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.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Separating God and politics in Mexico

In addition to peddling a laughably superficial narrative about Church-state relations in early 20th century Mexico, the Washington Post article mentioned below quotes an angry supporter of López Obrador who is critical (as are, apparently, many protesters and demonstrators) of Cardinal Rivera for urging Mexican Catholicss to (quoting the Post) "respect a decision by a special elections court rejecting López Obrador's request for a full recount and ordering a recount of only 9 percent of polling places[.]"  According to this critic, the Cardinal is "getting into politics . . . The church is for God, not for politics."  The Post's writer similarly characterize Rivera as "blend[ing] the spiritual and the secular."

But, Lopez Obrador's entire campaign has been soaked in religious imagery and language, decorated with pictures of saints, Pope John Paul II, and the Virgin of Guadalupe.  Who is "blend[ing] the spiritual and the secular"?

August 29, 2006 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Washington Post: Anti-Catholicism = "reform"

The Post today features a story on Cardinal Rivera's current unpopularity among supporters of Andrés Manuel López Obrador.  According to the Post, the "tension" between Rivera and his critics "has roots in history":

Troops supported by the Catholic Church fought a bloody, three-year war against the Mexican government in the 1920s. The war, which cost more than 70,000 lives, was an unsuccessful attempt to overturn reforms that had stripped the church of its considerable influence over the government and the country's financial system.

Hmmm.  The "reforms" of the 1917 Constitution and the Calles government involved the slaughter of priests and Catholic peasants (the "Cristeros") who resisted the state's ferocious efforts to put down the Church, institute a cultural revolution worthy of Pol Pot, and thoroughly secularize Mexican society.  (It was, for a time, an offense to say "Adios.")  Religious processions were prohibited; Catholic schools, convents, and monasteries were closed; foreign priests and nuns were deported; and those priests who were not killed were required to register with the government before receiving permission to perform work in the state's puppet church.  Ah, reform!

That a news story, in one of our best papers, is -- in an article about church-state relations in Mexico -- content simply to report that "[t]roops supported by the Catholic Church fought a bloody, three-year war against the Mexican government in the 1920s" is a disgrace -- for journalism, for our schools and universities, and for the Post.

Here is a useful bibliography.  Blessed Miguel Augustin Pro, pray for us.

August 29, 2006 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Locke's birthday

John Locke was born on this day in 1632.  (So were Ingrid Bergman, Charlie Parker, and Slobodan Milosevic.)

Here is Locke's Letter on Toleration (1689).  Here is a paper by Steve Smith, "Toleration and Liberal Commitments."  And, here is an interview with Stanley Fish, "There's No Such Thing as Free Speech."

Question:  Which term is more often used (or misused) in law-school classes:  "Lockean", "Kantian", or "Rawlsian"?

August 29, 2006 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 28, 2006

More on Georgetown

Rick's follow-up to Rob's post on this subject assumes that similar policies are in place regarding outside Catholic ministries and also quotes the First Things article suggesting that the decision was made in the name of the Catholic tradition of Georgetown. 

As to the first, it appears that the change in policy is one that affects only the affiliated Protestant ministries operating at Georgetown, not any Catholic ones.  (Having said that, I have no first-hand knowledge of what, if any outside Catholic ministries operate at Georgetown.) 

As to the second, there is no suggestion in the letter sent to the affiliated Protestant ministires announcing the policy that the decision had anything to do with adherence to Catholic tradition; it appears to be more an issue of how Protesant Ministry will be conducted at the University.  Scrolling to the bottom of the attached link will give you a link to a pdf file with a copy of the letter. 

The linked article suggests that the decision is about "a desire in the Protestant Chaplaincy to build the ministry from within Georgetown and its Protestant student leaders rather than rely on outside groups or fellowships.”  There may be more to it than that, but whatever that is does not appear to be about Catholic mission.

August 28, 2006 in Stabile, Susan | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

The Bible and Homosexuality

Thanks, Robby, for your comments.  (Though you needn't use Rick as an intermediary; you can simply send your comments on my postings to me, and I'll happily post them for you.)

In 2002 (which is the last time I looked), I wrote that recent pieces defending the reading of the Bible according to which homosexual sexual conduct is always immoral include:

  • Charles L. Bartow, "Speaking the Text and Preaching the Gospel," in Choon-Leong Seow, ed., Homosexuality and the Christian Community at 86 (1996).
  • Richard B. Hays, "Awaiting the Redemption of Our Bodies:  The Witness of Scripture Concerning Homosexuality," in Jeffrey S. Siker, ed., Homosexuality in the Church:  Both Sides of the Debate at 3 (1994).
  • Ulrich W. Mauser, "Creation, Sexuality, and Homosexuality in the New Testament," in Seow, supra, at 39.
  • Thomas E. Schmidt, "Romans 1:26-27 and Biblical Sexuality," in John Corvino, ed., In Same Sex:  Debating  the Ethics, Science, and Culture of Homosexuality at 93 (1997).

At the same time (2002), I wrote that recent pieces dissenting from the traditional reading in favor of a different reading--a reading according to which the Bible does not teach that homosexual sexual conduct is always immoral--include:

  • Brian K. Blount, Reading and Understanding the New Testament on Homosexuality," in Seow, supra, at 28.
  • Victor Paul Furnish, "The Bible and Homosexuality:  Reading the Texts in Context," in Siker, ed., at 18.
  • Daniel A. Helminiak, "The Bible on Homosexuality:  Ethically Neutral," in Corvino, supra, at 81.
  • Bruce J. Malina, "The New Testament and Homosexuality," in Patricia Beattie Jung with Joseph Andrew Coray, eds., Sexual Diversity and Catholicism:  Toward the Development of Moral Theology at 150 (2001).
  • Choon-Leong Seow, "A Heterotextual Perspective," in Seow, supra, at 14.
  • Jeffrey S. Siker, "Homosexual Christians, The Bible, and Gentile Inclusion:  Confessions of a Repenting Heterosexist," in Siker, supra, at 178.

There is--and it is undeniable that there is--an increasingly widespread, transdenominational disagreement among Christians over whether, according to the Bible, homosexual sexual conduct is invariably immoral--immoral without regard to any particularities of context.

Something Galileo Galilei wrote is worth pondering here:

The reason produced for condemning the opinion that th earth moves and the sun stands still is that in many places in the Bible one may read that the sun moves and the earth stands still.  Since the Bible cannot err, it follows as a necessary consequence that anyone takes an erroneous and heretical position who maintains that the sun is inherently motionless and the earth movable.

     With regard to this argument, I think in the first place that it is very pious to say and prudent to affirm that the holy Bible can never speak untruth--whenever its true meaning is understood.  But I believe that nobody will deny that it is often very abstruse, and may say things which are quite different from what its bare words signify.  Hence if in expounding the Bible one were always to confine oneself to the unadorned grammatical meaning, one might fall into error.  Not only contradictions and propositions far from true might thus be made to appear in the Bible, but even grave heresies and follies.


August 28, 2006 in Perry, Michael | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

More on Georgetown

Thanks to Rob for linking to the story about Georgetown's move against several outside Protestant ministries and organizations.  (I assume, by the way, that Georgetown's campus-ministry office has similar policies with respect to outside Catholic ministries and organizations, like Opus Dei and Regnum Christi).

On the one hand, I am sympathetic to the idea that a Catholic university -- one that takes seriously, in a consistent way, its responsibilities with respect to the development and formation of students -- might want to oversee and centralize, through its own campus-ministry office, the pastoral and services provided to students on campus.  Is Georgetown such a Catholic university?  I don't know. 

It seems worth noting that the decision at issue appears to have been made -- or, at least, executed -- by the University's Protestant ministry staff.  Jody Bottum, in the First Things post to which Rob links, adds:

Still, there was something odd going on last year when Campus Ministries demanded that the evangelical groups sign a statement promising not to “proselytize nor undermine another faith community.” And there was something even odder when it was done in the name of the school’s Catholic tradition—by the Protestant chaplains in the official Georgetown office.

The problem, of course, finally boils down to this: The evangelical groups represent only a few hundred students, but they are strongly pro-life and opposed to homosexual marriage. The mainline Protestant employees of Campus Ministry find such things embarrassing, and so they kick the evangelicals off campus, employing the power of the officially Catholic chaplain’s office and the rhetoric of the school’s Catholic identity.

August 28, 2006 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Slavery, homosexuality, and Scripture

Responding to Michael P.'s recent post, commenting on the similarity between the 19th century Scripture-and-slavery debate and the debate today about homosexuality and the Bible, Prof. Robert George writes:

In a recent posting . . . , Professor Michael Perry says that he is struck by the similarities between our debate over homosexuality and the 19th century debate over slavery, when it comes to the use of scripture.  To my mind, the differences that are more striking.

Christians who wished to practice or justify slavery in the antebellum American south immediately faced a problem:  sacred scripture, in its opening passages, taught that each and every human being is made in the image and likeness of God.  Every human being is descended from the same original parents and, as such, are in the most fundamental sense brothers and sisters.  Opponents of slavery pressed the point relentlessly, and, as the historical record shows (see Eugene Genovese, A Consuming Fire: The Fall of the Confederacy in the Mind of the White Christian South), pro-slavery Christians had enormous difficulty in meeting their argument directly.  But an indirect approach was available.  The Bible at various points refers to slavery, and even proposes norms pertaining to its practice, while not condemning it as unjust or in any way immoral.  So, pro-slavery Christians asserted, those in a position to practice slavery are entitled to choose whether or not to practice it—no one may be forced against his conscience to own slaves, but anyone who chooses to own a slave does not necessarily contravene Christian moral principles by doing it.  In other words, Christians who were "pro-choice" (as we might today put it) on the slavery question, pointed to the absence of a Biblical condemnation (and even suggestions of tacit approval) of a morally controversial practice they wished to support in justifying a position that was difficult to square with the logical implications of Biblical anthropology.  (As Professor Genovese points out, the fact that the slavery they were defending was a racially-based form of chattel slavery made it especially difficult for them to justify their position even on Biblical grounds, but lay that aside for now.)

These pro-slavery Christians were wrong.  And the practice they were defending was horribly wicked—far more wicked than the practice of fornication, adultery, or sodomy.  But it must be conceded that the proponents of slavery had available to them scriptural resources for an argument, albeit an unsound and, it is now clear, deeply scandalous one, that are not available to those who wish to defend the compatibility of the choice to engage in fornication, adultery, or sodomy, with Christian anthropology and moral principles.  Unlike slavery, these and other forms of sexual immorality are the subjects of scriptural condemnations, as clear and extensive in the New Testament as in the Old.  Moreover, the idea that they may legitimately be chosen has been rejected by the firm and constant teaching of the Church---East and West – a teaching that, by its centering on what is involved and required by the marital (both for married and unmarried persons), was and is scripturally grounded in a way going far beyond mere “proof texting.”  Christians who today seek to justify deviations from traditional norms of sexual morality can do no more than attempt to explain away the scriptural condemnations of the conduct they defend.  (So, for example, some of them attempt to show that the explicit condemnation of homosexual conduct is merely a matter of ritual purity and practice, not the expression of a moral teaching.)  They cannot say about the morally controversial practices they wish to defend what the pro-slavery Christians could and did say about the morally controversial practice they defended, namely, that the Bible treats it as a normal and accepted social practice and offers no condemnation of it.

So much for the differences which strike me.  I would of course concede that there are similarities.  Most notably:  like Christian defenders of slavery, Christian defenders of sodomy (and other sexual practices condemned by historic Christian teaching) seek to show that Christianity is more permissive than their opponents say it is.  And, correspondingly, of course, Christian opponents of sodomy, like Christian opponents of slavery, see the Christian ethic as more rigorous by virtue of its excluding certain controversial forms of conduct from the universe of morally available options for choice, despite the fact that some intelligent, well-informed people do not share the conviction that the conduct is wrong.

Of course, the fact that those who argued for a more permissive view of morality in the case of slavery were wrong does not mean that those who today argue for a more permissive view of the morality of sodomy or other controversial forms of sexual conduct cannot be right.  Whether they are right or wrong will have to be judged on the quality of the arguments they advance.  My point in these comments has been only that they do not have available to them the scriptural resources that were available to, and were exploited by, those who argued that slave holding was compatible with Christian morality.  That, I think, is a striking difference.

August 28, 2006 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Pope Benedict XVI corrects Katherine Harris

Well, sort of.  Katherine Harris's stupid statement about electing Christians -- aside:  why is it so hard for people who believe, as I do, that faith and public life are not and cannot be compartmentalized to avoid falling into the "separation of church and state is a myth" trap -- reminded me of this, from then-Cardinal Ratzinger's Salt of the Earth.  After observing that, in fact, it was Christianity that brought the separation of Church and state into the world, he continues:

“Until then the political constitution and religion were always united.  It was the norm in all cultures for the state to have sacrality in itself and be the supreme protector of sacrality. . . .  Christianity did not accept this but deprived the state of its sacral nature.  . . . In this sense, this separation is ultimately a primordial Christian legacy and also a decisive factor for freedom.  Thus, the state is not itself a sacred power but simply an order that finds its limits in a faith that worships, not the state, but a God who stands over against it and judges it.”

August 28, 2006 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Katherine Harris Gets Serious About Theocracy

As thorny and divisive as questions of church and state can be, it's nice when someone can come along and unify all reasonable minds in opposition to a set of outlandish views.  U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris, in a doomed campaign for Senate, called the separation of church and state "a lie" and said, "If you're not electing Christians, then in essence you are going to legislate sin."


August 28, 2006 in Vischer, Rob | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Georgetown Gets Serious About Mission

Showing the best side of its Catholic identity, Georgetown has kicked off campus outside Protestant ministries, including InterVarsity and Chi Alpha.  Joseph Bottum comments:

There’s an obvious irony here—employed too often to be surprising—in which people begin by protesting in the name of diversity against centralized authority, and later discover, once they’re in charge, how useful those old forms of authority can be in controlling diversity.


August 28, 2006 in Vischer, Rob | Permalink | TrackBack (0)