Sunday, September 30, 2007
In recent days, we (along with folks at America magazine, at the Commonweal blog, etc.) have been talking about ye olde topic, "the identity of Catholic universities". Of course, it's not just those of us who are into the "Catholic university thing" who are hang-wringing about the state of our project; lovers of the university-enterprise generally are uneasy. See, for example, the new book by my law-school teacher and former dean, Anthony Kronman: Education's End: Why Our Colleges and Universities Have Given Up on the Meaning of Life.
In the Yale alumni magazine, there's a short essay adapted from the book, called "Against political correctness: a liberal's cri de coeur." (Kronman, it should be emphasized, writes and worries as a liberal and a "secular humanist."). Kronman writes:
[W]hen a presumptive commitment to the values of political liberalism begins to constrain the exploration of the personal question of life's meaning -- when the expectation that everyone shares these values comes to place implicit limits on the alternatives that may be considered and how seriously they are to be taken -- the enterprise itself loses much of its power and poignancy for the students involved and their teachers lose their authority to lead it. . . .
Today's idea of diversity is so limited that one might with justification call it a sham diversity, whose real goal is the promotion of a moral and spiritual uniformity instead. It has no room for the soldier who values honor above equality, the poet who believes that beauty is more important than justice, or the thinker who regards with disinterest or contempt the concerns of political life. . . .
Saturday, September 29, 2007
OK, Rob and Mark, and other critics of Catholic congregational music, here's your chance. The National Association of Pastoral Musicians is taking an on-line survey in which you can rate congregational singing in your parish, your community, and the Church in general.
A recent essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education, "Make Room for Singles in Teaching & Research" argues that
In the academy, much research and teaching is based on the outdated assumption that marriage and the nuclear family dominate adult life. As a result, people who are single, and perspectives not based on conventional marriage, are greatly underrepresented or misrepresented in scholarship and public policy.
As examples, the authors continue:
Marriage and family studies, for example, is a burgeoning, multidisciplinary field that has recently expanded to incorporate the study of nontraditional families. But single people are still likely to appear in its research and courses only if they have an important life experience in common with adults in nuclear families — for example, if they had been married, have children, or are cohabiting.
Scholars in psychology, sociology, and many other disciplines have contributed to the growing field of relationship science — which, in theory, is about all relationships and hence broader than the study of marriage and family. In practice, however, research in that field focuses on romantic and marital attachments, using "relationship" as a shorthand for conjugal ties.
The marriage-centered view of singles assumes that they are alone, and that the growth of one-person households means the nation is at risk of a national epidemic of loneliness. Research from a singles perspective by one of us — The New Single Woman (Beacon Press, 2005), by E. Kay Trimberger — and other scholars challenges such assumptions. It shows that singles have strong ties to their extended families, are adept at forming networks of friends, and are more involved in their communities than married people are.
The relationships that are important to single people, like close friendships and ties to members of the extended family, are invisible to or devalued by scholars who consider marriage the norm. Some of them might argue that singles have close friendships because they are compensating for not having a spouse. A singles perspective would generate other hypotheses — for example, that many single people prefer to maintain a diversified relationship portfolio, rather than investing most of their emotional capital in just one person.
My first impulse on reading this was to mentally retreat into what is probably a stereo-typical Catholic sort of "Oh, my heavens, look how far the assault on the family is going in our society! We must resist this attempt to validate the sybaritic singles life-style!"
But upon further reflection, I realized that the article isn't suggesting anything like that, and in fact taps into something that does trouble me about some of the Catholic conversations about family and men and women (including, I freely admit, some of my own work). I don't think we give enough thought to, let alone intellectual support to, those whose vocations call them to a life that can't include raising a family themselves -- not just religious vocations, but also those who recognize that the work they are called to do must be so absorbing that they cannot responsibly start their own families. The discussion in Mulieris Dignatem of "spiritual motherhood" suggests a start, but it doesn't really go very far. Is there more discussion of this issue directed at priests that I don't know about? I think it would be very interesting to see some Catholic contributions to this kind of research.
Friday, September 28, 2007
September 29, 2007
Moral theology, once the preserve of priests, has changed profoundly. Gone are the confessors’ manuals and instead there is debate among its students and scholars about the way we live our lives. But how much division can be tolerated?
To read the article, click here.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Apropos of the Georgetown Law reversal, here is some news [HERE] about Verizon's reversal of its earlier refusal to allow NARAL instant text messaging. Borrowing from popular culture of the 1960s, second verse same as the first. RJA sj
Here is a new paper of mine, called "Are Churches (Just) Like the Boy Scouts?", which I presented at a (great) law-and-religion conference last Spring at St. John's. The paper talks about, among other things, the account provided by Professors Eisgruber and Sager of the church-autonomy principle; the idea of the "Freedom of the Church" (which I've tried to engage in more detail here); and an "institutional approach" to the Religion Clauses (which is also the subject of a paper I'm doing for our friends at the Villanova Law Review.) Here is the abstract:
What role do religious communities, groups, and associations play – and, what role should they play – in our thinking and conversations about religious freedom and church-state relations? These and related questions – that is, questions about the rights and responsibilities of religious institutions – are timely, difficult, and important. And yet, they are often neglected.
It is not new to observe that American judicial decisions and public conversations about religious freedom tend to focus on matters of individuals' rights, beliefs, consciences, and practices. The special place, role, and freedoms of groups, associations, and institutions are often overlooked. However, if we want to understand well, and to appreciate, the content and implications of our constitutional commitment to religious liberty, we need to broaden our focus, and to ask, as Professors Lupu and Tuttle have put it, about the “distinctive place of religious entities in our constitutional order.” Are religious institutions special? May and should they be treated specially? If so, how? Why?
For some other, in-places-different views on the subject, see this new paper by Cass Sunstein.
I largely agree with Patrick’s sentiments in his posting earlier today about the future of Catholic higher education, which, of course, would include legal education. I also share some sympathy with his statement about the Catholic academy being inclusive. After all, our Lord reminded us that it is not the healthy who need the physician.
While the Miscamble, Steinfels, and McGreevy essays offer differing views about particulars and emphases, they appear to agree on the matter regarding mission-fit for hiring. One does not have to be a Catholic to endorse, support, and contribute to the Catholic intellectual tradition where faith and reason and the integration of knowledge that leads to wisdom. But, that is a crucial point essential to the success of Catholic higher education. When there is a proliferation of faculty members who do not subscribe to these elements essential to Catholic education, serious problems begin to emerge. Rick’s posting earlier today about the recent development at Georgetown University Law Center demonstrates this. As the article in The Hoya illustrates, there are, according to the correspondent, faculty who are behind the reversal that will open the door for supporting pro-abortion advocacy (and, I suspect, eventually other things incompatible with Catholic teachings). If you recall, when Georgetown University was involved in litigation regarding its Catholic identity and matters dealing with sexual orientation issues in the mid-1980s, several Georgetown Law faculty were prominently posed against the University in this lawsuit.
Another matter to keep in mind is that, today, the academy often prizes research and the development of theories that are not compatible with or sympathetic to the integration of knowledge. Narrow specialization is favored. Pope Benedict has spoken of this fragmentation of knowledge in the past and the need to counter it with integration of learning, a traditional goal of Catholic higher education. Those faculty members who are not sympathetic to the Pope’s view are often advocates for the specialization that leads to the fragmentation of learning. There is little doubt that folks in favor of increased specialization can be clever about the particulars of certain subjects, but can it be said that they are also wise? While firing-for-mission could be problematic, hiring-for-mission should not. Moreover, it is necessary and essential for the survival and the flourishing of Catholic higher education. RJA sj
Rick's post about Georgetown's decision to back away from its policy prohibiting funding for students at summer internships at organizations that promote abortion rights calls to mind Fr. Richard John Neuhaus' comments on Villanova's policy in this area:
Some schools mean it when they say they are Catholic. For instance, Mark A. Sargent, dean of the law school at Villanova University in Philadelphia, writes, “Our Catholic identity is not casual, sentimental, or merely historical.” While the school has many non-Catholic faculty and students, he observes, Villanova remains a Catholic university. The occasion for clarifying all this was a fellowship program in which some students elected to work for pro-abortion organizations. The argument was made that, if the program cannot support abortion, it should just as clearly not support capital punishment. Dean Sargent’s response is marked by what might be described as uncommon lucidity: “Occasionally, we will not do something because we are Catholic. We will not do something that conflicts with our Catholic identity. Such situations are rare, but sometimes we must take a stand. We do so when the conflict is so fundamental and unambiguous that we, in effect, have no choice. Association of Villanova with advocacy for abortion rights presents one such conflict. The fellowship program provides summer stipends for Villanova law students working without pay for public interest organizations. It is funded by an auction, in which Villanova students, faculty, staff, and alumni participate. The program is not an independent student activity. Our name is associated with every aspect of it and makes it go. Our tax-exempt status is used. The auction takes place in our building. The law school administers the funds, and our staff members help organize the program as part of their jobs. Students receiving the stipends are known as Villanova Public Interest Fellows. It is indisputably a Villanova Law School program. A Villanova program obviously cannot be associated with advocacy for abortion rights. Though many individual Catholics believe that there should be some legal right to abortion, the Church’s teaching on the topic is fundamental and unambiguous. We have no choice but to ask program fellows working in our name to agree not to engage in such advocacy. They are, of course, free to take jobs outside the program doing whatever they want. But as program fellows they represent us, and they cannot represent us in advocacy for abortion rights. Some might accuse us of hypocrisy in not banning the program work with advocates of capital punishment and other causes that they believe have the same status as abortion in Catholic teaching. What they do not understand is that the status of these issues in Catholic teaching is very different from that of abortion. Take capital punishment, for example. The Pope has asked Catholics to conclude that capital punishment is insupportable. I agree with him completely. But his statements on the issue were not made with the authority that requires the faithful obedience of all Catholics and Catholic institutions, unlike the Church’s position on abortion. Indeed, many orthodox supporters of the Pope have disagreed with him on this issue and argued that the Catholic tradition does not support abolition of capital punishment. The law school is thus not compelled to disassociate itself from advocacy for capital punishment as it is from advocacy for abortion rights. This is significant, because we are reluctant to constrain our students unless we absolutely must. With respect to abortion, we must. With respect to capital punishment, it is a matter of choice. We could choose to disassociate ourselves from it on Catholic grounds because we are convinced by the Pope’s arguments. And during the next academic year we, as a community, will consider the difficult question of whether we should make that choice. To take time to think hard about what we should do regarding capital punishment is not hypocrisy, but prudence. The need to make a prudential decision about the ambiguous question of capital punishment does not make a principled decision about the unambiguous question of the Church’s teaching on abortion hypocritical.” One hopes that Dean Sargent’s argument will be read, and emulated, by leaders of other schools for whom the name Catholic is not “casual, sentimental, or merely historical.”
I guess it either wasn't read at GU or GU's Catholic name "casual, sentimental, or merely historical."
According to The Hoya:
Administrators at the university’s Law Center reversed earlier this month a policy prohibiting funding for students at summer internships at organizations that promote abortion rights, after a widely publicized case in the spring which drew protest from hundreds of students.
Under the new policy, announced by Law Center Dean T. Alexander Aleinikoff in a letter published in the Law Center’s student newspaper, the university will no longer consider the mission of each organization when determining grants provided by a student-run organization to students for summer internships.