Sunday, March 1, 2015
Check out this event, featuring Prof. Russell Hittinger, at Lumen Christi, in Chicago. If you can attend, then do!
This lecture will compare the great pontificates that represented two “modern times”: Leo XIII at the end of the 19th century and John Paul II at the end of the 20th. Between Leo’s birth in 1810 to JPII’s death in 2005, the lived experience of these two men encompass all modern times, both secular and ecclesiastical – from Napoleon to the iPhone. What was at stake for the Church over the course of this rapidly changing century? How did the social teaching of these two popes differ in addressing the modern crises of their day?
Picking up on a topic that Michael Moreland addressed a few years ago . . . It's not a surprise, I suppose, that the novel and TV series "Wolf Hall" are popular. Somehow, it had to happen that the Man for All Seasons image of St. Thomas More be torn down. After all, a Catholic who stood up to the overreaching claims of state power, at the cost of his life, could not be allowed to remain a secular hero forever. Still, I hope "Wolf Hall" fans and producers will remember some of the points raised in this piece, about Henry, More, Cromwell, and "the biggest land-grab and asset-strip in English history."
Saturday, February 28, 2015
Prof. Randy Boyagoda is the author of a new biography of Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, A Life in the Public Square. I'm excited to read it. Here is a bit of a preview, which ran the other day in the Wall Street Journal. A taste:
Neuhaus . . . affirmed the core premise of Enlightenment political thought: the differentiation of public authority into separate, autonomous spheres that valued individual rights.
He argued that the strongest support for these rights came from the Judeo-Christian tradition’s foundational conviction: We are made in the image of God. Demanding absolute obedience to political dictates, whether in the name of God or something else, would undo centuries of political progress, and goes against God’s own gift of free will to every human person.
Richard beat me to it, but my friend and colleague Prof. Charles Rice -- a deeply good and generous man -- passed away this week. It's almost as if this Notre Dame Law School legend -- he has probably taught half of our living alumni -- ducked out of the side exit, to avoid making a big scene, overshadowed in the press (though not, I feel confident, among the Heavenly Host) by Fr. Hesburgh's death. (Learn more about his work and life here.)
I first encountered Notre Dame through Charlie. In the 1970s, my father -- then an Alaska lawyer -- attended a seminar at which Charlie presented on defending pro-life protesters. Years later, when I was thinking about law school, Charlie contacted me (I've always assumed at my dad's suggestion) and was (as always) generous and helpful. Later, when I started thinking about the legal academy, some of the most important people who shaped my decision were Charlie and his son-in-law, Seamus Hasson, founder of the Becket Fund and all-around religious-freedom hero.
Charlie was, of course, a titan in the pro-life movement, both locally and nationally. He was also a teacher beloved by many thousands -- some of whom agreed with his politics, many of whom I am sure did not -- who would always go the extra mile to help a student or graduate in any way. He cared much more about decency and solidarity than about prestige and praise. He welcomed me to Notre Dame and supported and encouraged me when I was getting started. He wrote several books and piles of articles for a range of audiences. Often overlooked, unfortunately, is a really good (and prescient!) book he did more than 50 years ago, The Freedom of Association.He was a boxer and a Marine. He helped build a wonderful family. God bless him.
It's really hard to imagine putting the point better. And, talk about timely! Here's Fr. Ted, more than 50 years ago:
Someone asked me recently: "What is the great problem for the Catholic university in our modem pluralistic society?" I was obliged to answer that the modernCatholic university faces a dual problem. First, because everything in a pluralistic society tends to become homogenized, the Catholic university has the temptation to become like all other universities, with theology and philosophy attached to the academic body like a kind of vermiform appendix, a vestigial remnant, neither useful nor decorative, a relic of the past. If this happens, the Catholic university may indeed become a great university, but it will not be a Catholic university.
The second problem involves understanding that while our society is called religiously pluralistic, it is in fact, and more realistically, secularistic—with theology and philosophy relegated to a position of neglect or, worse, irrelevance. Against this strong tide, the Catholic university must demonstrate that all the human problems which it studies are at base philosophical and theological, since they relate ultimately to the nature and destiny of man. The Catholic university must strive mightily to understand the philosophical and theological dimensions of the modern problems that face man today, and once these dimensions are understood, it must show the relevance of the philosophical and theological approach if adequate solutions are to be found for these problems.
Friday, February 27, 2015
Not just my own University of Notre Dame, but also American higher education and, in many ways, the country has lost a truly great and really good man, "Fr. Ted" Hesburgh. You can learn a lot more about his work and life here. And, the Washington Post's obituary is here.
Fr. Hesburgh was retired by the time I arrived at Notre Dame, but I did have the chance to meet and talk with him several times, including in connection with the University's education-reform efforts. I remember him expressing surprise, and a bit of irritation, when I told him back in 2000 that vouchers and school-choice were still controversial and politically challenging. "I thought L.B.J. and I took care of that back in 1965!", he said. "There are a few details still being worked out," I assured him. God bless Fr. Ted.
Thursday, February 26, 2015
A few days ago, I linked to an excellent presentation by my colleague, Cyril O'Regan, on the place of theology in a Catholic university. (Like O'Regan, I believe strongly that Notre Dame -- and other Catholic universities -- should not only continue with a meaningful Theology (not "religious studies" or even "Catholic studies") requirement but should, indeed, deepen and enrich such a requirement.)
At Distinctly Catholic, Michael Sean Winters has posted a very thoughtful and wide-ranging three-part series on this matter. It's well worth a read by anyone interested in universities, Theology, and, well, life. Among other things, he contends that "removing theology from that core curriculum not only endangers the other sciences, which are then invited to fill its gap with intellectual tools ill suited for the task, but that I fear what happens to a culture in which theology, philosophy and the humanities are driven to the sidelines by our cultural fascination with science and technique. If we do not school our young people in the humanities, theology and philosophy, they will never know how to respond to desire and never lift love beyond the sentimental."
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
So, I gather that this piece, "San Francisco Parents Shocked to Learn that Catholic Schools are Catholic," is a parody. (Funny reading.) This one, though -- "Lawmakers want investigation of San Francisco Catholic High Schools Over Teacher Morality Clauses" -- is not. That it is not would still be funny, though, if it were not so worrisome:
Assemblymembers Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) and Kevin Mullin (D-San Mateo) are urging the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee and Assembly Judiciary Committee to launch an investigation.
“California cannot become a laboratory for discrimination under the guise of religion,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter sent Monday. They said the rules “set a dangerous precedent for workers’ rights through manipulations of law that deprive employees of civil rights guaranteed to all Californians.”
But, the question is precisely whether "all Californians" really do have a "civil right" to -- regardless of what they believe, say, do, or teach -- play a leading role in the formation of Catholic high-school students. These lawmakers' statements reflect, one could say, a "confusion about discrimination."
Anthony Annett ("Morning's Minion," to many Catholic-blog-readers) has joined the crew at dotCommonweal. Welcome! Here is an early post of his, "Papal Economics: Why the Church Rejects Both Collectivism and Individualism." As MOJ readers know, I think that invocations of a "resurgence of laissez-faire individualism over the past three decades" are less-than-helpful and that "laissez-faire individualism" does not meaningfully exist (except, of course, in the policy program of organizations like NARAL-Pro Choice America). In any event, I look forward to more interesting conversations with him about where, case-by-case, we should draw the line -- "inspired," both of us, "by Catholic Social Teaching" -- that separates particular market-regulations that serve the common good (as many do) from market-regulations that do not (as many do not).
Joe Carter reminded me (sigh) that we are around the 11th anniversary (!) of Locke v. Davey. And, in the course of reminding his readers about that case, he reminds them also about James Blaine, his proposed amendment, and the ways that similar laws in the states continue to (a) reflect our country's once-very-strong anti-Catholicism and (b) stymie education reform.
For my own take on the matter, check out "The Theology of the Blaine Amendments" (here). Abstract:
The Supreme Court affirmed, in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, that the Constitution permits us to experiment with school-choice programs and, in particular, with programs that include religious schools. However, the constitutions of nearly forty States contain provisions - generically called "Blaine Amendments" - that speak more directly and, in many cases, more restrictively, than does the First Amendment to the flow of once-public funds to religious schools. This Article is a series of reflections, prompted by the Blaine Amendments, on education, citizenship, political liberalism, and religious freedom.
First, the Article considers what might be called the "federalism defense" of the provisions. It concludes that even full-throated support for the Rehnquist Court's so-called federalism "revival" does not require one to regard the Blaine Amendments as courageous efforts by particular communities to provide greater protection to religious freedom, by insisting on a sharper, and more rigid, "separation of church and state." In fact, these provisions might better be seen as representing the failures of particular communities fully to appreciate the nature and implications of religious freedom and liberal pluralism.
Second, the Article sounds a cautionary note concerning the fact that the Blaine Amendments were in large part the product of widespread concern about the political and cultural effects of Roman Catholicism. While it is true that the Blaine Amendments - like much else in the American experience - were anti-Catholic, they are best understood as reflecting more than mere "bigotry." Rather, the Blaine Amendments can usefully be situated in the context of the rich and growing scholarly literature on "civic education," and on the challenges posed by religious faith, teachings, and communities to certain conceptions of political liberalism. Although we are at present confronting the Blaine Amendments primarily as constraints imposed by positive law on local policy choices about school funding, these provisions take us to the heart of perennial questions about statecraft, and soulcraft. They represent, among other things, the enactment into law of certain claims about the aims of education, the prerogatives of the liberal state, the proper scope of religious obligation, and even the nature and end of the human person.
Finally, the Article proposes that Blaine Amendments might most profitably be engaged not simply as rules of positive law, but as theological arguments. The point of this observation is not to assert that the Blaine Amendments' religious meaning is a constitutional strike against them, but rather to enrich our conversations about them. After all, if the Blaine Amendments are not merely legal constraints on state legislatures' funding options, but also claims about the content and proper sphere of religious beliefs, obligations, and loyalties, then it would seem perfectly appropriate to raise constructive, yet unapologetic and unbracketed, religious counter-claims about these matters in response.