July 03, 2014
State Law Contraception Coverage Mandates
One thing I have not seen very much discussion of in the aftermath of the Supreme Court's decision in Hobby Lobby is the question of the continuing impace of state laws mandating contraception coverage. (This is a subject Michael Moreland and I and other have discussed here in the past.)
More than half of the states have so-called "contraceptive equity" statutes. Such statute are different from the ACA in that (1) there is no direct mandate imposed on employers (because of ERISA, they take the fom of insurance regulation requiring that insurance cover contraception) and (2) they do not prohibit cost-sharing. While it is less dirct than the ACA mandate, such laws still have the effect of forcing employers with opposition to contraception to have plans that provide for them.
The ACA mandate made those laws seem unimportant, but given the decision in Hobby Lobby, they may matter again.
Since the federal RFRA does not apply to states, in states that do not have their own version of RFRA, presumably such laws will continue to operate. Although many such statutes have exemptions for religious employers, some of those are fairly restrictive.
Thoughts from Michael Moreland and others?
May 28, 2014
To Confess Our National Sins
[Cross-posted from my blog, Creo en Dios!]
Yesterday, Professor Robby George of Princeton quoted on his Facebook page a portion of Abraham Lincoln's March 30, 1863 Proclamation Appointing a National Fast Day:
We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us! It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.
Quoting that language, Professor George asked, "151 years later, is it not the case that the very same words could be said, the very same diagnosis offered, the very same remedy prescribed?"
I think there is enormous truth in Lincoln's words and agree with Robby that the very same words could be said today. We live in a world in which there is an absence of what the Beatitudes term "poverty of spirit" - our recognition of our absolute an utter dependence on God. And we live in a world in which runs rampant not only individual sin, but what in Ignatian terms we call "social sin" - institutional or structural sins. And it does behoove us to humble ourselves in the face of our sinfulness.
The difficulty with Lincoln and Robby's prescription that we confess our national sins is that we have no widespread agreement as to what those national sins are. (Not that there was any greater agreement on that subject in 1983.) I wonder if Robby and I (or any other two or more people for that matters) were asked to list the top five national sins of the day, how similar or different would our list be? (And I shudder to think how many would not have ever given thought to the question.)
In part this reflects the fact that our definition of social sin in this country is heavily tied to our political leanings, with the result that we don't have widespread agreement as to what are our national sins. Sadly, however, it also reflects the fact that our list of national sins is quite large.
16.2 million children in America don't get enough to eat.
Almost two-thirds of all US drone strikes in Pakistan target homes.
More than half a million people in the US are homeless on any given night.
US surveillance practices violate fundamental civil and political rights.
About 10.5 million Americans are working poor, that is people who spent 27 or more weeks of the year in the workforce but whose income still fell below the poverty line.
Our rhetoric on abortion has gotten so vitriolic that it can hardly be termed debate, with the result that seeking common ground seems an impossible task. And the same can be said about the tone of debate about contraception, medical care, climate change, and a host of other issues.
And those are just the things that come to mind off the top of my head.
That doesn't mean I disagree with indictment or the prescription. I think we take structural sin far less seriously than we ought to. But our inability to agree on what those are (and, increasingly, to demonize those with whom we disagree) is itself part of the problem. And it is a part that is worth thinking about.
March 06, 2014
In Search of Common Ground on Abortion
Ashgate Press has just published In Search of Common Ground on Abortion, edited by Robin West, Justin Murray and Meredith Esser. The collection of essays, which includes chapters by Lisa Schiltz and by me, stems from a symposium that was held at Georgetown University Law Center in the fall of 2009. The goal of the symposium was to "bring together pro-choice and pro-life scholars in an effort to explore the common philosophical, moral, or political ground that might be shared by thsee groups who so rarely come together." The book does a good job of reflecting the breadth of the symposium.
February 16, 2014
What's In Between the Roses
I had an absolutely wonderful day yesterday at the Seattle University Search for Meaning Book Festival. The two keynotes - one by journalist Katherine Boo, author of Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity, and the second by Isabel Wilkerson, author of The Warmth of Other Suns, were tremendously powerful; my own talk on Growing in Love and Wisdom played to a full room, went very well and, as usual, provoked some great questions; the other sessions I attended were great; and I got to spend time (and have a great Thai dinner) with my friend and former colleague Chato, who drove up from Vancouver, Washington to spend the day with me here at the festival. I also got to see my friend Joshua, who lives here in Seattle, as well as to meet a number of other authors with whom I share interests.
There is much I could write about the day, but there is one line that haunted and that continues to haunt me, and it came early in the day, during the morning keynote by Katherine Boo. Boo's book tells the stories of people living in Annawadi, a poor, makeshift settlement in the shadows of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport. At one point, the brother of a Muslim teenager who is falsely accused of a crime describes himself and the other residents of the settlement in this way: "Everything around is roses and we are the shit in between."
"We are the shit in between." He wasn't being sarcastic. He wasn't trying to shock. He was simply expressing the truth as he saw it. This is how he viewed himself. This is how a beloved child of God thinks of himself!
The entirety of the social doctrine of the Catholic Church begins with the recognition of the inviolable dignity of the human person, a dignity that stems from our creation in the image of God. That all humans are created in the image and likeness of God makes them equally sacred and precious and invests them with a dignity which they cannot lose. In his recent Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis wrote that “no one can strip us of the dignity bestowed upon us by [God’s] boundless and unfailing love.”
No one can strip another of the dignity bestowed upon him or her, but what does it mean for some people to believe they have no dignity?
What does it do to someone's ability to flourish to believe that they are the shit between the roses?
And what does it say about how seriously we take our obligation to our brothers and sisters that we allow to exist the conditions that cause a young man view himself as so lacking in human dignity?
Note: The above is cross-posted from my blog, Creo en Dios! In response to my post, my friend John Donaghy, who works among the poor in Honduras, wrote this comment - a sad reminder that the feeling of the young man I quoted is not an isolated on:
Thanks for a post that touches the reality of the poor. In places like Mumbai and Honduras, the poor do see themselves as "the shit between the roses." This has been engrained in them by the society around them. In many ways I see that the role of the missionary and the church in general is to help the people see that they are not the shit in between the roses but that they are the rich fertile soil that makes possible roses and much more. Upholding the dignity of people is part of our mission, our way of accompanying the poor.
February 05, 2014
A Tenth Anniversary Reflection on our Project
I started blogging at MOJ a month of so before the 2004 election, and so many of my early posts had to do with voting and conscience, a subject that will always continue to be part of our discussions. Although I have been an infrequent MOJ blogger of late, I remain convinced of the importance of the enterprise in which we have been engaged for the last ten years.
In his recent Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium Pope Francis, speaking about the inclusion of the poor in society, said that Jesus’ command to his disciples “You yourselves give them something to eat” (citing Mark) “means working to eliminate the structural causes of poverty and to promote the integral development of the poor, as well as small daily acts of solidarity in meeting the real needs which we encounter. The word ‘solidarity’ is a little worn and at times poorly understood, but it refers to something more than a few sporadic acts of generosity. It presumes the creation of a new mindset which thinks in terms of community and the priority of the life of all over the appropriation of goods by a few.”
The thrust of the Pope’s point is not limited solely to the problem of poverty. He expresses clearly in the document that because Christian conversion “demands reviewing especially those areas and aspects of life related to the social order and the pursuit of the common good,…no one can demand that religion should be relegated to the inner sanctum of personal life, without influence on societal and national life, without concern for the soundness of civil institutions, without a right to offer an opinion on events affecting society.”
Those of us involved in the MOJ project will doubtless continue to disagree about all sorts of issues - whether particular laws and policy positions are consistent with principles of Catholic Social Thought, whether a good Catholic can vote for a particular candidate, and so on. But we all proceed from the premise that we have a duty to help to create “a new mindset which thinks in terms of community and the priority of life of all” and that we cannot make decisions about law and public policy divorced from the teachings of our faith.
September 24, 2013
The Way of St. James
I will fly to Paris this afternoon, and from there travel to St. Jean Pied de Port, where on Friday (feast day of one of my great heroes, St. Vincent de Paul) I will begin walking the Camino Francais. It is my hope to arrive in Santiago de Compostela on All Saints Day.
As Michael Scaperlanda did when he walked this same route four years ago, I will try to share something of my experience from time to time as I walk.
I ask for your prayers that I be open to whatever it is God wishes to share with me during this pilgrimage. Be assured of my prayers as well for the contributors and readers of Mirror of Justice.
August 10, 2013
Yesterday morning Dave and I drove to a farm a bit north of the Twin Cities to pick blueberries. Mind you, Dave had no enthusiasm for this venture, but I had gotten it in my head that it would be a fun outing and this is the perfect time to be picking blueberries, so off we went.
It was a fun morning and I'm glad we went, but: Picking blueberries is not all that easy. The sun was hot and the bushes are low to the ground, requiring kneeling or squatting, except when you have to stand and bend to get at them. We picked for a little over an hour, with me frequently shifting positions to relieve a cramp in my leg or a strain in my back. And, as I discovered, it takes a lot of picking to get a tray full of blueberries. (It takes a lot less time to fill a bag with apples when you are apple picking.)
"U-pick-em" farms are a fun outing for people like me who sit at a computer for large chunks of the day. Couple of hours outside and come home with a big load of delicious berries.
But as I was picking I started thinking of people who have to do work like this day after day all day long. When I was in my early teens, I used to think it would be fun to be a migrant farm worker. Traveling around picking fruit and vegetables seemed like it would be a cool thing to do. Of course I had no idea of the labor involved and what it would mean to have to work hard enough day after day to barely have enough money to scrape by.
Yesterday was a good reminder of the difficult lives of those in the farming industry. Migrant and seasonal farmworkers are some of the most economically disadvantaged people in this country, almost a quarter having a family income below the national poverty guidelines. In addition to low wages, thay generally lack access to worker’s compensation, or other benefits.
Something to think about as we eat the wonderful produce of this season.
Update: See the comment posted by Ellen Wertheimer that points out that I have understated the plight of these workers.
[Cross-posted from Creo en Dios.]
August 08, 2013
June 18, 2013
Feminism, Law and Religion
June 06, 2013
Depends on How it Changes the Game
Patrick's post about the AID's involvement in a partnership to address LGBT issues around the world laments that "U.S. taxpayers' dollars are being spent to advocate internationally for laws and policies that most Americans still oppose and that, what is more, violate the moral law."
I think he overstates the objection tremendously. The specific things listed as being of concern in the AID's announcement of the partnership are the fact that LGBT behavior is criminalized in 85 countries, seven of which impose a death penalty for same-sex sexual activity and that a large number of countries do not punish anti-gay discrimination. I think one would be hard put to claim that most Americans think same-sex behavior should be criminatlized or subject to the death penality and I see no violation of moral law in fighting against such laws. And (appreciating that people can have different views as to what constitutes discrimination, even the Catholic Church believes that people should not be discriminated against) because of their sexual orientation.
The United States is not representative of the rest ofthe world. The big fight here is about gay marriage. In other parts of the world homosexuals risk harm from third parties and their own governments because of their orientation.
I'd like to know a little more about the specific plans of the partnership of which the AID is a part before coming to the conclusions Patrick does.