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.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Keep your test tubes off Chopin's heart!

The Polack in me finds this act of resistance to the imperative of modern science rather touching.  Sometimes, "because we can" or "because we're curious" isn't a good enough reason to do something.

WARSAW, Poland - Like a religious relic, the heart of composer Frederic Chopin rests in a Warsaw church, untouched since it was preserved in alcohol after his death in 1849 at age 39. And that's how the Polish government wants to keep it.

Scientists want to remove the heart for DNA tests to see if Chopin actually died from cystic fibrosis and not tuberculosis as his death certificate stated. But the government says that's not a good reason to disturb the remains of a revered native son.

The heart lies in a jar sealed inside a pillar at Warsaw's Holy Cross Church — and the only time it has been removed was for safekeeping during World War II.

Before it was returned in 1951, a doctor examined the heart and found it perfectly preserved in an alcohol that many think is cognac. Chopin died in France, where his body is buried, but he asked that his heart be sent to his homeland.

. . .

A spokeswoman for the Culture Ministry, Iwona Radziszewska, told The Associated Press on Thursday that ministry officials consulted experts and decided that "this was neither the time to give approval, nor was it justified by the potential knowledge to be gained."

One of the experts consulted . . . said the "dominant view" of Chopin experts "is that the proposed research is going to serve first and foremost to satisfy the curiosity of the project's authors," while offering no "new knowledge that would have a meaningful impact on the assessment of the figure and work of Chopin."

July 26, 2008 in Schiltz, Elizabeth | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, July 25, 2008

What Do Catholics Believe?

The Tablet

Feature Article, 26 July 2008

Sex and the modern Catholic
Tablet Special: Humanae Vitae 40 years on

 Publication of Humanae Vitae 40 years ago was a seismic moment in the history of the Catholic Church. Today most practising Catholics ignore its teaching on birth control and more than half think it should be revised. This is the central finding of a major survey commissioned by The Tablet

By the time the contraceptive pill came on the market in 1962, Catholic couples had begun to wonder if it was the answer to their prayers: a reliable and convenient method of birth control they could use with the Church's blessing. The hopes of a great many Catholics were dashed with the publication of Paul VI's encyclical, Humanae Vitae on 29 July 1968 which forbad the use of all artificial forms of contraception including the Pill.

Exactly 40 years later, a major study conducted by The Tablet has found that its teaching is ignored by the great majority of Mass-going Catholics. This is one of the main findings contained in part two of our survey of 1,500 Catholics from parishes across England and Wales. Although almost half have never heard of Humanae Vitae, a large majority is aware of the Church's ban on artificial birth control and more than half believe it should be revised.

Part two of the survey asks a broad range of questions surrounding sex, relationships and contraception and the Church's teaching. It has found that a large proportion of otherwise faithful Catholics are using a range of artificial contraceptives, especially condoms and the contraceptive pill. More than half the adults aged 18 to 45 lived with their partner before getting married and a majority would not consider discussing their family's size and contraception with their priest. The latter point may well be related to modern Catholics' reluctance to go to confession, as confirmed in part one of our survey.

Though the study reveals overwhelming support for marriage as a life-long commitment, nearly three-quarters of Catholics believe separation or divorce is better than an unhappy marriage and a similar number feel divorced people who remarry should not be excluded from Holy Communion. The findings of part two of our survey are set out below.

[Read the rest, here.]

July 25, 2008 in Perry, Michael | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Wisdom from the New Jesuit Superior General

As many of our readers know, Fr. Adolfo Nicolas, a Spanish priest who has served in East Asia for much of his adut life, was chosen as the new Superior General for the Society of Jesus.  At the end of the gathering of Jesuits in Rome for the 35th General Congregation, which has generated a number of important documents regarding Jesuit mission, Fr. Nicolas gave an inspiring homily aimed at Jesuits but with relevance for those of us committed to mission in our schools.

If we do not love, we really do not have anything to say. Here we discover, I think, the root and source of our identity and our mission. Here is our raison d’être. Why do we want to love the poor, to help the lonely, to console the sad, to heal the sick and to bring freedom to the oppressed? Simply because this is what God does. Nothing else. As the Holy Father told us, love for the poor does not have an ideological but a Christological basis. It is the very essence of Christ.

For the full text see here

July 24, 2008 in Powell, Russell | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

"Will pro-choicers respect conscientious choice?"


The chairman of the U.S. bishops pro-life committee says an issue is being discussed by members of Congress that should be a matter of agreement between "pro-lifers" and "pro-choicers": respect of conscience. . . .

Cardinal Rigali said the issue "should be a matter of agreement among members [of Congress] who call themselves 'pro-life' and 'pro-choice': the freedom of health care providers to serve the public without violating their most deeply held moral and religious convictions on the sanctity of human life." . . .

The cardinal's final point called into question the logical soundness of abortion-supporters' arguments.

He explained that "efforts to protect rights of conscience are being attacked by critics as a threat to women’s 'access' to abortion arid birth control. This is an interesting charge. For many years, pro-abortion groups have insisted that abortion and related services are 'basic' and mandatory aspects of health care."

"They have opposed conscience clauses, dismissively calling them 'refusal clauses,' claiming that they protect an irrational 'refusal' by a tiny minority of religious zealots to comply with this supposedly objective medical standard," the cardinal continued. "Now they have reversed their stand, claiming that conscientious objection to these procedures is so pervasive in the health care professions that policies protecting conscience rights will eliminate access to them."

"Obviously these two claims cancel each other out," Cardinal Rigali affirmed. . ..

July 24, 2008 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Hentoff on Sarah Palin's pro-life witness

Nat Hentoff, as MOJ readers probably know, is a very interesting commentator.  How many civil-libertarian, atheist, pro-life columnists are out there these days, after all?  Anyway, here is a piece he did on Sarah Palin, the governor of my original home state of Alaska.  A bit:

Last December, this mother of four children, Mrs. Palin, four months' pregnant, found she was going to have a child with Down syndrome — a condition characterized by moderate-to-severe mental retardation. A school friend of one of my sons had Down syndrome; I have also known functioning adults with the extra chromosomes of that syndrome.

However, as a longtime reporter on disability rights, I have discovered that many fetuses so diagnosed have been aborted by parents who have been advised by their doctors to end the pregnancies because of the future "imperfect quality of life" of such children.

Mrs. Palin's first reaction to the diagnosis was to research the facts about the condition, since, as she said, "I've never had problems with my other pregnancies." As a result, she and her husband, Todd, never had any doubt they would have the child.

"We've both been very vocal about being pro-life," she told the Associated Press. "We understand that every innocent life has wonderful potential." In an age when DNA and other genetic-selection tests increasingly determine who is "fit" to join us human beings, we are witnessing the debate between sanctity of life vs. quality of life being more often decided in favor of death. This is a result welcomed by internationally-influential bioethicist Peter Singer. He is now a celebrated Princeton University professor, who, in July 1983, wrote in Pediatrics, the official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics: "If we compare a severely defective human infant with a nonhuman animal, a dog or pig, for example, we will often find the nonhuman to have superior capacities, both actual and potential, for rationality, self-consciousness, communication, and anything else that can plausibly be considered morally significant." And there are bioethicists who point to the continuing costs of rearing a "defective infant."

By inspirational contrast, Mrs. Palin, says of her new son, Trig: "I'm looking at him right now, and I see perfection. Yeah, he has an extra chromosome. I keep thinking, in our world, what is normal and what is perfect?"

July 24, 2008 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Discussion about religiously affiliated law schools

Over at Prawfsblawg, there have been a number of interesting posts -- by Paul Horwitz, Jason Solomon, Gordon Smith, etc. -- about religiously affiliated law schools.  MOJ-ers might want to weigh in, here or there.  For my own part, I wrote:

this might not be the forum for thinking-out-loud about what a “Catholic law school” should be, what precisely should be its distinguishing features, etc.  In my view, the project of building such a law school — an engaged, open, critical, and distinctively Catholic law school — is not an exercise in nostalgia, reaction, or retrieval.  The project is, in my view, a new one.

It’s also, I think, an exciting and worthy one, and I’m inclined to think that it should be regarded as such by the legal academy generally, not just by co-religionists and the like.   It is not just “not a bad thing”, it is a good thing, that there be distinctive law schools.  Our commitments to diversity need not, and should not, lead us to insist on homogenization at the level of institutions.  Quite the contrary — the same commitments that push us to respect and learn from diversity in many academic settings might also push us — and the AALS, and the ABA — to stay our hand from requiring that each institution look and act in precisely the same way.

Garvey fleshes out a number of reasons — reasons that I find persuasive — why we might think that institutional pluralism in the academy is a good thing.   It seems to me that we ought not to resist, but instead should welcome, not only law schools that have focused on serving underserved populations, or law schools with a particular strength in a specific subject-matter area (for example, Lewis & Clark in environmental law), or even law schools with a particular animating point-of-view (Law & Economics at George Mason?), but also law schools that are distinctive in being meaningfully animated by a shared — even if contested — religious tradition.

Paul Horwitz's post, I think, is particularly thought-provoking. (Paul visited at Notre Dame law year.)  He writes:

. . . I do mean to suggest that one of the great and perhaps underlooked qualities of the religiously affiliated law schools is a profound sense of shared mission that unifies faculty and students alike.  That common cause can, in the best instances, be deeply tied to a questing intellect and a sense of underlying values, and can thus provide the kind of mystical marriage between practical skills, ethical values, and intellectual rigor that we keep hoping for in the best of our law schools.  And none of it need be the kind of warmed-over bien-pensant liberalism that I see, somewhat over-simplistically, as the result of the usual attempts to mix values and intellect at the top secular law schools. . . .

Go over to Prawfs, and join the conversation!

July 24, 2008 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Klan Shelter Hypo

I agree that under the facts Rob has proposed, the Klan shelter should probably be eligible for funding, since it is providing the services and is considering employees based not directly on their race, but rather on their ideological beliefs (in this case in racism), just as other ideological organizations seek employees of their ideology -- including religious organizations when they consider religion in hiring.  However, I think there is an argument for allowing the government to treat the religious-belief and racist-belief criteria differently; the right of religion-based hiring does not stand or fall with an asserted right of racism-based hiring.  Religious beliefs as a category have a positive constitutional protection that racist beliefs do not.  The government should be at least neutral toward religious beliefs and arguably must give them as much solicitude as it gives to any other ideology that it protects (a line of free exercise cases, several from Judge Alito when he was on the 3d Circuit, suggest this principle).  Racist beliefs don't have that kind of solicitude, although they of course enjoy basic free speech and expressive associational protections; i.e. they have a right to be free from impositions, but not a right to neutral treatment in funding.  So, since the government allows various funded organizations to consider ideology in their hiring, there is a strong argument that it must do the same for religious organizations' religion-based hiring, but a much less strong argument that it must do so for racism-based hiring.  The distinction between religious exercise as a positive constitutional value and racial bias as a tolerated position, but without such value, is emphasized in Norwood v. Harrison, 413 U.S. 455, 468-70 (1973) (striking down textbook loans to families at racially discriminatory schools five years after upholding textbook loans to families at schools that considered religion in hiring etc.).  It's true that the "segregation academies" in that case discriminated based actually on race, not just on racist ideology; but the broader distinction between religion and racism also seems part of the argument.

July 23, 2008 in Berg, Thomas | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

An important religious-liberty decision

Today, in an opinion written by law-and-religion scholar (and Notre Dame honorary-degree recipient) Michael McConnell, the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ruled that Colorado violated the Constitution when it refused, on the ground that the school is "pervasively sectarian", to permit otherwise-qualified students to use publicly funded scholarships at Colorado Christian University.  Here is a link to the opinion.  Here's the key sentence: 

We find the exclusion unconstitutional for two reasons: the program expressly

discriminates among religions without constitutional justification, and its criteria

for doing so involve unconstitutionally intrusive scrutiny of religious belief and


More later . . . .

July 23, 2008 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Platform for the Common Good

I've just emerged from the silence of my annual 8-day silent retreat and am catching up on Mirror of Justice posts and piles of e-mail.  One of my e-mails brought to my attention the "Platform for the Common Good that was recently approved at a convention of 800 Catholics in Philadelphia.  The platform seeks to bring to the attention of candidates and voters the importance of, and to highlight Catholic Social Teaching on, the promotion of the common good.  The platform is available here.

July 23, 2008 in Stabile, Susan | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

IMF Money and Tuberculosis Mortality

Here’s an interesting abstract from the UK journal PLoS Medicine, finding that participation in IMF loan programs increases mortality from tuberculosis due to decreased government spending on public health:

We performed multivariate regression of two decades of tuberculosis incidence, prevalence, and mortality data against variables potentially influencing tuberculosis program outcomes in 21 post-communist countries for which comparative data are available. After correcting for confounding variables, as well as potential detection, selection, and ecological biases, we observed that participating in an IMF program was associated with increased tuberculosis incidence, prevalence, and mortality rates by 13.9%, 13.2%, and 16.6%, respectively. Each additional year of participation in an IMF program was associated with increased tuberculosis mortality rates by 4.1%, and each 1% increase in IMF lending was associated with increased tuberculosis mortality rates by 0.9%. On the other hand, we estimated a decrease in tuberculosis mortality rates of 30.7% (95% confidence interval, 18.3% to 49.5%) associated with exiting the IMF programs. IMF lending did not appear to be a response to worsened health outcomes; rather, it appeared to be a precipitant of such outcomes (Granger- and Sims-causality tests), even after controlling for potential political, socioeconomic, demographic, and health-related confounders. In contrast, non-IMF lending programs were connected with decreased tuberculosis mortality rates (−7.6%, 95% confidence interval, −1.0% to −14.1%). The associations observed between tuberculosis mortality and IMF programs were similar to those observed when evaluating the impact of IMF programs on tuberculosis incidence and prevalence. While IMF programs were connected with large reductions in generalized government expenditures, tuberculosis program coverage, and the number of physicians per capita, non-IMF lending programs were not significantly associated with these variables.

July 22, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)