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, January 31, 2007

Mary Cheney Speaks

New York Times
January 31, 2007

Mary Cheney Publicly Defends Her Pregnancy

Mary Cheney, the lesbian daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney, today for the first time publicly defended her decision to become pregnant and asserted that same-sex couples are equally capable of raising children as heterosexual couples.

“When Heather and I decided to have a baby, I knew it wasn’t going to be the most popular decision,” Ms. Cheney said, referring to her partner of 15 years, Heather Poe. She then gestured to her middle — any bulge disguised by a boxy jacket — and asserted: “This is a baby. This is a blessing from God. It is not a political statement. It is not a prop to be used in a debate, on either side of a political issue. It is my child.”

Ms. Cheney, 37, was speaking at a panel discussion sponsored by Glamour magazine at Barnard College in Manhattan. The baby, whose sex she has not publicly disclosed, is due this spring and will be the sixth grandchild for the vice president and his wife. Ms. Cheney, who is vice president of consumer advocacy for AOL and lives in Virginia, has not said how she became pregnant.

Her father became testy last week during a CNN interview when the host Wolf Blitzer asked what he thought of conservatives — specifically James C. Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family— who are critical of his daughter Mary’s pregnancy.

In refusing to answer, Mr. Cheney told Mr. Blitzer  that he was “over the line.”

Ms. Cheney said in a brief interview after the panel that she was not speaking for her father, but that when she saw the interview, she also felt Mr. Blitzer had crossed a line. “He was trying to get a rise out of my father,” she said.

Today at the panel discussion, inside a stuffy room decorated by portraits of stern-looking former Barnard presidents, Cindi Leive, the editor of Glamour, asked Ms. Cheney if she had anything to say to critics like Mr. Dobson.

Mr. Dobson wrote in Time magazine last month that years of social research “indicates that children do best on every measure of well-being when raised by their married mother and father.” He also wrote that his group believes that “birth and adoption are the purview of married heterosexual couples.” (Two of the researchers whom Mr. Dobson cited in his article have complained that Mr. Dobson distorted their views and said they disagreed with his conclusions.)

Ms. Cheney noted Mr. Dobson’s distortions of the research he cited and added: “Every piece of remotely responsible research that has been done in the last 20 years has shown there is no difference between children raised by same-sex parents and children raised by opposite-sex parents; what matters is being raised in a stable, loving environment.”

She said  Mr. Dobson was entitled to his opinion, “but he’s not someone whose endorsement I have ever drastically sought.”


January 31, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Response to Rick's Query

Capital Punishment, Rick.  It shows the Tradition in development, enables you to distingsuish the position of John Paul II, which is a bit ahead of the Tradition on the issue, from the  present position of the Tradition, and, above all, permits you to discuss a issue of cardinal importance for LAW STUDENTS.  (Invite Richard Posner to participate in the discussion!)

January 31, 2007 in Perry, Michael | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Catholic Social Thought class

So, I'm working on the syllabus and readings for a seminar, "Law and the Catholic Social Tradition," that I'll be teaching at the University of Chicago Law School in the Spring quarter.  That quarter, as I understand it, is only 8 weeks long, and our class is scheduled to meet once a week (with an additional special get-together with Cardinal George).  So, with only 8 meetings, I'm wrestling with what to cover, what to read, and what to emphasize.

It seems to me -- and I would very much welcome reactions -- that it would not be best to, say, pick 8 important encyclicals and do one per week.  I'm more inclined to identify leading themes, or particularly salient problems, and focus on those.  Here's what I'm working with right now:

1.  Introduction to basic themes; historical context (French Revolution through Leo XIII). 

2.  The Nature, Role, and Problem of the State.

3.   The Structure of Society (subsidiarity).

4.  Individuals, Markets. Community, and Solidarity.

5.   Religous Freedom, Pluralism, Conscience.

6.  Prudence, Politics, and Legal Moralism

7. The Family as a Social Institution

8.  Nationalism, Cosmopolitanism, Internationalism, and Patriotism.

Thoughts?  Reactions?  Suggestions?

January 31, 2007 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

comment on Welby case

In large part because I don't think I have a clear idea of the underlying facts, I am not entirely sure how to evaluate the Welby case. I have been concerned by some of the arguments made in defending Welby's actions. For example, the article by John Paris from the Tablet had the subtitle--"A life too burdensome." That seems to me the wrong approach to take. Catholic teaching on this issue has drawn a distinction between burdensome treatments and burdensome lives. To regard some lives, in impaired conditions, as too burdensome gets close to denying the good of human life. In the Terri Schiavo case, for instance, that seems to be precisely the dynamic. To the people who were so eager to have her food and water withdrawn, her life was not worth living and some, her husband, regarded her as already dead. But for Terri, the treatment wasn't burdensome. Her life had a value that ought to have been respected throught he continued administration of ordinary care. That was the point of John Paul II's message on the treatment of PVS patients. But for Terri's husband, her continued existence was obviously too burdensome. 

Human life, however valuable, need not be preserved at all costs and there are situations where the treatment may be too burdensome (or extraordinary or disproportionate). Maybe that was the case in the Welby situation. Most commentators think that it was permissible to have removed the respirator in the Karen Ann Quinlan case, although her food and water were not withdrawn and she lived for a number of years. Maybe the Welby case was different, though, because he seemed intent on securing his death (not just avoiding atreatment that had proved too burdensome). The whole use of his case to promote the "right to die" movement in Italy seems to suggest that something more significant was going on then just replaying the Quinlan case. The ideological use of his situation and death certainly weighed into Cardinal Ruini's decision to deny a Church funeral.

Richard M.   

January 31, 2007 in Myers, Richard | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Dissenters, Not Heretics

Fr. Edward Oakes makes the case that Protestants are not heretics.  He argues that both sides lost something significant in the Reformation, noting, for example: "No church historian doubts that the Catholic Church after Trent began to emphasize behavior as the marker of Catholic identity in ways unique in her history."  The whole thing is rich and worth reading, but here's an excerpt:

Luther’s point can be easily satirized and misconstrued–and by Catholic polemicists was–as if he were saying that behavior doesn’t matter, and that God was “letting us off the hook.” To take a modern analogy, the Catholic controversialists were in effect comparing Luther’s view of God to the California jury that acquitted O.J. Simpson of charges of murdering his wife even though he was obviously guilty–and here he is now living the high life and playing golf in Florida! Is that really the kind of justice we want to ascribe to God? But such a charge abuses Luther’s position, for he was more than willing to insist that a Christian’s justification must be reflected in the transformation of his behavior if a genuine faith were really the material cause of his justification.

Similarly, the Council of Trent was extremely nuanced in its decree on justification. For one thing, it had Paul’s letters to consider, which could hardly be made to say the opposite of what they do say. Additionally, the overpowering authority of St. Augustine on the matter could not be gainsaid. Thus the path to a superficial works-righteousness was blocked from the outset. No doubt, later Protestant polemicists claimed that Catholics were taught that they could “earn” salvation by going on pilgrimages, doing works of charity, and the like. But if Catholics believed that (and maybe a lot did on the popular level), they had no support in Trent’s carefully crafted decree.

January 31, 2007 in Vischer, Rob | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

"Clash Looms With Vatican"

"As China's Bishops die off," the Wall Street Journal reports, in this long article (subscription required), "Clash Looms With Vatican."

As Beijing and the Vatican escalate their battle for control of the Roman Catholic Church in China, people like Bishop Liu Jingshan are caught painfully in the middle.

The head of a diocese in the dusty plains of western China, the 93-year-old bishop is one of the church's last living links with a pre-Communist China, when Catholics could freely profess their allegiance to the pope. Bishop Liu also serves in the compromised present-day world of Catholicism in this country, in a government-approved church which the Vatican and many Catholics view as illegitimate.

This is a huge story, and I commend the WSJ for devoting so many column inches to it.  That said, as I have written here before, it is unfortunate that the storyline in pieces about China's efforts to run the Catholic Church always frames the issue as a "power struggle" between the "Vatican" and China for "control" over the Catholic Church.  No, the issue is Catholic control of the Catholic Church.

January 31, 2007 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

second annual Scarpa Conference in Catholic Legal Studies

The second annual Scarpa Conference will be held on October 16, 2007, in Villanova University's Connelly Center. Its topic will be "The Judicial Office in Our Constitutional Democracy: Avoiding Dogmatism on a Disputed Question." Please mark your calendars, and please spread the word to others who might be interested. All are welcome. Details about registration will be available as the time approaches.  Mark Sargent and I hope to have the opportunity to welcome lots of MoJers and friends-of-MoJ to Philadelphia and Villanova for what promises to be a rich discussion and perhaps colorful discussion of a deeply important and widely debated cluster of issues in (Catholic) legal theory.

Justice Antonin Scalia will deliver the keynote address. Also presenting papers at the Conference will be Professor Paul Kahn, Professor Jean Porter, Professor James R. Stoner, and Professor Jeremy Waldron.

Paul Kahn is the Robert W. Winner Professor of Law and the Humanities and Director, Orville H. Schell, Jr. Center for International Human Rights at the Yale Law School. Professor Kahn is the author of Legitimacy and History: Self-Government in American Constitutional Theory; The Reign of Law: Marbury v. Madison and the Construction of America; The Cultural Study of Law: Reconstucting Legal Scholarship; Law and Love: The Trials of King Lear; Putting Liberalism in Its Place; and Out of Eden: Adam and Eve and the Problem of Evil.

Jean Porter is the John A. O'Brian Professor of Theology at The University of Notre Dame. Professor Porter is the author of Natural and Divine Law: Reclaiming the Tradition for Christian Ethics; Nature and Reason: A Thomistic Theory of Natural Law; Moral Action and Christian Ethics; and The Recovery of Virtue: The Relevance of Aquinas for Christian Ethics.

James R. Stoner, Jr., is Professor of Political Science at Louisiana State University. Among his many writings are Common Law and Liberal Theory: Coke, Hobbes, and the Origins of American Constitutionalism and Common Law Liberty: Rethinking American Constitutionalism.

Jeremy Waldron is University Professor at New York University. He was previously University Professor at Columbia University. Professor Waldron came to Columbia from Princeton University, where he was the Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Politics. Among Waldron's books are God, Locke, and Equality: Christian Foundations of Locke's Political Theory; The Dignity of Legislation; Law and Disagreement, and The Right to Private Property.




The Judicial Office in Our Constitutional Democracy:

Avoiding Dogmatism on a Disputed Question

Aristotle taught that ideally we should prefer to be ruled by the animate justice of the wise man, but prudentially we must prefer judges who give effect to written law. Thomas Aquinas agreed: "Since . . . the animate justice of the judge is not found in every man, and since it can be deflected, it was necessary, whenever possible, for the law to determine how to judge, and for very few matters to be left to the decision of men." Aquinas taught, furthermore, that faced with an unjust law, the judge must refuse to proceed to judgment. The judge was to be a twice-measured measure - first by the written law, then by justice. Contemporary Catholic social doctrine is in accord.

From a range of starting points, many contemporary legal and political theorists reject a justice-based limitation on the judicial function. From the left, the leading argument is that "justice" is inevitably only a cover for politics, with the result that the judge should not be empowered to substitute her politics for that of the majority. From the right, the predominant argument is that a proper commitment to democracy requires a democracy-forcing judicial office. Justice Antonin Scalia has urged a "dogmatic democracy."

The Second Vatican Council (1962-65) was, remarkably, silent on the topic of democracy. Although Catholic social teaching since the Council has offered encouragement to those working on behalf of democracy, it has consistently denied that a democratic pedigree is sufficient to justify legislation or judicial judgment. The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (2004) warns against theories of political legitimacy that would exempt the products of democratic process from institutional moral scrutiny.

How are we to define, so as to be able to legitimate, the judicial office in our constitutional democracy? "The judicial power is neither a platonic essence nor a pre-existing empirical classification," Paul Bator observed. "It is a purposive institutional concept, whose content is a product of history and custom distilled in the light of experience and expediency." In the spirit suggested by Bator, the Second Annual Scarpa Conference in Catholic Legal Studies will inquire into how to determine the metes and bounds of the judicial office, with special attention to its relationship to democratic legitimacy and to the unique demands of the modern administrative state.

By bringing the perspectives of the Catholic tradition into dialogue with those of contemporary Anglo-American jurisprudence and political theory, the Conference will provide an opportunity to develop fresh critical perspectives on the "purposive institutional concept" that, as a matter of fact, shapes the judicial practice that in turn decides the directions that we can or cannot take in this democracy. If the majority loses sight of the demands of justice, natural law, and natural right, does political morality or constitutionalism demand that the judge refrain from going beyond the positive law? In the long run, can we be "dogmatic" about democracy?

January 30, 2007 in Brennan, Patrick | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Staying Theocentric

William Willimon's essay on preaching has implications for Catholic legal theorists too:

I tend to begin sermons with anthropology: descriptions of what we are doing or should do, who we are or who we wish we were. I do this because I assume that most people are more interested in themselves than in God. As Luke says, the huge crowds from all over Judea came not only to "hear him" but also "to be healed," to plug into the therapeutic "power" that "came forth from him." We tend to ask not "What is God really like?" but rather, "Jesus, what have you done for me lately?" Narcissism is a hard habit to break.

Jesus is more theocentric in his preaching. A sermon is a sermon when it's about God. We learn implications for human behavior only after we learn who God is and what God is up to.

Another thing. The discourse is eschatological. It's a vision not of present arrangements, but of what God will get when God's kingdom is come, God's will is done on earth. One doesn't hear much eschatology in my mainline denomination these days because most of us have got it so good. We're sitting on top of all this world has to offer, and we don't want to be, in Luther's words, "damned for the gospel" in order to be dragged kicking and screaming into some other world. Eschatology says that God is disruptive and dangerous before being creative. In this inauguration address, Jesus declares war, announcing an invasion related to a whole new world.

January 30, 2007 in Vischer, Rob | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

An Item of Interest

[Another interesting item from MOJ friend Gerry White (Trinity College Dublin, Law):]

Cardinal Martini and Euthanasia: When It Is Licit to Cut Life Short
For the former archbishop of Milan, the seriously ill person has at every moment the right to interrupt the care that keeps him alive. No, objects the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life. But the real clash is between Martini and the pope

by Sandro Magister

ROMA, January 30, 2007 – Just nine months after the bombshell manifesto of opposition to the reigning pope published in the Italian weekly “L’espresso” – on artificial insemination, embryos, abortion, euthanasia – cardinal Carlo Maria Martini has returned to the last of these topics, euthanasia, with an article that appeared on January 21 on the front page of the Sunday edition of “Il Sole 24 Ore,” the leading economics and finance newspaper in Italy, and one of the most important in all of Europe.

This time as well his statements have been interpreted as a criticism of the papal line of absolute opposition to intentionally caused “gentle death.”

And again this time – like nine months ago – the official Catholic media have shrouded cardinal Martini’s statements in silence, while the secular media have amplified them.

But a controversy that pits the highest leaders of the worldwide Church against each other with conflicting positions on topics of such importance cannot remain hidden within the Church itself.

It is a controversy with its own concrete proximate cause, background, and developments.

[To read the rest of this interesting article, click here.]

January 30, 2007 in Perry, Michael | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 29, 2007

John Edwards weighs in on Eduardo Peñalver's side!

Dear Friend,

As I've traveled the country, I've talked to thousands of people who work one or more jobs and still struggle to keep food on their tables and make ends meet. Righting this inexcusable wrong is a core goal of our work together.

In less than 72 hours, the Senate will likely vote on a proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $7.25 an hour. It's a long overdue change that will immediately help over 13 million people, many living at or below the edge of poverty. But it will only happen if you speak up.

Last week, the Senate Republicans filibustered a clean version of the proposal, and now they're trying to force Democrats to either pass billions of dollars more in corporate tax breaks or give up raising the minimum wage.

The only way to beat the special interests is to prove to every Senator that the American people are watching. It's time to tell the Senate that American workers deserve a raise - no strings attached:

Last year I worked with many of you and with our partners to help pass ballot initiatives raising the minimum wage in six states - so I know first hand how much support this has among working Americans. And I also know it's the right thing to do.

There's no doubt the minimum wage is too low: a full-time minimum wage worker brings in just $10,712 a year, less than half of the poverty level for a family of four.

There's no doubt it's been too long: in the ten years since the minimum wage was raised -- the longest delay in history -- the cost of living has gone up 25%.

And there's no doubt a higher minimum wage is good for the economy: studies show that cities and counties with higher minimum wages maintain or even increase employment levels.

The only doubt is whether the corporate lobbyists and their Republican allies will be able to dilute and delay the proposal at the expense of American workers.

If we raise our voice now, you and I can help make sure that doesn't happen.

Creating the working society we believe in -- where every full-time job provides the dignity of a decent income and a springboard to future opportunity -- will require bold fixes for the ways our system treats workers. These include shifting the tax burden off the backs of wage earners, providing full child care benefits for working families, defending the basic rights of workers to organize -- and raising the minimum wage.

It can happen, but only if we seize the big moments and speak out for what is right.

John Edwards

January 29, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)