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.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Chris Eberle Responds to Andy Koppelman, A Second Time

Here is Chris's first response to Andy Koppelman.

Here is Andy's reply.

Now, Chris responds again:

The claim that human beings have inherent dignity by virtue of their being loved by God does not commit me to deducing a normative conclusion from exclusively factual premises.  Certainly not to deducing any conclusion about moral 'obligation' solely from factual premises.  After all, the claim that each human being has inherent dignity is a claim about excellence or goodness, not obligation, and so cannot violate the no ought from is dictum (which I accept in some formulation).

Nevertheless, the claim that the inherent dignity of each human being is grounded on the property of being loved by God does involve some claim about the supervenience of the moral on the non-moral, viz., that all moral/normative properties are grounded on some sufficient non-moral features.  (They are not deduced from, they are metaphysically grounded on, non-moral properties.)  So, for example, a person who has the virtue of courage has that virtue *by virtue* of her having some other features that are distinct from the virtue itself -- a set of dispositions or habits that enable her reliably to respond to danger in such and such specified ways.  Possession of those habits or dispitions grounds the virtue -- a person's possession of those features is what makes it the case that she has the virtue of courage.  People don't just have the virtue of courage, full stop.  They have that virtue *by virtue* of something else.

Similarly for inherent dignity -- if human beings have inherent dignity, then they have it by virtue of some property they share -- some property distinct from inherent dignity itself.  Of course, you might deny that all human beings have inherent dignity -- there's a long a venerable tradition of doing so.  And then you'll not be interested in Michael's position -- he *assumes* that people have inherent worth and then asks -- by virtue of what do they have that most wonderful property?  He gives a theistic answer to that question.  Perhaps that is wrong.  Fair enough.  Then we'll want to know what does make it the case that human beings have inherent dignity -- what plausible secular account if there for that property?  Presumably secularists, and even those who affirm the dictum that we can't derive an ought from an is, will want to say something about what it is about human beings by virtue of which they have inherent worth -- even if they are satisfied by the claim that inherent worth supervenes on membership in the human species.

So, in short, Andrew's appeal to the claim that we can't derive an ought from an is, or a good from an is, doesn't settle the question to which Perry provides his theistic answer since the issue has nothing to do with  inferences or deductions in the first place.

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

Church Governance and Church Unity

I have a slightly different reaction to Steve B's question than Fr. Araujo.  I think it's impossible to take the position that Henry VIII's split from Rome or the schism of the East from West, or the Protestant Reformation, were somehow not schisms within Catholicism.  That is to say, the RC Church has its history of disunion, notwithstanding (and, indeed, at times precisely because of) its rigidly hierarchical structure or the pretensions of the successors of Peter.  As Hans Kung (I think) has observed, too rigid an insistence unity can be just as destabilizing as an utter lack of concern for it.  That said, I have no doubt that the more centralized organizational structure of the Catholic Church is in part responsible for its relative stability. 

But I would add to that explanation a difference in the way Catholics and Protestants relate to their respective churches.  It has long seemed to me that Protestants view their denominational affiliation far more as a choice than do Catholics.  This fact would seem to explain the phenomenon of the Catholics Fr. Araujo describes (a category into which I no doubt fall as well) who insist on calling themselves Catholic even though they don't agree with everything said by the successor of Peter.   I am Catholic (although perhaps, based on what he says in his post and what he knows of my views, Fr. Araujo disagrees with that statement), and (I'm quite sure Fr. Araujo would disagree with this) I believe  I would continue to be Catholic in some sense even if I attempted to completely sever my ties to this Church into which I and my ancestors were born.  Even if Fr. Araujo is right and I'm wrong about the facts of the matter, this strong fidelity to the institution, this resistence to exit, even by people who disagree with the hierarchy at times and who might, were they from some other tradition, strike out on their own in search of a more congenial community (they're certainly out there), also contributes (as a behavioral matter) to the institutional stability of the Catholic Church.  I'm not sure this explanation depends on the Church's hierarchical nature, though the two explanations may not be wholly unrelated.  But this second explanation strikes me as sounding more in culture and identity than in organizational structure.   

August 31, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Framework for the Human Rights Debate

In response to Fr. Araujo's post, Rob asks "[h]ow does a belief in God provide a framework for women's rights that is more capable of authoritatively and accessibly settling disputes over content than than the framework built by the atheist?"  He asks this question because of the elusiveness of answers within Christianity to human rights questions.

I offer two responses.  First, scripture, Tradition, the Magisterium, and natural law frame the debate for the Catholic because within the Catholic worldview these sources provide us access (as limited as it may be) to the Truthmaker who reveals to us by way of faith and reason that all human beings - woman included - possess inherent dignity by the very nature of their being.  From the materialist's viewpoint, there is no external truthmaker framing the debate.  In the adsence of a Truthmaker (in the absence of a purposeful and rational Universe), does the materialist have (can the materialist develop) a robust framework for the idea of inherent human dignity?  If so, what is it?  I can't say that I have followed every post in this thread here or on Balkinization, but so far, I haven't seen anyone attempt to build the case for a robust materialistic foundation for human rights.  Instead, what I have seen are attempts to deflate the theistic founadation.  To quote Chris Green, here, does the materialistic worldview have "any entities that could possibly provide ontological support for human rights and genuine morality"?  Is so, lets hear it.

Second, part of the problem, something I see at least implicitly in Rob's post, is the messiness of this whole business.  If a theistic worldview provides an objective basis upon which to build a human rights regime then why is it so difficult to know clearly the answers to specific human rights questions say, for example, with human rights for women? (Another problem is with our will - our ability to live by those answers once known, but I don't sense that this prompted Rob's question).  It seems to be part of the human condition that answers emerge only within history as we are confronted with new questions and new situations and that much disputation and confrontation is required to enlighten our minds and sharpen our thinking.  How often in the annals of history did a conquering culture step back, reflect on, and argue about the humanity and dignity of those conquered?  The fact that Spanish philosophers and theologians did so with respect the humanity and dignity of American Indians is amazing to me.  But, they could do so because they had a common philosophical and theological framework for the debate.  In We Hold These Truths, John Courtney Murray says that we can argue because we have a common foundation - we agree about the foundational issues.  Without a framework, without a robust foundation, we talk past each other and the framework for human rights is a matter of power and not truth.  In short, I wouldn't take the slowness or the messiness of operating within the framework as a reason to discredit the framework or question it vitality.

August 31, 2007 in Scaperlanda, Mike | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Why Unions Matter

Kevin Drum makes a nice, and frequently overlooked, point about why unions matter for reducing inequality.  The Church has gotten this for over a century:

If you're interested in government policies that actively favor the working and middle classes, you need to have some kind of substantial political interest group fighting on their side. That's Politics 101, and right now unions are pretty much all we've got. They aren't perfect, and they frequently act only in their own narrow self-interest, but without them there's no organized opposition to the agenda of corporations and the rich. Warts and all, they're worth supporting until something better comes along.

August 31, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

How is God relevant to the content of human rights?

I appreciate Fr. Araujo's contribution to the conversation on God and human rights, but his observation prompts a further question.  If God is "the objective source on which to rely to resolve the conflict" over the content of human rights, how do we discern what that source says without relying on highly subjective factors (our interpretation of Scripture, our culture, etc.)?  If you look at the heated battles among theists about human rights down through the centuries, it seems like the objectivity of God as a source of content is, at best, elusive.  (I am not at all questioning the fact that belief in God can provide a rich impetus to embrace human rights in general.)  It might help to use a specific example -- let's take women's rights.  How does a belief in God provide a framework for women's rights that is more capable of authoritatively and accessibly settling disputes over content than the framework built by the atheist?

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

The always interesting Ross Douthat ...

has something to say abut "Social Conservatism and Double Standards" (here):

"I understand that there's a difference, legally-speaking, between pleading guilty to a criminal offense and tacitly confessing to a crime you haven't - and probably won't - be charged with, but I still think it's unfortunate that Larry Craig might be forced to resign by his fellow Republicans, while David Vitter has apparently survived being outed as a client of a major D.C. prostitution ring. I agree with Megan that what Craig did was arguably a greater betrayal of his wife than what Vitter may have done, but from any social-conservative calculus (or at least my social-conservative calculus) prostitution has to be considered a greater social evil than cruising for gay sex in bathrooms. This relates to a point I fumbled through in my conversation with Mark yesterday - the unfortunate extent to which socially-conservative politicians have focused their fire on gays, because opposing gay rights was for a long time an 80-20 issue for the Right (though no longer), while studiously ignoring the various beams in heterosexuals' eyes. It's a hard pattern to break, but the GOP could find worse places to start than making sure that Vitter shares whatever political fate awaits Larry Craig."

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

Human Rights: Natural Rights versus Positive Rights

I would like to begin by thanking other MOJ contributors who have continued our discussion about human rights and their foundation. Clearly, this discussion is of vital interest to most people. I have little doubt that non-theist promoters of human rights maintain sincerely held convictions about the importance of human rights. But I should like to expand briefly upon my August 17th posting in which I discussed the authorship of these rights.

A major difficulty with the atheistic outlook is the positivism on which it relies. While the atheist may acknowledge the existence of natural rights to which any human can claim, the issue remains one of authorship. For the atheist, it is solely the human intellect; however, for the theist, as I stated in my posting of August 17, it is God.

The principal disagreement between these two perspectives on natural rights involves authorship and the subsequent identity of essential rights. In both perspectives (i.e., atheistic and theistic), human reason plays a role. In the case of the atheistic perspective, human reason possesses a monopoly on identifying and defining the rights that belong to human nature. In the case of the theistic perspective, human reason has a non-exclusive role that must be complemented by God’s position as author of human rights.

This distinction becomes palpable in the contrast between the subjective and objective outlooks I mentioned in my August 17th posting. An illustration of this difference follows: let us say two atheist advocates of human rights debate one another regarding what is constitutive of human rights. They rely solely on what their own intellect reveals to them (this does not preclude their intellect relying on that of another person or group of people, but it is ultimately their personal reason that determines the question). What happens when their respective views collide? They have no objective source upon which to rely to resolve the conflict. With the theist, on the other hand, there is the vital role of the objective source of human rights, i.e., God.

Perhaps this brief posting will prompt more discussion on this crucial topic having a key bearing on the work of MOJ.    RJA sj

August 31, 2007 in Araujo, Robert | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Governance in the Catholic Church

Prof. Steve Bainbridge has raised some interesting and important points about ecclesial governance within the Episcopal Church and the future meeting with the Episcopal bishops and the Archbishop of Canterbury. Steve presents a most important question about whether the polity of the Catholic Church would insulate it from the fragmentation that appears to threaten the Episcopal Church..

First of all, the Episcopal Church is a product of division. A layman, specifically Henry the eighth of that name, decided that he would not owe allegiance to the successor of Peter nor would he be obedient to the Petrine Office. Once Henry disavowed obedience and allegiance, he had to control the structure that his schism produced. It appears that neither he nor his successors nor clerical partners could do this.

But, the Catholic Church remained separate, distinct, and foundationally undisturbed. With Peter, we are Catholic. Without him, we become something else.

I am mindful that there are those who consider themselves members of the Catholic Church but still challenge Peter while at the same time proclaiming their individual fidelity to the Church. But this perspective is not without its problems. The fact of the matter is that Christ Himself appointed Peter to be the Rock of the Church that He founded. Whether anyone elects to bear allegiance to Peter is up to himself or herself. Should this person decide to depart from this loyalty, he or she leaves the Church notwithstanding personal protestations to the contrary.

The governance of the Catholic Church is quite straightforward. For contemporary skeptics of my posting, I would recommend that they consult Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution of the Church. As mentioned previously, Steve has raised an exceptional point, and I suggest that our discussion on his critical posting about why the Catholic Church is substantively different from the Episcopal communion must concentrate on the ecclesial structure of the Catholic Church as defined by Lumen Gentium.    RJA sj

August 30, 2007 in Araujo, Robert | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

More on the Crisis at Ave Maria

Ave Watch has posted more information on Dean Dobranski's efforts to revoke Prof. Steve Safranek's tenure.  The Dean's characterization of a complaint against Safranek greatly undermines the Dean's credibility.

August 30, 2007 in Scaperlanda, Mike | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Research on Church Governance and the Coming Anglican Implosion

Jordan Hylden muses on looming meeting between Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and the US Episcopal bishops. The prospects are ugly for anyone who cares about the health of the church universal, as the odds are high that either (1) the US Episcopal Church will leave (or be forced out of) the Anglican communion for refusing to comply with the requests made last year at the Tanzanian conference that the US Church stop consecrating actively gay bishops (meaning no more Gene Robinsons), stop formal blessings of same-sex unions, and provide space for those who dissent or (2) that the more conservative Southern Hemisphere provinces will pull out of the global Lambeth Conference.

As a Roman Catholic who studies organizations and governance, I'm curious as to whether there are specific aspects of the RC polity that help insulate it from this sort of break up. Does having a global hierarchy have advantages in promoting unity relative to national hierarchies? I'm mulling taking a break from corporate governance to think about this stuff, so constructive comments and references over at my blog would be welcome.

August 30, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)