Friday, April 17, 2015
When I was a visiting law professor, at the University of Chicago's law school, in 2007, I taught a class on "Catholic Social Thought and the Law." It was a wonderful experience. And, a highlight was our first meeting, over lasagna in the student lounge, at which Cardinal George was the guest speaker and participant. That he took the time to come and inspire a group of law students meant a lot to the students, and to me.
I know that some other MOJ-ers knew Cardinal George well, and I hope others will share some more worthy thoughts about him, his work, his thought, and his gifts.
Peter Lawler has this essay, at the Imaginative Conservative, called "Tocqueville on Keeping Our Countercultural Churches." Very interesting. Here's a bit:
The danger in democracy is that Christian churches lose their capacity to be genuinely countercultural—or teach the truth that will be neglected “on the street” in middle-class democracy. And so the separation of church and state is to keep the church from being corrupted by excessive concern with endlessly egalitarian justice and the logic of the market. The separation is for the integrity of the church by limiting the claims for truth and morality of the democratic “social state,” which includes the democratic state.
But it’s both futile and even un-Christian to think that there could be, in the modern world, a state that favors or properly appreciates the church. Orestes Brownson, the greatest American Catholic thinker ever, said all the church should need and want from America is freedom to pursue its evangelical mission. That means, of course, that Americans should understand political freedom to be freedom for the church, for an organized body of thought and action. And we can see that the church flourished in America in the relative absence of politicized intrusion or corruption for a very long time.
The danger now, as always, is that the individualistic yet highly judgmental democracy—our creeping and creepy mixture of progressivism and libertarianism—will seek to impose its standards on our countercultural churches.
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
On the campaign trail in Iowa, while answering a question about the Common Core, Ms. Clinton referred to "education" as "the most important non-family enterprise in the raising of the next generation[.]" Some have pointed out that this comment overlooks the growing reality of home-schooling. In any event, it might be time for Catholics (and others!) to review Gravissimum educationis (1965), the Second Vatican Council's Declaration on Christian Education:
Since parents have given children their life, they are bound by the most serious obligation to educate their offspring and therefore must be recognized as the primary and principal educators.(11) This role in education is so important that only with difficulty can it be supplied where it is lacking. Parents are the ones who must create a family atmosphere animated by love and respect for God and man, in which the well-rounded personal and social education of children is fostered. Hence the family is the first school of the social virtues that every society needs. It is particularly in the Christian family, enriched by the grace and office of the sacrament of matrimony, that children should be taught from their early years to have a knowledge of God according to the faith received in Baptism, to worship Him, and to love their neighbor. Here, too, they find their first experience of a wholesome human society and of the Church. Finally, it is through the family that they are gradually led to a companionship with their fellowmen and with the people of God. Let parents, then, recognize the inestimable importance a truly Christian family has for the life and progress of God's own people.(12)
The family which has the primary duty of imparting education needs help of the whole community. In addition, therefore, to the rights of parents and others to whom the parents entrust a share in the work of education, certain rights and duties belong indeed to civil society, whose role is to direct what is required for the common temporal good. Its function is to promote the education of youth in many ways, namely: to protect the duties and rights of parents and others who share in education and to give them aid; according to the principle of subsidiarity, when the endeavors of parents and other societies are lacking, to carry out the work of education in accordance with the wishes of the parents; and, moreover, as the common good demands, to build schools and institutions.(13) . . .
Monday, April 13, 2015
Archbishop Chaput explains, here, that and how "education is a matter of social justice." More to the point, it is unjust for a political community to refuse to support parents who chose schools other than traditional public schools for their children. John Coons said it so well here ("School Choice as Simple Justice"). And, Nicole Stelle Garnett and I tried our hand, a while back, in this paper ("School Choice, the First Amendment, and Social Justice").
This is well worth a read. A bit:
What was Nisbet’s insight? Simply put, that what seems like the great tension of modernity—the concurrent rise of individualism and collectivism, and the struggle between the two for mastery—is really no tension at all. It seemed contradictory that the heroic age of nineteenth-century laissez faire, in which free men, free minds, and free markets were supposedly liberated from the chains imposed by throne and altar, had given way so easily to the tyrannies of Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, and Mao. But it was only a contradiction, Nisbet argued, if you ignored the human impulse toward community that made totalitarianism seem desirable—the yearning for a feeling of participation, for a sense of belonging, for a cause larger than one’s own individual purposes and a group to call one’s own.
In pre-modern society, this yearning was fulfilled by a multiplicity of human-scale associations: guilds and churches and universities, manors and villages and monasteries, and of course the primal community of family. In this landscape, Nisbet writes, “the reality of the separate, autonomous individual was as indistinct as that of centralized political power.”
But from the Protestant Reformation onward, individualism and centralization would advance together, while intermediate powers and communities either fell away or were dissolved. As social institutions, these associations would be attacked as inhumane, irrational, patriarchal, and tyrannical; as sources of political and economic power, they would be dismissed as outdated, fissiparous, and inefficient. In place of a web of overlapping communities and competing authorities, the liberal West set out to build a society of self-sufficient, liberated individuals, overseen by a unitary, rational, and technocratic government.
The assumption, indeed, was that the emancipated individual required a strong state, to cut through the constraining tissue of intermediate associations. “Only with an absolute sovereign,” Nisbet writes, describing the views of Thomas Hobbes, “could any effective environment of individualism be possible.”
That's one of the questions set up in this New York Times piece ("To Keep Free of Federal Reins, Wyoming Catholic College Rejects Student Aid"). A bit:
To the college’s leaders, rejecting government-backed aid was an expensive effort to defend against what they called growing government threats to religious freedoms. If you do not take the money, leaders argue, the government cannot tell you what to do.
“It allows us to practice our Catholic faith without qualifying it,” said Kevin Roberts, the college’s president, a Louisiana transplant who now wears a black cowboy hat to work in this town of 7,500. “It’s clear that this administration does not care about Catholic teaching.”
This might "work" - but, I feel sure, only for a while, only for some small institutions, and only to an extent. The regulatory strings about which Catholic and other religious institutions might be concerned are and are going to be attached not only to student-loan funds but, increasingly, to accreditation decision, contracts, research grants, sports-conference membership (!), and the like. I do not think, in the long run, the smaller institutions with very strong animating missions should think that they can avoid the struggle that the larger research institutions are going to have to wage.
Katha Pollitt has done what perhaps might be called the "service" of writing a book that argues unabashedly for what most Americans regard as extreme positions with respect to the issue of abortion. With this piece, "There Are No Abortion Cakes," she continues that work, and attempts to leverage the recent events surrounding Indiana's RFRA-type law in support of those positions. She concludes:
It's time for progressives who rallied against the Indiana RFRA to show the same energy and conviction and urgency in support of women's reproductive rights. At least thirty-eight states have feticide laws, after all—this is not an issue for just one state. (Consider, too, that about 10 to 20 percent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage.) If CEOs are concerned, rightly, that their LGBT employees be treated as equals in Indiana, they should show as much concern for their pregnant and potentially pregnant employees. The same RFRA laws that open the door to discrimination against LGBT people lay behind the Supreme Court's infamous Hobby Lobby decision, which permits business owners to use religion to deny their employees health insurance coverage for birth control.
I understand that same-sex marriage and reproductive rights are different: marriage is about love, and abortion is about freedom. There are no abortion cakes. But freedom is a bedrock American value, even when it's for women. . . .
Debra Saunders raises -- or, reminds us of -- some very important issues and concerns regarding what appears to be the new push in many states for assisted-suicide legalization ("Help the Rich Not Get Too Much Care"):
Gov. Jerry Brown spent time with Mother Teresa in Calcutta. His office won’t say if he’ll sign or veto an assisted-suicide bill. He knows what he should do. True compassion engenders striving to cure illness, relieve pain and offer warmth to those who are suffering. That is dignity.
Those who say they want the option of assisted suicide, said, Barnes, essentially are “pointing at a disabled person and saying, 'I don’t want to live like that.’” That’s not dignity.
Sunday, April 12, 2015
Here is the post to which I mistakenly referred the other day: I'm reading-while-running this book, God's Traitor's: Terror and Faith in Elizabethan England (which I had downloaded, as it happens, before the enactment, inaccurate depicting, unfair criticism, overwrought villification, and revision of Indiana's RFRA-type law) which includes, in its account of the Parliament of 1571, some interesting examples of very early discussions and debate about exemptions, conscience, and the "belief v. conduct" distinction. Next up, I think: Waugh's Edmund Campion: A Life.
Thursday, April 9, 2015
Following up on yesterday's post (UPDATE: Which, for some reason, was not posted! Sorry!) about the possible contemporary relevance of the English recusants, here are some lines from Lord Thomas Vaux, "Of a Contented Spirit":