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.
April 03, 2013
Pro-Life Group at Johns Hopkind Denied Official Club Status
The opening line of an article with the above headline reads, "The Student Government Association at Johns Hopkins University has denied a pro-life group official club status at the Baltimore school for fear the group will make students feel uncomfortable." Yes, you read that correctly. One of the SGA members explained, “We have the right to protect our students from things that are uncomfortable. Why should people have to defend their beliefs on their way to class?”
My first thought was that Johns Hopkins must have very few official student organizations if the test is whether a group will make any students feel uncomfortable. But I see they have quite a few. So it must be OK to make students uncomfortable on some subjects, but not others.
February 11, 2013
Announcement of Pope Benedict's Retirement
As reported this morning, Pope Benedict has indicated his intent to retire from the papacy at the end of this month.
The full statement from Pope Benedict XVI:
I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church.
After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.
I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering.
However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfil the ministry entrusted to me.
For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.
Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects.
And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.
From the Vatican, 10 February 2013
BENEDICTUS PP XVI
December 22, 2012
Hope and the Best of Ourselves
Yesterday was the day some people thought the world might end. It didn't. Instead, the big news of the day was the NRA suggesting that the response to the deaths of our children in Connecticut last week should be to have armed guards in all of our schools and create a national database of the mentally ill in the country.
The paranoia and demagoguery reflected in the NRA's comments are deeply upsetting. Because if one is convinced we need guns at schools, why not guns in every day care center, every hospital, every heavily trafficked street corner?
Why not churches? Then we can sit and pray to the Incarnate God who met violence with love, with guns in our laps ready to protect ourselves from anyone we perceive to be a threat.
Is that the society we believe we've become? Is that a society we want to be?
If that is our vision of our future - a vision without hope, the world might as well have ended yesterday.
I've watched the post Newtown commentary with deep (and growing) sadness, shaking my head as people say, "It's not about guns, it' about mental illness." Or "It's not about mental illness, it's about guns." Or "it's not about guns or mental illness, it is that we've locked God out of schools."
The problem with "it's not A, but B" analyses, is that they seek simple solutions to complicated issues, and that they tend to promote the simple solutions that happen to be consistent with the promoters' already-existing views. We do need some meaningful regulation of guns in this country. And we desperately need a sounder approach to mental illness. We also need to, as my friend Mark Osler wrote earlier this week, to be more effective evangelists. We need to do more to help those without one to develop a personal relationship with God.
And we need hope. Hope in God. Hope that we can do better. Hope that we can be better. And responding to gun violence by promoting more guns is not a reflection of hope.
I ended the last session of our Advent Retreat in Daily Living on Monday by reading Daniel Berrigan's Advent Credo. It is worth sharing again in this context.
It is not true that creation and the human family are doomed to destruction and loss— This is true: For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life;
It is not true that we must accept inhumanity and discrimination, hunger and poverty, death and destruction— This is true: I have come that they may have life, and that abundantly.
It is not true that violence and hatred should have the last word, and that war and destruction rule forever— This is true: Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, his name shall be called wonderful councilor, mighty God, the Everlasting, the Prince of peace.
It is not true that we are simply victims of the powers of evil who seek to rule the world— This is true: To me is given authority in heaven and on earth, and lo I am with you, even until the end of the world. It is not true that we have to wait for those who are specially gifted, who are the prophets of the Church before we can be peacemakers— This is true: I will pour out my spirit on all flesh and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions and your old men shall have dreams.
It is not true that our hopes for liberation of humankind, of justice, of human dignity of peace are not meant for this earth and for this history— This is true: The hour comes, and it is now, that the true worshipers shall worship God in spirit and in truth.
So let us enter Advent in hope, even hope against hope. Let us see visions of love and peace and justice. Let us affirm with humility, with joy, with faith, with courage: Jesus Christ—the life of the world.I choose hope.
June 28, 2012
Further Thoughts on the Health Care Decision: Commerce Clause
As suggested by Michael’s earlier brief post, today’s Supreme Court decision may be construed as a blow to Congress’ authority under the Commerce Clause. Justice Roberts’ opinion for the Court held that the individual mandate is not a valid exercise of Congress’ power under the Commerce Clause and Necessary and Proper Clause. In his view, the power to regulate presupposes the existence of commercial activity to be regulated and to allow regulation in the absence of activity would grant too much power to Congress.
Although I accept that reasonable people can differ on this, I find Roberts' analysis unpersuasive here, particularly his narrow view of the Necessary and Proper Clause. (I always thought the individual mandate was a valid exercise of Congress’ power under the N&P clause - as an essential component of a comprehensive scheme Congress clearly has the authority to enact.) I also agree with Justice Ginsburg’s view that there was no reason for Roberts to rule on the Commerce Clause issue given his conclusion that that Affordable Care Act was a valid exercise of Congress’ taxing authority. He reason for doing so seems strained at best.
Nonetheless, the decision on the Commerce Clause is out there. It remains to be seen how much of a limit that analysis will impose on Congress’ authority to enact social welfare laws, but it assuredly will have some.
One unrelated observation: The dissent in the case (Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas and Alito) reads very strangely in several respects: (1) Until the last two pages, it only refers to the opinion of the Court once (unless I missed anothter reference); most of the time it refers to the briefs and arguments of the Government. (2) It numerous times refers to Justice Ginsburg's decision as the dissent. (3) It goes through an awfully extensive analysis of severability, which seems completely unncessary given the opinion of the Court. In other words, the dissent reads to me like it expected that it would be the opinion of the Court.
Some Brief Initial Thoughts on the Health Care Decision
This morning, in a decision awaited with more anticipation and attention than any other I can remember, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the requirement in the Affordable Care Act that all individuals purchase health insurance. The vote on the individual mandate was 5-4, with Chief Justice Roberts providing the key swing vote.
Although much of the discussion of the individual mandate had focused on Congress’ power under the Commerce Clause, it was Congress’ taxing authority that convinced Justice Roberts of Congress’ power to mandate that individuals purchase insurance. The Act provides that those who fail to comply with the mandate must make a “shared responsibility payment” to the Federal Government, a “penalty” to be “assessed and collected in the same manner” as tax penalties. Writing for the majority Justice Roberts wrote, “[o]ur precedent demonstrates that Congress had the power to impose the [individual mandate] under the taxing power, and [the mandate] need not be read to do more than impose a tax. This is sufficient to sustain it.” He made clear that individuals may choose to pay the tax in lieu of purchasing insurance. In a concurring opinion, Justice Ginsberg, writing on behalf of herself and for Justices Sotormayor, Breyer and Kagen, indicated that she would uphold the mandate under the Commerce Clause.
With the survival of the individual mandate, major provisions of the Act, a number of which found support even among those who opposed the individual mandate, remain in place. Thus, for example, the Act’s requirements that plans may no longer put lifetime limits on essential health benefits or impose limits on pre-existing coverage and must provide for coverage for adult children until age 26 remain in place. (The Act did not completely survive. In a 7-2 decision, the Court struck down the provision of the Act forcing states to expand their Medicaid coverage to the poor. It ruled that the federal government lack the power to terminate Medicaid funds to state who do not wish to expand, but left open to states the ability to opt into an expanded Medicaid program.)
Today’s decision is not likely to end the battle over health care. Foes of the individual mandate will be gearing up in the hope that the November election leads to enough additional Republican votes to cause Congress to repeal the Act. In addition, there has been a lot of infighting at the state level over implementation of the Act, particularly the establishment at the state level of exchanges through which people buying insurance can get coverage. Many states have refrained from moving forward with establishing the exchanges, waiting for today’s decision. It would not be surprising to see the federal government having to step in to manage efforts in cases where the states drag their feet.
And, to move to an issue that we have explored with some frequency on MOJ, the Court’s decision to uphold the Act means that the controversy over the requirement that employers provide contraception coverage for their employees remains a live one. The statement issued by the USCCB in light of this morning's decision is here.
Update: With thanks to Elizabeth Brown, tehe Cathlic Health Association statement is here.