Thursday, January 25, 2018
Don't miss this moving Washington Post story describing the courtroom testimony of former gymnast Rachael Denhollander: "She helped bring down Larry Nassar. At his sentencing for sex crimes, she spoke about her faith."
She was the first, in 2016, to accuse Nassar of sexual abuse, back in 2000 when she was 14 and he was the sports physician at Michigan State University. On the stand, she spoke to Nassar of the biblical description of the final judgment “where all of God’s wrath and eternal terror is poured out on men like you.”
She continued: “Should you ever reach the point of truly facing what you have done, the guilt will be crushing. And that is what makes the gospel of Christ so sweet. Because it extends grace and hope and mercy where none should be found. And it will be there for you. I pray you experience the soul-crushing weight of guilt so you may someday experience true repentance and true forgiveness from God, which you need far more than forgiveness from me — though I extend that to you as well.”
There's more. Check out the whole story. How fitting that this testimony be reported on the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul.
Monday, January 22, 2018
Journal of Catholic Legal Studies Symposium on "Christian Legal Thought: Materials and Cases" by Brennan and Brewbaker
My excellent students, Liam Ray and Nick DeMarco, have put together a symposium as part of their work on the Journal of Catholic Legal Studies at St. John's on the new casebook on Christian Legal Thought by Patrick Brennan and William Brewbaker. The announcement for the event is below:
This Friday, January 26, the Journal of Catholic Legal Studies (a publication of St. John’s University School of Law) will host a symposium on the new casebook Christian Legal Thought: Materials and Cases (2017) by Patrick M. Brennan (Villanova) and William S. Brewbaker III (University of Alabama). The symposium will take place at the New York Athletic Club in Manhattan from 3 PM to 6 PM, with a reception at the Club following from 6 PM to 7 PM. It will feature as panelists both casebook authors, as well as Professors Randy Beck (University of Georgia), Angela C. Carmella (Seton Hall), Richard W. Garnett (Notre Dame), Michael P. Moreland (Villanova), and David A. Skeel, Jr. (University of Pennsylvania). The event is free and open to the public (please note the New York Athletic Club’s dress guidelines). More information, including whom to contact with questions, is available here. The January 19 deadline to RSVP has been extended to January 25.
From the USCCB:
The over 56 million abortions since the 1973 decisions of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Boltonreflect with heartbreaking magnitude what Pope Francis means by a “throwaway culture.” However, we have great trust in God’s providence. We are reminded time and again in Scripture to seek the Lord’s help, and as people of faith, we believe that our prayers are heard.
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), no. 373, designates January 22 as a particular day of prayer and penance, called the "Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children”: “In all the Dioceses of the United States of America, January 22 (or January 23, when January 22 falls on a Sunday) shall be observed as a particular day of prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life and of penance for violations to the dignity of the human person committed through acts of abortion.”
As individuals, we are called to observe this day through the penitential practices of prayer, fasting and/or giving alms. Another way to take part is through participating in special events to observe the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Call your local diocese or parish to find out what events might be taking place in your area.
Friday, January 19, 2018
The "Public Conscience / Private Rights Project" at Columbia Law School is, in my opinion, an activist/lobbying enterprise, funded largely by ideologically motivated sources, that should not be housed in an academic institution of Columbia's stature. But, put that aside. The Project is touting a new "report", "Bearing Faith: The Limits of Catholic Health Care for Women of Color." I heard about the "report" in an email with the Onion-esque headline, "New Report Reveals Pregnant Women of Color More Likely to Receive Religiously Restricted Reproductive Health Care in Many US States."
Good grief. For decades, orders of Catholic women religious sacrificed heroically and made it their vocations to build institutions and provide health care in low-income, immigrant, and underserved communities. And now there are "reports" suggesting that the animating, inspiring faith of these women -- which has implications, no surprise, for the institutions' willingness to perform abortions on those they serve -- is some kind of racist, oppressive miasma. What a world.
In part because of the upcoming Steven Spielberg movie, and in part because of Fr. Romanus Cessario's review in First Things of Edgardo Mortara's memoir, and in part because of the renewed interest on the part of a number of accomplished scholars and thinkers (Deneen, Legutko, Vermeule, etc.) in the nature, foundations, and future of liberalism, there has been a boomlet of 21st century digital debate over the Edgardo Mortara case. The case was hugely important in 19th century America in shaping perceptions not only of the Church and the papacy but also of Catholic schools and, it's fair to say, by shaping American anti-Catholicism it also shaped American church-state law. Today, it also tees up questions about political theology and theory, the nature of the sacraments, the anti-Semitism of many Catholics, the natural rights of parents, Italian nationalism, etc.
On the one hand, it seems pretty strange -- and, perhaps, more than a little regrettable (Matthew Franck, in this piece, calls it a "needless quarrel")-- that this case (which, in my view, has to be judged, as Rusty Reno put it at First Things, as a "stain on the Catholic Church") is the topic of the moment. Yes, the evidence as I understand it is that Mortara came to love Pope Pius IX and his own vocation to the priesthood and, yes, as Fr. Cessario wrote, "baptism configures a person to Christ, leaving something permanent in the one baptized." Still - it was both immoral and illegitimate for the relevant authorities to take him away from his parents. It was, among other things, as Robert Miller explained, an abuse of state power. (I've seen some comments on Twitter criticizing Miller for framing his critique of the Mortara case in terms of "statism." The complaint seems to be that Miller is reducing or conflating the wrong of unjustly taking Mortara from his parents to/with a libertarian critique of government action generally. I don't think that's what Miller was doing at all. "Statism" is a thing, after all -- it's not "constitutional governments promoting the common good" -- and it's bad.)
I'm inclined to agree with Franck that "Pius was wrong in the Mortara case—grievously so, as Miller’s main argument demonstrated—for venerable Catholic reasons he should have understood even in his own day, reasons having no connection with the modern liberal project that the integralists (rightly or wrongly) attribute to the anti-Christian secular enlightenment." That is, I think it's important to note that the reasons Pope Pius was wrong are not simply that he didn't play by Rawls's (or any other left-liberal) rules; it's not (I hope!) the case, as Pat Smith charges, that the basis for criticisms of Mortara's removal is merely "comfortable, bourgeois liberalism" or a timid and naive attachment to Murray, Maritain, Dignitatis humanae, etc.
Thursday, January 18, 2018
The Thomistic Institute at Harvard Law School is co-hosting a conference on March 2-3rd dedicated to discussing the (irreconcilable?) tensions inherent in the interplay of liberalism and Christianity.
Speakers include: Prof. Emerit. Rémi Brague (the Sorbonne), Fr. Dominic Legge, OP (the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception), Prof. Helen Alvaré (Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University), Prof. Candace Vogler (University of Chicago), Fr. Thomas Joseph White (Dominican House). Panel participants: RR Reno, Adrian Vermeule, and Margarita Mooney.
Pre-registration is required, and I hear it is filling up.
In light of Rick's posts on liberalism - and the various interesting articles at First Things, especially - I wanted to mention a book published out of Cambridge University Press this year that may be of interest. The Political Theory of The American Founders describes, in a kind of archaeological dig, the evidence of the consensus theory of the founders as one bound by natural rights.
Probably the most unique and important contribution of the book is the middle section on the Moral Conditions of Freedom. Here, the author, Hillsdale Professor Thomas West, culls research from state constitutions at the time of the founding. West claims that most scholarship on the founding tends to focus on the philosophies of this or that particular founder, or delve into the thinkers who informed them, notably John Locke. He sought instead to find public material that would show consensus among thinkers.
If you only have an hour, watch this video with West and commentary by Patrick Deneen and UChicago professor Joshua Mitchell. West's short presentation doesn't do justice to the book, in my view, but Deneen is Deneen at his best. Mitchell offers some really thoughtful commentary on whether understanding the founding as the founders understood it actually does us much good. We are, after all, living worlds apart from their worldview, consensus or not, and so we probably couldn't recreate their theory today even if we better understood it.
It is my view - always subject to change - that shoring up our moral ecology is the most important work we have today, whether to provide the conditions for republican forms of government, or more primarily, because that is the most important work human beings must undertake, whatever form of government we have.
Read more here. It's strange that critics see something strange or ominous in a decision to have the Civil Rights Division allocate some resources to enforcing some important civil-rights laws -- which is, of course, what healthcare conscience protections are. Division should allocate resources to make those protections meaningful. The critics of this announcement are wrong to frame these protections in terms of "discrimination" or "disapproval." Instead, they represent a sensible way of accommodating and respecting diversity and pluralism in the public square. Once again, we see the widespread "confusion about discrimination" - for more on that, go here!
Contrary to the as-per-usual misleading complaint by Planned Parenthood (quoted in the linked-to story), the decision does not "impose a broad religious refusal policy" but simply remedies the previous administration's failure to follow longstanding policy.
Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Today is Religious Freedom Day, and President Trump issued this proclamation:
Faith is embedded in the history, spirit, and soul of our Nation. On Religious Freedom Day, we celebrate the many faiths that make up our country, and we commemorate the 232nd anniversary of the passing of a State law that has shaped and secured our cherished legacy of religious liberty.
Our forefathers, seeking refuge from religious persecution, believed in the eternal truth that freedom is not a gift from the government, but a sacred right from Almighty God. On the coattails of the American Revolution, on January 16, 1786, the Virginia General Assembly passed the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom. This seminal bill, penned by Thomas Jefferson, states that, “all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.” Five years later, these principles served as the inspiration for the First Amendment, which affirms our right to choose and exercise faith without government coercion or reprisal.
Is the proclamation accurate? The relationship between the Virginia statute and the First Amendment is complicated. To say that the statute "served as the inspiration" for the Amendment is so overstated that it's wrong. (It tracks the Supreme Court's overbroad assertions in Everson v. Board of Education.) As Steve Smith, Kurt Lash, and others have emphasized, the Amendment also had support from states that did not go as far in recognizing religious freedom or church-state separation--even from New England states that maintained systems compelling taxpayers to support clergy, a practice the Virginia statute forbade. (It said that "no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry.") The First Amendment reflected, significantly although not entirely, a "federalism" position confirming that the matter of religion would be outside federal power, left to the states: Virginia and New England could each follow their own policy.
But "not entirely." It is likewise wrong to say the Virginia statute--more precisely, as Trump's proclamation says, its "principles"--had nothing to do with the First Amendment. Talking specifically about "inspiration," there is the connection through Madison, who led the drives to adopt both the Virginia statute and the First Amendment. The dissenting evangelical groups who pressed (and pressed Madison in particular) for the Amendment advocated for religious freedom as a substantive right, not as a means of protecting Virginia's or other states' discretion to decide all religious-freedom matters however they wished.
Among the principles embodied in the Virginia statute, there was wider consensus across the states on what would typically be called principles of free exercise--i.e. the right to profess and exercise a faith without coercion--than principles solely of non-establishment--e.g. no money in any form to support religious institutions or activities. Even the New England states, with their funding for clergy, simultaneously had provisions guaranteeing free exercise to all faiths. Trump's proclamation quotes a "free exercise" portion of the Virginia statute.
And the Virginia statute had greater influence down the road, as all states eliminated their taxes for clergy by 1833. In that sense, the proclamation is correct that the statute "has shaped and secured our cherished legacy of religious liberty."
(Finally, just what our "legacy of religious liberty" means in all contexts of tax-supported funding is another question. The consensus rejection of affirmative funding uniquely for clergy does not decide the question whether religious providers of secular services--education, social services, healthcare--can, or even must, be included in general programs of funding that support those services. Principles of religious liberty might disapprove such inclusion--but they might also call for it. That's the issue the Court is working through today.)