Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.

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Sunday, August 3, 2014

Query this

When a monarch formally -- but not functionally -- vacates his palace only to occupy -- perhaps along with his considerable staff -- the rooms formerly reserved for guests in, say, the guesthouse, who benefits?  And why?  

August 3, 2014 in Brennan, Patrick | Permalink

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Sub ubi?

One of the results of MOJ's recent move to the Law Professor Blogs Network is that now a picture of men's underwear for sale often impinges on the retained (and beautiful) image of Our Lady Mirror of Justice.  Perhaps this is the (unintended) application of the schoolboy's Latin pun "semper ubi sub ubi"?  

July 30, 2014 in Brennan, Patrick | Permalink

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


I was just reading about how the cause for the canonization of Pope John Paul I is advancing in Rome.  This on the heels of the announced beatification of Pope Paul VI in October and the recent canonizations of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II.  Only Pope Francis and Pope Benedict XVI among the pontiffs to reign during or after the Second Vatican Council are not either declared saints or current candidates for sainthood.  Meanwhile, Pope Francis has reminded us that the cause for Ven. Pope Pius XII, who lived and reigned before the aforementioned Council, is stalled, and it was only recently that the Vatican website actually acknowledged the fact that Pope Pius X, who also blessedly lived and reigned before the aforementioned Council, was declared by the Church to be a saint (in 1954).  My understanding is that Sarto became a  saint even while living in the Papal Apartment, the high cost of frugal living perhaps not appealing to the greatest Pope of the twentieth century.    

July 29, 2014 in Brennan, Patrick | Permalink

Friday, July 25, 2014

"What is traditional Christianity anyway?"

Perhaps my principal difficulty in contributing to this blog "dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory" is the endless plasticity that now molests the denotation -- to say nothing of the connotation -- of the capital-C adjective "Catholic" in so many minds.  Most, though by *no* means all, of the disputes among contributors to this blog can -- and *should* --  be traced to their origins in different understandings of what it means to think as a Catholic.  

The Second Vatican Council changed no doctrine of the Faith, as it was exactly a "pastoral" Council. The oft-asserted spirit of "Vatican II,"  however, did, with the help of its enablers, introduce what Chris Ferrara has aptly termed "the regime of novelty" into the life of the Church (see Ferrara and Woods, The Great Facade: Vatican II and the Regime of Novelty in the Roman Catholic Church (2002)).  Consider that, these days, the closing of countless parishes on account of the auto-demolition of the Church is couched in terms of "Making All Things New."  Hah!  Even Rex Mottram would see through the shams that have become the way of diocesan business in so much of the Church in the United States.  Here in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the much-touted "new springtime" in the Church has resulted in a fire sale (to pick just one among countless possible examples: nursing homes sold ) that will spare precious little of what those who held the Faith built brick by brick in a spirit of sacrifice and appropriate Christian triumph of the Church Militant

The point is, nothing Catholic -- neither doctrine nor discipline -- prevents Catholics from faithfully holding and practicing the Faith as it was held and practiced before the Second Vatican Council.  If that Council contributed prudential solutions to today's problems, that prudence has yet to be demonstrated, in my judgment.  Rod Dreher asks with characteristic insight "what is traditional Christianity anyway?"  The term "Traditional Catholicism" is a piece of pleonasm made necessary by the regime of novelty, but Catholicism will outlive the partisans of novelty, as Cardinal Newman taught us.  The true Church is Christ-continued-in-the-world, and the faithful live by the promise made in Matthew 16:18 .     

July 25, 2014 in Brennan, Patrick | Permalink

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Genocide of Christians in Mosul -- and crickets

The Islamic terrorist group ISIS has recently rebranded itself (in Western fashion) as the Islamic State.  We mustn't let this self-promotion lull us into any illusions of legitimacy, however.  This terrorist organization has declared war on the Christians of Mosul.  The Christians in Mosual must convert to Islam, pay vast fines, or be killed -- or, in one last indignity, be robbed (of their crucifixes) as they flee for their lives.  The story is here

Pope Francis has repeatedly condemned this persecution, and the U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has declared it a crime against humanity.  What the terrorists known as the Islamic State are accomplishing in Mosul is without a doubt genocide within the meaning of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which was signed in 1948 and took effect in 1951.

Yet where is the White House in all of this?  Why has President Obama not condemned *this* genocide?  

President Obama needn't start by calling it what it is, that is, genocide.  He could start by, say, actually acting to enforce the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.  Yes, yes, I recognize that "religious freedom" doesn't do conceptual justice to genocide, but "religious freedom" doesn't itself do justice to the essence of true religion, yet nearly everyone in the West seems to be on board with "religious freedom," at least nominally.  And so, when will that great champion of "religious freedom," the USCCB, bestir itself to condemn this epochal violation of religious freedom and perhaps even call the Catholics of the United States to prayer and penance in solidarity with their persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ?

The Syrian Catholic Archeparchy in Mosul was burned to the ground the other day as a part of the ongoing purge.  What traces of ancient Christianity will be left in Iraq when U.S. (and other Western) foreign policy has run its course there?  I think the terrorists there know the answer, which no doubt emboldens them still further.    

July 23, 2014 in Brennan, Patrick | Permalink

Thursday, July 17, 2014

"The inferiority of a Jesuit education"

Would any educated person today care whether someone was educated by Jesuits?  Harvard used to refuse Catholics *because* of their Catholic education. Good for Harvard, in a way.  

July 17, 2014 in Brennan, Patrick | Permalink

Monday, July 14, 2014

The essential rule of interpretation of Pope Francis

The essential rule of interpretation of Pope Francis: No, it's not the great-nice-try that was the "hermeneutic of continuity."  Instead, according to Fr. Bernd Hagenkord, SJ, Head of the German-language Section of Vatican Radio, it is power:

Francis knows exactly how power is spelled,” says Bernd Hagenkord, a Jesuit who is in charge of German programming for Vatican Radio. “He’s a communicator in the league with Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama.They say he’s being unclear, but we know exactly what he means.

For the context of the quote, follow the lead in Rorate Caeli

As one senior European prelate who has served under the last three popes once told me, "Francis doesn't often refer to himself Pope, but when you're in his presence, you know that he knows he's the Pope, and that's why he doesn't need to call himself Pope."  Indeed, we know exactly what he means.    

July 14, 2014 in Brennan, Patrick | Permalink

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Mixed messages on poverty from the Domus [UPDATED]

Pope Francis has stressed his desire for a "poor Church for the poor."  Now the same Vicar of Christ has convened many of the world's most highly paid athletes, participants in the recent World Cup, to play a soccer match in Rome for the purpose of promoting "dialogue" among world religions.

We in the United States have heard much about a "consistent ethic of life."  I'm just wondering, therefore, as something of a thought experiment, what place professional sports, especially (but not only) at the richest level, would have in a "consistent ethic of poverty."  

Consider how much it costs to travel far to attend the World Cup.  Consider, further, what immediate benefit, if any, the playing of the World Cup has to the poor of Brazil. I've been to Brazil; I've seen (and smelled) the poverty; and I can conjure the impassable gap between the hovels and the stadium.

We've heard Pope Francis pass moral judgment on everything from pets (he's down on them) to nice cars (he won't ride in them and criticizes some who do).  What about the bread and circuses of professional sports industries that concentrate vast sums of money in the hands of small groups of those who are lucky enough to be able-bodied, coached, and thus relieved of life's ordinary burdens in order to "play" all the time?  Don't get me wrong, sport has its place in a healthy human life, perhaps even as an example of what some refer to as the "basic good" known as "play."  Sana mens in sano corpore, and all that.  

But what about the economics of professional sport as such?  What has the Holy Father to say on this topic?  Perhaps I've missed it, but I do keep a pretty attentive eye on what gets published under the name Franciscus, including the redacted homilies preached in the Domus, and I can't recall any condemnation of the mega-wealth accumulated on the backs of the poor (and the middle-class) in the name of, say, World Cup.

I recently read an editorial some place that baldly contended that the World Cup mocks the poor.  It's a contention that's worth pondering, especially now as the beneficiaries of the World Cup prepare to gather in Rome at Pope Francis's invitation in order to engage in "dialogue."  

(Never mind the lack of all evidence that professional athletes are dialogically inclined or adept.  In any event, calling something "dialogue" doesn't necessarily make it a good idea, not even in this post-Vatican II Church).    


UPDATE:  A reader helpfully called my attention to an address Pope Francis delivered in May 2, 2014, to Italian soccer players and officials in which he warned that "today soccer is turning into a big business: advertising, television, and so on. But the financial factor must not prevail over the sporting factor because it risks polluting everything, both at the national and local level."  A story about the address is here

I'm not sure exactly what the Pope meant to rule out when he stated on May 2nd that "the financial factor must not prevail over the sporting factor."  Speaking a week later to the U.N. officials in Rome, the Holy Father set off a firestorm by speaking far more bluntly when he called attention to governments' responsibility to effect "legitimate redistribution" of wealth.  By challenging modern governments to concern themselves with legitimate redistribution, the Pope was doing no more than commendably echoing basic tenets of traditional Catholic social doctrine.  One wonders, therefore, how the Pope would urge experts to apply that doctrine to the mega-wealth amassed by the beneficiaries of the professional sports industries.    


July 13, 2014 in Brennan, Patrick | Permalink

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Dietrich von Hildebrand on "religious pluralism"

As we move forward following the Court's decision in Hobby Lobby, it's important to be clear about what we mean if we think, as many still do, that the answer to our day's social problems amounts to no more than a consensus that values pluralism.  Consider, by contrast, the judgment of Dietrich von Hildebrand (1889-1977), whom Ven. Pope Pius XII described as nothing less than "a 20th century doctor of the Church" (Pope Saint John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI had similarly admiring things to say about von Hildebrand's work as a theologian):  

Insofar as cultures are concerned, multiplicity has a value, just as does the pluralism of national characters.  When, however, it comes to metaphysical or ethical truth -- and especially when it comes to religion -- any pluralism is an evil.  Evil, too, are the many fluctuations in the life of religion that occur in history.  Unlike cultural pluralism, religious pluralism is in no way a sign of life, but rather a symptom of human fraility and insufficiency.  Great metaphysical and ethical truths, and the true religion itself, are destined to take root among men.  Here the 'oughtness' of assuming social reality gives to their aliveness a special significance.  It represents a descending of Christ into the soul of the individual person and the erecting of His Kingdom in the interpersonal sphere.  It is the dimension of Christ's victory that He predicted in saying: 'Where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am in the midst of them.'  To supplant truth in its transcendent existence with a merely social reality is to imprison man and history in a desolate immanentism.  On the other hand, the incarnation of transcendent truth in man and history represents the victory of transcendence over the purely immanent.  

Trojan Horse in the City of God: The Catholic Crisis Explained 103-04 (1967; 1993).

John Cardinal O'Connor's Foreword to the 1993 edition of von Hildebrand's book adds the following:  "It is against secularism that von Hildebrand inveighs most strongly and consistently.  It is the invasion of secularism into the life of the Church that he sees as most analogous to the invasion of Troy by the Athenians.  'To be sure,' he says, 'secularization is an evil primarily because it implies an apostasy from Christ, and it is for this reason that we fight it on every page of this book'"  Id. at xi.  The late Cardinal O'Connor's Foreword concludes with these words about what the Church should be doing in every age:  "I hope that [readers] will take special note of Dietrich von Hildebrand's quoting John Henry Cardinal Newman about the Church: 'She holds that unless She can, in Her own way, do good to souls, it is no use Her doing anything.'"  Ibid.


By the way, von Hildebrand was sentenced to death (in absentia) by the Nazis for publishing a weekly opposition newspaper with the assistance of the great Austrian Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss, who for his part was assassinated by the Nazis in 1934. 


July 3, 2014 in Brennan, Patrick | Permalink

Tuesday, July 1, 2014


Enough already of the hosannas on high in praise of what little the Supreme Court actually accomplished for the good and the true in Hobby Lobby.  Joey Fishkin offers a sober perspective here, to which I would be grateful to hear Archbishop Kurtz, president of the USCCB, reply once he's done "thank[ing] God for RFRA" here.  Archbishop Chaput's praise (here) is appropriately muted, but is he correct when he asserts that "In our country, no person and no organization grounded in religious conviction should be forced to choose between complying with the law and violating their religious beliefs"?  Our criminal law is busy every day denying individuals the opportunity to act on their "religious beliefs," and for that I do indeed thank God.  The Church through and since the Second Vatican Council has encouraged licentious thinking about "religious liberty."  I offer the corrective perspective of Catholic Tradition here and here.           

July 1, 2014 in Brennan, Patrick | Permalink