Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Princeton Theological Seminary pulls honor for Tim Keller

This is, I think, a very troubling (and revealing) development:

Faced with mounting criticism for its decision to give a major award to the Rev. Tim Keller, founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan and one of the country’s best-known conservative Christian thinkers, Princeton Theological Seminary has reversed course and said Keller will not receive the honor.

In an email to faculty and students on Wednesday morning (March 22), the president of the venerable mainline Protestant seminary, the Rev. Craig Barnes, said he remains committed to academic freedom and “the critical inquiry and theological diversity of our community.”

But he said that giving Keller the annual Kuyper Prize for Excellence in Reformed Theology and Public Witness – named after a famous Dutch neo-Calvinist theologian – might “imply an endorsement” of Keller’s views against the ordination of women and LGBTQ people.

Now, I happen to agree that institutions of higher education should carefully about whom they honor and about the meanings of the awards they confer. But, Tim Keller is eminently worthy of being honored. Yes, my understanding is that he has traditional Christian views regarding marriage and sexual morality. He also is admirably charitable and civil in addressing these and all other matters.  So, I agree with the principle that this statement reflects:

“Yes to academic freedom. Yes to listening to others whose opinions are different from our own (no matter how distasteful they may be),” Smith wrote on her blog, where she had initially blasted the award to Keller as “offensive.”

“No to giving large fancy prizes that can be confused with endorsement. Some may not be satisfied with this response. I think it’s a great compromise.”

I am not convinced, though, that it was appropriately applied in this case. 

March 22, 2017 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

A short op-ed on Judge Gorsuch, the Court, and religious freedom

Here's a quick take, from me, at the Religion and Politics site.  A bit, from the end:

Religious freedom is, still, our “first freedom.” If our most sacred things are not free, then nothing else that matters is, either. A government that imagines itself competent to re-arrange or supervise our beliefs about the transcendent is certainly not to be trusted when it comes to respecting our privacy or property. Religious liberty is not special pleading, and it is not a luxury good. It is foundational to our constitutional order and democratic aspirations. The Supreme Court can safeguard religious freedom, for everyone, but it matters at least as much that a commitment to human dignity is deeply rooted in politics, legislatures, and neighborhoods. Judge Neil Gorsuch’s record suggests that he understands this.

March 22, 2017 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Friday, March 3, 2017

Vice President Pence to be Notre Dame's Commencement Speaker

The University of Notre Dame has announced that Vice President Pence will speak at this year's commencement (and receive an honorary degree).  There had been a lot of debate, petitioning, etc., in anticipation of the possibility that the speaker and honoree this year would be President Trump.

Time flies:  I cannot believe it's been almost 8 years since I wrote, in USA Today, to express (civilly, I hope) my regret and disappointment over the decision to honor then-newly-elected President Obama at Notre Dame's graduation.  A little bit later, I wrote this short essay, "Whom Should a Catholic University Honor?  Speaking with Integrity." 

I am not among those who wanted Notre Dame to invite, or thought Notre Dame should invite, President Trump.  Like it did to Fr. Jenkins, it seemed (and seems) to me that such an invitation would unfairly disrupt the students' graduation.  Whether or not all of the high-octane, across-the-board opposition to President Trump is warranted (yet), it is simply a fact that his presence and speaking here would be very disruptive and disturbing to many.  And, I didn't see that it would somehow "make up" for the honoring of President Obama (which I continue to think was unwarranted -- the honoring, that is) to honor President Trump.  Invite him to speak, some time, but, in my view, there's no justification for honoring him.  

Some will, I'm sure, protest Vice President Pence's invitation, and some will do so for reasons that, in my view, are reasons to appreciate and respect his service (e.g., he supported and I think is sincerely committed to school choice, abortion regulation, and religious freedom in Indiana -- notwithstanding misleading, inaccurate, and unfair attacks).  I did not agree with the (failed) effort to prevent refugees from being resettled in Indiana, but -- in my view -- that effort does not, on balance, make the invitation inappropriate for a meaningfully Catholic university.  I think I've come to the view that we should abandon the business of giving honorary degrees to commencement speakers -- or, at least, to elected officials -- but, since we have not, I am inclined to think that Notre Dame made a good decision, both in not awarding an honorary degree to the President and in inviting the Vice President to be the speaker.

March 3, 2017 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Friday, February 24, 2017

Call for Papers: Fred C. Zacharias Memorial Prize for Scholarship in Professional Responsibility

Prof. Samuel Levine (Touro) passed on this information, which might be of interest to MOJ readers:

Submissions and nominations of articles are now being accepted for the eighth annual Fred C. Zacharias Memorial Prize for Scholarship in Professional Responsibility.  To honor Fred's memory, the committee will select from among articles in the field of Professional Responsibility, with submissions limited to those that have a publication date of calendar year 2017.  The prize will be awarded at the 2018 AALS Annual Meeting in San Diego.  Please send submissions and nominations to Professor Samuel Levine at Touro Law Center: slevine@tourolaw.edu<mailto:slevine@tourolaw.edu%3cmailto:slevine@tourolaw.edu>.  The deadline for submissions and nominations is September 1, 2017.

February 24, 2017 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Newman on "the World" . . . and ambition, pride, and work-life balance

It's hard to go wrong, reading Newman sermons, but this one ("The World our enemy") really jumped out at me.  Those of us who are blessed with interesting jobs -- in the academy, law, etc. -- might be able to identify well with some of the temptations he discusses.  A bit:

By the world, then, is meant this course of things which we see carried on by means of human agency, with all its duties and pursuits. It is not necessarily a sinful system; rather it is framed, as I have said, by God Himself, and therefore cannot be otherwise than good. And yet even thus considering it, we are bid not to love the world: even in this sense the world is an enemy of our souls; and for this reason, because the love of it is dangerous to beings circumstanced as we are,—things in themselves good being not good to us sinners. And this state of things which we see, fair and excellent in itself, is very likely (for the very reason {30} that it is seen, and because the spiritual and future world is not seen) to seduce our wayward hearts from our true and eternal good. As the traveller on serious business may be tempted to linger, while he gazes on the beauty of the prospect which opens on his way, so this well-ordered and divinely-governed world, with all its blessings of sense and knowledge, may lead us to neglect those interests which will endure when itself has passed away. In truth, it promises more than it can fulfil. The goods of life and the applause of men have their excellence, and, as far as they go, are really good; but they are short-lived. And hence it is that many pursuits in themselves honest and right, are nevertheless to be engaged in with caution, lest they seduce us; and those perhaps with especial caution, which tend to the well-being of men in this life. The sciences, for instance, of good government, of acquiring wealth, of preventing and relieving want, and the like, are for this reason especially dangerous; for fixing, as they do, our exertions on this world as an end, they go far to persuade us that they have no other end; they accustom us to think too much of success in life and temporal prosperity; nay, they may even teach us to be jealous of religion and its institutions, as if these stood in our way, preventing us from doing so much for the worldly interests of mankind as we might wish.

February 21, 2017 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Brennan and Brewbaker on Christian Legal Thought

Here's a new casebook, from Foundation, on Christian Legal Thought, thanks to Prof. Bill Brewbaker and our own Prof. Patrick Brennan.  Congrats!

Check out the table of contents - fascinating materials.  Here's hoping it's adopted widely, and that professors at many law schools -- not just religiously affiliated ones -- consider offering the course.

February 11, 2017 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Lewis on "The Common Good" as an "Ensemble of Conditions"

Prof. Bradley Lewis (CUA) shared with me what I thought was an excellent (and succinct) discussion of the concept of "the common good" in modern Catholic Social Thought. Download Lewis on the Common Good (1).  Highly recommended. 

February 8, 2017 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Pope Francis on Religious Freedom in China

John Allen has a piece on what he calls Pope Francis's "puzzling" remarks on religious freedom in China.  Here's a bit:

In the English translation provided by El Pais, here’s what the pope is quoted as having said: “In China, churches are crowded. In China they can worship freely.”

In the original Spanish, the pope’s statement wasn’t quite that bald. What he said was, “En China las iglesias están llenas. Se puede practicar la religión en China,” which translates as, “In China the churches are full … one can practice religion in China.”

There is, of course, a big difference between saying religion can be practiced someplace, which can imply despite difficulties and dangers, and claiming that one can “worship freely” there.

Nevertheless, the fact that Pope Francis appeared to suggest that the climate for religious freedom in China is basically positive likely will irritate, even outrage, people who know the reality, and who have been working on behalf of the country’s religious minorities.

I hope there will be some clarification coming from the Holy See, or ideally from the Holy Father himself.  It is not merely puzzling, but simply false, to state that "[i]n China they can worship freely."  (Not only is the freedom of religion -- correctly understood to include religiously motivated action in the public square -- not protected, not even the mere "freedom of worship" is in fact respected.)  The Spanish statement -- "one can practice religion in China" -- is, I suppose, technically true, in the sense that one can always practice religion in totalitarian or tyrannical societies . . . if one is willing to be punished for it.  Allen concludes:

Of course, Francis may be engaged in that time-honored Vatican strategy of playing the long game, playing down provocative rhetoric in order to advance the relationship with Beijing, ideally affording Rome greater leverage to achieve positive change. Further, the pope may be concerned that Christians on the ground in China would be the ones to pay the price should he indulge in finger-pointing and denunciations.

Still, those Catholics in China these days behind bars, or who fear ending up there, may be forgiven for wishing that, once in a while, their pope would speak publicly and clearly about their sacrifice.

Whenever that day may be, it certainly wasn’t the El Pais interview.

It certainly wasn't.

February 7, 2017 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Gorsuch nomination

Like Kevin, I have a short piece up at First Things on the Gorsuch nomination.  A bit:

So, this is 2017: A few days after issuing an incompetently executed, morally dubious, and in many ways misguided executive order on immigrants and refugees, the president nominated an outstanding and unassailable jurist to succeed Justice Antonin Scalia. . . .

It is unfortunate, in a way, that the nomination of such a fine judge comes in the context of a silly prime-time announcement ceremony, in the midst of other controversies, introduced by such a clunky, self-referential speech by the president. Judge Gorsuch is a gifted, eloquent writer and a thoughtful, careful judge. He will not regard himself as beholden to the president who nominated him but will instead, I am confident, do his best to decide in accord with the law and his own formation, education, and values. . . .

February 1, 2017 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Some disturbing background on the contraception-coverage-mandate conflict

Often during the past few years, I've heard the argument that, somehow, the Catholic bishops and other entities challenging the application of the contraception-coverage mandate were on-the-march "culture warriors" waging a misguided offensive campaign instead of pursuing compromise.  As I see it, and as I've said on this blog, it was not the challengers who asked for this conflict. In any event, Michael Wear's new bookReclaiming Hope, apparently details the cynical calculations of at least some in the previous administration who saw in the issue an opportunity to marginalize the bishops for political gain.  (Mark Halperin and John Heilemann had chronicled some of this in their account of the 2012 election, Double Down.)   Here's a bit from Jim Geraghty's review:

In describing the battle that erupted between the administration and the Little Sisters of the Poor over Obamacare’s contraception mandate, Wear casts himself as Cassandra. “This was not a standard disagreement between religious conservatives and a progressive White House, but instead a potentially landscape-shifting conflict-stoking move. This reality was conveyed to the highest levels of the White House repeatedly.” He claims that the administration chose “the path of most resistance” in the contraception fight as a deliberate, cynical political strategy: “A senior political advisor repeatedly thought that the bishops’ complaints would bolster a useful campaign narrative: that supporters of their view, including Republican Mitt Romney, held anachronistic views about women and family planning.’”

Unfortunately, there are more than a few reasons to think cynical attacks on Catholic bishops by prominent White House staffers will continue. . . .

January 29, 2017 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink