Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

"An Epidemic of Loneliness": Community ties, Catholicism, and Suicide

This is very interesting.   In the Oct. 5 issue of National Review, Kevin Hassett has a piece called "An Epidemic of Loneliness."  Here's a taste:

For more than a hundred years, economists and sociologists have studied an empirical regularity: When the population share of Protestants relative to Catholics rises, suicides increase markedly. Two major theories emerged to explain the pattern. The first rests on theological differences, and holds that Catholics but not Protestants are dissuaded from suicide by the fear that it will lead to eternal damnation. The second is that Protestants are more likely to have weaker ties to the community, and it is this separation from the support of a community that leads to despair and suicide.

While the early literature focused on these two competing forms of Christianity, researchers have begun to explore religion and the role of community more generally. As time has gone on, the community-based rather than theological explanation seems to have become more widely accepted in the literature. For instance, research has found that while Protestants commit suicide more than Catholics, atheists are even more likely to take their own lives than Protestants, an observation that would favor the community-based rather than theological channel. . . .

. . . As Protestantism spread and Catholicism declined in Europe, individuals found themselves increasingly separated from the community support mechanisms that could help sustain them in difficult times. Suicides surged. Today’s coarsening world is having a similar effect on far too many. Suicide has become an urgent public-health crisis with astronomical economic costs.

Yet another reason to regret the recent enactment in California of assisted-suicide legalization.

October 6, 2015 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Monday, October 5, 2015

Gov. Brown signs assisted-suicide law

Bad news out of California.  

Caught between conflicting moral arguments, Gov. Jerry Brown, a former Jesuit seminary student, on Monday signed a measure allowing physicians to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to terminally ill patients who want to hasten their deaths.

Approving the bill, whose opponents included the Catholic Church, appeared to be a gut-wrenching decision for the 77-year-old governor, who as a young man studied to enter the priesthood.

“In the end, I was left to reflect on what I would want in the face of my own death,” Brown added. “I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain. I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill. And I wouldn’t deny that right to others."

October 5, 2015 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Friday, October 2, 2015

Ah, "tolerance"

Here's the abstract for a new book by a senior lecturer at Keele University:

This book aims to examine and critically analyse the role that religion has and should have in the public and legal sphere. The main purpose of the book is to explain why religion, on the whole, should not be tolerated in a tolerant-liberal democracy and to describe exactly how it should not be tolerated - mainly by addressing legal issues. The main arguments of the book are, first, that as a general rule illiberal intolerance should not be tolerated; secondly, that there are meaningful, unique links between religion and intolerance, and between holding religious beliefs and holding intolerant views (and ultimately acting upon these views); and thirdly, that the religiosity of a legal claim is normally a reason, although not necessarily a prevailing one, not to accept that claim.

Yossi Nehushtan, "Intolerant Religion in a Tolerant-Liberal Democracy" (Hart 2015).


October 2, 2015 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Thursday, October 1, 2015

New Blog: "The New Reform Club"

Here's a new-ish group blog, that I'm liking a lot.  It's called "The New Reform Club:  God & Man in the 21st Century."  Check out, just for samples, this post by Gonazaga's Mark DeForrest on "Russell Kirk on the Conservatism of Continuity" and this one, by Seth Tillman, called "Why Punish Wrongdoing"?  A blog that identifies Chesterton and Belloc as two of its "patron saints" will likely be of interest to MOJ readers!  

October 1, 2015 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Pope met with Kim Davis / Responses to Vischer and Bowman [UPDATED]

The New York Times has an account, here.  This bit of news seems clearly to disrupt some narratives about the Pope and his visit, as do the Pope's remarks about the human right to conscientious objection, including by public officials.  I do not know what to make of the fact that he made these statements after leaving the United States and that his meeting with Davis was not publicized.  I do not agree with those who have tried to interpret the Pope's collection of events, addresses, and statements as somehow downplaying the importance of (and threats to) religious freedom, and yet, had the visit with Davis and his conscientious objection statements been part of that collection, it seems like it would have made that interpretation even more implausible than, in my view, it already is.

UPDATE:    A Vatican spokesperson "clarifies" regarding the meeting, here.  Clearly, some very different accounts are emerging, both of what happened between Pope Francis and Ms. Davis and how.  

UPDATE:    Spokesperson expresses a "sense of regret" over meeting?   And yet . . . the Pope said what he said about a human right to conscientious objection -- even by officials . . ..  One thing is clear:  those who imagine Vatican conspiracies to take over the world and steal our precious bodily fluids needn't worry.  The Church just isn't that organized.

 Like Rob Vischer (read his piece here), I think the Kim Davis case presents some tricky questions.  It is not as clear to me as it is to some that she can, in this moment, expect to be exempted from performing duties that attach to her elected, official position.  (This is not to say that it does not make sense to find ways -- as Robin Fretwell Wilson and others have described -- to accommodate, if possible, public employees' religious objections to participating in the legal recognition of same-sex marriages, if it can be done in a way that does not deny anyone legal rights.)  At the same time, I think Matt Bowman is clearly right to warn that those who control the power to define what "doing your job" means (or to control access to various positions and professions through licensing, accreditation, etc.) will be trying to use that power in the coming years against, say, pro-life doctors and nurses, or judges who belong to "discriminatory" organizations, or student groups and religious colleges with "discriminatory" views, practices,  or mission statements, etc.  Stay tuned.

September 30, 2015 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Pope Francis on religious freedom in Philadelphia

Here's Pope Francis's religious-freedom text.  Lots of really good stuff, but this jumped out at me (and, I hope, to many!):

I would like to reflect with you on the right to religious freedom. It is a fundamental right which shapes the way we interact socially and personally with our neighbors whose religious views differ from our own.

Religious freedom certainly means the right to worship God, individually and in community, as our consciences dictate. But religious liberty, by its nature, transcends places of worship and the private sphere of individuals and families. . . .

Some will (indeed, already have) tried to (somehow) mute the force of the Pope's message on this point by noting the absence of words like "HHS mandate" or "First Amendment Defense Act," or by suggesting that the content of the views expressed by the Pope varies in some way from the public-square arguments that have been made in recent years by the American bishops. This is wrong, I think.  When the Holy Father says this:

 When individuals and communities are guaranteed the effective exercise of their rights, they are not only free to realize their potential, they also contribute to the welfare and enrichment of society.

. . . he's saying that faith-based institutions should be -- to borrow the title of a forthcoming book by Stanley Carlson-Thies and Stephen Monsma, and also the theme of the bishops' recent "Fortnight for Freedom" -- "free to serve."  An egregious example of this spinning -- and misreading -- is this New York Times editorial-masking-as-news piece, in which the author tried to suggest that the Pope's mentions of religiously-motivated violence and oppression abroad could be heard as speaking to "defiance in this country on religious grounds of same-sex marriage rulings" or that there was some distance between the Pope's observations about the role of religious freedom "in caring for others" and the efforts by (those the author mistakenly calls) "conservatives" to defend the integrity and mission of religious civil-society institutions.

September 27, 2015 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Thursday, September 24, 2015

My instapunditry on Pope Francis's remarks to Congress


September 24, 2015 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

A "Pope Francis bump" for Catholic schools?

Let's hope so!

September 24, 2015 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Pope Francis and religious freedom

It seems to me that the Pope's underscoring of religious freedom (like his visit to the Little Sisters of the Poor!) was timely and important.  And, in my view, it was both welcome and unsurprising -- unsurprising because Pope Francis is almost certainly well aware of the religious-freedom controversies that are on the front-burner in the United States and because he has often, in other contexts, reminded listeners of religious freedom's importance and vulnerability.
In one sense, the President and Pope were on the same page:  President Obama noted in his introduction of the Pope, "here in the United States, we cherish religious liberty" and he expressed admiration for the good works that Catholic institutions do in society.  The Pope, in turn, reminded the President that, today, Catholics and "countless other people" in America are "concerned that efforts to build a just and wisely ordered society respect their deepest concerns and their right to religious liberty."  This statement, in context, seems to refer specifically to the concern that authorities will use broad understandings of antidiscrimination law to penalize or marginalize religious institutions that hire and fire in accord with their religious teachings.
The Pope's emphasis here is timely, I think, because tension and conflict between government regulations and the integrity and freedom of religious organizations and institutions continue to grow.  Just recently, more than a hundred activist groups urged President Obama to disallow religious organizations that cooperate with the government in providing social-welfare services from selecting employees who share the organizations' faith commitments.  The Obama Administration has, to its credit, allowed -- for now -- this hiring-for-mission, which is important to these organizations' freedom and effectiveness.  The Pope's call to everyone "to preserve and defend everything that would threaten or compromise" what he called "one of America's most precious possessions," religious freedom, was an unmistakable defense of both the good works that religious organizations do and their freedom to act in accord with their distinctive religious character.

September 24, 2015 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Can Pope Francis "reframe the religious freedom debate"?

John Allen thinks so.  Here's a bit:

. . .  “The idea of religious freedom the pope talks about, in the name of the Church and [other] religions, is not only freedom of cult,” he said, referring to freedom to worship in the manner one chooses.

For Pope Francis, Lombardi said, religious freedom also “includes the possibility of [the Church] actively expressing in society its mission of charity.”

“The Church wants to have an active, positive, and constructive presence for the common good,” Lombardi said.

In a nutshell, that’s precisely the argument that the Catholic bishops of the United States and other religious groups have been trying to make to the Obama administration vis-à-vis the contraception mandates imposed as part of health care reform.

The argument goes that religious freedom doesn’t just mean the government not picking the hymns a congregation will sing on Sundays. It means allowing faith-based groups to be both true to their beliefs and also active players in public life, on the grounds that it’s good for society when people of faith are able to apply their values in concrete acts of service.

It’s a compelling argument, but when put forward by the US Catholic hierarchy, it often gets bogged down politically on two levels. . . .

The Pope's religious-freedom position, as Allen notes, is the same as the one that the American bishops have been proposing and defending, sometimes in the face of criticism from even some Catholics that they are waging a "culture war" in so doing.   This criticism is misplaced.  Still, it's a fact of life that perception is reality, and the unfair perception that the bishops are playing conservative politics when they defend religious freedom is, for some, a reality that makes it difficult for them to join that defense.  If Pope Francis can help . . . wonderful!  

September 23, 2015 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink