Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Jacoby on Secularism

Today's New York Times contains this review of a new book by Susan Jacoby, "Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism." Here's a quick excerpt of the review:

"Susan Jacoby regrets in her new book that . . . freethinkers have fared poorly in the culture wars that have roiled society since then. In the 19th century and the opening decades of the 20th zealous Protestants secured laws to ban the sale of alcohol, erotic literature and diaphragms, and the teaching of Darwinian theory in public schools. Roman Catholic censors took the offensive during the 1930's with strictures against sex and four-letter words on screen that Hollywood wove into its official Production Code.

For a few decades after, secularists fought back successfully, aided by a strong American Civil Liberties Union and a liberal Supreme Court. But a new Christian right took the offensive in the 1970's and has never let up in a campaign to install its morality in law and custom. Ms. Jacoby concludes her book with a shudder as she describes Justice Antonin Scalia's belief that the American state derives its legitimacy not from the citizenry but from God."

According to the reviewer, Michael Kazin, Jacoby's book includes a defense and appreciation of Paul Blanshard's infamous, bestselling tract, "American Freedom and Catholic Power." (Kazin criticizes this feature of the book). The review concludes:

"Religious diversity untrammeled by government is a hard-won and signal achievement of our society, thanks to the efforts of James Madison and other enlightened minds. It would be unreasonable to suppose that a rigorous humanism could replace this kind of freedom, which remains rare in a world of warring faiths."


March 31, 2004 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

The Pope and the Pledge

I was wondering if my fellow bloggers thought that Pope John Paul II's efforts to get Europe's Christian heritage memorialized in the EU Constitution provides valuable insight into whether our Pledge (or other public symbols or documents) ought to make reference (no matter how vague or ambiguous) to God.

March 30, 2004 in Scaperlanda, Mike | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Kerry in St. Louis

It seems that Kerry did not attempt to go to mass in St. Louis on Sunday, judging by his appearance at a Baptist church that day. He is, however, continuing to make religion a more visible part of his political identity. At the Baptist church, he stated: "The scriptures say: 'It is not enough, my brother, to say you have faith, when there are no deeds.' We look at what is happening in America today and we say: 'Where are the deeds?'" (You can read the entire speech here.) A spokesperson for Bush responded by labeling the speech a "sad exploitation of scripture for political attack." I'm not sure how much room Bush has to complain about the political exploitation of scripture. In any event, given the importance of Catholic voters in the election, and the fact that Kerry is unlikely to drive secularists away no matter how religious he gets, it will be interesting to see if the candidates turn this into a religiosity race. I tend to hope not.


March 30, 2004 in Vischer, Rob | Permalink | TrackBack (0)


Rob, I think that Olasky's The Tragedy of American Compassion is well worth the read. It has been several years since I have read it, but if memory serves me the book forcefully makes the case for the proposition that we ought to carefully pay attention to how needs are met. My biggest criticism (again from memory) of the book was that it largely overlooked Catholic service to the poor and marginalized.

March 30, 2004 in Scaperlanda, Mike | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 29, 2004

More on Kerry and the Catholic Church

Following up on our earlier discussion about the prospect of a politician who dissents from fundamental church teachings on public protection of human life becoming the most prominent Catholic in America, Time magazine has just published an article titled, A Test of Kerry's Faith, which can be found here.

Among various items of note in the article, here are two: First, with respect to concerns about scandal to the faithful that were mentioned earlier, the article quotes a leader in Vatican as saying: "People in Rome are becoming more and more aware that there's a problem with John Kerry, and a potential scandal with his apparent profession of his Catholic faith and some of his stances, particularly abortion."

Second, as was reported in our last discussion, the Archbishop of St. Louis had directed that John Kerry should not present himself for communion in that diocese. Interestingly, the article says that Kerry was expected to campaign in St. Louis last Sunday and that he declared he intends to take Mass while there. Although no reports of what occurred have been received, this raised the prospect of the most prominent Catholic in America being publicly denied communion or affirmatively disobeying the directive of a bishop in his own diocese.

Obviously this story will continue to be played-out over the long (very long) political season ahead.

March 29, 2004 in Sisk, Greg | Permalink | TrackBack (4)

Pray for Stuart Buck

Stuart Buck (here's his blog), an excellent lawyer and a dear friend, has suffered two strokes. He is only 29 years old. (Here's more info, thanks to Glenn Reynolds). Please join me in praying for him, and his family.


March 29, 2004 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, March 28, 2004

More from the Conference

The Religiously Affiliated Law Schools conference at Notre Dame has wrapped up. As Rob's post (below) notes, the conference was an informative, provocative, and thoroughly enjoyable gathering. Our fellow blogger Amy Uelman gave a fascinating talk (based on a soon-to-be-published paper) on the possibilities of a "Trinitarian perspective" for products-liability law. (I'll leave it to her to supply the details). Other speakers discussed strategies for integrating, where appropriate, faith-based insights and claims into law-school courses. Still others -- including our own Mark Sargent -- talked about the challenge of building and maintaining a law school with a meaningful religious identity. I was particularly struck by Mark's exchange with one of the panelists (Dan Morrissey, Dean of Gonzaga's law school) about whether legal-aid clinics, a social-justice orientation, and financial aid for low-income students were enough to comprise a "Catholic" identity or mission. (Mark's "Alternative to the Sectarian Vision" article, linked on the right, pursues these and other questions).


March 28, 2004 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, March 26, 2004

Religious Law Schools and Student Well-being

I'm writing from the Religiously Affiliated Law Schools conference at Notre Dame. Today's discussions have touched on many points of impact -- both actual and potential -- between institutional religious commitments and legal education. One presentation I found especially intriguing was by Jerry Organ, a professor at St. Thomas in Minneapolis. He posited that student well-being may largely be a factor of the extent to which students are motivated by internal values and priorities (integrity, faith, etc.) rather than extrinsic considerations (wealth, prestige, etc.). In a sense, he applied an expanded notion of the saying, "money can't buy happiness" to the law school environment.

To the extent law schools can help students elevate internal over external motivations, I have no doubt that students would be better off. But I wonder how realistic it is to expect law schools to do so. After all, in an environment where institutional decisions seem driven in significant part by US News rankings, law schools themselves are motivated primarily by extrinsic considerations, most notably reputation. Law schools don't seem concerned as much with helping students "find themselves" as in enabling students to plug into the best (i.e., most prestigious) job possible, whether private practice, government, or public interest. I have no doubt that a student at the top of the class who turns down a federal clerkship or big firm job is perceived as a disappointment to the school, regardless of the compatibility of such career paths with the student's own priorities. A school's reputation is not enhanced by students who take the road less travelled.

So my question is this: by asking law schools to encourage internally motivated decision-making by students, are we asking the schools to put student interest over their institutional interests? If so, is it realistic to expect that more than a handful of schools will take the request seriously?


March 26, 2004 in Vischer, Rob | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Religiously Affiliated Law Schools Conference

Anyone in the Midwest on Friday and Saturday should consider dropping by Notre Dame, for the Religiously Affiliated Law Schools Conference. Info is here. Several MOJ contributors will be presenting and / or moderating.


March 25, 2004 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

More articles posted

I've put up links (on the right side of the screen, under "papers") to a few more law-review articles of mine that explore matters -- legal ethics, the death penalty, the freedom of association, subsidiarity, etc. -- that might be of interest to Mirror of Justice readers. And, I welcome any comments from readers or my fellow bloggers.


March 25, 2004 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)