January 31, 2012
E.J. Dionne on the "Utterly Botched" Contraception Mandate
One of Barack Obama's great attractions as a presidential candidate was his sensitivity to the feelings and intellectual concerns of religious believers. That is why it is so remarkable that he utterly botched the admittedly difficult question of how contraceptive services should be treated under the new health-care law. His administration mishandled this decision not once but twice. In the process, Obama threw his progressive Catholic allies under the bus and strengthened the hand of those inside the church who had originally sought to derail the health care law.
I don't find the question whether to broaden the exemption difficult, but otherwise: Ditto!
E.J. also mentions as a compromise the idea of expanding the exemption but requiring objecting employers to notify employees that they do not cover contraceptives and to inform employees of alternate ways they can obtain coverage. But for many organizations this won't reduce the conflict much, since they'd view providing information about specific alternatives--essentially, referrals--as likewise material cooperation with evil. And there's the rub that the mandated contraceptives include some that may act as abortifacients, which widens the duty not to cooperate.
As I finish this, I've caught Rick's post linking to the very interesting discussion among moral theologians about the cooperation-with-evil analysis of this.
Let's have the same rule for both parties on filibustering judicial nominees
Speaking of the editorial board of the New York Times, are its members for or against the use of the filibuster in confirmation fights against judicial nominees? Well, as the indispensable Ed Whelan of the Ethics and Public Policy Center shows, it all seems to depend on whether the president making the appointments is a Republican or a Democrat: http://www.nationalreview.com/bench-memos/289719/nyt-goes-full-circle-filibusters-ed-whelan. Like Ed Whelan, I'm no fan of the use of the filibuster in judicial confirmation proceedings. But I think the same rule---whatever it is---should apply to Republicans and Democrats. It matters less, I think, what that rule is, than that it apply in the same way to both parties. The editors of the New York Times should settle on a principled position, one way or the other---a position they are willing to stick to whether a Republican or a Democrat occupies the White House.
Religious liberty and SSM in Maryland
Here is a letter to officials in Maryland (Download Maryland letter), from Prof. Robin Fretwell Wilson, Tom Berg, Marc Stern, Carl Esbeck, and me, urging the inclusion of meaningful religious-freedom protections, for individuals and institutions, in any legislation that changes the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples.
Which side are you on, boys, which side are you on?
Back in the 1990s, when I was working for Governor Robert P. Casey of Pennsylvania, he used to lament the fact that Catholic politicians---mostly Democrats---were in the vanguard of pushing legal abortion and its public funding and resisting all efforts to protect the fundamental right to life of children in the womb. Casey knew that one didn't need to be a Catholic to understand that unborn children, like all members of the human family, deserve the full and equal protection of the laws. But he believed that Catholics had no excuses for failing to understand that, and that Catholic political leaders had no excuses for failing to act on that understanding. That is why he had nothing but contempt for Mario Cuomo's famous (or infamous) speech at Notre Dame arguing that one could be a good Catholic who "personally opposed" abortion, while at the same time supporting "a woman's right to choose."
If Governor Casey were still with us, no one would be less suprised than he that it is again Catholic politicians---mostly Democrats---who are leading the charge to abolish the conjugal understanding of marriage as a one-flesh union of sexually complementary spouses and replace it with a revisionist understanding of marriage as a romantic-sexual domestic partnership. Predictably, it is the pro-abortion Catholic politicos---people like Andrew Cuomo, Martin O'Malley, and Christine Gregoire---who are in the forefront of the movement to redefine marriage. That, I believe, reveals something rather significant: The philosophical tradition that shapes the reasoning and actions of these people is expressive individualism, or what is sometimes called "life-style liberalism"; it is not Catholicism, or the Judaeo-Christian ethic, or the natural law tradition. Whatever is to be said for and against that tradition, it is deeply alien (and hostile) to the Catholic tradition's commitments to the sanctity of human life in all stages and conditions and the dignity of marriage as a conjugal partnership.
Somehow, when politicians like Cuomo, O'Malley, and Gregoire go about the business of discerning their obligations on issues of profound moral significance on which Catholicism teaches one thing, and the editorial board of the New York Times teaches something else, they are always led by the spirit to side with the Times. Funny, how that is.
January 30, 2012
Marriage Equality Bill Sponsored by Catholic Governor
The Washington State Legislature is poised to pass a marriage equality bill, which will likely make it the 7th state (9th US jurisdiction if one includes DC and the Suquamish Indian Tribe) to allow same-sex marriage. http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/politicsnorthwest/2017341256_gay_marriage_bill_voted_out_of.html As in Maryland, the Washington bill is sponsored by a Catholic Governor. http://ncronline.org/news/politics/same-sex-marriage-issue-facing-lawmakers-voters-several-states Washington Governor Christine Gregoire has explicitly addressed her discernment process over the past several years. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/28/chris-gregoire-washington-governor-gay-marriage_n_1239058.html
The Importance of Institutional Pluralism
As Rick notes, Yuval Levin's piece today and Ross Douthat’s column yesterday are valuable reflections on the importance of institutional pluralism in a liberal society, a point underappreciated by many, including Douthat's colleagues on the editorial board. Yuval and Douthat show that the disagreement over the HHS mandate is a debate over whether and in what circumstances the coercive power of the state should be employed against the institutions of civil society. As Yuval observes, Catholicism (and especially American Catholicism) is a uniquely institutional form of religion, with social service agencies, hospitals, and schools at every level, and Catholic institutions are, not surprisingly, on the front lines of these battles. It strikes me that one’s view of the HHS mandate will often vary depending on whether one embraces “the logic of congruence,” in Nancy Rosenblum’s phrase, or a robust commitment to the freedom of civil society (churches, civic organizations, families, etc.), including toleration for views one sharply disagrees with. If the former, then you just have to bide your time until your side has a grasp on the levers of state power, and so, as Douthat points out, the increased authority of the state in these matters will eventually gore everyone’s ox--liberal or conservative, religious or not--depending on the politics of the administration. As Rosenblum and Robert Post put it in the introduction to Civil Society and Government (Princeton, 2002):
Advocates of congruence fear that the multiplication of intermediate institutions does not mediate but balkanizes public life. They are apprehensive that plural associations and groups amplify self-interest, encourage arrant interest-group politics, exaggerate cultural egocentrism, and defy government. What is needed, in their view, is a strong assertion of public values and policies designed to loosen the hold of particular affiliations, so that members will be empowered to look beyond their groups and to identify themselves as members of the larger political community. The “logic of congruence” envisions civil society as reflecting common values and practices “all the way down.”
All of this was diagnosed by Tocqueville, who saw that individualism and statism are reinforcing over time, crowding out religious and other forms of associational life for the allegiance of citizens:
As in periods of equality no man is compelled to lend his assistance to his fellow men, and none has any right to expect much support from them, everyone is at once independent and powerless. These two conditions, which must never be either separately considered or confounded together, inspire the citizen of a democratic country with very contrary propensities. His independence fills him with self-reliance and pride among his equals; his debility makes him feel from time to time the want of some outward assistance, which he cannot expect from any of them, because they are all impotent and unsympathizing. In this predicament he naturally turns his eyes to that imposing power which alone rises above the level of universal depression. Of that power his wants and especially his desires continually remind him, until he ultimately views it as the sole and necessary support of his own weakness.
It frequently happens that the members of the community promote the influence of the central power without intending to. Democratic eras are periods of experiment, innovation, and adventure. There is always a multitude of men engaged in difficult or novel undertakings, which they follow by themselves without shackling themselves to their fellows. Such persons will admit, as a general principle, that the public authority ought not to interfere in private concerns; but, by an exception to that rule, each of them craves its assistance in the particular concern on which he is engaged and seeks to draw upon the influence of the government for his own benefit, although he would restrict it on all other occasions. If a large number of men applies this particular exception to a great variety of different purposes, the sphere of the central power extends itself imperceptibly in all directions, although everyone wishes it to be circumscribed.
Thus a democratic government increases its power simply by the fact of its permanence. Time is on its side, every incident befriends it, the passions of individuals unconsciously promote it; and it may be asserted that the older a democratic community is, the more centralized will its government become.
Democracy in America, Vol. II, Pt. 4, Ch. 3
more on the Stolen Valor Act
While the Supreme Court is reviewing the Alvarez case from the Ninth Circuit, the Tenth Circuit (featuring a very good majority opinion by Judge Tymkovich) has upheld the constitutionality ofthe Stolen Valor Act. Here. Although Judge Holmes's dissenting opinion does not reach the same heights (or lows) as Judge Kozinski's paean to falsehood, I am still troubled by phrases such as this one--"little white lies (even those knowingly told and designed to deceive) that season are speech, like beneficent salt, ... preserve the grace and dignity of human relationships."
Welcome to Mary Leary / "Catholic Schools Week"
First, I'd like to welcome to the MOJ crew Prof. Mary Leary, of Catholic University's Columbus School of Law. Professor Leary is a former AUSA, and her scholarship examines the intersection of contemporary social problems, criminal law, and criminal procedure. (Read more about Mary and her work here.)
Second, here is her inaugural MOJ post, on Catholic Schools Week:
While this annual week of reflection and celebration is reserved for the primary and secondary Catholic schools throughout the country, there is certainly some room for its consideration on the university and post-graduate level. Indeed, many a legal professor has either lamented a particular student’s struggles resulting from inadequate skill development, or praised and reaped the fruits of a well-equipped and inquisitive mind initially shaped in the student’s early education. One could argue that the success or failure of students in law school is directly affected by the effectiveness of many students’ early education.
This week may present an opportunity for us in legal education to think about the importance of Catholic education in the 21st century. This year’s theme is: “Faith, Academics, Service.” Such educational goals are not foreign to many Catholic law schools which seek to provide, not only outstanding academic preparation for the practice of law, but to produce highly ethical lawyers armed with the moral compasses necessary to navigate a challenging profession and serve those most in need. This goal can be more easily achieved when students come to our law schools familiar with such priorities.
The importance of such an educational emphasis at all levels of education can be seen in the highest echelons of the legal system. During the appointment of Justice Sotomayor much was made of the fact that six of the Justices could be categorized as Catholic. However, it is important to note that four of the Justices are also the products of Catholic education at some level.
Of course any law-school-based reflection on what it means to be a Catholic institution brings to mind Judge John T. Noonan’s 1992 Essay, A Catholic Law School, 67 Notre Dame L. Rev. 1037 (1992), where he writes, “[t]he main attraction of a Catholic law school should be the historical, jurisprudential, and ethical dimensions….” (MOJ contributor Patrick Brennan revisited this piece on this blog after speaking at the Catholic University of America’s "Realizing the Promise of Religious Mission in Legal Education" in 2009.
No doubt this is a valid observation, but one more achievable when the previous education of the students possesses these same characteristics as well. The words Pope Benedict XVI shared with Catholic educators during his 2008 address at the Catholic University of America speak to all levels of Catholic education. “It comes as no surprise, then… [that] society in general has high expectations of Catholic educators…. More and more people . . . recognize the need for excellence in the human formation….”
Therefore, as we celebrate and reflect upon Catholic education this week, we may wish to consider the reality of financial burdens on American Catholic schools which are serving some of the most diverse and needy populations in the country. With an increasing number of Catholic schools closing their doors, the resultant cost is not only to primary and secondary education, but also graduate education and the nation itself when fewer students are trained in “Faith, Academics, and Service.”
"Government and its Rivals"
It's common -- and correct, to a point -- to observe that the Catholic Social Tradition is more "communitarian," and emphasizes more the "social," than is and does classical liberalism / libertarianism. At the same time, it is important to remember that the Tradition is not "statist," in the sense that it does not reduce "community" to "government."
Ross Douthat writes, in the New York Times:
WHEN liberals are in a philosophical mood, they like to cast debates over the role of government not as a clash between the individual and the state, but as a conflict between the individual and the community. Liberals are for cooperation and joint effort; conservatives are for self-interest and selfishness. Liberals build the Hoover Dam and the interstate highways; conservatives sit home and dog-ear copies of “The Fountainhead.” Liberals know that it takes a village; conservatives pretend that all it takes is John Wayne . . .
. . . But there are trade-offs as well, which liberal communitarians don’t always like to acknowledge. When government expands, it’s often at the expense of alternative expressions of community, alternative groups that seek to serve the common good. Unlike most communal organizations, the government has coercive power — the power to regulate, to mandate and to tax. These advantages make it all too easy for the state to gradually crowd out its rivals. The more things we “do together” as a government, in many cases, the fewer things we’re allowed to do together in other spheres. . . .
. . .
The more the federal government becomes an instrument of culture war, the greater the incentive for both conservatives and liberals to expand its powers and turn them to ideological ends. It is Catholics hospitals today; it will be someone else tomorrow.
The White House attack on conscience is a vindication of health care reform’s critics, who saw exactly this kind of overreach coming. But it’s also an intimation of a darker American future, in which our voluntary communities wither away and government becomes the only word we have for the things we do together.
I agree. And, I tried to elaborate on similar themes, about ten years ago, in this article, about the mediating, educating, and formative role of associations:
In several decisions handed down during its 1999 Term, the United States Supreme Court focused on the freedom of expressive association. Generally speaking, expressive association is regarded by courts and commentators as just another form of individual self-expression, and voluntary associations as facilitators for such self-expression.
In this Essay, Professor Garnett suggests that a shift in focus, from individual self-expression-through-association to the expression of voluntary associations themselves. It is suggested that, in several recent decisions including Dale, Mitchell, and California Democratic Party - the Court has indicated an appreciation of the role played by mediating institutions in shaping citizens, in transmitting values and loyaltiesthat is, in educating. In this role, associations are not only vehicles for the messages of individuals, but also speakers themselves. Associations are seen as more than conduits, but as crucial parts of the scaffolding of civil society. And the messages they express are valued not only to the extent they carry the voices of individuals, but also because they compete with the messages of government in the arena of education, broadly understood.
UPDATE: Yuval Levin sets out a similar argument -- about the civil-society dimension of the HHS mandate debate -- here.
Archbishop Chaput on school choice and Catholic Schools Week
Philadelphia's Archbishop Chaput kicks off Catholic Schools Week with a punchy essay in support of school choice. He ends with this:
When vouchers stalled, yet again, in the Pennsylvania house last fall, a frustrated Catholic school teacher friend of mine said “Catholics are suckers.” I don’t believe that. But then, I’m new in town. If we Philadelphia Catholics love our Catholic schools, and we obviously do, then the time to get active and focused is now. We need to begin pressing our state lawmakers to pass the school choice legislation — including vouchers and expanded EITC credits — that’s currently pending in Harrisburg. And we need to do it this week, today, right now. I plan to do that. I hope you’ll join me.