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, May 25, 2005

Senator Santorum and the Poor

The story on Senator Rick Santorum in last Sunday's New York Times Magazine is quite interesting.  A recurring theme in it is that Santorum makes at least a good-faith effort to bring Catholic faith to bear not only on issues like abortion and homosexuality, but also on government efforts to assist the poor (through funding of private charities).  For example, Joe Lieberman is quoted as saying:

''People associate him just with these [sexual] issues. . . .  But he is more complex than that.  He has a faith-based concern about poverty, and he's prepared to fight for more money than the administration wants to allot.''

The story also cites David Kuo, former deputy director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, who complains that the Republican Party is concerned "too little with poverty":

[Kuo] considered Santorum the exception.  ''He was a singular voice in Republican leadership fighting for antipoverty legislation,'' Kuo said. ''He kept pushing it.  I was in meetings when people would start rolling their eyes when he started talking about it.  It is very much at odds with the public perception of him.  He fought behind the scenes where nobody could see it.  His compassion is genuine.''

This is the same Mr. Kuo who explained late last year on Beliefnet how President Bush's promise of "compassionate conservatism" remains "unfulfilled in spirit and in fact" in part because of pervasive "indifference" to the issue in the administration and in the Republican Party (not by the president, but by the people who actually staff the White House, the Congress, and the agencies):

In June 2001, the promised tax incentives for charitable giving were stripped at the last minute from the $1.6 trillion tax cut legislation to make room for the estate-tax repeal that overwhelmingly benefited the wealthy. The Compassion Capital Fund has received a cumulative total of $100 million during the past four years.  And new programs including those for children of prisoners, at-risk youth, and prisoners reentering society have received a little more than $500 million over four years--or approximately $6.3 billion less than the promised $6.8 billion. . . .

In December 2001, for instance, Sen. Daschle approached the Domestic Policy Council with an offer to pass a charity relief bill that contained many of the president's campaign tax incentive policies plus new money for the widely-popular and faith-based-friendly Social Services Block Grant.  The White House legislative affairs office rolled their eyes while others on senior staff yawned.  We had to leave the offer on the table.

To be sure, Kuo also emphasized that the Democrats' "knee-jerk opposition" to greater funding of religious entities, based on "hackneyed church-state scare rhetoric," has likewise greatly hampered the initiative.  "At the end of the day, both parties played to stereotype -- Republicans were indifferent to the poor and the Democrats were allergic to faith."

Let's recognize Sen. Santorum for bringing a Catholic moral vision to bear on other issues in addition to abortion, homosexuality, and embryonic stem cells.  I didn't hear much at the time about his push for more anti-poverty money; I suppose that few media outlets find it remunerative to do stories that emphasize non-stereotypical behavior like that.  (But let's recognize that the Times, and reporter Michael Sokolove, played the point fairly prominently in Sunday's piece.)

If any of the eye-rolling and yawning White House staffers were Catholics, or Christians more generally -- as I expect many would claim to be -- it's hard to see how they'd square that contempt and indifference with their faith.  Funding for private community-based anti-poverty entities (faith-based and secular), especially through block grants to the states, broadly combines the preferential option for the poor and the principle of subsidiarity.  Someone who rolls his eyes at the idea, it seems to me, is likely operating on the principle that a libertarian friend of mine articulated:  life should be as tough as possible for the poor, to discourage them from staying poor.

Tom B.

May 25, 2005 in Berg, Thomas | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Gambling Nation and the Church's Bingo Problem

Sports Illustrated has taken note of the dangers arising from our nation's poker obsession, especially among young people.  States have become dependent on lotteries, and casinos dot the landscape.  Growing up in an evangelical household where even possessing playing cards was frowned upon, I was always under the impression that Catholics fully embraced gambling given the number of bingo advertisements plastered on local parish halls.  In fact, one easy swipe at Catholics was to label them as more concerned with bingo than with spreading the Gospel.  I know that times have changed (I think), but I'm not sure whether the Church has staked out an official position on gambling, so I'll ask readers and co-bloggers: What does Catholic legal theory have to say about America's gambling obsession?


May 25, 2005 in Vischer, Rob | Permalink | TrackBack (1)

Convicted murderers and lawyers

This story might seem a bit random, but it hits close to home for me.  About 15 years ago, one of my first (maybe my first) "letters to the editor" was published, in support of James Hamm, a convicted murderer who served 17 years in prison and has since graduated from the Arizona State University College of Law.  I'm open to the possibility that I am excessively discounting some serious concerns that my own bar (Arizona) might have, but I believe that Mr. Hamm -- who did, I assume, an evil thing -- should now be permitted to practice law.  (Whether he should win with his 14th Amendment claim is an entirely different matter . . . ). 


May 25, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Didion on Schiavo

Thanks to Amy Welborn, here is a fascinating read re: the Schiavo case, by once-uber-hip pop-culture-pulse-taker Joan Didion

May 25, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Gorsuch on Assisted Suicide

Eugene Volokh has posted a recently published article by Neil Gorsuch on the experiments in Oregon and the Netherlands with legalized assisted suicide. 

May 25, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The CDF's position on same-sex unions

Those interested in the Church's position on the matter of same-sex unions should read a document prepared by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith during Cardinal Ratzinger's tenure. The document, which was issued on the Feast of St. Ignatius, was approved by Pope John Paul the Great. The document is available here.


May 24, 2005 in Myers, Richard | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Postmodernism as Myth

The Evangelical Outpost has a good post on the myth of postmodernism, with a priceless intro:

Nigel Tufnel: The numbers all go to eleven. Look, right across the board, eleven, eleven, eleven and... Marty DiBergi: Oh, I see. And most amps go up to ten? Nigel Tufnel: Exactly. Marty DiBergi: Does that mean it's louder? Is it any louder? Nigel Tufnel: Well, it's one louder, isn't it? It's not ten. You see, most blokes, you know, will be playing at ten. You're on ten here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you're on ten on your guitar. Where can you go from there? Where? Marty DiBergi: I don't know. Nigel Tufnel: Nowhere. Exactly. What we do is, if we need that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do? Marty DiBergi: Put it up to eleven. Nigel Tufnel: Eleven. Exactly. One louder. Marty DiBergi: Why don't you just make ten louder and make ten be the top number and make that a little louder? Nigel Tufnel: [pause] These go to eleven.

-- From the movie, This is Spinal Tap (1984)

If zeitgeists were sound equipment, postmodernism would be Nigel Tufnel’s amp. While the prefix “post” implies the ushering in of an age that is after “modernism”, the fact is that postmodernism is nothing more than a form of hyper-modernism -- modernism put up to eleven.

As Talbot philosophy Professor William Lane Craig explains when asked whether his students have a tendency to react to the “rational approach” with “postmodern resistance”:

Frankly, I don’t confront many students who are postmodernists. For all the faddish talk, I think it’s a myth. Students aren’t generally relativistic and pluralistic, except when it comes to ethics and religion. But that’s not postmodernism, that’s modernism. That’s old-style verificationism, which says things that are verifiable through the five senses are factual, but everything else is just a matter of taste (including ethics and religion). I think it’s a deceit of our age to say that modernism is dead.

Craig's point reflects my own experience in the classroom, but I still disagree with the Evangelical Outpost's broader point because I believe that postmodernism has brought meaningful difference in our society's openness to personal narrative instead of an exclusive focus on universal, rational discourse (which can be a good thing for Christianity, on balance). But the brilliant invocation of Spinal Tap makes me much more sympathetic to the argument.


May 24, 2005 in Vischer, Rob | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 23, 2005


[Those familiar with my work will not be surprised to learn that I believe that what the American Psychiatric Association did yesterday in my home town (Atlanta) was appropriate and indeed overdue.  See Perry, Under God:  Religious Faith and Liberal Democracy 55-97 (Cambridge, 2003); Perry, Religion in Politics:  Constitutional and Moral Perspectives 85-96 (Oxford, 1997).

Note that the APA "is addressing same-sex civil marriage, not religious marriages."]

The New York Times
May 23, 2005

Psychiatric Group May Make a Stand for Gay Marriage

By the Associated Press

ATLANTA, May 22 (AP) - Representatives of the nation's top psychiatric group approved a statement on Sunday urging legal recognition of same-sex marriage.

If approved by the association's directors in July, the measure would make the group, the American Psychiatric Association, the first major medical organization to take such a stance.

The statement supports same-sex marriage "in the interest of maintaining and promoting mental health."

It follows a similar measure by the American Psychological Association last year, three decades after that group removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.

The psychiatric association's statement, approved by voice vote on the first day of its weeklong annual meeting in Atlanta, cites the "positive influence of a stable, adult partnership on the health of all family members."

The resolution recognizes "that gay men and lesbians are full human beings who should be afforded the same human and civil rights," said Dr. Margery Sved, a psychiatrist from Raleigh, N.C., who is a member of the assembly's committee on gay and lesbian issues.

The statement says that the association is addressing same-sex civil marriage, not religious marriages. It takes no position on any religion's views on marriage.

Massachusetts is the only state that allows same-sex marriage. Eighteen states have passed constitutional amendments outlawing same-sex marriage.


May 23, 2005 in Perry, Michael | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, May 22, 2005


[This piece, from yesterday's Boston Globe, surely gives Catholic social theorists food for thought.  Mark?  Steve?]

A Steeper Ladder for the Have-Nots
Derrick Z. Jackson

It is stunning to see the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times simultaneously devote a series to the American class divide. The Journal reported last Friday, "Despite the widespread belief that the US remains a more mobile society than Europe, economists and sociologists say that in recent decades the typical child starting out in poverty in continental Europe or in Canada has had a better chance at prosperity."

In an echo, the Times wrote vitually the same thing, adding that in America, a child's economic background is a better predictor of school performance than in Denmark the Netherlands or France. The best that could be said was that class mobility in the United States is "not as low as in developing countries like Brazil, where escape from poverty is so difficult that the lower class is all but frozen in place."

Oh joy. This is what we have come to? Comparisons to developing countries?

Another odd thing about the series is that the mainstays of the mainstream press are making a big deal out of the divide after years in which many economists warned that our policies were plunging us straight toward Brazil. For years, groups like the Boston-based United for a Fair Economy and the Institute for Policy Studies sent up smoke signals that should have been a smoking gun.

In 1973, the ratio of CEO pay to worker pay was 43 to 1. By 1992, it was 145 to 1. By 1997, it was 326 to 1. By 2000, it hit a sky-high 531 to 1. The post 9/11 shakeouts and corporate scandals of recent years on the surface narrowed the gap back to 301 to 1 in 2003. But a much worse parallel global gap is emerging in the era of outsourcing. United for a Fair Economy published a report last summer that found CEOs of the top US outsourcing companies made 1,300 times more than their computer programmers in India and 3,300 more than Indian call-center employees.

Such groups say if the minimum wage kept up with the rise in CEO pay, it would be $15.76 an hour instead of its current $5.15. Looking at it another way, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, another often written-off liberal think tank, published a report last month that in the last three years, the share of US national income that goes toward corporate profits is at its highest levels since World War II, while the share of national income that goes to wages and salaries is at a record low.

This completes a perfect storm over the last quarter century of corporate welfare for those with the most among us and vilification for those with the least. Americans have been seduced by simplistic notions of rugged individualism to vote more to punish people (welfare mothers, prison booms, and affirmative action in the 1990s, and gay marriage in 2004) than for programs and policies that might lead to healing the gaps (national healthcare and revamped public schools).

It is obvious that Americans believed that none of the inequalities long endured by the poor (because it's all their fault, right?) would seep into our lives. We were wrong. With suburban schools slashing their budgets, healthcare costs rising, retirement funds in doubt, and the next generation facing a drop in their life span from obesity and diabetes, the nation is sliding into a dangerous place.

A quarter century of a "mine, all mine" ethos continues to work for CEOs and the upper class. The rest of America finds the ladder taller and steepening. Much of the nation is now one catastrophic injury away from falling into poverty. It should be a national emergency that stratification in the richest nation in the world has us fading from the relative mobility of Europe and sinking toward the discouragement in developing countries.

It is no wonder why politicians who protect the wealthy scream "class warfare" every time someone talks about inequity. It is a diversion to keep those who vote against their own interests from realizing they are victims of friendly fire.


May 22, 2005 in Perry, Michael | Permalink | TrackBack (0)


There is a very interesting story about United States Senator Rick Santorum--it's the cover story--in today's New York Times Magazine.  Sen. Santorum, as many MOJ readers know, is a pro-life Republican senator--two-term senator--from Pennsylvania.  In November 2006, Pennsylvania voters will have to choose between Santorum and the pro-life Democratic senatorial candidate, Robert Casey Jr., the son of the late, pro-life Democratic governor of Pennsylvania, Robert Casey Sr.  To read the article, titled The Believer, click here.

May 22, 2005 in Perry, Michael | Permalink | TrackBack (0)