Sunday, November 23, 2014
Like Greg, I think that a Catholic must be a Catholic before he or she is a partisan and that it is entirely appropriate for leaders to invoke Biblical themes and words in public-policy speeches (although there seems to me to be a clear and tiresome double-standard used by most commentators with respect to such invocations). And, for what it's worth, I am inclined, at present, to think that the substance of the order is good policy. We do need, and have needed for a while (as both President Bush and Sen. McCain believed), "comprehensive" and just immigration reform.
I am not sure I'm on the same page, though, with respect to what I take to be Greg's suggestion that we can characterize the speech as "masterful" or make confident predictions about the President's political goodwill without first coming to some conclusions about the "legality of his executive order." A well-delivered speech with inspiring content is, it seems to me, praise-worthy if it is delivered in the context of an act that the speech's deliverer believes, in good faith, to be lawful. But, if delivered to defend an action that the deliverer believes or should know is not legally authorized, then it seems to me that even a speech that is excellent in terms of craft is not praise-worthy.
Respect for the rule of law -- which, in our context, means respect for the structural features and limits in our Constitution and for the President's obligation, even if he or she is frustrated by Congress's failure to enact the legislation he or she would like to see enacted, to faithfully execute the laws Congress has made -- is, it seems to me, as "Catholic" a principle as is welcoming solidarity with the immigrant and the stranger. (And again, to be clear, I believe that our immigration policies should be in keeping with this welcoming solidarity.)
All that said, I do not yet have a firm view on the issue of the order's legality, but I do have serious concerns and questions. And, I believe that even those of us who approve of the substance of the order should care, a lot, about whether the order really is within the President's constitutional authority. We should be troubled -- conservatives and liberals, Catholics who embrace the Church's social teachings those of us who support immigration reform, all of us -- by what seems to me to be the widespread attitude that the "power" question does not really matter, as long as we like the policy, and that Congress's failure (or, shouldn't we say, decision not) to act somehow creates power in the Executive.
Today is the Solemnity of Christ the King. In my experience, preachers in Catholic parishes don't know quite what to do with this Feast. Usually, the day's "message" or "theme" has been (again, in my experience) something to the effect that we should ask if we are "putting Jesus first in our lives" (and, certainly, we should).
And yet . . . especially in light of the emerging (and much needed) focus in the Church on religious liberty and the realities of both aggressive secularism and persecution, it's worth (re-)reading Quas Primas, the encyclical of Pope Pius XI that instituted the feast day in 1925, and remembering that this institution's purpose sounded more in political theology than in personal piety and devotion. This feast -- which we celebrate, again, this Sunday -- is a reminder that government is not all, that there are things which are not Caesar's, and that everything, in the end, is "under God."
UPDATE: More, on Miguel Pro, S.J., here.
Friday, November 21, 2014
In a few days, I'll be joining what looks to be a fascinating group of scholars at Princeton's Program in Law and Public Affairs for a conference called "Religions, Rights, and Institutions." I'm presenting on a panel called "Secular Carve-outs in a Religious World; Religious Carve-outs in a Secular World." I expect to be challenged by several of the papers, including Mary Ann Case's "Why 'Live-And-Let-Live' Is Not a Viable Solution to the Difficult Problems of Religious Accommodation in the Age of Sexual Civil Rights" and Larry Sager's "Why Churches Can Discriminate". Stay tuned!
A perceptive essay, here, at The Weekly Standard. Bottum observes (among other things) that the movement from "religious" to "spiritual" to secular has not -- far from it -- erased the impulse to cast out the heretic. A taste:
Our social and political life is awash in unconsciously held Christian ideas broken from the theology that gave them meaning, and it’s hungry for the identification of sinners—the better to prove the virtue of the accusers and, perhaps especially, to demonstrate the sociopolitical power of the accusers. Moreover, in our curious transformation from an honor culture into a full-fledged fame culture over the past century, we have only recently discovered that fame proves just as fragile as honor ever was, a discovery hurried along by the lightning speed of the Internet. Twitter and Facebook may or may not be able to make someone famous, but they can certainly make someone infamous in the blink of an eye. And because sinners’ apologies never receive the same publicity as their sins, the Internet both casts its targets from the temple and leaves them out there, lost among the profanities.
According to this report, "the German Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) has upheld the right of churches and other religious institutions to request their employees to abide by their religious and moral ethos. The case concerned a doctor working at a church-owned hospital who was fired after he got divorced."
Monday, November 17, 2014
Mirror of Justice is not a jobs-postings site, but I thought this one might be of special and particular interest:
The Catholic Benefits Association (CBA) has had substantial success in providing a means for Catholic employers to provide health care coverage consistent with Catholic values. It and its subsidiary, the Catholic Insurance Company (CIC), are searching for their first Chief Executive Officer. With almost 700 member employers providing healthcare coverage for their 70,000 covered employees, the CBA and CIC seek a Catholic person who can build and manage a team dedicated to providing quality, competitively-priced, morally-compliant health care benefits for Catholic employers. In addition to excellent leadership, marketing, and management skills, the successful candidate should also have substantial experience working with employer health plans, health benefits analysis, or group health insurance. He or she should have a heart for the Catholic Benefit Association’s mission explained atwww.lifeaffirmingcare.com. Those interested in applying should contact Joan Rennekamp firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-386-3009.
Fidelity to the Gospel of life and respect for life as a gift from God sometimes require choices that are courageous and go against the current, which in particular circumstances, may become points of conscientious objection. And this fidelity entails many social consequences. We are living in a time of experimentation with life. But a bad experiment. Making children rather than accepting them as a gift, as I said. Playing with life. Be careful, because this is a sin against the Creator: against God the Creator, who created things this way. When so many times in my life as a priest I have heard objections: “But tell me, why the Church is opposed to abortion, for example? Is it a religious problem?” No, no. It is not a religious problem. “Is it a philosophical problem?” No, it is not a philosophical problem. It’s a scientific problem, because there is a human life there, and it is not lawful to take out a human life to solve a problem. “But no, modern thought…” But, listen, in ancient thought and modern thought, the word “kill” means the same thing. The same evaluation applies to euthanasia: we all know that with so many old people, in this culture of waste, there is this hidden euthanasia. But there is also the other. And this is to say to God, “No, I will accomplish the end of life, as I will.” A sin against God the Creator! Think hard about this.