Thursday, October 26, 2017
My friend and colleague, Prof. Paolo Carozza, shared with me the address he delivered a few years ago at Benedictine College. It is a very thoughtful reflection on the life and witness of St. Benedict and his relevance to our times. Among other things, he engages some of what Rod Dreher has been arguing, in his The Benedict Option and elsewhere.
I particularly liked this:
God has written into the world “an order and a dynamism that
human beings have no right to ignore,” [Pope Francis] tells us . . . . And thus the proper
attitude for us to strive for in the face of this fact must be one of “gratitude and
gratuitousness, a recognition that the world is God’s loving gift.” It is
quite countercultural today to insist that reality and the world of meaning are not
wholly constructed by us. And nevertheless it is true that the things that most
correspond to the destiny of our lives are not the ones we “make”, and still less the
ones we “possess” or that we “consume”. Instead we have to allow ourselves to be
made by, possessed by, and consumed by a passion for truth and beauty and
Beginning again, the beginning of a new year institutionally, the beginning of
a new stage in life, the new beginning of hope in a world that has lost its way, begins
with our own hearts. If we allow ourselves to be made and possessed and consumed
there, we will witness the transformation of the very heart of the world.
Monday, October 23, 2017
This event, sponsored by the Religious Freedom Research Project at Georgetown's Berkley Center, looks to be really good. If you're in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 1 . . . check it out! (RSVP required.) Here's the blurb:
On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther published his Ninety-Five Theses urging sweeping religious reforms and catalyzing the Protestant Reformation. The Reformation unleashed an intensified focus on freedom of conscience, with dramatic social and political consequences. It fostered new notions of religious liberty as well as new frameworks for civic life. At the same time, the Reformation built upon centuries of Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox theologies of conscience, dignity, and freedom in ways that are not always understood.
This symposium will explore these dynamics, but also examine how Christianity per se has unleashed distinctive and powerful principles of conscience and freedom across its 2,000-year history, even in the face of what Pope Francis has called the “ecumenism of blood”—the severe religious persecution affecting numerous Christian and non-Christian communities around the world.
The line-up of speakers and presenters is really impressive, and the keynote address is by the great Robert Louis Wilken.
This essay, "The Church and the Republic", by Richard Reinsch, is definitely worth a read. Especially for those of us who've thought and written about "institutional" religious freedom and the "Freedom of the Church," it's a really helpful piece. Here's just a bit:
. . . Brownson, though, ultimately provided in this essay a teaching that goes beyond calculated adjustment to contemporary circumstances that existed between church and state. He grounded religious freedom in the nature of the human person because religion is the quintessential internal decision made by citizens and the state was “incompetent” to regulate this choice. Brownson observed that human beings possess equal rights to err before the state on religious identification. The state’s chief concern is with regulating external acts to prevent violence and fraud and to order citizens’s acts towards the common good. The mission of the Church, however, is “a spiritual not carnal one” and she directs persons through their conscience. To the extent the Church has an effect on the public order it is indirectly through the impact her teaching has on her members or those who have heard her proclaim the gospel and moral principles of the church and whose thinking and behavior changes accordingly. This is, Brownson contended, “the precise order which obtains in the United States.” It follows that “in all this she can address herself only to . . . moral nature, to . . . reason or understanding, his free will, his heart, and his conscience.”
The American Option
Brownson, though, did not merely restate America’s defense of religious freedom to the editors of La Civiltá Cattolica, but also stressed that American constitutionalism is really the form of government that most approximates a Christian anthropology and provides an example of how modern republics can realize the Christian idea of the integral development of the human person. On this point, Brownson observed that the First Amendment’s religion clauses were a specific limitation on the state’s power reminding it that it stood under a higher order of law. . . .
Friday, October 20, 2017
Arizona State University has just launched the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership under the direction of the wise and learned Paul Carresse, former professor of political science at the Air Force Academy and author, most recently, of Democracy in Moderation: Montesquieu, Tocqueville, and Sustainable Liberalism. The school aims to steep its students in the study of America's founding principles. Check out these courses and this upcoming speaker series.
The school's moto: "Inspiring Leadership and and Statesmanship for the Common Good." The timing of this new initiative is impeccable. May it attract many students and bear much fruit.
From "The Quest for Community" 66 (1953):
The fantastic romanticism that now surrounds courtship and marriage in our culture is drawn in part no doubt from larger contexts of romanticism in modern history and is efficiently supported by the discovery of modern retail business that the mass-advertised fact of romance is good for sales. But the lushness of such advertising obviously depends on a previously fertilized soil, and this soil may be seen in large part as the consequence of changes in the relation of the family to the other aspects of the social order. The diminution in the functional significance of the family has been attended by efforts to compensate in the affectional realm of intensified romance. Probably no other age in history has so completely identified (confused, some might say) marriage and romance as has our own. The claim that cultivation of affection is the one remaining serious function of the family is ironically supported by the stupefying amount of effort put into the calculated cultivation of romance, both direct and vicarious. Whether this has made contemporary marriage a more affectionate and devoted relationship is a controversy we need not enter here.
Thursday, October 19, 2017
Here's a good report by my Notre Dame colleague, Margot Cleveland, on the welcome rejection by Gov. Brown of AB-569, or "The Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act." The Act would have "made it illegal for a California employer to discipline or fire employees for 'their reproductive health decisions, including, but not limited to, the timing thereof, or the use of any drug, device, or medical service'" -- and, troublingly, it would have recognized only a very narrow (i.e., more narrow than the scope of the ministerial exception) religious exemption.
Tuesday, October 17, 2017
My friend and longtime collaborator, Prof. Nelson Tebbe, has written a much-noticed book, Religious Freedom in an Egalitarian Age. (Congrats!) I read today two respectful, admiring, but critical reviews -- one by Paul Horwitz and the other by Nathan Chapman - both are recommended. (To be clear: There are other reviews out there too -- read them as well!) Here's a bit from Paul:
. . . Despite its focus on reasoned elaboration, a certain magical thinking drives this book, with its relentless mixture of is and ought. “We should insist both that current conflicts between religious freedom and equality law are intricate and that they are not intractable,” Tebbe writes. “Justified solutions can and must be found.” Readers may rightly worry about words like “should” and “must.” That we face urgent problems is no guarantee that we can find a way to “diminish or dissolve the apparent tension between peace and justice” in this area. But Tebbe wants lasting solutions; and though he insists that his book “is not a recipe for the end of disagreement,” he advocates a method, and a set of outcomes, that will “shape civil rights law and religious freedom guarantees into the future.” Like the warring camps at our law and religion roundtable, he wants to set the terms of engagement and treat certain “settlements” as final. The losers should not only “understand why their arguments have been rejected,” but accept defeat with good cheer.
That seems unlikely . . .
And, from Nathan:
. . . Receiving and giving reasons for moral judgment calls for openness, hard work, smarts, and, above all, good faith. It entails living within a moral community, or overlapping moral communities, that give life to moral habits and render moral reasoning coherent. Tebbe rightly resists reducing moral reasoning to nothing more than an act of individual will. Unfortunately, as discussed more fully below, the way he applies social coherence to mediate the conflict between religious liberty and equality seems to verify, rather than to challenge, the skeptics’ view that religious liberty jurisprudence is inevitably personal value preferences all the way down.
The book is best understood as an application of one version of Rawlsianism to an array of legal questions arising from a clash between Progressivism and the view that Progressive norms should not always override religious liberty. The reader will encounter a helpful tour through a variety of challenging legal cases and a number of novel proposals for solving vexing doctrinal puzzles. . . .
Prof. Jeremy Waldron has posted a paper, "The Dignity of Old Age," at SSRN. Get it here. Here's the abstract:
It is important to complement our general account of human dignity with accounts of the specific dignity of particular phases of human life. In this paper I address the dignity of old age--the aspects of elderly life that command our respect. An account of this kind is particularly important for a balanced view of the assisted suicide debate. For even if we favor a right to die, we need also to be able to make sense of the dignity of a life lived to the end without a chosen procedure to bring it to an end. The account given in this paper addresses the approach of death and, for the purposes of dignitarians analysis, ranges around it other aspects of old age, such as wisdom, authority, debilitation, suffering, and issues about self-presentation and personal autonomy.