Saturday, April 30, 2011
Susan's post on the jurisprudential legacy of Pope John Paul II reminded me of a symposium published by Ave Maria Law Review on "Pope John Paul II and the Law." The symposium (here and here) includes papers by (in order of appearance) George Weigel, Father Robert Araujo SJ, Father Kevin Flannery SJ, Jane Adolphe, Ed Peters, Gerry Bradley, Richard Myers, James Eyster, and Howard Bromberg.
In the latest issue of First Things, Mary Ann Glendon has this as-per-usual thoughtful essay, "The Bearable Lightness of Dignity", in which she reflects on the fact "human dignity" is a concept "necessary to human decency but notoriously resistant to precise definition." A taste:
. . . [I]t seems fair to say that the challenge of supplying the concept of dignity with philosophical foundations that are intelligible to believers and nonbelievers alike is still a work in progress. That does not mean, however, that, as Miosz feared, it rests on an “abyss.” For, as Pope John Paul II pointed out in his essay On the Dignity of the Human Person, the recognition of human dignity is rooted in the experience of living with and interacting with other human beings: “The community is the vehicle through which we experience our own dignity and the dignity of others, and the connectedness of persons and the value of persons are discovered through their interdependence.”
Through experiencing and reflecting on experience (historical experience as well as our own), we accumulate a body of knowledge about right and wrong. The impressive multinational consensus reached on documents like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is testimony to the fact that some things are so terrible in practice that virtually no one will approve them—or openly admit they approve them—and that some things are so good in practice that virtually no one will oppose them, or admit they oppose them. . . .
It is a mystery to me why a paper with the aspirations (and pretensions) of the New York Times continues to give the outstandingly mediocre thought and writing of Maureen Dowd the platform that it does. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, but I admit that I was, that this snark-dripping mudball ("Hold the Halo") from Dowd ran on Easter Weekend. Thank God, soon-to-be Blessed John Paul II is beyond being relieved (I'm sure he never did) that Dowd concedes he "was admirable in many ways", even as she pronounces that he was "disturbingly regressive" (by which she seems to mean "garden variety, mainstream Catholic") on others.
Better for a reader to spend an hour or two with Redemptor hominis than a second with Dowd, and to remember his first words as pope: Do not be afraid to open wide the doors for Christ.
As we prepare for the the beatification and celebration of the life of John Paul II, I thought I'd remind everyone of the fine symposium held several years ago at St. John's University School of Law on The Jurisprudential Legacy of Pope John Paul II. A number of MOJ authors participated in that symposium, including Michael Scaperlanda, Greg Sisk, Lisa Schiltz and Fr. Araujo. You can find the issue, including links to all of the articles, here.
Check out "What is a 'Human Right'?" (here) and "The Ground of Human Rights" (here). Fitting stuff, as we prepare for the beatification and celebration of the life, work, and witness of Pope John Paul II, for whom proclamation of the true ground of human rights and dignity was a driving mission. In 1999, for example, in "Respect for Human Rights: The Secret of True Peace" (here) he emphasized:
. . . Peace flourishes when these rights are fully respected, but when they are violated what comes is war, which causes other still graver violations. . . .
[W]hen the promotion of the dignity of the person is the guiding principle, and when the search for the common good is the overriding commitment, then solid and lasting foundations for building peace are laid. But when human rights are ignored or scorned, and when the pursuit of individual interests unjustly prevails over the common good, then the seeds of instability, rebellion and violence are inevitably sown. . . .
Friday, April 29, 2011
I'll take the occasion of Rich Myers's mention of Sandro Magister's (fascinating) story on the "hermeneutic of reform" and religious liberty to issue another invitation to visit Villanova. We've got great Catholic programming going on at Villanova! As previously announced, the sixth-annual Scarpa Conference will celebrate and explore the work of John Finnis, someone who needs no introduction here. Prof. Finnis will deliver the keynote address at the conference. What hasn't been announced until now is that Fr. Rhonheimer will also speak at the conference. A complete list of the speakers will be announced soon. The date of the conference is September 30, 2011.
That is the title of a recent article by Martin Rhonheimer. Rhonheimer's article is the subject of this very interesting piece by Sandro Magister. Rhonheimer discusses Dignitatis Humanae and explores what he contends is the discontinuity between Vatican II's teaching on religious liberty and prior papal writing on the topic. I think Rhonheimer places too much emphasis on Dignitatis Humanae's brief discussion of the issue of the confessional state. Russell Hittinger has noted that the Vatican II Declaration on religious liberty is largely silent on that issue. But Rhonheimer's article looks to be a very interesting perspective on this contested matter.
Mike has a really nice post below criticizing the refusal of the Church of England to overturn the 1701 law which prohibits an heir from marrying a Catholic. I appreciate the sentiment very much -- it seems, somehow, wrong that Catholics are discriminated against in this way. It seems unfair, unequal. I don't share the view that there is something inherently wrong with established churches writ large (though of course I think there is something wrong with them in this country), but I think Mike rightly laments the regrettable anti-Catholic "vestiges" of the Anglican Church.
But whatever one may say about the 1701 law's beginnings, maybe today the law is just fine. Given the cultural history of the Anglican Church, I think it would be quite wrong for a Catholic to want to be head of the Church of England, or married to the head. To assume that position would be to ignore the history of the Anglican Church, and all that it meant for Catholicism in England, just for the sake of gaining a kind of formally equal footing with everyone else. As a Catholic, I'm delighted to be unequal, discriminated against, on this ground. I have no business there. It isn't only that this isn't the sort of discrimination that ought to be concerning. More than that, this sort of discrimination and inequality -- today -- may well be a positive good. It is a reminder and reinforcement of cultural, historical, and religious difference and separateness.
Equalization here would disturb that difference in a way that, to put the matter perhaps slightly bluntly, is a betrayal of the past. If this law prevents the Catholic who would be king from even considering it, might we not say, 'so much the better'?
[I]ntimidation—“mau-mauing the flak-catchers,” Tom Wolfe memorably called it—is now the default tactic of same-sex marriage advocates. What else, for instance, explains the antics of now-retired federal judge Vaughn Walker, who wanted to broadcast the Proposition 8 trial in California, and then broke his promise—and his legal duty—to keep the trial’s video record from public view? What else explains the instantaneous denunciation of all opponents of same-sex marriage as “haters”? Resistance to such intimidation, in the name of the ethic of institutional integrity, is fast becoming the duty of all persons in positions of institutional responsibility, whatever their private views on homosexuality or same-sex marriage. When we witness such principled resistance, as in the case of Dean Evan Caminker’s decision to stick with Ohio Senator and alumnus Rob Portman as the commencement speaker at the University of Michigan’s law school—despite the outcry of those who object to Portman’s 1996 vote for DOMA as a House member—we should applaud it heartily.
Yes, we should applaud institutional resistance to intimidation heartily, but I think we need to pause and acknowledge that maintaining institutional openness to both sides of the SSM debate depends on a substantive analysis of that debate and an ability / willingness to distinguish it from other civil rights debates. Sometimes we applaud when institutional legitimacy has been withheld from positions that were once deemed plausible, even mainstream. Today we would not as readily embrace a law firm that devotes its time (especially at a discounted billing rate) to defending the constitutionality of an anti-miscegenation law, nor would we deem prudent a law school's decision to invite David Duke to serve as its commencement speaker, even if he was an alum. My point is not that inviting Rob Portman to speak is the same as inviting David Duke to speak; my point is that we need to be able to explain the difference in terms that are accessible to, and that resonate with, institutions; this is no easy task, for (most) institutions have a hard time engaging with moral norms beyond those of nondiscrimination and individual liberty.
Thursday, April 28, 2011
Just as one should for every couple on their wedding day, I hope and pray that Prince William and Kate Middleton have many years of happy marriage ahead, and, of course, one must admire the grace and dignity with which the Queen has carried out her duties for almost 60 years. (I should add on a personal note that my wife--by coincidence of her place of birth--is a British citizen.) But the Church of England's reported veto of proposed reforms to the 1701 Act of Settlement (which prohibits an heir to the throne from marrying a Catholic) is a sad reminder that there are still vestiges of institutionalized anti-Catholicism in the United Kingdom--even if one is willing to accept that part of the reason is a merely constitutional complication of the monarch being head of an established church. Damian Thompson has a post here. Austin Ivereigh has a measured assessment of the whole controversy:
A Catholic king could hardly appoint bishops to the established Church. But look at what is assumed in the statement: that the King or Queen remains the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. Established church, Protestant state: take away one thread, and the whole unravels. And that is why we cannot have a conversation, in modern Britain, about a church which is separate from the state, and a monarchy whose members are able to exercise freedom of religion.
Does this matter? On principle, yes: state-sponsored sectarianism is ugly, and as Catholics it's hard not to feel a little disenfranchised when, on days such as tomorrow, we realise the profound anti-Catholic bias on which our state is erected. But it's not just about how Catholics feel. It is surely unhealthy to have our politicians and church leaders confess they are powerless to address iniquities because of fear of what might lie beyond.