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.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Faith, Justice, and Teaching Criminal Procedure

Michael O'Hear has a new paper, "Faith, Justice, and the Teaching of Criminal Procedure," that should be of interest to MOJ readers.  Here is the abstract:

The American criminal justice system is marked by a culture of speedy, bureaucratized case processing, which is in tension with the dignitary interests of defendants. The Christian Gospels, however, mandate respect for the essential dignity of all people, even of criminals. Faith-based values may thereby provide a framework for critical perspectives on the criminal justice system. In a basic criminal procedure class, these perspectives may be conveniently developed through a discussion of leading right-to-counsel cases.

O'Hear explores these matters through a discussion of, inter alia, the (limited) right to self-representation, acknowledged in the Faretta case.  (I tend to agree, for what it's worth, with the dissent in Faretta, and to be skeptical of the view that a respect for the accused's dignity requires the political community to compromise the reliability of its fact-finding and punishment-imposing processes.)  Anyway, check it out.

May 25, 2006 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Trading Embryos for Jobs

Wisconsin's Catholic governor has rebuffed the bishops over his support of embryonic stem cell research, acknowledging the deep moral economic dimension of the issue:

Gov. Jim Doyle broke with Wisconsin's two most prominent Catholic bishops on Wednesday, bluntly telling them he would not rethink his strong support of embryonic stem cell research.

"While I appreciate your thoughts on this important issue, I also feel a responsibility to promote vital research which holds the potential to save countless lives and bring thousands of jobs to our state," Doyle, a Catholic, wrote in a letter to Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy Dolan and Madison Bishop Robert Morlino.

Finally, a politician who's willing to speak with some candor: yes, we'd like to save lives, but when it comes down to it, embryonic research is just another job creation package.  The gold rush continues.


May 25, 2006 in Vischer, Rob | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Excommunicating judges?

A New York Times editorial suggests that the Catholic Church has threatened to excommunicate the judges on Colombia's Constitutional Court who have granted limited abortion rights.  Is this true?  If so, is this the first time that the abortion/excommunication fracas has extended from politicians to judges?


UPDATE: Chris Green points out that a Southern Baptist version of a judge's excommunication resulted from the Schiavo case.

May 24, 2006 in Vischer, Rob | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Judge Jones Turns Historian

Judge John Jones, who struck down the Dover, Pennsylvania school board's intelligent design policy, gave the commencement address at his alma mater last weekend.  (HT:CT)  Basking in the limelight of his ruling, apparently he has now turned to setting the record straight on the founders' view of religion:

"The founders believed that true religion was not something handed down by a church or contained in a Bible, but was to be found through free, rational inquiry," said Jones, who was thrust into the national spotlight by last year's court fight over the teaching of evolution in the Dover school district.

The founding fathers - from school namesake John Dickinson to Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson - were products of the Enlightenment, Jones said.

"They possessed a great confidence in an individual's ability to understand the world and its most fundamental laws through the exercise of his or her reason," he said.

It seems a bit strange that, after criticizing the Dover school board for setting up a false conflict between religious belief and rational inquiry, Judge Jones is using a woefully simplistic characterization of the founders' beliefs to set up a false conflict between rational inquiry and "something handed down by a church or contained in a Bible." 


May 24, 2006 in Vischer, Rob | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Ethnic Identity and Catholic Singing

My colleague Lisa Schiltz suggests that my frustration with Catholic singing might be remedied by spending some time in ethnic parishes:

The church where I was married was a tiny, old traditionally Polish parish church in the tiny steel town of Carnegie, Pennsylvania, outside of Pittsburgh.  The church itself has since been consolidated, but in the years I attended those masses with my father, the music was, I think, one of the most important parts of the worship experience for most of the older parishioners of Polish heritage.  The American hymns were sung dutifully, but when the organist cranked out an old Polish hymn, the (somewhat screechy, usually not any where near in tune) older parishioners would raise the roof.   Over the last couple of nights I found myself finally watching the network miniseries on Pope John Paul II that we recorded months ago, and I was struck by how many of the Pope’s most emotional moments of communication with crowds involved the Polish people singing various Polish hymns – often as much an expression of ethnic, political identity as an expression of faith, but in these situations Catholic hymns clearly had as much power as the words that were being spoken around them. 

One of the most incredible Mass experiences Pat and I ever had was at a tiny Catholic church in a predominantly Black parish in Mississippi, where the music was absolutely transporting – probably reflecting evangelical influences, I’ll grant you that.  With respect to parishes closer to home, Fr. Kevin McDonough tells stories of the music at St. Peter Claver parish, where the Ethiopian immigrants have positively electrifying Masses in which the music is key.  And even in our own pretty bland, white, suburban parish, some of the most beautiful music, the tunes that really get our entire parish singing and sometimes even clapping along, tend to be the ones (from the same, rather-bland song-book that has “On Eagles Wings”) with notations indicating they come from a Spanish or African (or sometimes even Irish) traditional songs.


May 23, 2006 in Vischer, Rob | Permalink | TrackBack (1)

Roger Scruton on J.S. Mill at 200

Michael Rappaport has thoughts and links on Roger Scruton's recent op-ed on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of J.S. Mill's birth.

May 23, 2006 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

An Amusing—and Instructive—Story About a Commencement Speaker: The Contradiction of Catholic Teaching to a Secular World

Now that the college graduation season is waning, and some time has passed since our earlier disputations about commencement speakers at Catholic colleges and universities, I thought it would be a fitting closing to tell a story that I hope will prove both amusing (as it was to me at the time) and instructive (as I’ve come more to appreciate in the years since).

The story is about my own law school graduation ceremony, in 1984, from the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle. Seattle, of course, has a long history as a progressive city, frequently the site of liberal activism, anti-war protests, etc. The University of Washington often has been a gathering place for these political movements. During the early 1980’s, the nuclear freeze campaign was the cause celebre of the peace movement, and one of its heroes was Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen of the Seattle Archdiocese, who had gained national attention for withholding a portion of his income taxes as a public protest against nuclear weapons. The mostly liberal, and very secular, student leaders at the UW law school were quite eager to attract such a prominent anti-war activist and practitioner of civil disobedience to give the commencement address at the law school graduation.

And so, on June 9, 1984, Archbishop Hunthausen appeared before the University of Washington law school graduating class as the designated commencement speaker. As those who had sought his appearance had anticipated and welcomed, he did indeed make a passing reference to the dangers of nuclear weapons and the uncertainty of international tensions. But he devoted much of his brief comments to emphasizing the important role of lawyers to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, with particular attention to the unborn who are silent victims of abortion. Well, as you might imagine, the student leaders who had petitioned for the invitation to Archbishop Hunthausen were not at all pleased by this turning of the table. Indeed, the very folks who had invited him angrily stood and walked out when Archbishop Hunthausen affirmed the right to life of the unborn and called upon lawyers to protect the vulnerable.

This twenty-two-year-old event sends an important message for all us at the Mirror of Justice and our friends. The Catholic Church and Church teaching cannot be labeled by secular political terms nor can it be appropriated by the left or the right as their rhetorical weapons to be wielded as they choose. The Catholic Church and Catholic teaching ought to be a contradiction to all of us who tend to perceive the world through political or ideological lenses, although we will be differently provoked depending upon where we stand. Our mission within Catholic Legal Studies must be to heighten that contradiction of secular perspectives and draw from it the tools to bridge our differences as faithful Catholics toward the common goal of a just society.

Greg Sisk

May 23, 2006 in Sisk, Greg | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Some Catholics Care About Singing

I crossposted my recent comment "Why Catholics Can't Sing" over at dotCommonweal. This is what happens when a lawyer pontificates about music -- the comment trail to my dotComm post shows that comments about liturgical music can be fighting words:  http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/blog/post/index/261/Why-Catholics-Cant-Sing

-- Mark

PS Rob will find some interesting observations here

May 23, 2006 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Blame it on the Germans . . .

Continuing our (distinctly non-legal) discussion on Catholics and singing, a reader takes issue with the opinion of the reviewer I cited below:

I think he is mistaken regarding the purposes of Catholic liturgical music. Apart from the Kyrie, Catholic liturgical music is oriented toward praise (Gloria, sanctus, benedictus), not some sort of works-oriented atonement theology. 

Further, much of the difference in liturgical/sacred/religious music is cultural and linguistic. The Reformation, as you know, was largely a cultural break as well as a theological one, as the boundary of the Reformation fits nicely with the boundary of the old Roman empire. . . . And sacred music was shaped by the language it was set to. As Latin is orderly, monotonous, and consistent, its music is much the same. However, German is more of an emotionally-charged language with more forceful sounds. Thus, the classic German hymns are a natural outgrowth of the language.

This raises yet another thorny question: Do I love Protestant hymns because I love German drinking songs, or do I love German drinking songs because I love Protestant hymns?


May 23, 2006 in Vischer, Rob | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

The Pope, India, and religious freedom

An interesting exchange.  (Thanks to Amy Welborn.)

May 23, 2006 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | TrackBack (0)