Sunday, May 31, 2009
Last Thursday, the Catholic University of America sponsored an event which involved a discussion, moderated by Mary Ann Glendon, between Robert George and Doug Kmiec, on "life issues" and the Obama Administration. A version of Professor George's statement is available at Public Discourse, here. You can watch video of the event, here.
I have heard reports from several people who were present, and it sounds to me like it was an outstanding event. And, I watched the entire video. My own impression -- and this will not, I expect, come as a surprise to MOJ readers -- is that Prof. George's remarks were powerful and convincing, and that Prof. Kmiec was not able to provide a plausible counter-account.
Michael Sean Winters, at America, in this account (and also here), reports his very different impressions. As much as I usually appreciate his reporting, though, I think his suggestions that Prof. George had "ranted" and that he "provided a series of assertions, unsupported by argument" were deeply disappointing and are entirely without foundation. Watch the video, and decide for yourselves. (Also read this (yet another) correction of the still-often-repeated-and-still-not-right claim that abortions increased under President Bush. And then also remember that, even if the claim were true, that would not make just our current unjust legal regime regarding abortion.)
Here, for good measure, is another report, which includes this summary of the disagreement: "Kmiec treats the personhood of the unborn as a matter of faith rather than a matter of natural law therefore feels it cannot be imposed on those with whom we disagree. Professor George claims that it is a matter of justice to recognize the personhood of the unborn from the moment of conception."
Mr. Winters also reported, by the way, in the same post, on a presentation by our own Patrick Brennan on the freedom of the Church. According to Mr. Winters, Patrick "gave a somewhat bizarre presentation on how the Church as Church should have certain constitutional protections different from that enumerated in the First Amendment." But there is nothing remotely "bizarre" about the idea that the Church-as-Church does and should enjoy constitutional protection, or about the claim that the protection currently provided by the Court's doctrine. Patrick's work on church-autonomy, subsidiarity, sovereignty, and religious freedom is some of the best stuff out there, and I hope that Mr. Winters will revisit and revise his report.