March 31, 2009
New Dean at Notre Dame Law
News release here.
March 30, 2009
Conscience protection and human rights
"The right road for a civilized society . . . "
". . . is to abolish the death penalty altogether." So says that right-wing, partisan, shallow, one-dimensional, in-the-pocket-of-the-GOP Archbishop Charles Chaput:
Capital punishment, euthanasia, abortion and war: All these issues raise profound questions for Catholics as we reflect on the sanctity of human life. But while they all touch on human dignity, they don’t all have the same moral content.
Euthanasia and abortion are always, intrinsically wrong because they always involve an intentional killing of innocent human life. War and capital punishment, in contrast, can sometimes be morally acceptable as an expression of society’s right to self-defense.
Both Scripture and a long tradition of Catholic thought support the legitimacy of the death penalty under certain limited circumstances. But as Pope John Paul II argued so eloquently, the conditions that require the death penalty for society’s self-defense and the discharge of justice in modern, developed nations almost never exist. As a result, the right road for a civilized society is to abolish the death penalty altogether.
Carroll College v. NLRB
Courtesy of the smart people at Sidley & Austin, here is a helpful update on a recent religious-institutions decision that might be of interest.
Stricherz on overturning Roe
Over at America magazine's blog, Mark Stricherz explains why "overturning Roe would save lives and be popular." (In so doing, he fleshes out his disagreement with those who, like Michael Sean Winters, David Gibson, and many others, believe the opposite.)
Stricherz is quite correct, in my view, when he states that public-opinion data suggesting that Americans support Roe is -- because Americans do not know what Roe means -- unreliable. A healthy majority of Americans supports an abortion-regulation regime that, under current law, legislatures may not enact.
To return, though, to my hobby-horse: It is not a strong argument against overturning Roe that overturning Roe might not reduce the number of abortions dramatically. (That said, I am entirely confident that it would reduce the number of abortions.) Roe distorted our constitutional law and our politics and constitutionalized (unjustly) an unsound -- or, at the very least, highly contested -- moral premise. It should be overruled even if it leaves open the possibility, as it certainly does, that We the People will decide, at least in some places, to continue permitting elective abortions.
comment on Woodward and the ND/Obama controversy
Kenneth Woodward's comment on the ND/Obama controversy largely depends, it seems to me, on the idea that Notre Dame is not really honoring President Obama by awarding him an honorary degree. He refers to the degree as the "customary honorary degree" and later notes that Obama "will receive an honorary degree because it is the custom, not as a blessing on any of his decisions." Woodward's comment notes that Notre Dame is "allowing its graduating class to hear from the President" (is anyone saying that President Obama ought to be prevented from making his views known?) and he (Woodward) seems to view the graduation ceremony as a debate between Obama and Glendon. (Does the Laetare Medal recipient deliver a speech at graduation?)
If Notre Dame had invited President Obama to speak at Notre Dame to participate in an exchange of views with Mary Ann Glendon, I doubt whether there would be a firestorm. The objections to Notre Dame's actions are not really about a desire to avoid engagement or about shunning the world as evil.
The objections seem largely the result of the perception that Notre Dame is in fact honoring President Obama by awarding him an honorary degree. I agree that there is room for prudential judgments. What if the public official was the Secretary of State whose public duties and actions were not inconsistent with Catholic moral teaching but who had expressed opposition to Church teaching on matters--e.g., Humanae Vitae--not relevant to that official's public duties and actions? I think, then, that one could make the argument that the award of an honorary degree to such a person should not reasonably be viewed as creating scandal or creating confusion about Church teaching on moral issues. (I wonder, though, why Catholic schools think it is so important to award honorary degrees to high profile public officials. Maybe the schools ought to rethink the whole matter.) But that doesn't seem to be the case with an award to President Obama. Woodward himself notes that Obama's actions have "violated fundamental Catholic principles on the protection of human life." (I wonder why Woodward refers to these principles as "Catholic"--which seems to leave the impression that the views are theological in nature?)
Why Notre Dame is Right to Welcome Obama
For reflections on why Notre Dame should welcome Obama from Kenneth Woodward, a Notre Dame graduate and Newsweek religion editor for 38 years, see http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/29/AR2009032901352.html?hpid=opinionsbox1.
March 29, 2009
Painter on torture: "It's Just Plain Wrong"
There are some interesting posts up, by Prof. Richard Painter, over at the Volokh Conspiracy.
"The Pope May be Right"
In today's Washington Post (Page A15), Edward Green writes:
When Pope Benedict XVI commented this month that condom distribution isn't helping, and may be worsening, the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa, he set off a firestorm of protest. Most non-Catholic commentary has been highly critical of the pope. A cartoon in the Philadelphia Inquirer, reprinted in The Post, showed the pope somewhat ghoulishly praising a throng of sick and dying Africans: "Blessed are the sick, for they have not used condoms."
Yet, in truth, current empirical evidence supports him.
We liberals who work in the fields of global HIV/AIDS and family planning take terrible professional risks if we side with the pope on a divisive topic such as this. The condom has become a symbol of freedom and -- along with contraception -- female emancipation, so those who question condom orthodoxy are accused of being against these causes. My comments are only about the question of condoms working to stem the spread of AIDS in Africa's generalized epidemics -- nowhere else.
In 2003, Norman Hearst and Sanny Chen of the University of California conducted a condom effectiveness study for the United Nations' AIDS program and found no evidence of condoms working as a primary HIV-prevention measure in Africa. UNAIDS quietly disowned the study. ...
HT: Ryan Anderson