Friday, November 4, 2016
The prolific Ryan Anderson and Sherif Girgis team up once again to engage John Corvino, this time on the religious liberty implications of burgeoning SOGI laws. The point-counter-point book is set to be released by Oxford University Press this spring.
Dan Philpott and Ryan Anderson have announced the forthcoming publication of a compilation of 70 years of articles from the Review of Politics. A Liberalism Safe for Catholicism: Perspectives from the Review of Politics is due out from University of Notre Dame Press later this spring.
Here's the summary of the book on Amazon:
In A Liberalism Safe for Catholicism?, editors Daniel Philpott and Ryan Anderson chronicle the relationship between the Catholic Church and American liberalism as told through twenty-seven essays selected from the history of the Review of Politics, dating back to the journal’s founding in 1939. The primary subject addressed in these essays is the development of a Catholic political liberalism in response to the democratic environment of nineteenth- and twentieth-century America. Works by Jacques Maritain, Heinrich Rommen, and Yves R. Simon forge the case for the compatibility of Catholicism and American liberal institutions, including the civic right of religious freedom. The conversation continues through recent decades, when a number of Catholic philosophers called into question the partnership between Christianity and American liberalism and were debated by others who rejoined with a strenuous defense of the partnership. The book also covers a wide range of other topics, including democracy, free market economics, the common good, human rights, international politics, and the thought of John Henry Newman, John Courtney Murray, and Alasdair MacIntyre, as well as some of the most prominent Catholic thinkers of the last century, among them John Finnis, Michael Novak, and William T. Cavanaugh. This book will be of special interest to students and scholars of political science, journalists and policymakers, church leaders, and everyday Catholics trying to make sense of Christianity in modern society.
As a student of the late Fr. Ernie Fortin's, I'm especially happy to see John Finnis' (specially commissioned) response to Fortin's 1982 review of Natural Law and Natural Rights. Finnis pre-released his response to Fortin last year in the American Journal of Jurisprudence, writing:
Of the published reviews of Natural Law and Natural Rights, one of the most, and most enduringly, influential was Ernest Fortin's review-article "The New Rights Theory and the Natural Law" (1982). The present essay takes the occasion of that review's latest republication [in the Philpott/Anderson book] to respond to its main criticisms of the theory of natural law and natural or human rights that is articulated in Natural Law and Natural Rights.
Perhaps one of Fr. Fortin's students will take up the good priest's mantle and offer a response.
Thursday, October 27, 2016
Wednesday, October 26, 2016
For those on MOJ and beyond thinking about tradition and the law, I can't commend to you enough Mary Ann Glendon's fine collection of her own essays, Traditions in Turmoil, published in 2006.
From the Author's Preface: "Nearly all of these essays  were written when demographic turbulence was at its height...[when] legal, social, and religious [traditions] were in a state akin to which students of complex adaptive systems call 'the edge of chaos.'" And then: "The edge of chaos is a scary place, but it is also charged with potency." More:
As a living tradition moves forward, it is laden with the accumulated accidents and inventions of the men and women who have gone before--a cargo of useful ideas and practices that await development, and a jumble of outworn artifacts that might well be left behind. Future generations will judge whether our own period of stewardship has burdened or enriched their inheritance, whether we have advanced or hindered the conditions for human flourishing.
The clarifying lens from within which Glendon writes many of the book's essays, that I hope will be brought to bear on the new and important work at the Tradition Project, is that provided by Jesuit philosopher, Bernard Lonergan. Glendon ends the book's Preface with this:
It seems to me that no one has better suggested the spirit in which citizens, scholars, and members of a pilgrim Church should confront the challenges of traditions in turmoil than the philosopher Bernard J. F. Lonergan: "There is bound to be formed a solid right that is determined to live in a world that no longer exists. There is bound to be formed a scattered left, captivated by now this, now that new possibility. But what will count is a perhaps not numerous center; big enough to be at home in both the old and new; and painstaking enough to work out one at a time the traditions to be made." That is the spirit in which I have tried to work, and I hope it is reflected in these essays.
Professor Glendon read Lonergan with the great Father Flanagan at Boston College when she first began teaching at BC Law in the 1980s. The experience deeply influenced Glendon's own uncanny and inspiring ability to distinguish carefully points of progress--"insight"--from within times of decline, and to hold both in her learned and fertile mind simultaneously.
The first essay of the collection, "Tradition and Creativity in Culture and Law," was the 1992 Erasmus Lecture, published in the November issue of First Things that year. And it's a great place to start. A sneak peak:
The idea that tradition is antithetical to creativity of the human sort is what I propose to examine and challenge along with its usual underlying assumptions that tradition is necessarily static, and that the essence of creativity is originality. To anyone with a scientific bent, my project will seem to be an exercise in the obvious. For in the history of science, as Stephen Toulmin, Thomas Kuhn, and others have made clear, nearly every great advance has been made by persons (typically, groups of persons) who simultaneously possess two qualities: a thorough grounding in the normal science of their times, and the boldness to make a break with the reigning paradigm within which that normal science takes place. My concern, however, is the progress of antitraditionalism in the human sciences, where what counts as an advance, or creativity, is more contestable, and where many eminent thinkers now devote much of their energy to attacking the traditions that have nourished their various disciplines.
I shall confine my attention here to the field with which I am most familiar, namely the law, though this may vex the spirit of Erasmus, who seems to have had a rather low opinion of lawyers, calling them “among the silliest and most ignorant of men.” Erasmus might have been amazed, however, if he could have known the degree to which lawyers themselves, and especially teachers of lawyers, would one day come to exhibit disdain for their own craft, and to disavow openly the ideals of their traditions. I say tradition s , for, where Americans are concerned, there are three of them involved: the common law tradition that we inherited from England, the tradition of American constitutionalism, and the craft tradition of the profession.
Do read the whole thing. But a jump to the Lonerganian conclusion:
[T]he fact remains, as Aristotle pointed out long ago, that dialectical reasoning is the only form of reasoning that is of much use in “the realm of human affairs,” where premises are uncertain, but where, though we can’t be sure of being right, it is crucial to keep trying to reach better rather than worse outcomes. It is time for lawyers and philosophers alike to recognize that common law reasoning is an operating model of that dialectical process, and that its modest capacity to guard against, and correct for, bias and arbitrariness is no small thing. Over time, the recurrent, cumulative, and potentially self-correcting processes of experiencing, understanding, and judging enable us to overcome some of our own errors and biases, the errors and biases of our culture, and the errors and biases embedded in the data we receive from those who have gone before us. As Benjamin N. Cardozo once put it, “In the endless process of testing and retesting, there is a constant rejection of the dross.”
And so, by a long and circuitous route, I come back to the proposition with which I began: that human creativity is inescapably dependent on what has gone before. This is not a very remarkable proposition. Perhaps what ought to seem remarkable is only the extent to which so many practitioners of the human sciences seem to want to ignore it.
Friday, October 14, 2016
In collaboration with the American Principles Project, the Boston-based Pioneer Institute has released the study, "After the Fall: Catholic Education Beyond the Common Core," written by scholars Anthony Esolen, Dan Guernsey, Jane Robbins, and Kevin Ryan. The purpose of the study, as stated in the Executive Summary, is to take "a critical look at the issues and principles behind the Common Core movement and, in particular, the standards’ effect on and suitability for Catholic schools." It's a robust 40 page version of the 2013 letter more than one hundred Catholic scholars addressed to the nation's bishops concerning the implementation of Common Core in diocesan schools (coordinated by Robbie George and Gerry Bradley). More than half of the dioceses, including Boston, have adopted Common Core.
The study presents and then refutes the most popular arguments in favor of the program in Catholic schools and then proposes an authentically Catholic alternative: liberal arts education. The study beautifully and effectively exhorts Catholic schools to retrieve their inheritance of virtue-based character education and the "soul-shaping and soul-expressing power" of great literature, among the many merits of classical Catholic education.
From the study's preface, by Ambassadors Raymond L. Flynn and Mary Ann Glendon:
Realizing that combining humanities and the arts with religious instruction aids spiritual development, Catholic schools have traditionally provided a classical liberal-arts education that generations of grateful parents and students have prized. Through tales of heroism, self-sacrifice, and mercy in great literature such as Huckleberry Finn, Sherlock Holmes, and the works of Charles Dickens, Edith Wharton, Dante, and C.S. Lewis, they seek to impart moral lessons and deep truths about the human condition. The moral, theological, and philosophical elements of Catholic education that are reinforced by the classics have never been more needed than they are in this era of popular entertainment culture, opioid epidemics, street-gang violence, wide achievement gaps, and explosive racial tensions.
Common Core, on the other hand, takes an approach that is contrary to the best academic studies of language acquisition and human formation. It drastically cuts the study of classical literature and poetry, and represents what Providence College English Professor and Dante scholar, Anthony Esolen, calls a strictly utilitarian view of mankind, “man with the soul amputated.” It is devoid of any attention to “the true, the good, the beautiful.” It eliminates the occasions for grace that occur when students encounter great works that immerse them in timeless human experiences. Instead, it offers stones for bread in the form of morally neutral “informational texts.” The basic goal of Common Core is not genuine education, but rather the training and production of workers for an economic machine. We see this in the reduced focus on classic literature, and in the woeful mathematics standards that stop short of even a full Algebra II course – giving students just enough math for their entry-level jobs. The goal is “good enough,” not academically “excellent.”
All students ought to read Dante, Shakespeare, and Flannery O’Connor; those who do are better for it, regardless of whether they plan to become philosophers or welders. All students ought to study, or at least be given the opportunity to study, mathematics that allow them a sustained and detailed scientific investigation of creation. But Common Core seems to view “overeducating” students as a waste of resources, or, as its proponents say, “human capital.” In what looks like an effort to define human beings as mere objects or beasts, it aims to provide everyone with a modest, utilitarian skill set...
As the influence of religion diminishes, for the sake of our civilization itself, it becomes more urgent than ever to find ways to provide children with the fundamental intellectual, spiritual, and moral ideals necessary for humans to flourish. But Common Core moves in the opposite direction. Sterile informational texts and workforce training will not help children to learn how to be good human beings. And no free society can survive for long without cultivating character and competence in its citizens and public servants.
Common Core’s shift away from the moral and cultural patrimony of Western Civilization comes at a most unfortunate time, when increasing marginalization of religion in our society is taking a severe toll on the moral culture that sustains our American democratic experiment. Religion plays a pivotal role in sustaining our freedoms, upholding the rule of law, creating a culture of compassion for the disadvantaged, and fostering social cohesion. Even the professed atheist Jürgen Habermas recognized that Western culture cannot abandon its religious heritage without endangering the great social and political advances grounded in that heritage.
Kevin Ryan and Mary Ann Glendon sit on the Board of Trustees and Advisory Board, respectively, of my children's school--the first classical Catholic school in the Boston area, founded in 2013. St. Benedict's, and other schools like it, are a true education in freedom, and parents are catching on: we will outgrow our current site this coming year. As the Pioneer Institute study shows, and Hillsdale education professor Jeff Lyman discussed in a presentation to the school community last night, once a student's natural faculties are perfected in the study of the liberal arts, that student can go on to learn anything -- even contributing in a meaningful way to the "workforce" (the be all and end all of Common Core)! But, far more essentially, the student educated in the classical Catholic tradition will learn what it means to be a human being with an eternal destiny--and, as such, how to live a virtuous life and thereby contribute to the common good. The timing of this study, in light of the abject moral failings of our presidential candidates, could not be better.
As we contemplate the days ahead, it's well worth rereading this great judge's brief remarks on liberty, delivered in 1944 in New York's Central Park, where more than a million people, including 150,000 newly naturalized citizens, gathered for "I Am an American Day." Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it. While it lies there it needs no constitution, no law, no court to save it.
Here's the whole thing:
We have gathered here to arm a faith, a faith in a common purpose, a common conviction, a common devotion. Some of us have chosen America as the land of our adoption; the rest have come from those who did the same. For this reason we have some right to consider ourselves a picked group, a group of those who had the courage to break from the past and brave the dangers and the loneliness of a strange land. What was the object that nerved us, or those who went before us, to this choice? We sought liberty; freedom from oppression, freedom from want, freedom to be ourselves. This we then sought; this we now believe that we are by way of winning. What do we mean when we say that first of all we seek liberty? I often wonder whether we do not rest our hopes too much upon constitutions, upon laws and upon courts. These are false hopes; believe me, these are false hopes. Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it. While it lies there it needs no constitution, no law, no court to save it. And what is this liberty which must lie in the hearts of men and women? It is not the ruthless, the unbridled will; it is not freedom to do as one likes. That is the denial of liberty, and leads straight to its overthrow. A society in which men recognize no check upon their freedom soon becomes a society where freedom is the possession of only a savage few; as we have learned to our sorrow.
What then is the spirit of liberty? I cannot define it; I can only tell you my own faith. The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the mind of other men and women; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which weighs their interests alongside its own without bias; the spirit of liberty remembers that not even a sparrow falls to earth unheeded; the spirit of liberty is the spirit of Him who, near two thousand years ago, taught mankind that lesson it has never learned but never quite forgotten; that there may be a kingdom where the least shall be heard and considered side by side with the greatest. And now in that spirit, that spirit of an America which has never been, and which may never be; nay, which never will be except as the conscience and courage of Americans create it; yet in the spirit of that America which lies hidden in some form in the aspirations of us all; in the spirit of that America for which our young men are at this moment fighting and dying; in that spirit of liberty and of America I ask you to rise and with me pledge our faith in the glorious destiny of our beloved country.
Friday, September 23, 2016
I've just happened upon an intriguing comparison of the Lochner-era cases, Meyer v. Nebraska (1923) and Pierce v. Society of Sisters (1925) in Rutgers Journal of Law and Religion, published in 2012. The piece, entitled Pope Pius XI's Extraordinary -- But Undeserved-- Praise of the American Supreme Court is authored by David Upham, Director of Legal Studies and Associate Professor in the Politics Department at University of Dallas.
Though Meyer and Pierce are generally cited together for the proposition that the 14th amendment protects the right of parents to direct the upbringing of their children, Upham shows that the manner in which the Court reasons to that right is distinctive in Meyer and Pierce, though they deal with similar questions and were decided within two years of one another. According to Upham, in Meyer, the Court uses expressly natural law reasoning to depict the integral relationship between marriage, procreation, and educational authority: the parent had a "natural duty to give his children education suitable to their station in life..." to which a corresponding "right of control" in the parent was secured by the common law and 14th amendment. Upham argues that, unbeknownst to Pope Pius XI who praised the Court's opinion in Pierce, its authors were actually no friends of natural law theory (whether of the Thomistic or Lochnerean variety).
Note that in Meyer, unlike Pierce, one reads an express statement that the common law and the Constitution served merely to recognize and guarantee, respectively, these natural familial rights, but not to establish or create them....Furthermore, unlike Pierce, which defined parental authority to include even the power to determine the child’s “destiny,” the Meyer opinion indicated that natural (and common law) rights are ordered to a pre-established natural end or destiny; that is, these rights are all essential to the pursuit of happiness.
The Center for the Constitution at Georgetown Law Center and the James Wilson Institute (aka Hadley Arkes' outfit in DC) are co-sponsoring a day-long conference on substantive due process on October 6th. Hadley Arkes and Matthew Franck will open the event with a long-anticipated debate of their now well-known opposing views of the subject.
Michael Stokes Paulsen and Justin Dyer will then take the floor to discuss what might be called the jurisprudential book ends of the doctrine: Dred Scott and Roe v. Wade. Dyer, of course, has written a book length treatment of the similarities between the two cases, and Paulsen treats the comparison repeatedly in his masterful The Constitution: An Introduction.
Randy Barnett, the director of the Center and hero of libertarians everywhere, concludes the day with with the keynote, proposing a "good faith theory of due process of law." Barnett's "presumption of liberty" is sure to make a central appearance--as will, one expects, that other substantive due process case, unmentioned in the day's schedule: Lochner.
I am hoping to make the event and promise to blog if I do.
Monday, September 19, 2016
Perhaps this is very old news in our 24 hour news cycle, but MOJ readers who haven't yet read Archbishop Chaput Tocqueville Lecture at Notre Dame last week, should do so. It's a quick read but worth it-- and really, who would want to skip a lecture so named at a time in our nation's history when the great Frenchman's insights are so desperately needed? Democracy in America should be required reading these days -- or, if the tome is just too vast, maybe this forthcoming book would do?
My favorite paragraph of Chaput's is this one -- really the Tocquevillian hermeneutic through which one can understand this election cycle, and really the ever-present threat to American democracy:
People unwilling to rule their appetites will inevitably be ruled by them — and eventually, they’ll be ruled by someone else. People too weak to sustain faithful relationships are also too weak to be free. Sooner or later they surrender themselves to a state that compensates for their narcissism and immaturity with its own forms of social control.
Thursday, September 15, 2016
The introductory pages of Commissioner Peter Kirsanow's important statement in the Peaceful Coexistence Report resound in themes taken up by Mary Eberstadt in her new book, It's Dangerous to Believe: Religious Freedom and Its Enemies. Both Kirsanow and Eberstadt suggest that the difficult cultural and legal impasse we've reached between SOGI laws and religious liberty is so fraught because, at base, the conflict concerns competing "religious" beliefs, one secularist, the other Judeo-Christian. And as such, both are fundamentally identity-forming, especially as regards sexuality.
Kirsanow's statement at pages 43-4 of the report:
The tension between religious liberty and nondiscrimination principles appears most acute when religious liberty and sexual liberty conflict....It is a conflict between two worldviews, both held with the intensity generally associated with religious belief. The first, which is secularism, holds an individual’s unfettered sexual self-expression as a preeminent concern because it is an aspect of their self-creation. This interest in the individual is now construed as a positive responsibility to ensure that everyone has the ability to engage in sexual conduct without cost or consequence, whether in money, unwanted children, or hurt feelings. An individual’s sexual behavior is considered an act of self-creation and something that goes to the deepest level of their identity. Criticism of an individual’s behavior is considered an attack on the dignity of the person. Naturally, this worldview is at odds with many aspects of traditional morality grounded in sexual restraint.
Eberstadt makes the claim as to the religious character of the conflict more unequivocally:
[I]t seems beyond dispute that progressive ideology shares recognizable features with Judeo-Christianity, even as it repudiates all traditionalists tenets that threaten its substitute theology. The bedrock of contemporary progressivism can only be described as quasi-religious. In sum, secularist progressivism today is less a political movement than a church....The so-called culture war...is  a content of competing faiths: one in the Good Book, and the other in the more newly written figurative book of secularist orthodoxy about the sexual revolution.
And here, Kirsanow could be quoting Eberstadt (who, for example, compares embattled Christians to the victims of the Salem witch trials): "One reason for the bitterness surrounding the debate is that the secularists tend to make their interpretation mandatory for society. Because they consider the providentialist view a heresy, and often regard the non-elite adherents of the providentialist view with disdain, they are unwilling to allow different views to exist in different places."
Kirsanow concludes his lengthy statement with the question Eberstadt suggests animates her book: But why should secularists care about threats to religious freedom?
Kirsanow's answer (read Eberstadt's book for hers!):
Because if they destroy the moral and religious assumptions underpinning the idea of human dignity, they may accidentally destroy the idea of human dignity itself....As discussed earlier in this statement, the effort to force traditional religious believers to bow to certain sexual mores is really an attempt to replace the old faith with the new. But if the old faith is destroyed, and with it the idea of human dignity, the adherents of the new faith may rue the day they did so. Secularists may believe that they are simply expanding the idea of human dignity to encompass various important facets of human behavior, but in so doing they are destroying the foundation of the idea and are unlikely to find a similarly compelling basis. Revolutions often turn on their instigators. The Judeo Christian belief that man is created in the image of God, the imago Dei, undergirds Jefferson’s proclamation that “all men are created equal”. Despite the failures of its adherents, as is the case with any set of principles, this concept is the root of the traditional Christian belief that people are ends, not means, and that therefore every person - male, female, black, white, disabled, gay, straight - is inherently dignified, despite his undoubted sins and perhaps seemingly dubious prospect of salvation. Without that foundation, the idea that everyone has equal dignity is little more than a polite fiction to be brushed aside for greater convenience.
As perhaps an example of the transformative influence of imago Dei in Christian sensibilities, Kirsanow offers the Christian response to slavery in a later rebuttal statement in the report. It too is well worth quoting:
Of course, there were Christian slave owners in America. That is indeed a repugnant period in American and Christian history but, unfortunately, unremarkable when viewed in the context of history as a whole. Slavery has been an almost universal institution. It is the abolition of slavery, largely because of individuals motivated by their Christianity, that is unusual. So, it is peculiar that the Chairman singles out Christianity for opprobrium in regard to slavery. Slavery has existed in almost every society and among the adherents of almost every major religion. But it was only in the Christian world that a serious critique of slavery arose. Those Christians who supported slavery were utterly unremarkable in the sweep of human affairs, no better or worse than millions of others throughout history. In contrast, it is remarkable, perhaps even astonishing, that there were Christians who rose far above the historical propensities of humankind to call for abolition as a religious and moral imperative.
It was the self-avowed Christian British Empire that initially ended its own involvement in the international slave trade and then acted to curtail the slave trade within the Muslim world. As the Middle Eastern scholar J.B. Kelley wrote: "No movement of any consequence towards abolition ever arose of its own accord in the Muslim world; it was the reproach of Muslim slavery, not Christian, that men and boys were castrated for service in the harim; and it was a Christian nation, Britain, which led the campaign to end the Arab slave trade and to compel Muslim rulers to forbid it to their subjects. . . . It was [British officials], after all, who led the Arab tribes of the Persian Gulf to cease trading in their fellow Muslims, the Somalis."
Religious believers were also in the forefront of the civil rights movement. Of course, the most prominent leaders of the civil rights movement were disproportionately Christian ministers - Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, Rev. Ralph David Abernathy, Rev. C.K. Steele. Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, perhaps our own Commission’s most renowned member, was among them. “More than 900 Catholics participated in the Selma protests” and a log of out of town participants in the Selma protests included “140 priests, 50 sisters, 29 ministers, four rabbis” [footnote omitted.]
He concludes his statement quite gracefully, and for those of us living in this post-Roe era, most presciently, one thinks:
A sense of modesty, humility, and perspective should temper our remarks about those who lived before us. We are all creatures of our own time, our minds and attitudes shaped by influences and assumptions of which we are largely unaware, our actions constrained by weighty responsibilities and unacknowledged self-interest. We all like to think that had we lived in the past we would be among the few righteous. But history is plain - the visionary righteous are few. Most of us are far more likely to have subscribed to the conventional wisdom of our time, or in good faith to have been unable to see our way clear to what is now considered self-evident. We cannot know the reasons future generations will condemn us. All we can know is that they will indeed condemn us, and hope that they judge us with more charity than the Chairman does our predecessors.