Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The logic of statism: religious faith is a "mental illness"

See this story, from The Atlantic ("China Is Treating Islam like a Mental Illness").  I have to confess, it is impossible for me to take seriously -- and, in fact, I find it increasingly maddening -- when China's corporate and other enablers and apologists hold themselves out as arbiters of virtue.  And, the willingness of too many elite academic institutions to collaborate and excuse is very disappointing.  That said, China is really simply following the logic of statism, so I suppose news like this should not be surprising.

August 29, 2018 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Disentangling the "Crisis"

A friend asked me what I thought about the Catholic Church's "current crisis."  I thought, and I said, "what, exactly, do you mean?"  It seems to me that (at least) the following issues/problems/trials/"crises" are happening and also that it's important to distinguish among them, even as we recognize that at least some of them are connected with others:

First, there is the awful, scandalous fact that some Catholic clergy (and lay Church employees) exploited and sexually abused children.  My own sense -- I'm not an expert, and I'd welcome correction if I'm wrong -- is that this abuse (the "causes" of which I'm not addressing) has been very, very rare in the last, say, thirty years, in part because of policies and practices implemented in response to revelations.  That is, my sense is that Catholic schools, parishes, etc., are, today, very "safe environments" for children - safer than, among other things, public-school environments.

Second, there is the awful, scandalous fact that some Catholic bishops and dioceses, with the help of some lawyers, covered up this abuse and helped to perpetuate it precisely by covering it up and failing to remove abusers from ministry.  We were confronted with this fact after "Boston" and are being confronted with it again because of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report.  Again, my sense is that this happened more in the past than in recent years -- in part because, again, most of the abuse cases took place many years ago.  I am not aware -- but, again, I'd welcome correction -- of substantiated claims that current bishops have covered up or facilitated or otherwise badly handled recent (say, post "Boston") cases of the sexual abuse of children, although it continues to be the case that some past cases are not being appropriately acknowledged.

Third, there is the widely shared impression among Catholics and others that the bishops are generally out of touch, over-concerned with careerism and advancement, prioritize collegiality and gladhanding and fundraising over the faithful exercise of their office (which Patrick Brennan described nicely here), are ideologically divided, and are jaw-droppingly tone-deaf about how it looks when, say, a diocese that serves many poor people buys a multi-million dollar Silicon Valley home for a retired bishop.  This impression is unfair to some bishops, but it seems to me to be warranted in too many cases, and that's depressing (even if, looking back over the Church's long history, not unprecedented).

Fourth, there are the allegations that Ted McCarrick sexually exploited, for years, seminarians and other young men, that this exploitation was known to (inter alia) other bishops, and that he nonetheless advanced and exercised a great deal of power and influence in the Church.

Fifth, there is the concern that exploitation like McCarrick's has been, and perhaps still is, a not-rare feature of the culture of and life in Catholic seminaries and that this feature of the seminary experience has been covered up or "looked away from" by Catholic generally and, more particularly, by bishops who were and are responsible for the wellbeing and formation of seminarians.

Sixth, there is the worry of some that "networks" of clergy, including bishops use secrecy, influence, and pressure to (among other things) prevent responses to various problems, including those described above and below.  (This worry pre-existed, of course, the recent testimony of Bishop Vigano and this worry, as I've encountered it, is related to but is also more specific than the impression set out above, after "Third".)

Seventh, there is the concern that, in fact, many -- not just a few -- Catholic clergy are sexually active, notwithstanding their vows and the moral teachings they profess to embrace and are charged with proposing and defending, and that this fact is widely known among clergy (including bishops) but "winked at" or ignored.

I'm sure there's more.  And, of course, these are not simply (and never have been) problems or issues for the Church in the United States; nor are they problems that only emerged after the Second Vatican Council or after the retirement of Pope Benedict XVI. 

My own concern is that much of the press coverage I'm seeing, and a lot of the online (and other) reactions I'm reading, talk about "the crisis" -- or the "sex-abuse crisis" -- without distinguishing and disentangling these and other matters, each of which (it seems to me) needs to appropriately addressed.   

August 28, 2018 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 27, 2018

Our hope does not lie in better "leadership"

The current crisis in the Church, the one crystalized by Archbishop Vigano's epochal "Testimony" (which remains to be verified in the time-tested procedures and processes of the Church), has led lots of well-intentioned, good, prayerful, and hurt people to denounce failures of "leadership" in the Church.  And it is no doubt true, I think, that we have witnessed and are witnessing hour by hour a failure of leadership on the part of our Catholic bishops. 

But "leadership" is not a Catholic, nor even a theological, concept, and no manner or amount of better "leadership" will lead (sic) to solutions to the deep problems that are afflicting the Mystical Body of Christ.  The Church has always taught that the successors to the Apostles who are the bishops are entrusted by their consecration with three distinct but inter-related functions: to teach, to govern, and to sanctify. Cf. CIC No. 375.  Today and for more than a few decades, many of the bishops as individuals, the bishops as groups (such as national episcopal conferences), and the bishops as the college of bishops (cf. CIC 337) have failed the People of God in ways that, as the growing light reveals, are both abject and systemic.  What we we are witnessing but also suffering is not merely a failure of governance;  it is also cause and consequence of failures of teaching and sanctifying.

All I can think at this excruciating moment is that, along with the prayer and penance that are overdue and that are more needful than ever before, the solution must be sought in the exercise of the three true gifts of the office of bishop, not in more "leadership"or, its cousin, bureaucracy.  This is a time for prophecy, yes, but more immediately for fervent exercise of the office of bishop in all three of its aspects -- teaching, governing, and sanctifying, and all three starting with the Bishop of Rome, as Pope Francis has preferred to be called from the time of his election to the Chair of Peter.  The only true future for the pilgrim Church lies in orthodox teaching, just and effective governance, and the grace of the sacraments and prayer.  


August 27, 2018 in Brennan, Patrick | Permalink

"Religious Lawyering at Twenty" conference

This upcoming event, at Fordham, should be wonderful.  If you can attend . . . do!

Fordham Law School, New York City
Thursday, September 13, 2018 - Friday, September 14, 2018
Building on the seminal work of Tom Shaffer (On Being a Christian a Lawyer, 1981), the late
1990s saw a very creative ferment in reflection on how religious values might inform legal
education and the practice of law. In 1997 and 1998, lawyers, judges, law students and law
professors from various religious traditions gathered at Fordham Law School for two interfaith
conferences: The Relevance of Religion to a Lawyer’s Work (1997) and Rediscovering Religion
in the Lives of Lawyers and Those They Represent (1998). At about the twenty year mark, we
pause to gather insights from personal and institutional journeys thus far, and look toward the
CORAL (Council on Religion and Law)
Institute on Religion, Law & Lawyer’s Work, Fordham University School of Law
Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University
Thursday September 13, 2018
Festschrift in honor of Howard Lesnick, Professor Emeritus, University of Pennsylvania Law
School, author of Religion in Legal Thought and Practice, Listening for God, The Moral Stake in
Legal Education, and numerous other articles and essays that are foundational to the field of
religious lawyering.
4:00 p.m. Afternoon Discussion: Humanizing Legal Education
“... I want to teach people to be people, to become people, to become more fully human. And what that
means to me is to lead students to ask themselves: Who am I? What am I doing in the world? What do I
want to do in the world? -- Howard Lesnick (1982), quoted in Roger C. Cramton, Beyond the Ordinary
Religion (Dec. 1987)
The Honorable David Shaheed, retired Superior Court Judge, Associate Professor at IUPUI
School of Public and Environmental Affairs and Amy Uelmen, (Lecturer, Georgetown Law), will
spearhead a discussion with graduates who while in law school benefitted from Howard
Lesnick’s work (Georgetown Law alumni: Daniel DiRocco, Lindsey Kaiser, Patricia Jerjian,
James Simmons, David Schwartz).
6:00 p.m. Dinner: In Appreciation of the Work of Howard Lesnick
● Deborah J. Cantrell, Professor of Law, University of Colorado Law School
● Emily Albrink Hartigan, Professor of Law, St. Mary’s University School of Law
● Timothy Floyd, Tommy Malone Distinguished Chair in Trial Advocacy and Director of
Experiential Education, Mercer University School of Law
● Darryl Trimiew, Visiting Professor of Christian Ethics and Interim Director of Black
Church Studies At Candler School of T
Friday, September 14, 2018: Religious Lawyering at Twenty
8:30 Continental Breakfast and Coffee, Registration
9:00 Welcome and Brief Introduction from CORAL (Council on Religion and Law)
9:15 - 10:40 - Religious Lawyering at Twenty
In conversation with the next generation: Scholars of the religious lawyering movement share
their insights, how they see the future of the project, and the crucial questions and challenges to
● David Zeligman, SJD Candidate, Emory Law School
● Asifa Quraishi-Landes, Professor of Law, University of Wisconsin Law School, Founding
Board Member of the National Association of Muslim Lawyers
● Russell G. Pearce, Professor of Law; Edward and Marilyn Bellet Chair in Legal Ethics,
Morality, and Religion, Fordham University School of Law
● Marcia Pally, professor of multilingual multicultural studies at New York University and at
Fordham University; guest professor of theology at Humboldt University, Berlin
● David Opterbeck, Professor of Law and co-director of the Gibbons Institute of Law,
Science and Technology, Seton Hall University School of Law
CLE credit available for this session.
10:40 - 11:00 Break, with time to peruse display tables
11:00 - 12:15 Workshops
The workshops are designed to create space for scholars and lawyers from particular religious
communities and/or with an interest in a particular topic to gather and reflect on their own
journey over the past two decades.
1. Muslim Perspectives. Coordinators:
Asifa Quraishi-Landes, Professor of Law, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Yasir Billoo, Partner, International Law Partners LLP, Board Member and Secretary of the
National Association of Muslim Lawyers
Saleemah Snow, Associate Professor of Law, David A. Clarke School of Law, University of the
District of Columbia
2. Jewish Perspectives. Coordinators:
Tsvi Blanchard, Meyer Struckmann Professor of Jewish Law at Humboldt University Faculty of
Law in Berlin, Scholar-in-Residence, Institute for Religion, Law & Lawyer’s Work, Fordham
University School of Law
Perry Dane, Professor of Law, Rutgers University School of Law
Samuel J. Levine, Director of the Jewish Law Institute and Professor of Law, Touro Law Center
3. Hindu Perspective on Criminal Defense
Presenter: Sai Santosh Kumar Kolluru (Emory Law School, ‘18).
Moderator and commentator: Clark D. Cunningham, Director National Institute for Teaching
Ethics & Professionalism (NIFTEP); W. Lee Burge Chair in Law and Ethics, Georgia State
University College of Law
Commentator: Marie Failinger, Judge Edward J. Devitt Professorship, Professor of Law,
Mitchell-Hamline School of Law
4. “Rejoice and Be Glad” for Lawyers: Insights from Pope Francis. Coordinators:
Robert Vischer, Dean and Mengler Chair in Law, University of St. Thomas School of Law
Lucia Silecchia, Professor of Law, Columbus School of Law, Catholic University of America
12:15 - 1:15 LUNCH
1:15 - 2:30 Report Back and Shared Reflections from the Workshops
Full-group gathering to connect and relate conversations that occurred in the morning
workshops. The gathering will use a “relational perspectives” methodology to foster an
interactive, interreligious exchange.
Facilitator: Deborah J. Cantrell, Professor of Law, University of Colorado Law School
2:30 - 2:45 Break
2:45 - 4:00 Religious Lawyering and the Commitment to Justice
● Gadeir Abbas, President, National Association of Muslim Lawyers
● Doug Ammar, Executive Director, Georgia Justice Project, Atlanta
● Mary Novak, Associate Director for Ignatian Formation, Georgetown Law, Chair of the
Board for Catholic Mobilizing Network to End the Use of the Death Penalty and Promote
Restorative Justice
● Gemma Solimene, Clinical Associate Professor of Law, Fordham Law School
● Ian Weinstein, Professor of Law, Fordham Law School
CLE credit available for this session.
4:00 - 4:30 Conclusions: Looking to the Future
Brief discussion with a small group, followed by plenary discussion of ideas for follow-up, as well
as needs and desires based on particular practice areas.
4:30 - 5:15 Reception

August 27, 2018 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites."

It's almost as if the Holy Spirit is giving us painfully apt readings these days:

Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples:
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You lock the Kingdom of heaven before men.
You do not enter yourselves,
nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter.

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You traverse sea and land to make one convert,
and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna
twice as much as yourselves. . . ."

August 27, 2018 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Sunday, August 26, 2018

A Cause Greater Than Yourself

For much of my life, but no longer, I was very active in politics and frequently volunteered in campaigns, including presidential campaigns.

When I was still little more than a boy, I was the second youngest delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1980, where I proudly cast my vote for the nomination of Ronald Reagan.

More recently, now old enough to be a member of the AARP, I was proud to caucus in Minnesota in 2016 for the presidential candidacy of Senator Marco Rubio (who didn’t fare so well nationally, but carried Minnesota by a large margin). 

5C787332-61BA-4B3E-A0D9-11C3073190A8During my decades of political activism, I saw the Republican Party as the party of honor, optimism, freedom, and decency. For those same reasons, I am no longer a Republican. Without any political home, I have turned my attentions and devoted my passions more and more to family, students, and my wonderful prisoner clients in our pro bono Appellate Clinic. I admire those who remain in the political arena, but for me, this is the better course at present.

When I was politically active, of all the people I was lucky to meet and talk with at least briefly, Ronald Reagan and John McCain naturally stand out in my mind as legends and, especially in John McCain’s case, a true American hero.

President Reagan and Senator McCain stand as a reminder that there was a time, and not that long ago, when leaders put country first, maintained integrity, and never failed to uphold basic human decency.

John McCain wrote in his memoir, Faith of My Fathers: “Nothing in life is more liberating than to fight for a cause larger than yourself, something that encompasses you but is not defined by your existence alone.”

With Senator John McCain’s passing, we have suffered an unimaginable loss. I hope that our realization of loss might inspire us to seek something more, once again.

August 26, 2018 in Sisk, Greg | Permalink

"Master, to whom shall we go?"

From today's (strikingly, depressingly) apt Gospel:

As a result of this,
many of his disciples returned to their former way of life
and no longer accompanied him.
Jesus then said to the Twelve, "Do you also want to leave?" 
Simon Peter answered him, "Master, to whom shall we go? 
You have the words of eternal life. 
We have come to believe
and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God."


August 26, 2018 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

"As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."

From today's first reading:

Joshua gathered together all the tribes of Israel at Shechem,
summoning their elders, their leaders,
their judges, and their officers. 
When they stood in ranks before God,
Joshua addressed all the people:
"If it does not please you to serve the LORD,
decide today whom you will serve,
the gods your fathers served beyond the River
or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are now dwelling. 
As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."

But the people answered,
"Far be it from us to forsake the LORD
for the service of other gods. 
For it was the LORD, our God,
who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt,
out of a state of slavery. 
He performed those great miracles before our very eyes
and protected us along our entire journey
and among the peoples through whom we passed. 
Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God."

August 26, 2018 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Friday, August 24, 2018

He's baaaaaack!!!

Yep! The Wile E. Coyote of American Catholic journalism--a/k/a Michael Winters of the (now-officially-pro-Roe v. Wade) National Catholic Reporter--is back! And he has finally said something absolutely true, to wit (and I quote Wile E.), "Of course, I'm being silly."


And silly he is indeed being.

What's got Wile E. worked up this time is an essay I published at First Things about the Theodore McCarrick scandal and the stomach-turning report of sex abuse by literally hundreds of priests in Pennsylvania.

Here's what I said that caused Wile E. to reach for the stick of dynamite that would inevitably go off in his hand:

"What is the answer? Well, fundamentally the answer to infidelity is fidelity. That is what is needed. As my late friend Fr. Richard John Neuhaus put it, "fidelity, fidelity, fidelity." There is no proper place for unfaithful priests (of any rank) in the Church. If a man does not believe what the Church teaches about God, about the dignity of the human person, about sex and marriage, or about justice, he should not function as a priest or serve as a bishop. If he cannot or will not proclaim those teachings, and certainly if he cannot or will not lead his life consistently in line with those teachings, he should not be ordained (if he is, or proposes to become, a seminarian) or, if he is already ordained, his priestly faculties should be removed. Period."

Wile E. thinks that this demand for fidelity by priests and bishops to the teachings of the Church and to the vows they made to God is outrageous. But even worse--what is, he insists, "really outrageous"--is this sentence of mine:

"There is no proper place for unfaithful priests (of any rank) in the Church."

Them's fightin' words to Wile E.!

Not only does Wile E. evidently think there is a proper place for unfaithful priests and bishops in the Church, he thinks it is nothing short of "really outrageous" that someone would say that there isn't.

Wile E. is indeed "being silly." He is defending the indefensible. His loathing for orthodox Catholicism and for me personally is so consuming that he once again, as he has done so often in the past, blows himself up with the stick of dynamite intended for his prey.

In fact, he is so blinded by malice that at one point he purports to rebut my demand for fidelity from clergy by pointing out the (utterly irrelevant) fact that John Courtney Murray and Henri de Lubac were accused by prelates of being unfaithful to the teaching of the Church." You can't make this stuff up. For most readers, I'm sure, it goes without saying that what I'm against is unfaithful clergy, not clergy who are accused of being unfaithful, whether they are in fact unfaithful or not. Nor am I opposed--quite the contrary--to canonical procedural protections for clergy or others who are formally accused of infidelity. And, as a Catholic, I obviously believe in the development of doctrine (where this concept is understood the way the Church herself understands it, and not as a license to ignore or reject propositions of faith definitively proposed, in any of the ways outlined in Lumen Gentium 25, by the Church's magisterium).

Finally, no mindless rant against me by Wile E. Coyote would be complete without him accusing me of an obsession with sexual sins, and sure enough readers are told: "George's obsession is with sexual sin." This asinine allegation is falsified in the very first paragraph of the essay Wile E. is complaining about where I expressly identify the wrongs at the heart of the scandals as having to do with "not only sexual morality, but also our obligations to love and respect, and not to exploit or abuse, others." It is also falsified by my explicit demand for fidelity by teachers of the faith to the Church's teaching not only about sex and marriage, but also "about God," "about the dignity of the human person," and "about justice." These points were made, curiously, in a paragraph that was quoted by none other than Wile E. himself. So how did he miss them?

Hmmm . . . .   Who is it that is supposed to have an "obsession with sex"?


Wile E. Coyote 2

August 24, 2018 | Permalink

Parents' rights, religious freedom, and children's education in New York's yeshivas

There is a controversy brewing in New York City having to do with the question whether yeshiva schools serving so-called "ultra-Orthodox" children are providing an adequate "secular" education.  (See this New York Times editorial for some background.)  

I am, and have long been, a defender of the Pierce right, i.e., the right of parents to (substantially) direct and control the upbringing and education of their children.  The position proposed by Justice Douglas in the Yoder case has always struck me as frighteningly illiberal.  As I wrote here,

Recent calls for a thicker liberalism and for the harnessing of education to create truly liberal citizens make it all the more important that we take Pierce seriously. And if we do, it is suggested that state functionaries, guided and restrained by a proper humility about their authority and competence, should override parents' educational decisions only to prevent harm, carefully defined, to a child. The problem is, how do we define harm. This paper proposes that the content of religious instruction, traditions, or beliefs should not be viewed as harmful in the sense necessary to justify government second-guessing or supervention of parents' decisions about such instruction. In a free society, one that values religious freedom, the state should not entertain, let alone enforce, a belief that children would be better off without religious faith.

Still, questions remain regarding the political authority's legitimate "police power" to require the provision (and attempt to bring about the attainment) of some levels of proficiency, etc., in "secular" subjects.  Line-drawing and slippery-slope problems abound.  And, as Mayor de Blasio (with whom I often disagree) pointed out, whatever the shortcomings of the yeshiva schools, "I have to be straightforward and say there’s room for improvement in a lot of our traditional public schools, too.”  That's putting it mildly.

Stay tuned.

August 24, 2018 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink