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, February 28, 2007

San Diego declares bankruptcy

Last night San Diego became the largest diocese (so far) to declare bankruptcy. (HT: Open Book)  The first trial of 150 lawsuits alleging abuse by 60 priests was set to begin today.  San Diego joins Tucson, Spokane, Portland (Ore.), and Davenport (Iowa).

February 28, 2007 in Vischer, Rob | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Edith Stein Project: Report 1

For the third year in a row, a group of undergraduate students at Notre Dame planned and organized a major conference (a list of great speakers and over 200 registered attendees) promoting the development of the new feminism.  This year’s theme was “Toward Integral Healing for Women and Culture.”  In their Mission Statement for this year’s conference (which was held last weekend), the organizers say: 

“We all live in a world where women have been hurt by practices, attitudes and cultural norms that are often taken for granted.  Healing is needed on an individual level for those who have been victimized by real violence, and on a cultural level for all who are negatively impacted by a society where eating disorders, pornography, sexual assault, and attacks on women’s sexual health are common concerns.  These issues directly affect men and women, and we believe that their involvement in these types of healing and change is essential. 

“In celebrating women’s unique gift to be an instrument of empathy and healing, the conference will focus on the specific problem issues that require healing, as well as seek to provide a forum for discussing means to achieve this healing.

“Edith Stein, our patron saint, writes, ‘the capacity for empathy with others and their needs and the capacity and docility for adaptation are more developed in the nature of woman.  She (woman) has a profound need to share her life with another and, consequently, a capacity for unselfish love, for commitment, a capacity to transcend the self.   Furthermore, her inclination towards maternity draws her to all living and personal things and to a type of more specific, contemplative knowledge.  Her nature as mother and companion illuminates the essence of personal relationship.  Gifted with the capacity for carrying life, as the continuation of Eve called ‘mother of all living,’ she is also responsible for preparing ‘the restoration of life.’”

The mission statement then sets out the specific goals of the conference, and I am here to testify that they met and exceeded what they set out to do. 

Unique in an academic setting, the conference included academic presentations, personal testimony, and reports on direct action. The line-up included:

  • Wendy Shalit, author of “A Return to Modesty” and the forthcoming “Girls Gone Mild” opened the conference with a talk entitled “Modesty:  The Last Taboo.” 
  • Economist Jennifer Roback Morse spoke on her book, “Smart Sex:  Finding Life-long Love in a Hook-Up World.”
  • Theologian Sr. Jane Dominic Laurel, O.P., spoke on “Women, Imagination, and the Cultivation of the Feminine Spirit in the Works of Cervantes and Edith Stein.”
  • MOJ friend and alum, Paolo Carrozza, used examples from his work on the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights in his lecture entitled “Human Rights, Violence against Women and Reflections on Deus Caritas Est.
  • Kathleen Gibney, formerly of the Notre Dame psychology department, spoke on “Awakening the Spirit of Women:  Gifts of Personal Reflection and Social
  • Economist Catherine Ruth Pakaluk spoke “Splitting the Baby:  Creative Solutions for Mothers in a Second-Best Economy.”
  • Ethics professor Janet Smith talked on “Contraception:  A Women’s Friend or Foe.”
  • Theologian Pia de Solenni spoke on “Renewing the Feminine Image.”
  • Philosopher Maria Fedoryka spoke on “Edith Stein and the Vocation to Love”
  • Deirdre MacQuade, the U.S.bishops spokesperson on pro-life issues tied the conference together in her banquet speech, which reminded all of the call to prayer.

All of these talks were excellent, giving us fruitful information, ideas to chew on, and a basis for grounding human dignity and the new feminism in our nature as creatures created in God’s image.  The conference would have been worth it just to feast on the wisdom and knowledge of these thoughtful women (and man).  But, the conference was so much more than this. Students addressed real life problems of sexual assault, eating disorders, and sexual addiction.  And, other speakers, from magazine publishers to direct service providers spoke about their work in healing a wounded culture. 

My next post will reflect on these aspects of the conference.

Also, I invite other attendees to email me their reflections on the conference, which I will attempt to post.

February 28, 2007 in Scaperlanda, Mike | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Bainbridge on conscience and Catholic facilities

Our own Prof. Bainbridge comments here on Wesley Smith's recent piece, warning about the proposed California assisted-suicide law and its effect on religious health-care providers.

February 27, 2007 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Catholic Universities and pluralism

Prof. Ed Edmonds (Notre Dame) passes on this, from ZENIT:

Catholic Professors Discussing Plurality Online
Internet Congress Ends March 3
PARIS, FEB. 25, 2007 (Zenit.org).- In an online international seminar, professors are debating the challenges faced by Catholic universities in a culturally and religiously pluralistic world.

The event is the fifth forum of the International Catholic Association of Institutions of Educational Sciences (ACISE), which will end March 3.

The seminar is entitled "Intercultural Dialogue in Education: Practical Experiences and Theoretical Points of View."

Bart McGettrick, a participant and former chairman of ACISE, told ZENIT that the online international congress is important because it "is useful for professors in Catholic universities to be in communication."

He said that there are "both common issues and values across the Catholic communities, as well as very different ways in which these are reflected in practice."

The former principal of St. Andrew's College of Scotland, and dean of education at Glasgow University, added: "The social, cultural, political and economic environments of each country offer opportunities to show how Christian values have a relevance to modern society and thought.

"It is a duty of educators to be open to these ideas and to share experiences both for ourselves and for others."

According to McGettrick: "The Church does have a duty to have an 'intellectual voice.' This should be heard by the wider public as part of contemporary thinking.

"If the Church does not do this the ideas and values of the marketplace become dominant and loud.

"We need to live in times when we can grow from out roots and reach to a world that currently lacks strong leadership."

He continued: "All around there is confusion, weakness and lack of ethical courage.

"University professors have a duty to provide some of that leadership and this seminar should provide some confidence in doing so."

February 27, 2007 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | TrackBack (0)


Last Friday night I saw the excellent and moving movie, Bella, which won the People's Choice Award at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival.   In the movie, a famous soccer player has withdrawn from the world after a tragic event cuts his career short.  While working in his brother's restaurant, he encounters a young waitress in crisis.  Their day together brings him out of himself and shows her the healing power of family.  Let us hope that the this film finds a distributor so that it can be shared with a wide audience.

February 27, 2007 in Scaperlanda, Mike | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

"Doing God's work"

Scott Horton has a long post, over at Balkinization, on William Wilberforce, the anniversary of Parliament's vote to abolish the slave trade, and the role of religion in politics.  Here is a bit:

Wilberforce mustered many powerful arguments against the slave trade. At first, he avoided denunciations of the slave traders, and instead appealed to their humanity and inherent sense of justice. Throughout the Napoleonic Wars, Wilberforce was also a persistent advocate of the doctrine of humane warfare and raised his powerful voice repeatedly for the humane treatment of all prisoners taken in time of war. He also mobilized the emerging humanitarian law doctrine of protection for prisoners to oppose the slave trade. A large part of the West Africans impressed into bondage and shipped across the sea to be sold were, he pointed out, actually prisoners taken in warfare on the African continent. As such, he argued, they were entitled to humane treatment which could not be squared with the revolting conditions found on board of the slave trading ships. This shows the close, mutually reinforcing relationship between humanitarian law and human rights law that has continued to this day.

For Wilberforce's campaign, opposition to torture was the critical element. Given Biblical texts which explicitly or implicitly condoned the Peculiar Institution, it was difficult to frame a theological attack on slavery per se. But torture was another matter. The cruel abuse of a human being held in captivity was accepted by Wilberforce and most of his colleagues as an offense against Divine Law. Consequently the slave trade was thought a far more vulnerable target than slavery itself. In Wilberforce's great opening speech of 1789, frequently cited as the most important parliamentary address delivered in that memorable era, he dwelt heavily on the physical conditions of the slave ships: how slaves were stripped naked, bound and shackled, packed into the holds of the ship like sardines in a can, subjected to unbearable fluctuations of heat and cold, given inadequate water and food, deprived of sanitation. In such conditions the slaves screamed in agony, many calling out to be killed to put an end to their misery. And very many, by some reckonings most, expired in the process. Wilberforce's contemporaries readily accepted this thesis: that torture could not be permitted, even torture of slaves whose humanity was doubted. It is curious that today, two centuries later, the notion of slavery is a nonstarter, but torture seems to be accepted as fair grounds for debate. There can be no doubt that William Wilberforce would be appalled to make this discovery.

William Wilberforce may be something of an unwanted model for some of today's human rights advocates. He was an Evangelical Christian and, moreover, a Conservative. He sat for decades as a Tory MP for a Yorkshire constituency in Parliament, and his success comes at least to some extent from his close friendship with William Pitt, the youngest prime minister in Britain's history. But these are, I think, among the traits that make Wilberforce such an important figure for us today. He demonstrates the universality of the human rights message and its appeal across partisan and philosophical boundaries. He demonstrates that a political conservative who builds from traditional religious values, who embraces the joys of private property, who advocates a restrained government of limited powers, has every reason to advocate the cause of human rights. He demonstrates that there are and always were compassionate conservatives - men and women who truly earned this label.

How might Wilberforce's example, and success, inform the pro-life movement?

February 27, 2007 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

"Bleeding Heart right-winger"

This piece describes Sen. Brownback as a "bleeding heart right-winger," noting his positions on aid to Africa, Darfur, and immigration, among other things.  I wonder, how close is a "bleeding heart right winger" to a member of the "Seamless Garment Party," often discussed here at MOJ?

February 27, 2007 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Abortion as a moral good

Erstwhile John Edwards staffer Amanda Marcotte has some bracing thoughts about abortion to share.  (I am sure John Edwards is relieved not to have to defend them):

To see that abortion is moral, you just need to look at women as human beings with lives that have value. When a woman chooses abortion, she's not indulging some guilty pleasure, like sneaking in a round of adultery at lunch, to bring up a genuinely immoral action that should not be criminal. She is probably thinking about her family's well-being and yes, her own well-being. Taking your own well-being into consideration is called "selfish" by anti-choicers, but I think valuing yourself is a moral good, even if you are female. In fact, especially if you are female, since you live in a world where having self-esteem can be an act of moral courage that requires some defiance. If I got pregnant, I wouldn't even have to suffer much mental strain to realize that abortion would be the best choice for myself, my family, and my relationship.  Abortion, not just the right to abortion but the actual procedure, is a moral good that helps women and families and should be honored as such. Women who get abortions should be recognized as people who can accurately weigh their choices and make the most moral one.

February 27, 2007 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Firing U.S. Attorneys

Michael links to Ada, Cohen's complaint about the firing of seven U.S. Attorneys.  For what it's worth, the complaint strikes me as misplaced.  These U.S. Attorneys were nominated by this President, and serve in the Executive Branch of his administration.  President Clinton, remember, fired every single GOP-appointed U.S. Attorney -- except one -- when he came into office and, quite understandably, replaced them with his own nominees.  Is there politics at work here?  Of course.  And?

February 27, 2007 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Fr. Schall on law and morality

This is worth a read.  Fr. James Schall asks about the role of law and politicians in protecting human life.  In particular, he thinks about the impact that abortion's "legality" has on people's views about its morality.

February 27, 2007 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | TrackBack (0)