Monday, January 13, 2014
Like Cecelia (welcome!), I only recently had the chance to read through Evangelii Gaudium, and like her, I found it to be a 'treasure trove for reflection.' I must confess, though, to finding myself a tiny bit disappointed by the lack of mention of people with disabilities among Pope Francis's listing of the most vulnerable. It's clear from his actions in reaching out to people with disabilities in so many ways that they are among the populations to which he feels a special commitment, so the lack of mention of them in the Exhortation was something I noticed.
So today, I was delighted to see this report in Zenit of Pope Francis' private audience with Ileana Argentin, a member of the Italian parliament who is disabled and active in disability issues. The main topic of the meeting was an issue that I've recently become aware of as an emerging issue in the U.S. as well, "the importance of supporting the parents of seriously disabled people, who experience great anxiety about what may happen to their children after their own deaths, and the difficulties their siblings may encounter in assuming the responsibility of care."
In recent conversations with disability organizations in different parts of the country, I am noting a growing concern about our ability to care for the disabled children of the "Greatest Generation." (This is also an issue I'm facing personally from two directions, as my disabled son turned 18 and we think about his future, at the same time that my siblings and I are confronting the future care of our own brother with disabilities, still living at home with our aging mother.) Among the battles the Greatest Generation fought were the ones fought by brave and caring parents to keep their children with disabilities from being institutionalized, to get them into public schools, and to get jobs and other sorts of community support for their kids. But many of these parents did this work privately, without involving the (then-nonexistent) state support mechanisms. Many of these children did not move into group homes, and all of these children are now themselves adults, still living at home with aging parents who are dying or increasingly unable to care for themselves. Transitioning into any kind of a group care situation is difficult under any circumstances, but the difficulty is magnified when the transition is taking place in the midst of mourning the death of a parent. I heard one story of a disabled adult living at home whose mother died; it only came to the attention of the 'authorities' when members of their local church noticed they had stopped attending Mass.
I'm grateful to Pope Francis for bringing some attention to this emerging crisis in the care of some of the most vulnerable.
Thursday, January 9, 2014
The National Jurist's PreLaw magazine just published another law school ranking that ought to be of interest to MOJ readers, even if only to quibble about how impossible/illegitmate/inappropriate this is to be the subject of a 'ranking': "The best law schools for devout Catholics, Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Mormons." Of course, my initial position is that this MUST be credible/legitimate/appropriate, since UST Law is ranked #2 for Catholic Law Schools, and the article cites me (along with other friends of MOJ).
Friday, November 15, 2013
John Allen's latest column references (and translates, for those of us who don't speak Italian) a recent article on the front page of L'Osservatore Romano, titled "Women in the Church," in which Lucetta Scaraffia "a widely respected correspondent and columnist who often writes on women's issues", interviewed Maria Voce, president of the international Focolare movement. Allen writes:
As Scaraffia notes, the Focolare, founded by Italian laywoman Chiara Lubich, have made it a principle of their statutes that the president must be a woman. For that reason, and because the Focolare are among the largest movements, Scaraffia describes Voce as "the most eminent woman in the Catholic world."
Scaraffia argues that for too long, women were willing to accept a "subaltern" status in the church, but that today, "the situation is changing rapidly." She quotes with approval Voce's line that the church needs not only to appreciate what have been traditionally defined as "female gifts," such as the capacity to form loving relationships, but also that it must "seek out, and listen to, the thinking of women."
Three possible new roles for women emerge in the L'Osseravtore piece:
- A "not too small" entrance into "organisms of consultation, thought and decisions" in the church. Presumably, though Scaraffia doesn't quite say this out loud, this implies in part more women at decision-making levels in the Vatican.
- The creation of a consultative body to the pope similar to the Council of Cardinals but composed of both laywomen and men. Such a group, Voce says, "would make me enthusiastic."
- Allowing movements such as the Focolare to incardinate priests who have been ordained elsewhere. Up to now, Voce reports, permission has been denied -- perhaps, she says, because someone is afraid of putting a priest under the authority of a woman.
"The words of Maria Voce make clear that legitimate requests for true recognition of the feminine presence in the church don't come just from groups of radicals demanding women's ordination, but from authoritative and moderate figures," Scaraffia writes.
"Behind those requests," she adds, "is certainly the majority of women who belong to the church."
Thursday, November 7, 2013
From ZENIT: "Catholic Relief Services, the charity organization of the US bishops, is partnering with Special Olympics International to expand services for those with intellectual disabilities in developing countries and help them thrive.
The chairman of Special Olympics, Timothy Shriver, noted how those with disabilities "are among the most marginalized, isolated and neglected populations in the world."
"They and their families have not been adequately or proportionately represented in development strategies, interventions, funding or goals," he said. "This partnership will help address that urgent need."
The CEO and president of CRS, Carolyn Woo, also welcomed the partnership, saying it will help the aid agency to "strengthen health systems to diagnose and address the needs of children with intellectual disabilities." "
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Earlier this year I posted about the recent lawsuit brought by a group of people with developmental disabilities against a state facility in Cambridge, Minnesota, for illegal use of restraints and seclusion. Though the plaintiffs won that lawsuit, they don't seem to have won the fight to end these practices. The court-appointed monitor in that case just filed a report with the court finding that these practices persist, even in a progressive state like Minnesota, in the enlighted year of 2013, under the public glare of this litigation. That's the one step back.
But then, in New York City, Jimmy Jensen just successfully completed the NY Marathon -- the first person with Down Syndrome to do so! If you want to be really impressed by something you see on the internet, watch this story about him (HT: Rick -- thanks!)
Monday, November 4, 2013
Call for Proposals
Conversations and Workshops on Emerging Scholarship in Feminism, Law, and Religion
March 20-21, 2014
Woulfe Auditorium, Anderson Student Center
University of St. Thomas, St. Paul Campus
On March 20-21, 2013, the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota will be hosting a two-day program continuing a conversation begun by feminist legal scholars and theologians in the recently published collection of essays by feminists of a wide variety of religious perspectives, Feminism, Law, and Religion (Ashgate Press 2013, Failinger, Schiltz and Stabile eds). The book’s authors and others will be exploring the role that theology and religious law from various religious traditions can play in construing and critiquing just law throughout the world. The complete list of panel topics and speakers and conference registration information can be found on the university’s website here.
To enrich and continue this conversation beyond these two days, one segment of the conference will be devoted to supporting emerging scholarship on these issues. We are currently accepting proposals for two different types of opportunities for emerging scholars:
1) presenting a work-in-progress on feminism, law, and religion in a supportive workshop environment;
2) hosting an informal conversation on some particular aspect of this conference with other conference participants.
Scholars interested in either presenting a work-in-progress or hosting a conversation should send a brief (no longer than one page) description of their work or conversation topic to Seanne M. Harris, firstname.lastname@example.org by Nov. 30, 2013. Applicants will be notified of acceptance by December 15, 2013.
The University of St. Thomas College of Arts and Sciences, Jay Philips Center for Interfaith Learning, Luann Dummer Center for Women, Muslim-Christian Dialogue Center, Siena Symposiumfor Women, Family, and Culture, and the Terrence J. Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law, and Public Policy at the University of St. Thomas.
Thursday, October 31, 2013
I've recently come across two new helpful resources for those recurring conversations with students and friends about the holy grail of 'balance' between professional and private demands. Dr. Denise Hunnell's essay on Truth and Charity Forum, an online publication of Human Life International, Distinguishing Vocations from Occupations, suggests that we keep clear the distinction between the 'vocations' (as priest, consecrated religious, parent, spouse, or single person) within which we live out our 'professions' (as taeacher, doctor, lawyer). She concedes "There is no doubt that the way we conduct our occupations will impact our vocations. Our challenge is to keep our occupations in perspective so that they never overshadow our vocations."
Dr. Hunnell offers this as a "tweak" to the approach I took in my book chapter, Dueling Vocations, where I offer some suggestions from Catholic teachings on navigating the tensions between what I called our public vocations ("our responsibilities to live and witness as Christians in and to the various social institutions to which we belong--the Church, our local communities, our places of employment, our country, and our world") and our private vocations ("our calling to live according to a Christian understanding of the web of relationships into which we are all personally imbedded"). Dr. Hunnell objects to the fact that I seem to give the two equal weight in my balancing, which is true. My argument is that both vocations should be viewed as responses to God's call, and that striving to honestly responding to that call rather than our own ambitions, insecurities, preferences, or weaknesses ought to help us make good decisions when conflicts arise.
Dr. Hunnell's essay also discusses another recent essay which I found very intriguing: No Happy Harmony (First Things, Oct. 2013), by Elizabeth Corey, associate professor of political science in the Honors College at Baylor University. Corey argues that something important is missing from the whole work/life balance debate of Anne-Marie Slaughter, Sheryl Sandberg, et al. It's this: "Work and family evoke from us two distinct modes of being and of relation to others. The conflicts between these modes cannot, if we are honest with ourselves, be wished away or ignored." Drawing on Aristotle & Josef Pieper, Corey points out that professional excellence demands an Aristotlean dedication to the pursuit of "moral and intellectual perfection." In contrast, motherhood demands Peiper's notion of leisure: "the condition of attention and activity that isn't striving." She concludes: " these two endeavors require different orientations of the self, and we simply cannot approach marriage and family in the spirit of achievement at all. If we try to do so, we will find ourselves frustrated and conflicted. For well-behaved or smart children are not markers of our success; children are ends in themselves, to be loved and cared for as individuals. They need from us something other than our talents; they need us, full stop." She argues that attempts to offer solutions to these sorts of conflict are illusory, simply "evasions." I suppose I'm a bit more positive than she is about how we can attempt to make peace with those tensions, but her analysis of the situation stikes me as insightful and helpful.
Thursday, September 19, 2013
I'm currently in Rome, where I have the privilege of participating in a conference hosted by the Pontifical Council for the Family and the Union of Catholic Jurists, and funded by Priests for Life, on "The Rights of the Family and the Challenges of the Contemporary World." The Conference was organized to consider the continued relevance of the Charter of the Rights of the Family, promulgated by the Pontifical Council for the Family 30 years ago. One of today's highlights was an excellent presentation by our own Fr. Araujo, who managed (despite having his time cut from 30 minutes to 15) to give a splendid summary of work I hope he's planning on publishing somewhere on "Totalitarian Democracy and Defending the Meaning of Marriage and the Family." He describes the work of Israeli professor of modern history Jacob Talmon (developed as well by Christopher Dawson) on how superficially democratic political philosophies can devolve into totaliarian regimes, and suggests that the Casey decision's definition of liberty is turning out to be "a revolutionary exercise of the present day totalitarian democracy."
Today's agenda for the conference involved formal presentations of similar quality, but I suspect things will get even more interesting the next two days, as the entire group separates into discussion groups on a host of topics, from "work, family and economic challenges", to "pluralism, human relationships and lifestyles", to "family in the immigration experience". International conferences like this can be true tonic for the battle-weary Catholic soul, especially when held at the Vatican. Masses where the readings are done in English, French, Spanish, and Italian, with the universal Latin shared by all binding us together in worship, are potent reminders of the universality of our faith. Already today, in the breaks and meal conversations, and the question and answer sessions, intriguing similarities and differences are emerging. I've had conversations in German with Austrian lawyers, and in English with Spanish law professors, about how Catholic high schools and universities in our respective countries are doing in educating our Catholic youth. A law professor from Japan taught me that the Japanese penal code started as a Chinese system, which was supplanted by the Napoleonic Code, which was in turn replaced by the German penal code, which was in turn replaced by an American system after World War II. (Try teaching THAT, Rick and Marc!) She also expressed amazement at the discussions of same-sex marriage debates raised in many of the presentations today, saying that these debates were not taking place in Japan, she speculated, "because children are so important to us."
It's good to be reminded sometimes of how big the world is, how parochial our own political battles are, and how some things are simply universal truths.
Friday, September 6, 2013
This semester, two UST Law students who are Murphy Institute Scholars will be blogging about their experiences as interns supporting the work of the the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See at the United Nations in New York and Geneva. Rachana Chhin will be blogging from New York, and Joseph Grodahl Bieve from Geneva. Joseph has been travelling to Geneva via Poland, and has already posted some fascinating observations about his visits to Kraków ("the archdiocese where Karol Wojtyła sat as archbishop before becoming Pope John Paul II"), Częstochowa ("a sort of spiritual capital of Poland"), and Auschwitz (where Joseph describes how he can feel "he darkness and evil of the place"). His perceptive remarks are accompanied by photos -- including of the cell where Fr. Maximilian Kolbe embraced his martyrdom.
Bookmark this blog, for what promise to be fascinating glimpses of the work of the Holy See at the U.N. during this semester!
Thursday, August 29, 2013
Over the past summer, I’ve been working on a fascinating project for the Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities, which is working with the Twin Cities Public Television station to develop a “Disability Justice Resource Center” website for lawyers and law students working on disability rights issues. The Minnesota Governor’s Council itself already has an extremely robust website, with a wealth of resources for anyone interested in the history and current state of the disability rights movement. Their two-part “Parallels in Time” presentation of the history of social attitudes toward people with disabilities and the rise of the disability rights movement starts from 1500 B.C., and is populated with fascinating pictures and videos. The Minnesota Governor’s Council developed the “Partners in Policymaking ®” advocacy training program for people with disabilities and their family members over 25 years ago; since then it has been exported to over 35 states and a number of other countries. (I participated in it in Indiana while I was teaching at Notre Dame.) Their website has a number of fine (and free) on-line courses on disability advocacy, covering the history of the disability rights movement, independent living issues, education, and employment.
I kept thinking about this “Disability Justice Resource Center” project during yesterday’s celebration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. Much of the coverage of the events highlighted and analyzed how things have (or haven’t) changed for African Americans in the intervening 50 years. The same sort of reflection is merited for people with disabilities, who continue to struggle to overcome both the challenges raised by their disabilities, and the challenges raised by social attitudes toward people with disabilities.
And these challenges are NOT limited to the subtle sorts of ADA challenges and biases alleged in many of the legal cases that tend to get the most media attention. Case in point: the source of the funding for this particular project. In July 2009, three plaintiffs sued the State of Minnesota for its treatment of people with developmental disabilities at a facility in Cambridge, Minnesota. In December 2011, Federal District Court Judge Donovan Frank approved a settlement agreement that awarded the plaintiffs $2.9 million, shut down the treatment program, and required the State to “immediate and permanently discontinue the use of mechanical restraint (including metal law enforcement-type handcuffs and leg hobbles, cable tie cuffs, PlasticCuffs, FlexiCuffs, soft cuffs, posey cuffs, and any other mechanical means to restrain), manual restraint, prone restraint, chemical restraint, seclusion, and the use of painful techniques to induce changes in behavior through punishment of residents with developmental disabilities. Medical restraint, and psychotropic and/or neuroleptic medications shall not be administered to residents for punishment, in lieu of adequate and appropriate habilitation, skills training and behavior supports plans, for the convenience of staff and/or as a form of behavior modification.” After the settlement agreement funds were distributed to class members, Judge Frank ordered a cy pres fund be established for this project -- a public education campaign to break stereotypes about people with developmental disabilities.
A newspaper article about this settlement began as follows:
On Halloween night 1949, Minnesota Gov. Luther Youngdahl stood aside a bonfire outside Anoka State Hospital and, with fanfare, burned 359 straitjackets and hundreds of other restraints he said were sinister relics of a more barbarous time.
“By this action we say that we have liberated ourselves from witchcraft – that in taking off mechanical restraints from the patients, we are taking off intellectual restraint from ourselves,” the governor said.
Apparently, we forgot.
The more time I spend on this project, the more concerned I become that "we" are forgetting some of the most vulnerable among us.