Thursday, July 2, 2015
Here is James Mumford, in The Hedgehog Review, on the yet-again-picking-up-steam movement for euthanasia in the U.S. and U.K. The conclusion:
In a world that has seen amazing progress in so many areas of social life, euthanasia would be a huge step backwards. Why? Because in an increasingly ageist culture, many older people perceive themselves to be a burden. They might not say so. They definitely haven’t been sat down and told so. But their sense of superannuation is a societal norm that has been, in the way Michel Foucault demonstrated over and over again, thoroughly internalized. Is it not more than imaginable that this sense of being a burden will lead, in many sad and tragic cases, to euthanasia?
So says Frank Bruni, in the NYT. It turns out, apparently, that when we're talking about Hobby Lobby (etc.), corporations "don't have a soul," don't stand for things, don't exercise religion, don't have expressive interests, etc. But, when it's Eli Lilly bashing Indiana for its Religious Freedom Restoration Act (on the basis of misrepresentations and misunderstandings of that Act), then . . . we see the "sunny side of greed."
Go here for a really interesting podcast about Prof. Kevin Vallier (Philosophy, Bowling Green) and his new book, "Liberal Politics and Public Reason: Beyond Separation." Here's part of the promo:
In Liberal Politics and Public Faith: Beyond Separation (Routledge, 2014), Kevin Vallier develops a novel view of the role of religious conviction and reasoning in liberal democracy. On his view, religious citizens will rarely need to constrain the role that their religious convictions play in their public activities. However, Vallier also contends that public officials and institutions cannot determine public policy solely on the basis of religious reasons.
Tuesday, June 30, 2015
I posted, in America, some thoughts about the Supreme Court's Glossip decision on lethal-injection drugs. A taste:
This case and, more dramatically, this exchange highlight—as did Friday’s decision constitutionalizing same-sex marriage—one of the most important questions in constitutional law: Which divisive and difficult questions of morality and policy does the Constitution leave to the democratic process and which ones has it removed from politics? For about a century, this question has sharply divided citizens and justices alike. When the Court strikes down as unconstitutional a policy that we think is justified, or at least debatable, we are likely to cry “activism!” or “overreach!” When the Court lets stand a policy that we embrace, or at least think is reasonable, we tend to praise it for its “humility” and “restraint.” When it comes to the role of judges and the power of “judicial review,” few of us achieve perfect and principled consistency.
It is possible to think that, for example, abortion should be generally legal while at the same time believe that the Court got it very wrong, in Roe v. Wade, when it declared that the Constitution—rather than elections, legislation and compromise—answers all questions about abortion’s legality and regulation. The same can be said—indeed, Chief Justice Roberts underscored this point in his dissent in Friday’s ruling—about same-sex marriage. And, similarly, one can firmly oppose capital punishment as a failed and unjust policy while believing that, in our system, its abolition depends on persuading our fellow citizens and not five justices of the Supreme Court.
Saturday, June 27, 2015
Here is a short reaction-piece I did for America, and here is one I did for National Review Online. Here's a bit from the America piece, which touches on an issue that I don't think most commentators have been talking about:
Today’s ruling raises many questions, and not only about the “next steps” with respect to marriage-related rules and nondiscrimination laws. For example, the reasoning in Justice Kennedy’s opinion is in significant tension with the opinion—which Justice Kennedy joined—in the Court’s 1997 decision that upheld the right of governments to outlaw physician-assisted suicide. In that case, Washington v. Glucksberg, Chief Justice Rehnquist had insisted that a “liberty interest” had to be deeply rooted in our country’s history and traditions before it could be treated as the kind of “fundamental right” that is protected against state regulation. The asserted right to doctor-assisted suicide did not, the Court concluded, have that kind of pedigree. In Obergefell, however, Justice Kennedy did not follow Rehnquist’s example in allowing history and tradition to constrain judicial power. And, as the pressure in some states to embrace physician-assisted suicide increases—in the name of “dignity” and “compassion”—it is not clear that the Court’s wise refusal in Glucksberg to constitutionalize a right to that practice will stand.
Here, just as a reminder, is how the late Chief Justice Rehnquist ended his opinion for the Court in Glucksberg:
Throughout the Nation, Americans are engaged in an earnest and profound debate about the morality, legality, and practicality of physician-assisted suicide. Our holding permits this debate to continue, as it should in a democratic society.
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
An excerpt from a letter of St. Thomas More to Erasmus, written on the 14th of June, 1532:
Congratulations, then, my dear Erasmus, on your outstanding virtuous qualities; however, if on occasion some good person is unsettled and disturbed by some point, even without making a sufficiently serious reason, still do not be chagrined at making accommodations for the pious dispositions of such men. But as for those snapping, growling, malicious fellows, ignore them, and, without faltering, quietly continue to devote yourself to the promotion of intellectual things and the advancement of virtue.
(HT: Ryan Patrico).
This essay was presented at the lecture for legal professionals in Baltimore, Maryland, on May 21, 2015. The roots of the word evangelization are, literally, in the words that mean “to bring good news.” We live in a world that craves good news and, by virtue of our Baptism, all of us – lawyers included – are called to bring good news to a world that, despite all appearances to the contrary, aches for good news and deeply yearns to know the God from whom all good news comes, and to whom all good news leads. I am convinced that there is a powerful role for us in the legal profession to play in this great task of evangelization by being joyful, hopeful witnesses to what is good, just, and simply right. Each are called to respond to the call to evangelize in our own circumstances. This essay explores, briefly, the opportunities that we may have to evangelize, or “bring good news” as lawyers, in three distinct settings: in the ways in which we educate future lawyers; in the way in which our profession is practiced; and, in the substantive law of our land itself.
Check it out!
On this day, in 1608, St. Thomas Garnet was martyred at Tyburn. Here's more about him:
Protomartyr of St. Omer and therefore of Stonyhurst College; b. at Southwark, c. 1575; executed at Tyburn, 23 June, 1608. Richard Garnet, Thomas's father, was at Balliol College, Oxford, at the time when greater severity began to be used against Catholics, in 1569, and by his constancy gave great edification to the generation of Oxford men which was to produce Campion, Persons and so many other champions of Catholicism. Thomas attended the Horsham grammar school and was afterwards a page to one of the half-brothers of Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel, who were, however, conformists. At the opening of St. Omer's College in 1592, Thomas was sent there. By 1595 he was considered fit for the new English theological seminary at Valladolid, and started in January, with five others, John Copley, William Worthington, John Ivreson, James Thomson, and Henry Mompesson, from Calais. They were lucky in finding, as a travelling companion, a Jesuit Father, William Baldwin, who was going to Spain in disguise under the alias Ottavio Fuscinelli, but misfortunes soon began. After severe weather in the Channel, they found themselves obliged to run for shelter to the Downs, where their vessel was searched by some of Queen Elizabeth's ships, and they were discovered hiding in the hold. They were immediately made prisoners and treated very roughly. They were sent round the Nore up to London, and were examined by Charles, second Lord Howard of Effingham, the lord admiral. After this Father Baldwin was sent to Bridewell prison, where he helped the confessorJames Atkinson to obtain his crown. Meantime his young companions had been handed over to Whitgift, theArchbishop of Canterbury, who, having found that they encouraged one another, sent them one by one to different Protestant bishops or doctors. Only the youngest, Mompesson, conformed; the rest eventually escaped and returned to their colleges beyond seas after many adventures. We are not told specifically what befell young Garnet, but it seems likely that he was the youth confined to the house of Dr. Richard Edes (Dict. Nat. Biog., XVI, 364). He fell ill and was sent home under bond to return to custody atOxford by a certain day. But his jailer not appearing in time, the boy escaped, and to avoid trouble had then to keep away even from his own father. At last he reached St-Omer again, and thence went to Valladolid, 7 March, 1596, having started on that journey no less than ten times.
After ordination in 1599, "returning to England I wandered", he says, "from place to place, to reduce souls which went astray and were in error as to the knowledge of the true Catholic Church". During the excitement caused by the Gunpowder Plot in 1605 he was arrested near Warwick, going under the name Thomas Rokewood, which he had no doubt assumed from Ambrose Rokewood of Coldham Hall, whose chaplain he then was, and who had unfortunately been implicated in the plot. Father Garnet was now imprisoned first in the Gatehouse, then in the Tower, where he was very severely handled in order to make him give evidence against Henry Garnet, his uncle, superior of the English Jesuits, who had lately admitted him into the Society. Though no connection with the conspiracy could be proved, he was kept in the Tower for seven months, at the end of which time he was suddenly put on board ship with forty-six other priests, and a royal proclamation, dated 10 July, 1606, was read to them, threatening death if they returned. They were then carried across the Channel and set ashore in Flanders.
Father Garnet now went to his old school at St-Omer, thence to Brussels to see the superior of the Jesuits, Father Baldwin, his companion in the adventures of 1595, who sent him to the English Jesuitnovitiate, St. John's, Louvain, in which he was the first novice received. In September, 1607, he was sent back to England, but was arrested six weeks later by an apostate priest called Rouse. This was the timeJames's controversy with Bellarmine about the Oath of Allegiance. Garnet was offered his life if he would take it, but steadfastly refused, and was executed at Tyburn, protesting that he was "the happiestman this day alive". His relics, which were preserved at St-Omer, were lost during the French Revolution.
Today is also, FWIW, the birthday of my son, Thomas Garnett. Pretty cool.
Yesterday, we celebrated the feast day of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, two Catholic heroes who refused to go along, merely "for friendship's sake", with Henry VIII's power-and-money grab.
I realize that, in some quarters, it is thought to be an overreaction to worry about the coming (quickly) grave challenges to religious freedom. It is thought, or hoped, that we can and should leave "culture wars" behind, and that the optimism, joy, and popularity of Pope Francis make worries and concerns about religious freedom something only for the pinched, crabbed, overly litigious or "obsessed." But, unfortunately, the challenges and threats are real and the worries and concerns are well founded. The Pope's popularity and the fact that some who are not ordinarily all that interested in the Church's moral anthropology or account of the world like a few sentences in the new encyclical do not change the fact that it is increasingly mainstream in developed, western countries to think the logic of congruence should be applied to religious institutions and agencies and that it is enough, for religious liberty, to allow people to believe and worship as they like.
It's worth remembering, when we think of Saints Thomas More and John Fisher, that England was chock-full of Catholic bishops and lawyers like them right before the Act of Supremacy . . . and the Sovereign was able to get them on board.