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.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Deferring to religious courts

Apparently, "[t]he city of New York last week withdrew its lawsuit against a fervently Orthodox mohel suspected of transmitting herpes to three baby boys — one of whom died — and after nearly a year of investigation turned the matter over to a chasidic rabbinical court in Williamsburg, Brooklyn."  Professor Friedman notes that "[t]his appears to be the first time that New York City has turned a public health matter over to a religious court."

I'm reminded of my own earlier post, about the debate in Canada over allowing religious tribunals to decide some questions of family law.


September 26, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Debating "Intelligent Design"

Over at Legal Affairs magazine's "Debate Club" site, Francis Beckwith (Baylor) and Doug Laycock (Texas) are hashing out the question, "is teaching Intelligent Design Illegal?"  In his first post, Professor Beckwith says "no, but . . . "


September 26, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Civil Society and Smoking in Public

Over at the Volokh Conspiracy, Todd Zywicki has some interesting anecdotal evidence connecting smoking bans and liquor regulations with the (purported) demise of voluntary associations.


UPDATE: St. Thomas law grad Matthew Donovan points me to this apt First Things essay, "Tobacco and the Soul."

September 26, 2005 in Vischer, Rob | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

John Courtney Murray and Same-Sex Marriage

I was not able to make it to Villanova's John Courtney Murray conference, but I have a question to pose to conference participants (and anyone else interested): What would Murray have said about today's debate over same-sex marriage? 

One common argument against same-sex marriage is that it will legitimize immoral conduct and provide avenues for future generations to embrace immoral conduct more easily, relegating the true vision of marriage to being merely an available, but not uniquely authentic, path.  But didn't Murray's embrace of religious freedom do the same thing regarding religious truth?  In both contexts, the Church is free to stand for the Truth in the public square, but the public square is opened to other paths as well.  If public morality is, in Murray's words, to be "determined by moral standards commonly accepted among the people," does the basis for opposing the state's recognition of same-sex marriage evaporate once public opinion in a given state turns in favor of same-sex marriage?

Is there another basis for concluding that Murray would oppose same-sex marriage?


September 26, 2005 in Vischer, Rob | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, September 25, 2005

CIT (Catholic Intellectual Tradition) reading list

As part of a project while in law school at

St. Thomas

, Matt Donovan (’04 grad) and his compatriots “surveyed a number of experts from various institutions on what they believe to be the most important texts in the tradition, especially in the context of a legal curriculum.  Again, it is important to keep in mind that sufficiently answering the question regarding, say, the top five most important texts in the tradition is difficult at best.  In any event, here’s what they said:

Scripture (OT/NT)—Virtually everyone took for granted that the Bible is most important.


St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa TheologiaeVirtually everyone listed the Summa, specifically on the Commandments, Justice, Law, Sacred Doctrine, God, Virtue, Man, Happiness, and Kingship (though I believe On Kingship is its own treatise).          


Augustine, City of God—Most everyone agreed that the City of God, specifically books XIV and IXX, is essential.

Augustine, ConfessionsMany listed the Confessions as indispensable.


Pascal, PenséesMany listed Pensées as an absolute must.


Athanasius, On the Incarnation—Some suggested De Incarnatione.


Bernard Lonergan, Insight—Some suggested Lonergan’s enormous work on human understanding.


St. Thomas More, UtopiaSome thought this to be an obvious choice for a legal curriculum.


St. Benedict, The Rule of St. Benedict—A few mentioned Benedict’s Rule, a rigorous guide to living a disciplined life, as essential.

Thomas á Kempis, Imitation of Christ—A few mentioned the importance of Imitatio Christi, the second-most widely published work in         the tradition (after the Bible, of course).

Peter Lombard, Sentences—A few mention the Sentences for sheer influence in the tradition.

Catechism of the Catholic Church—A few mentioned the Catechism.

St. Bonaventure, Itinerarium—A few mentioned Bonaventure as essential.

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics and Metaphysics—A few suggested that     one cannot properly understand Aquinas without understanding his master, “the Philosopher.”

At least one person listed the following texts as one of their top five:


C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce

Bernard Lonergan, Verbum: Word and Idea in Aquinas


Thomas More, Dialogue on Conscience

John Henry Newman, A Grammar of Assent

St. Anselm, Monologion

Plato, Republic

St. Augustine

, On Christian Doctrine

Dante, Divine Comedy

Jacques Maritain, Degrees of Knowledge and Man and the State

Heinrich Rommen, The Natural Law

Yves Simon, The Philosophy of Democratic Government

John Courtney Murray, We Hold These Truths

G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

T.S. Eliot, The Four Quartets

Peter Abelard, Yes and No (Sic et Non)

Joseph Pieper, Leisure as the Basis of Culture

John Paul II, Laborem Exercens, Centesimus Annus, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, and Theology of the Body”

September 25, 2005 in Scaperlanda, Mike | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

The Rashomon Phenomenon

On the Vatican review of Cathoilic seminaries in the United States:  It's hard to believe that Amy Welborn, in this mornings's NYTimes, and Peter Steinfels, in yesterday's, were reading the same document.  Compare Steinfels with Welborn.  --mp

September 25, 2005 in Perry, Michael | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Reading list continued

Bruce Frohnen has provided a thoughtful list of recommended readings for CST at Kevin Lee's Christian Legal Theory blog.

September 24, 2005 in Scaperlanda, Mike | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

ACC – Africa, Condoms, and Catholics

In an earlier post, here, responding to an article posted by Michael P., here, I suggested that the Catholic Church’s much criticized position on the use of condoms in Africa was matter of prudential judgment and not absolute moral truth, and, therefore, could be changed.  Now some vindication for the Church’s position coming from the scientific community (as reported by Zenit):

"Condom Conundrums
Evidence Shows Wisdom of Catholic Doctrine


, SEPT. 24, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Critics continue to assail the Catholic Church's refusal to endorse condom use in treating the AIDS problem. …

On May 8, New York Times editorial page commentator Nicholas Kristof accused the Church of having cost hundreds of thousands of lives due to its refusal to endorse condom use. …

More Catholics, fewer infections

Abundant data exist, however, to show the severe limitations of relying on condoms to solve the AIDS problem. A letter from Australian-based bioethicist Amin Abboud, published July 30 by the British Medical Journal, noted that any change in the Catholic Church's position on condoms would be detrimental for



According to Abboud, a statistical analysis of the situation in the continent shows that the greater the percentage of Catholics in any country, the lower the level of HIV. "If the Catholic Church is promoting a message about HIV in those countries," he added, "it seems to be working."

Data from the World Health Organization puts the figure for HIV infection in


42.6% of the population. Only 5% of the population is Catholic. And in


, where 37% of the adult population is HIV infected, only 4% of the population is Catholic. In


, however, where 43% of the population is Catholic, the proportion of HIV infected adults is 4%.

Abboud commented that since the death of John Paul II there has been a "concerted campaign ... to attribute responsibility to him for the death of many Africans." But, he continued, "Such accusations must always be supported by solid data. None has been presented so far.""

The article cites other scientists and reports suggesting that the Catholic position just might be the prudential way to fight HIV/AIDS in


.  For the full article visit Zenit.

Michael S.

September 24, 2005 in Scaperlanda, Mike | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Lederman on the OLC memos

Marty Lederman has a very detailed post, over at Balkinization, on the history of the OLC memos dealing with "torture."


September 24, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 23, 2005

Fr. John Jenkins inaugurated

Fr. John Jenkins was inaugurated today as the 17th (I think) President of the University of Notre Dame.  God bless him.  Here is a link to his address, which should be required reading for all those interested in questions relating to the nature, role, and mission of Catholic universities.  He said:

Notre Dame is a distinctively Catholic university that strives to be among the pre-eminent universities in the world.

What is the role of a Catholic university?   Pope John Paul II wrote that our proper activity is (and I quote):  “Learning to think rigorously, so as to act rightly and to serve humanity better.”

The duty is timeless, yet its challenge is new in each age, and particularly pressing in this age.  The struggle to be a great Catholic university in a world that has become both increasingly secular and more radically religious has placed Notre Dame in a unique position at the heart of the most complex issues facing our society. We have not just an opportunity, but a duty to think and speak and act in ways that will guide, inspire, and heal – not just for followers of the Catholic faith, but for all our neighbors in the nation and the world. 

The world needs a great university that can address issues of faith with reverence and respect while still subjecting religion to intellectually rigorous, critical discussion.   

The world needs a university that not only contributes to scientific breakthroughs, but can address the ethical implications of scientific advances by drawing on an ancient moral and spiritual tradition.

The world needs a university – grounded in a commitment to love one’s neighbor – to debate how we in prosperous societies will respond to the grinding and dehumanizing poverty in which so much of the world lives. 

The world needs a university that graduates men and women who are not only capable and knowledgeable, but who accept their responsibility to serve others – especially those in greatest need. 

The Catholic Church needs a university whose scholars can help pass on its intellectual tradition, even as they address the challenges and the opportunities the Church faces in this century. 

There are certainly many other truly great universities in this country.  Many of them began as religious, faith-inspired institutions, but nearly all have left that founding character behind. One finds among them a disconnect between the academic enterprise and an over-arching religious and moral framework that orients academic activity and defines a good human life.             

My presidency will be driven by a whole-hearted commitment to uniting and integrating these two indispensable and wholly compatible strands of higher learning: academic excellence and religious faith.    

Building on our tradition as a Catholic university, and determined to be counted among the preeminent universities in this country, Notre Dame will provide an alternative for the 21st century – a place of higher learning that plays host to world-changing teaching and research, but where technical knowledge does not outrun moral wisdom, where the goal of education is to help students live a good human life, where our restless quest to understand the world not only lives in harmony with faith but is strengthened by it.   

We seek worldly knowledge, confident that the world exhibits coherence that reflects a Creator.  We will train the intellects of our students, cultivate their faith and instill the virtues necessary for living a good life. We will strive to build a community generous to those in need and responsive to the demands of justice – strengthened by grace and guided by the command to love God and neighbor.

This is no easy mission. But its difficulty is not our concern; we did not create the mission, and we cannot change it. The word “mission” derives from the Latin root missus – which means “sent.” We have been sent – to seek God, study the world, and serve humanity. 

If we are clear in our purpose, we will excel in our ideals.   

This will be my priority and my passion as President of Notre Dame. . . .

A Catholic university has a distinctive identity today.   But in the beginning, all universities were Catholic universities. The first university was founded in

Bologna, Italy, in 1088, as a place for Church officials to study canon law. After that came the University of Paris, developed out of the school at the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Next was Oxford, which grew up out of the remains of an Augustinian monastery.   

These universities were, as Pope John Paul II later described them:  “ex corde ecclesiae” – “from the heart of the church.” Their emergence was stimulated by deep principles in the Catholic tradition.  These Catholic principles that inspired the founding of universities still define Notre Dame’s character and describe her mission today. One could name many, but I will highlight just three.

[The three principles are "knowledge is good in itself and should be pursued for its own sake"; "there is a deep harmony between faith and reason"; and "the role of community and the call to service are central to the Christian life"]. . . .

There's more . . . check it out.


September 23, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)