such as "intent," "equal protection," and "rights"  have a range of possible meanings, some better and legally more persuasive than others. A lot of academic debate (not to mention debates in the wider political culture) proceeds as if making arguments to each other were a matter of simply showing that x is true or that y is mistaken. But if we take seriously what Newman argues about arguments, persuading others depends on a complex set of background considerations and, ultimately, on one's character and the integration of one's beliefs.

October 9, 2015 in Moreland, Michael | Permalink

A festschrift for Fr. Araujo! Call for Papers

I am very pleased to announce a project being headed up by Stefanus Hendrianto, S.J. (who is a colleague of mine this year at Notre Dame): 

Dear colleagues, friends, and students of Father Bob Araujo,

 In the last twenty years of his active ministry, in Spokane, Rome, New York, Boston and Chicago, Rev. Robert John Araujo, S.J., has been a faithful priest, a prolific scholar, an exemplary teacher, a caring colleague and a dear friend to all of us.

 In honouring Father Araujo’s life, his service to the Church and his great dedication to legal academia, we would like to invite you to contribute a chapter to a volume, which we are planning to place in 2016.

 The book will include five areas of academic interest of Father Araujo: Natural Law & Legal Philosophy, Religious Freedom, Public International Law, Catholic Social Teaching, and Legal Education. Our wish is to incorporate writings by his colleagues, friends and students, primarily in those areas of study (though not exclusively). We are hoping to make this volume as an opportunity for all of us to get together to continue working on issues that are important to humanity, the Church, the world.

If you are interested in this venture, as we hope you are, please take note of the following:

-          The facilitator of this project is Stefanus Hendrianto, S.J., a Jesuit Scholastic from Oregon Province, with support of Rick Garnett of the University of Notre Dame Law School and John Breen of Loyola University Chicago Law School.

-          An initial agreement should be submitted to the facilitator of the volume by email (stefanus.hendrianto.1@nd.edu) by October 19, 2015, the feast of North American Martyrs.  

-          An abstract of 150-200 words should be submitted to the facilitator by email (stefanus.hendrianto.1@nd.edu) preferably on the birthday of Father Araujo, October 30th, 2015. Abstracts should feature the working title of the proposed chapter and the details of the corresponding author.

-          Prospective contributors are encouraged to write a chapter specifically for the volume. Nevertheless, it is also possible to draw on already published work, adapting this to address the volume theme. Copyright clearance for work that has already been published is entirely the responsibility of the contributing authors, and evidence of such clearance may be required by the publishers when we submit the final draft of the volume.

-          The first draft of the chapter is to reach the facilitator by March 12, 2016, on the feast of the canonization of St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Francis Xavier. Language editing is the responsibility of the authors.

-          We will be aiming to have a gathering of the contributors from different part of the country to discuss their work on March 28, 2016 (on the anniversary of the final vow of Fr. Bob Araujo). But this gathering is contingent upon our ability to solicit funding for this project.

-          The final draft will need to by April 22 2016 - the feast of Mary, Mother of the Society of Jesus- for onward transmission to the publishers.

October 9, 2015 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Time to pre-order "The Rise of Corporate Religious Liberty"!

This book, "The Rise of Corporate Religious Liberty" -- to which I contributed this chapter on "The Freedom of the Church" -- can be preordered (in paperback, even!) now!  "Run, don't walk . . ."

The book was edited with heroic patience (toward me) by Micah Schwartzman, Zoe Robinson, and Chad Flanders.  The contributors include Sarah Barringer GordonPaul HorwitzNelson Tebbe,Douglas LaycockChristopher C LundLiz SepperFrederick GedicksIra LupuRobert TuttleRobin WestJessie HillMark Tushnet.

Here is the abstract for my chapter:

This chapter is part of a collection that reflects the increased interest in, and attention to, the corporate, communal, and institutional dimensions of religious freedom. In addition to summarizing and re-stating claims made by the author in earlier work – claims having to do with, among other things, church-state separation, the no-establishment rule, legal and social pluralism, and the structural role played by religious and other institutions – the Article responds to several leading lines of criticism and attempts to strengthen the argument that the idea of “the freedom of the church” (or something like it) is not a relic or anachronism but instead remains a crucial component of any plausible and attractive account of religious freedom under and through constitutionally limited government. It also includes suggestions for some workable and – it is hoped – faithful translations of it for use in present-day cases, doctrine, and conversations.

The Article’s proposal is that “the freedom of the church” is still-important, even if very old, idea. It is not entirely out of place – even if it does not seem to fit neatly – in today’s constitutional-law and law-and-religion conversations. If it can be retrieved and translated, then it should, not out of nostalgia or reaction, but so that the law will better identify and protect the things that matter.

October 9, 2015 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Judge O'Scannlain on "The Future of Religion in the Public Square"

With permission, I am posting a copy of the Red Mass lecture that Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain recently delivered to the St. Thomas More Society in Milwaukee.  Here is a link:  Download DOS Red Mass lecture 

As one would expect, the lecture is thoughtful and learned.  Among other things, Judge O'Scannlain asks "what does Obergefell prescribe for the future of religious liberty in America?"  Like the man says, "highly recommended."

October 9, 2015 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

"The Pope's Subversive Message"

I enjoyed Arthur Brooks's piece in the New York Times:

. . . Francis’ secular admirers often stumble at his apparent preoccupation with evil. In an impromptu speech to schoolchildren in Harlem, he disconcertingly asked: “But who is it that sows sadness, that sows mistrust, envy, evil desires? What is his name? The devil.”

Some dismiss this as a clerical tic or South American eccentricity. It is nothing of the sort. The word “devil” comes from the Greek verb diabolos, meaning “slander” or “attack.” And “demon” comes directly from the Greek root meaning “to divide.” For Francis, happiness comes from unity, both with God and with one another. Unhappiness comes from division from either — which comes from the Dark One.

Many people around the world have found themselves attracted to the pope’s warm message of unity. And well they should be — unity is in short supply in our unhappy world today. But Francis is asking for more than a mass chorus of “Kumbaya.” He is in the hunt for the whole human soul.

October 9, 2015 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Language, Faith, and Humility

"The great act of faith is when a man decides he is not God."
-Oliver Wendell Holmes

This past Sunday the Archdiocese of Washington celebrated its annual Red Mass at St. Matthew's Cathedral in our nation's capital. While many dioceses and universities celebrate this mass which seeks to "to invoke God’s blessings on those responsible for the administration of justice as well as on all public officials" the mass in Washington has some unique characteristics. Held annually on the Sunday before the first Monday in October when the Supreme Court begins its term, the mass attracts some of the leading jurists and public officials in the nation (although Slate noted only 4 Supreme Court Justices attended this year, trying to connect that observation to Pope fatigue).

Archbishop Wilton Gregory delivered the homily and his sermon touched on language, faith, and humility. In my own legal scholarship, I have written repeatedly about the importance of accurate labels and precision in the language of legal discourse. The choice of terms matter greatly as terms and labels convey social values which then influence the criminal law (think about terms such as "kiddie porn" vs. "images of child sexual abuse" or "child prostitute" vs. "sex trafficking victim"). Therefore, I found myself particularly struck by Archbishop Gregory's emphasis on language.

As the Catholic Standard reported, Archbishop Gregory noted that “[i]t is the mission of those involved in the administration of justice to help us all to understand the meaning of the words of the law and their consequence for the common good that flow from those laws. Yours is the noble vocation of choosing words and helping us understand the meaning of those words that are intended to safeguard and unite our country.” In a world of soundbites, legislative proposals with catchy names, and loose terms such as "non-dangerous drug offender," "victimless crime," and "revenge porn," the devil is in the details. Lawyers, judges, and legislators would do well to take a critical look at language they use, constantly asking what that language conveys about societal values and the seriousness of criminal victimization.

Archbishop Gregory offered other insights and practical guidance to legislators and judicial officials, many of which apply to all of us. But citing to the above Oliver Wendell Holmes quote, he reminded a Cathedral full of Washington luminaries (not to mention those of us sitting in the legal academy seating) of the value of humility. Underscoring the danger of using language to both contravene God's plan for us as well as in a "search to become gods" ourselves, the homily reflected a little of what Pope Francis was attempting to display during his visit - humility. Here's to hoping that message was received.

October 8, 2015 in Leary, Mary G. | Permalink

"Wolf Hall" gets Cromwell (and More, and the Church, and the Reformation . . .) wrong

Alfred Thomas explains, at Commonweal:  

. . . Cromwell . . . presided over the creation of a Tudor police state aimed at imposing conformity through terror. More than three hundred religious dissidents were executed between 1532 and 1540, years coterminous with Cromwell’s tenure. Yet in Wolf Hall we have Cromwell assuring other characters (and thus the audience) that “we do not do such things”—by which he presumably means torture. If his contention was simply presented as political spin—if we saw him practicing what he says he doesn’t do—that would be one thing. But in fact we never do see Cromwell torturing his victims, whereas Thomas More is shown positively relishing the experience.

. . . [I]nviting viewers to identify with a man who enabled Henry to tyrannize his subjects and force on them a religion they didn’t want is ethically problematic. The show comes perilously close to reproducing the Whiggish view of the Reformation as a much-needed sweeping away of a corrupt and outdated form of medieval Catholicism.

For more on "Wolf Hall's" inaccuracies (and clear anti-Catholic agenda), see this, this, and this.

October 8, 2015 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Francis and Religious Freedom Arguments

In my presentation on religious freedom arguments to "reach the persuadable middle," I conclude with three things to learn from Francis in this context.

First, he emphasizes (like others) that freedom for religious organizations is--not solely, but very significantly--"freedom to serve,” especially those in greatest need. As he said in Philadelphia:

[R]eligious liberty, by its nature, transcends places of worship and the private sphere of individuals and families. Our rich religious traditions [also] serve society…. They call to conversion, reconciliation, concern for the future of society, self-sacrifice in the service of the common good, and compassion for those in need. At the heart of their spiritual mission is the proclamation of the truth and dignity of the human person and human rights.
As John Allen remarked in the pre-visit story Rick blogged about some time back, Francis’s emphasis--on "giving the Church freedom and space to bring the Gospel to the ‘existential peripheries of society’"-- is "potentially a game-changer” in the debates over religious freedom. He speaks with credibility about serving those in need. Others with such credibility need to speak up too. As Allen says, this is one the few hopes we have that "the push for religious liberty [might] transcend the divisions often associated with the wars of culture.”
Second, Francis respects and acknowledges other interests and perspectives. In his dialogues with secular/nonbelieving journalists and others of differing views, he goes out of his way to recognize their good will and the contributions they make to the common good. Respect for others must appear not only in how one argues for religious freedom, but also in the substantive scope of freedom that one claims. It is both unsupportable as matter of principle and unwise as a matter of pragmatics to make overbroad assertions that fail to take account of legitimate concerns of justice or policy that may appear on the other side of a dispute. I'm not saying here where those lines should be drawn for any particular case; that's a subject for (many) other posts. I'm just saying that in asserting or defending the (crucial) right to religious freedom, one should also give the kind of sympathetic consideration to others' interests that we rightly claim they should give to interests of religious conscience.
Third, the case for religious freedom should be presented in a way that reflects joy. Not simply dark mutterings about the downfall of society--those dark mutterings are sometimes wrong,  I think, and even to the extent they're right, the challenges should be addressed joyfully. Plus expression of joy in the act of service. From Evangelii Gaudium, paras. 12, 15:
The life of the Church should always reveal clearly that God takes the initiative, that ‘he has loved  first’ (1 Jn 4:19) and that he alone ‘gives the growth’ (1 Cor 3:7). This conviction enables us to maintain a spirit of joy in the midst of a task so demanding and challenging that it engages our entire life…. Instead of seeming to impose new obligations, [Christians] should appear as people who wish to share their joy, who point to a horizon of beauty and who invite others to a delicious banquet.

October 7, 2015 in Berg, Thomas | Permalink

G.K. Chesterton's "Lepanto"

On this day in history: Lepanto

Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us!

October 7, 2015 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Carter Snead's excellent statement on the California assisted-suicide law

My friend and colleague, Carter Snead, who direct's Notre Dame's Center for Ethics and Culture, has a very strong -- indeed, very moving -- statement on Gov. Brown's tragically wrong decision to sign assisted suicide into law in California.  Here it is:

By signing legislation permitting assisted suicide in his state yesterday, California Gov. Jerry Brown has threatened the lives and dignity of all vulnerable people, according to O. Carter Snead, University of Notre Dame law professor and director of the University’s Center for Ethics and Culture.

Quoting the highly personal terms in which Brown had cast his decision — “In the end, I was left to reflect on what I would want in the face of my own death,” the governor said — Snead insisted that “Gov. Brown and those like him — affluent, privileged, able-bodied and with supportive families — are not the ones who will pay the price for this new ‘freedom.’”

“What Gov. Brown should have been reflecting on instead,” Snead said, “was the poor, the disabled, the marginalized and the elderly who are now exposed to grave and lethal new risks of fraud, abuse, mistake and coercion. He should have been reflecting on those who are suffering from untreated, but treatable, depression or badly managed, but manageable, pain, people for whom the path of least resistance is now self-administration of lethal drugs.

“Gov. Brown should have been reflecting on the aged, who are now at risk of an entirely new form of elder abuse. He should have been reflecting on the financially disadvantaged, whose insurers will now weigh the low costs of assisted suicide against more expensive palliative treatments. He should have been reflecting on the disabled, who are terrified about the subtle coercion that will now be brought to bear by others who consider their lives not worth living. He should have been reflecting on the path taken by countries like the Netherlands and Belgium, where assisted suicide quickly gave way to euthanasia, first voluntary, then nonvoluntary, in the name of false autonomy and compassion. He should have been reflecting on the experience of Oregon, where there is no meaningful data collection, and virtually no referrals for psychological evaluations or pain management consultations, even though those with suicidal ideation require both forms of basic health care.”

According to Snead, “Gov. Brown has purchased the right to assisted suicide at the expense of the disabled, the marginalized, the poor and the elderly. Shame on him for being so selfish and short-sighted.”

October 6, 2015 | Permalink

"An Epidemic of Loneliness": Community ties, Catholicism, and Suicide

This is very interesting.   In the Oct. 5 issue of National Review, Kevin Hassett has a piece called "An Epidemic of Loneliness."  Here's a taste:

For more than a hundred years, economists and sociologists have studied an empirical regularity: When the population share of Protestants relative to Catholics rises, suicides increase markedly. Two major theories emerged to explain the pattern. The first rests on theological differences, and holds that Catholics but not Protestants are dissuaded from suicide by the fear that it will lead to eternal damnation. The second is that Protestants are more likely to have weaker ties to the community, and it is this separation from the support of a community that leads to despair and suicide.

While the early literature focused on these two competing forms of Christianity, researchers have begun to explore religion and the role of community more generally. As time has gone on, the community-based rather than theological explanation seems to have become more widely accepted in the literature. For instance, research has found that while Protestants commit suicide more than Catholics, atheists are even more likely to take their own lives than Protestants, an observation that would favor the community-based rather than theological channel. . . .

. . . As Protestantism spread and Catholicism declined in Europe, individuals found themselves increasingly separated from the community support mechanisms that could help sustain them in difficult times. Suicides surged. Today’s coarsening world is having a similar effect on far too many. Suicide has become an urgent public-health crisis with astronomical economic costs.

Yet another reason to regret the recent enactment in California of assisted-suicide legalization.

October 6, 2015 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Fleming Rutledge on the Crucifixion

Fleming Rutledge is one of the great preachers of our time. Check out her "Generous Orthodoxy" website here--and get a hold of any (or all) of her sermon collections on Paul, or Romans, or the Old Testament, or Easter, or The Bible and the New York Times. She confounds both conservatives and liberals by preaching universal themes--original sin, amazing grace, and their social and cultural implications--that undercut all our more partial political perspectives. She was also one of the first dozen or so women ordained in the Episcopal Church.

Now she's released The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ, her "magnum opus" as The Christian Century's reviewer calls it. A bit of the review:

Don’t conservative and evangelical churches regularly preach the cross and the crucifixion? Yes, they do. But they often reduce these themes to formulaic, even mechanistic interpretations of their meaning, related only to individuals and their fate after death. Moreover, as Rutledge argues persuasively, such proclamations are often theologically incoherent, doing violence to the trinitarian nature of God and rendering the God now separated from Jesus Christ into a monster.

Perhaps partly in reaction to the predominance of such reductive and misleading interpretations of the crucifixion by conservatives and evangelicals, other parts of the church—mainline, liberal, and progressive congregations and their preachers—have had less and less that is substantive to say about the crucifixion. Pelagianism, ever knocking at the mainline door, sidesteps the cross to emphasize Jesus’ good works and his role as a moral exemplar and spiritual guide. Then proclamation tends to become telling stories about Jesus rather than preaching Christ crucified. In some mainline church settings, the crucified One is portrayed as just another innocent victim of the empire, not as the One whose death constituted God’s redemptive disruption of the world.

Protestantism has had a particular problem handling this problem of sin and redemption, reducing it either to "fire insurance" for the afterlife or confident prescriptions about social reform today. But as I see it, Catholic thinkers have to deal with the same issues. 

I'm running to the store (well, to Amazon) to get Rutledge's book.

October 6, 2015 in Berg, Thomas | Permalink

Monday, October 5, 2015

At least we had Glucksberg ...

Rick beat me to posting about California's new assisted-suicide law.

It's kind of sad when the solace one takes in reading of such an unfortunate development is that the LA Times at least chose not to use the political language of "aid-in-dying" law that the newspaper had previously used. (Headline: "Governor sends aid-in-dying bill to Gov. Brown")  

Another form of solace in the category of "at least there's that" comes from the fact that this unfortunate change at least came through the appropriate political branches.

The judicial sensibility that brought us Washington v. Glucksberg was sound. When there's no law on a matter, the lawful decision is to decline to pretend there is. This may mean that the Court is unable to save us from ourselves, and we are stuck with laws we'd rather not have. But a Court that won't save us from ourselves when it can't do so lawfully is to be preferred to a Court anointed to save us even if that requires making up the law.

With the ascendancy of the Obergefell identity, we may not much longer enjoy the sting of an honest loss.

October 5, 2015 in Walsh, Kevin | Permalink

Gov. Brown signs assisted-suicide law

Bad news out of California.  

Caught between conflicting moral arguments, Gov. Jerry Brown, a former Jesuit seminary student, on Monday signed a measure allowing physicians to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to terminally ill patients who want to hasten their deaths.

Approving the bill, whose opponents included the Catholic Church, appeared to be a gut-wrenching decision for the 77-year-old governor, who as a young man studied to enter the priesthood.

“In the end, I was left to reflect on what I would want in the face of my own death,” Brown added. “I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain. I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill. And I wouldn’t deny that right to others."

October 5, 2015 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Saturday, October 3, 2015

"Getting to Purple: Religious Freedom Arguments to Reach the Persuadable Middle" -- at CLS in NOLA

Today I gave a presentation at the Christian Legal Society's national conference in New Orleans. The presentation is called "Getting to Purple: Religious Freedom Arguments to Reach the Persuadable Middle" (here are the power point slides). It continues with the three kinds of arguments--civil libertarian, civic republican, and pragmatic--that I've laid out earlier in an article called "Progressive Arguments for Religious Organizational Freedom." The continued goal is to try to bridge what appear to be the hardening lines between conservatives and liberals over the value of religious institutional freedom.

I conclude the presentation with some lessons to draw from Pope Francis, who is a great model for both Catholics and others seeking to defend the freedom of religious institutions to serve others in a joyful and sacrificial spirit. I'll blog about that separately.

And for a lagniappe (Creole for "bonus or extra gift"), here is a picture from New Orleans with church-state associations. It's a jazz band at a wedding that had just finished in the church at the old Ursuline convent. You might remember that when the Ursulines nuns feared that their school for orphan girls would become subject to disruptive American regulation after the Louisiana Purchase, they wrote President Jefferson, who responded that 

the principles of the Constitution [a]re a sure guaranty to you that [your property] will be preserved to you sacred and inviolate, and that your Institution will be permitted to govern itself according to its own voluntary rules without interference from the civil authority.

(Rick, Carl Esbeck, Kim Colby, and I discuss Jefferson's letter to the Ursulines in our overview of historical sources of church autonomy, here, at p. 182.)


Ursulines Wedding 2

October 3, 2015 in Berg, Thomas | Permalink

Friday, October 2, 2015

Ah, "tolerance"

Here's the abstract for a new book by a senior lecturer at Keele University:

This book aims to examine and critically analyse the role that religion has and should have in the public and legal sphere. The main purpose of the book is to explain why religion, on the whole, should not be tolerated in a tolerant-liberal democracy and to describe exactly how it should not be tolerated - mainly by addressing legal issues. The main arguments of the book are, first, that as a general rule illiberal intolerance should not be tolerated; secondly, that there are meaningful, unique links between religion and intolerance, and between holding religious beliefs and holding intolerant views (and ultimately acting upon these views); and thirdly, that the religiosity of a legal claim is normally a reason, although not necessarily a prevailing one, not to accept that claim.

Yossi Nehushtan, "Intolerant Religion in a Tolerant-Liberal Democracy" (Hart 2015).


October 2, 2015 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Steven Smith on "Constitution Day"

My friend Steve Smith's Constitution Day lecture -- "The Image of Liberty" -- is thoughtful, provocative, bracing, and sobering.  Check it out:

This Constitution Day talk compares the state of constitutional governance today to that of the Roman Empire, as famously discussed by the historian Edward Gibbon, and discusses alternative strategies that might be contemplated by those who believe that current American governance does not conform to the requirements of the historical Constitution.

October 2, 2015 | Permalink

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Letter to Synod Fathers from Catholic Women

RELEASED TODAY - October 1, 2015

Dear Synod Fathers in Christ,

In anticipation of the Ordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family (October 2015), we the undersigned Catholic women—scholars, professors, attorneys, physicians, writers, businesswomen, philanthropists, leaders of apostolate, members of religious orders, and others—wish to express our love for Pope Francis, our fidelity to and gratitude for the doctrines of the Catholic Church, and our confidence in the Synod of Bishops as it strives to strengthen the Church’s evangelizing mission.

Pope Francis has highlighted the need for women to be an “incisive presence” in the Church, and an “effective presence” in the culture, the workplace, and wherever “the most important decisions are taken,” in harmony with women’s “preferential attention” for the family. And Pope St. John Paul II observed that women “have the task of assuring the moral dimension of culture … a culture worthy of the person.” With these ideas in mind, we wish the Synod Fathers to know that:

  • We see the teachings of the Church as truth—a source of authentic freedom, equality, and happiness for women.
  • We give witness that the Church’s teachings—on the dignity of the human person and the value of human life from conception to natural death; on the meaning of human sexuality, the significance of sexual difference and the complementarity of men and women; on openness to life and the gift of motherhood; and on marriage and family founded on the indissoluble commitment of a man and a woman—provide a sure guide to the Christian life, promote women’s flourishing, and serve to protect the poor and most vulnerable among us.
  • We stand in solidarity with our sisters in the developing world against what Pope Francis has described as “forms of ideological colonization which are out to destroy the family” and which exalt the pursuit of “success, riches, and power at all costs.” We urge a profound attentiveness to the poor and a relentless search for just solutions that address the deeper causes of poverty while simultaneously safeguarding the vulnerable, strengthening the family, and upholding the common good.
  • We believe that pastoral challenges can be met, in part, by communicating Church teachings more clearly, confidently, and compassionately, in language, tone, and generous personal encounters that welcome the “why?” of a searching heart. We believe that women should be prominent messengers of the truths contained in the Church’s teachings.
  • We enthusiastically commit our distinctive insights and gifts, and our fervent prayers, in service to the Church’s evangelizing mission.

And we pledge to accompany you, the Synod Fathers, and Pope Francis with our deepest prayers and gratitude, as you work for the good of families and the Church.

In Christ,

See the 200 signatories -- and add your own name here

October 1, 2015 | Permalink

New Blog: "The New Reform Club"

Here's a new-ish group blog, that I'm liking a lot.  It's called "The New Reform Club:  God & Man in the 21st Century."  Check out, just for samples, this post by Gonazaga's Mark DeForrest on "Russell Kirk on the Conservatism of Continuity" and this one, by Seth Tillman, called "Why Punish Wrongdoing"?  A blog that identifies Chesterton and Belloc as two of its "patron saints" will likely be of interest to MOJ readers!  

October 1, 2015 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

John Allen on Francis and the Religious Freedom Signals

Here. It doesn't mean he necessarily supports Kim Davis in all her assertions, or even the Little Sisters of the Poor, but it is at least a symbolic statement in favor of a broad right of conscience, and perhaps meant to reassure conservatives more specifically on these issues.

To put the point in crudely political terms, Francis is a figure who utterly defies the usual left/right divides, equally capable of meeting Kim Davis and embracing poor immigrant children at a Harlem school – seeing both as part of a continuum of concern for human dignity.

September 30, 2015 in Berg, Thomas | Permalink

The Pope met with Kim Davis / Responses to Vischer and Bowman [UPDATED]

The New York Times has an account, here.  This bit of news seems clearly to disrupt some narratives about the Pope and his visit, as do the Pope's remarks about the human right to conscientious objection, including by public officials.  I do not know what to make of the fact that he made these statements after leaving the United States and that his meeting with Davis was not publicized.  I do not agree with those who have tried to interpret the Pope's collection of events, addresses, and statements as somehow downplaying the importance of (and threats to) religious freedom, and yet, had the visit with Davis and his conscientious objection statements been part of that collection, it seems like it would have made that interpretation even more implausible than, in my view, it already is.

UPDATE:    A Vatican spokesperson "clarifies" regarding the meeting, here.  Clearly, some very different accounts are emerging, both of what happened between Pope Francis and Ms. Davis and how.  

UPDATE:    Spokesperson expresses a "sense of regret" over meeting?   And yet . . . the Pope said what he said about a human right to conscientious objection -- even by officials . . ..  One thing is clear:  those who imagine Vatican conspiracies to take over the world and steal our precious bodily fluids needn't worry.  The Church just isn't that organized.

 Like Rob Vischer (read his piece here), I think the Kim Davis case presents some tricky questions.  It is not as clear to me as it is to some that she can, in this moment, expect to be exempted from performing duties that attach to her elected, official position.  (This is not to say that it does not make sense to find ways -- as Robin Fretwell Wilson and others have described -- to accommodate, if possible, public employees' religious objections to participating in the legal recognition of same-sex marriages, if it can be done in a way that does not deny anyone legal rights.)  At the same time, I think Matt Bowman is clearly right to warn that those who control the power to define what "doing your job" means (or to control access to various positions and professions through licensing, accreditation, etc.) will be trying to use that power in the coming years against, say, pro-life doctors and nurses, or judges who belong to "discriminatory" organizations, or student groups and religious colleges with "discriminatory" views, practices,  or mission statements, etc.  Stay tuned.

September 30, 2015 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A friendly reminder: Pope Francis and Justice Scalia believe in Satan

In the warm afterglow of Pope Francis's visit to the United States, Michael's posting of the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel reminded me of some reactions a while back to Justice Scalia's "I even believe in the devil" interview. Pope Francis's insistence on the reality of Satan has sometimes led to expressions of incredulity and scorn like those that greeted Justice Scalia's remarks. Not as many such comments, of course, because Pope Francis is way more popular than Justice Scalia. But enough to notice, I suppose.

Some ways of responding to these responses are better than others. One helpful piece ran on CNN.com earlier this year. In it, Fr. Thomas Rosica addressed the question: "Why is Pope Francis So Obsessed with the Devil?" MOJ readers may find it of interest.

Another take that may be of interest is the New Republic's April 2015 story by Elizabeth Bruenig: "Pope Francis's Populist War with the Devil." Bruenig writes that "perhaps the most promising aspect of Pope Francis’s wholehearted belief in the Prince of Lies is the way it unites all of humankind in a single struggle."

What does this have to do with Catholic legal theory? I'm not entirely sure. But this idea that awareness of a common enemy can unite an embattled group probably helps to explain some of Chief Justice John Marshall's success in holding the Justices together in unanimous opinions in some of his Court's controversial cases.

So there. Happy feast day.

September 29, 2015 in Walsh, Kevin | Permalink

Vita et Veritas

For anyone in or near New Haven, I'll be speaking at the Vita et Veritas conference at Yale this Saturday afternoon. My topic:  whether abortion is necessary for women's equality.

I learned to my great delight this past week that Yale Law Professor Reva Siegel, my principle interlocutor in "Embodied Equality: Debunking Equal Protection Arguments for Abortion Rights" (HJLPP, 2011), teaches the article (quite fairly) in one of her classes at Yale Law.  

September 29, 2015 | Permalink

On the Feast of the Archangels

St. Michael the Archangel, 
defend us in battle. 
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil. 
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, 
and do thou, 
O Prince of the heavenly hosts, 
by the power of God, 
thrust into hell Satan, 
and all the evil spirits, 
who prowl about the world (our cities, and our families)
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

September 29, 2015 in Scaperlanda, Mike | Permalink