Thursday, October 27, 2011
In light of some of the discussions here and there with respect to the recent "note" and the call for a supranational Authority, here's a little historical mood music on the subject by Michael McConnell:
The idea of civil control over the Church was difficult to maintain during the days of a single universal Catholic Church with its headquarters in Rome. Church-state relations in those days almost inevitably consisted of conflict and negotiation between two institutionally separate authorities: the Church in Rome and the civil power, usually the monarch, in various nations of Europe. Neither could completely control the other. With the outbreak of the Protestant Reformation, however, governmental power over each national church became more feasible. Indeed, with the Peace of Augsburg in 1555, the principle that the prince had authority to determine the religion for his nation (“cuius regio, eius religio”) became a staple of international relations.
Michael W. McConnell, Establishment and Disestablishment at the Founding, Part I: Establishment of Religion, 44 Wm. & Mary L. Rev. 2105, 2191 (2003). [x-posted CLR Forum]
A student forwarded me a lovely essay on religious lawyering that was linked by Andrew Sullivan several days ago. Written by a lawyer named Jeremy Kessler, it begins with an eye-opening turn of phrase: "[T]here is something cartoonish about turning the black-letter law-book into a springboard toward the Ultimate." He examines the life and work of William Stringfellow, springboarding to the current "religious lawyering movement" that I and others on MoJ have written about. He concludes:
Though Stringfellow would have applauded this emphasis on the richness of human relationship, he might have questioned the relative ease with which some religious lawyers propose to negotiate the competing sovereignties of God, the state, and the marketplace. Stringfellow was anxious enough about the conflict between biblical and earthly advocacy when representing poor tenants. The religious lawyer’s search for God’s blessing in most any legal arena—whether corporate boardroom or prosecutor’s office—is probably a more liberal one than Stringfellow’s demanding Christ could allow.
Despite their differences, both Stringfellow’s biblical advocate and today’s religious lawyer come into the legal world ready to obey the Word. Their struggle to reconcile faith with worldly practice is one thing. The struggle to hear the Word to begin with is quite another. It would have been great if I could have gotten the major soul-searching out of the way before entering law school. Although a legal education can serve the young crusader well, it is better at inducing spiritual crises than resolving them.
I've wondered aloud about how Catholics should respond to OWS versus the Tea Party. One helpful snapshot for understanding the OWS "movement" is a short and (righteously) angry essay by my student, Phil Steger, that is posted over at my colleague Mark Osler's blog. Though Phil's analysis is a bit over the top (in my view) on some points, I think he captures the deep frustration that underlies the protests.
Ron Colombo has another post on the PCJP's note on the financial crisis. He includes a helpful summary of the note, along with this bottom line:
In its closing pages, the Note puts forth a series of policy suggestions - and these have grabbed headlines of late. Unfortunately, this is also where the wheels fall off.
It starts with the call for "a world political authority" to address the global problems of peacce, security, arms control, human rights, migration, the environment, and, of course, the global economy. This "Authority" ought to be vested with "structures and adequate, effective mechanisms equal to its mission and the expectations placed in it."
The Note then suggests the need to revisit the Bretton Woods agreement, the need for "a minimum, shared body of rules to manage the global financial market," an expansion of more nations into the G20, a central world bank, taxation on financial transactions, recapitization of banks with public funds, and segregation of "ordinary credit and Investment Banking."
The Note's drafters certainly don't suffer from a lack of ambition.
They do, however, suffer from a lack of serious engagement. Love them or hate them, the policy prescriptions are basically rattled off, with little thought or discussion. As such, when it comes to these prescriptions, the Note is not at all persuasive. Indeed, it doesn't even attempt to persuade!
So, if one wishes to critique the Note, there's little to actually engage with (at least when it comes to the policy prescriptions). No new or compelling arguments are put forth explaining why its proposals ought to be followed. It's almost as if the Note's authors believed these proposal were self-justifying.
Pretty strange in my humble opinion. And whether one's favorably disposed to the policy suggestions or not, this is sadly a lost opportunity. The PCJP could have made an authentic contribution to the debate. It did not. Instead, it merely endorsed a candidate - and attempted to dress its endorsement up as something more serious.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
I am very excited to read this new book by Peter Karl Koritansky (University of Prince Edward Island), Thomas Aquinas and the Philosophy of Punishment (CUA Press 2011). My own view is that punishment theory and punishment policy might greatly benefit from a historical turn, rediscovering (or, often enough, discovering for the first time) the richness and depth of perspectives on punishment which have, for one reason or another, been forgotten in the historical firmament or perhaps even ignored altogether.
Thomas Aquinas is neither forgotten nor ignored, but this is one of the only full-length book treatments of his thought about punishment of which I am aware, and it is certainly the only one which connects directly to the present debate about punishment theory and punishment practice today. Cool.
The publisher's description is after the jump. [x-posted CLR Forum]
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Hofstra law prof Ron Colombo will be addressing the Pontificial Council for Justice and Peace's note on the financial crisis over the coming days at The Conglomerate blog. (See our earlier posts here and here.) Here's an excerpt from Ron's opening post:
The Note, quite sadly, doesn't hold a candle to past pronouncements hailing from the Catholic Church on economic matters. Its language often lacks clarity and precision. It meanders and comes across disjointed at times. It speaks in broad generalities - and rarely backs up its conclusory statements with either reasoning or authority. It doesn't really offer insights that are particularly penetrating or even fresh. In short, it comes across as a bit stale, and really doesn't pack much of a punch. Compare the Note to Pope Leo XIII's inestimable encyclical Rerum Novarum, and you'll see what the Church is capable of. Whether you agree with him or not, Pope Leo's encyclical is sharp, crisp, and impactful. You know where he's coming from, where he's headed, and exactly why.
Others have called attention to the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace's "Note on Financial Reform." (The Note is available here.) The responses to and readings of the Note have been, I think, what one would have predicted: Some are crowing that "the Vatican" has endorsed the demands and aims of the "Occupy Wall Street" participants, others are insisting that the Note is misguided Euro-talk and, in any event, carries little authority. And so it goes.
There can be no doubt, I think, that it is entirely appropriate for the Church (or, in this case, for particular offices in Vatican City) to call attention to economic and social problems, to remind persons of good will of the content and foundations of Christian humanism, to challenge governments and persons alike to act in ways that are consistent with morality and the truth about the human person, and to share well-considered judgments or suggestions regarding sound policy. It also seems clear -- with respect to this business about "supranational authorities" -- that the post-Westphalian set-up is not an article of faith (even if a commitment to the rule of law and the requirement that secular authority democratic have legitimacy should be).
That said, and at the risk of being accused by some friends in the left-of-center sectors of the Catholic blogosphere of "ranting" or being a "neo-con", I'll confess that I think (a) many are (perhaps strategically and tactically) mis- and over-reading the Note in order to overstate the consonance between its vision and the current policies of the Democratic Party in the United States and its special-interest constituencies; (b) many are making the mistake that was widely made with respect to the Pope's Caritas, i.e., imagining that the Church proposes a list of "economic policy proposals" that can be conveniently lifted, to the extent they strike the lifter as attractive, without any attached moral anthropology (which might, in turn, come with some unwelcome implications for, say, religious liberty, the family, education, etc.); and (c) it is a mistake to think that the Note, with its focus on world-wide financial markets, somehow baptizes our and other governments' current overspending, or the self-interested (dare we say "greedy"?) and damaging positions being staked out by, e.g., public-employee unions.
A final thought: When a document like the Note is released, it is often "played," like a good card, in policy and other debates by people who do not, in fact, believe that the Church has the teaching authority it claims. (Maureen Dowd, for example, does this kind of thing a lot.) Such "playing" of writings by Church leaders and teachers is, to me, irritating. I do believe, after all, that even (what strike me as) the somewhat wooly-headed proposals and diagnoses that are sometimes offered on various subjects by Catholic bishops, councils, conferences, etc., demand and deserve my respectful engagement, even when not my embrace or submission. But, I do not think these proposals and diagnoses should be invoked or deployed as authoritative by people who deny that the Church has anything worth listening to -- let alone submitted to -- when it comes to, say, the obligation of a political community to extend the law's equal protection against private violence to the disabled and the unborn.
UPDATE: As usual, John Allen has an interesting take:
Focusing on how much papal muscle the note can flex, however, risks ignoring what is at least an equally revealing question: Whatever you make of it, does the note seem to reflect important currents in Catholic social and political thought anywhere in the world?
The answer is yes, and it happens to be where two-thirds of the Catholics on the planet today live: the southern hemisphere, also known as the developing world. . . .
Many MOJ readers will be familiar with the work of Notre Dame's Center for Ethics & Culture, and with the wonderful Fall Conferences that the Center's founding director, David Solomon, has hosted for the past decade. I am pleased to pass on the news that Dean John McGreevy has announced the appointment of my friend and colleague, Carter Snead, to succeed Prof. Solomon. Congratulations to Carter, and all good wishes to the Center for continued success, growth, and scholarly contributions!
Over at First Things, the Archbishop of Los Angeles, Jose Gomez, has a nice essay up on the importance of religious liberty, our "first freedom." He concludes with this:
In our history, religious freedom has always included the rights of churches and religious institutions to establish hospitals, schools, charities, media outlets, and other agencies—and to staff these ministries and run them, free from government intrusion.
And religious freedom has always included the churches’ rights to engage in the public square to help shape our nation’s moral and social fabric. We see this throughout our history—from the abolitionist movement, to the civil rights movement, to the pro-life movement.
America’s founders understood that our democracy depends on Americans being moral and virtuous. They knew the best guarantee for this is a civil society in which individuals and religious institutions were free to live, act, and vote according to their values and principles. We need to help our leaders today rediscover the wisdom of America’s founding. And we need to help believers once more understand the vital importance of this “first freedom.” At stake are not just our liberties but also the future character of our democracy.
Monday, October 24, 2011
This is a powerfully expressed statement by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace on the current financial maladies facing the world and the need for top-down reform. All of the recommendations warrant sustained thought, and most are well beyond my capacity to assess.
One thing that I did not remember is the call of Pope John XXIII in Pacem in Terris for a "true world political authority" to emerge to serve the common good of humanity. This vision is taken up by the Council, which talks about the need for "a supranational Authority" to take charge of these matters in light of what is seen as a movement toward greater globalization. The Council's recommendations are cautious in this respect, but they are striking nevertheless. It also seemed to me, especially after reading Mark Movsesian's post here, that thoughts about a truly transnational, global authority reflect a perhaps distinctively Catholic way to envision the problem of human authority, to be contrasted with the more Protestant view of state sovereignty described and championed by Vattel and others. These perennial differences never really are resolved.
UPDATE: Sorry, I see Rob is a step ahead of me below.