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.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

"Speaking of Law and Religion"

Go here for all the info about the upcoming conference to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Journal of Law and Religion.  Looks great.

September 21, 2008 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

The Pope and Politics

An interesting piece, by Sandro Magister:

After three years in the pontificate, and defying the expectations of most, the refined theologian has left his mark on international politics as well. In the West, with Islam, with China. . . .

Unlike his predecessor, Benedict XVI is believed to be an apolitical pope. But it's not true. Joseph Ratzinger simply engages in politics in original ways. These are sometimes imprudent, according to the canons of diplomatic realism, including those of the Vatican. And yet, after his three years in the pontificate, they have been shown to be much more productive than many foresaw, as proven in part by the unexpected "success" of the pope's recent trip to highly secularized France. . . .

. . . [T]he real motivation for Pope Ratzinger's fondness for the United States is that it is a country born and founded "on the self-evident truth that the Creator has endowed each human being with certain inalienable rights," foremost among which is liberty. To United States ambassador Mary Ann Glendon, who came to present her credentials to him, Benedict XVI said that he admires "the American people's historical appreciation of the role of religion in shaping public discourse," a role that elsewhere – read, Europe – "is contested in the name of a straitened understanding of political life." With the consequences that derive from this on the issues closest to the Church's heart, like "legal protection for God's gift of life from conception to natural death," marriage, the family. . . .

There's a lot more.

September 21, 2008 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

China frees (sort of) "underground" bishop

News from the Becket Fund:

The bishop of an unregistered Roman Catholic church in northern China has returned home, after being taken away by authorities on the last day of the Beijing Olympics, a U.S.-based monitoring group said Friday.

However, Bishop Jia Zhiguo remained under 24-hour police surveillance at his home at the Christ the King Cathedral in Wuqiu village of Hebei province, the Cardinal Kung Foundation said in a statement.

Jia, who is in his 70s, was barred from receiving visitors after police escorted him home Thursday and it was not known how he was treated during his detention, said the foundation, which has close contacts with China's unregistered church members.

Jia has been repeatedly detained by security forces in China, which broke ties with the Vatican in 1951 and demands that Catholics worship only in government-controlled churches. Such churches recognize the pope as a spiritual leader but appoint their own priests and bishops.

Millions remain loyal to the pope and worship in unregistered churches, but priests and members of their congregations are frequently detained and harassed. . . .

September 21, 2008 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Religious Liberty and Same-Sex Marriage: Emerging Conflicts

Story here:

The legalization of same-sex marriage poses a direct threat to the civil liberties of religious Americans who oppose homosexuality, a distinguished panel of Constitutional law scholars said last night (Sept. 9, 2008) at the Newseum, in Washington, D.C. The event, co-sponsored by the Freedom Forum, celebrated the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty’s release of a new book, Same-Sex Marriage: Emerging Conflicts.

The law professors, though they had differing views of same-sex marriage itself, universally urged policymakers and citizens to consider carefully the rights of all parties in the conflict. Each of the speakers have contributed essays to the Becket Fund’s book, which is edited by David Laycock of the University of Michigan; Robin Wilson, law professor at Washington & Lee University; and Anthony Picarello, formerly at the Becket Fund and now general counsel at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. . . .

September 21, 2008 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

" . . . they'll believe anything."

Someone (probably G.K. Chesteron) once said (something like) "what happens when people stop believing in God is not that they believe nothing, but that they'll believe anything."  So it seems:

. . . [W]hile increased church attendance and membership in a conservative denomination has a powerful negative effect on paranormal beliefs, higher education doesn't. Two years ago two professors published another study in Skeptical Inquirer showing that, while less than one-quarter of college freshmen surveyed expressed a general belief in such superstitions as ghosts, psychic healing, haunted houses, demonic possession, clairvoyance and witches, the figure jumped to 31% of college seniors and 34% of graduate students. . . .

September 21, 2008 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

"A More Perfect Human"

Here is just a small part of Leon Kass' must read lecture given at the Holocaust Museum in D.C. and exploring the dangers in the salvific view of science.

Persons who happen still to be born with [genetic diseases and abnormalities, from Down’s syndrome to dwarfism], having somehow escaped the spreading net of detection and eugenic abortion, are increasingly regarded as “mistakes,” as inferior human beings who should not have been born. Not long ago, at my own university, a physician making rounds with medical students stood over the bed of an intelligent, otherwise normal ten-year-old boy with spina bifida. “Were he to have been conceived today,” the physician casually informed his entourage, “he would have been aborted.” A woman I know with a child who has Down syndrome is asked by total strangers, “Didn’t you have an amnio?” The eugenic mentality is taking root, and we are subtly learning with the help of science to believe that there really are certain lives unworthy of being born.

Not surprisingly, in the face of these practical possibilities, prominent intellectuals are now providing justification for this view of life. The current journals of bioethics, no less, are filled with writings that sweetly sing the song of Binding and Hoche, albeit it without the menacing German accent. But not all are so reticent. Here for example are remarks from the writings of Peter Singer, DeCamp Professor of Bioethics in the University Centerfor Human Values at Princeton, on the question of killing infants with serious, yet manageable, diseases such as hemophilia:

When the death of a disabled infant will lead to the birth of another infant with better prospects for a happy life, the total amount of happiness will be greater if the disabled infant is killed. The loss of a happy life for the first infant is outweighed by the gain of a happier life for the second [even if not yet born]. Therefore, if killing the hemophiliac infant has no adverse effect on others, according to the total view, it would be right to kill him.

In a recent magazine interview, Singer was asked, “What about parents conceiving and giving birth to a child specifically to kill him, take his organs, and transplant them into their ill older children?” Singer replied:  “It is difficult to warm to parents who can take such a detached view, [but] they’re not doing something really wrong in itself.”  The interviewer then asked:  “Is there anything wrong with a society in which children are bred for spare parts on a massive scale?”  The Princeton Professor of Bioethics replied, “No.” Do not underestimate what it means for us that such coolly lethal opinions, regarded since 1945 as barbaric, are today again treated with seriousness and honored with a chair at Princeton.

HT:  Robert George

September 20, 2008 in Scaperlanda, Mike | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

And so it begins . . .

A "duty to die" if you are "demented"?

"I'm absolutely, fully in agreement with the argument that if pain is insufferable, then someone should be given help to die, but I feel there's a wider argument that if somebody absolutely, desperately wants to die because they're a burden to their family, or the state, then I think they too should be allowed to die.

"Actually I've just written an article called 'A Duty to Die?' for a Norwegian periodical. I wrote it really suggesting that there's nothing wrong with feeling you ought to do so for the sake of others as well as yourself."

[British moral philosopher Lady Warnock] went on: "If you've an advance directive, appointing someone else to act on your behalf, if you become incapacitated, then I think there is a hope that your advocate may say that you would not wish to live in this condition so please try to help her die.

"I think that's the way the future will go, putting it rather brutally, you'd be licensing people to put others down."

More here.  (HT:  Althouse).

September 20, 2008 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

"The Worship of Retardation"

"Given that Palin had complete foreknowledge of her child's severe disability yet nevertheless chose to have it, it is hard not to see her choice as anything less [than the 'worship of retardation.']"

Professor Robert George comments that this blog post "by someone named Nicholas Provenzo at something called the Center for the Advancement of Capitalism, states a view that is widely held by many liberals of my acquaintance and some extreme libertarians (which, I gather, is what Provenzo is), but rarely spoken aloud.  Provenzo is stating what many think, but aren't quite yet willing to say.  In effect, he holds that children with Down's Syndrome are Lebensunwertes Leben--lives unworthy of life.  Reading this comment should cause us to dedicate ourselves even more deeply to the great and urgent cause of protecting the weakest and most vulnerable members of the human family."

"As a profound counterwitness to Provenzo's comment, I'm linking the text of a lecture by the great Leon Kass that he presented at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.  It is a warning to us that the eugenics mentality has indeed taken hold again in the elite sector of the culture, and reminding us of its consequences.  We must resist it, and fight against it, with all our strength."

UPDATE:  I inadvertently caused some confusion in my attempt to be provocative by quoting that part of Provenzo's comments dealing with "worship of retardation." Robert George writes:  "Just to be clear, what many people of my acquaintance agree with is the proposition that the retarded, when detected in utero, should be aborted.  This is the idea of eugenic abortion which Dr. Kass so powerfully attacks.  I do not think that many people buy into  Provenzo's nutty rhetoric about "the worship of retardation."  Even committed eugenicists don't typically believe that people who do not abort retarded children are "worshipping." retardation.  Their claim is that families, society, and even the mentally retarded children themselves are better off when the children are aborted."


September 20, 2008 in Scaperlanda, Mike | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 19, 2008

Science and Ideology

I would like to thank Richard S. for his kind words and gentle rebuke. Furthermore, I am very grateful to him for his important posting on the Clinton-Richards op-ed perspective published in today’s The New York Times. In a brief response to Richard, I did not intend to suggest that the numerical magnitude of forty million abortions raises the concern that I hoped to address. Any single abortion that is considered without any further consideration to the welfare of the unborn and the precious life that is snuffed out is a most grievous concern, indeed. The democratic society that values not one life, let alone forty million, has much to answer for at the end of time if not before.

But I write today in response to Richard’s bringing to our attention to the Clinton-Richards opinion in which the authors state: “Last month, the Bush administration launched the latest salvo in its eight-year campaign to undermine women’s rights and women’s health by placing ideology ahead of science: a proposed rule from the Department of Health and Human Services that would govern family planning.”

I believe the Senator and Planned Parenthood President have a skewed view of science that leads them to conclude that “science” has been sacrificed in the name of someone else’s ideology. I believe that their claim is true but not in the fashion that Mss. Clinton and Richards assert—for they are the ones who place ideology before science. After all, objective science tells us that human life begins at conception. We are not talking about a clump of cells or a thing that can be relegated to the medical waste receptacle in an abortion clinic. We are addressing nascent human life, the same nascent human life you, I, the senator, the PPF President, have all shared at the beginning of entrance into the human family. Science, not ideology, informs us so with no doubt whatsoever.

Thus, the Clinton-Richards claim is true that ideology has eclipsed science—their ideology, not the President’s. It is tragic for one human, for thousands, for numbers now surpassing forty million young humans, that the Clinton-Richards ideology has replaced science in the minds of so many Americans who will go to the polls in November. But there is still time to stop their ideology and its future influence even though nothing can be done to reverse its tragic wake and restore the lives of so many who had so much to offer but were given no time to do so.

RJA sj

September 19, 2008 in Araujo, Robert | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Another response to Doug Kmiec

Let me return for a moment to Doug Kmiec’s book on Barack Obama, Can a Catholic Support Him?, and to these sentences in particular, supporting Obama’s repeated votes against the Illinois “Born Alive” Act: 

So what does the "Born Alive" Act do? Largely, it redefines what it means to be "born alive." From the time of ancient common law, "born alive" has meant live birth at or near the end of a full term pregnancy with a reasonable prospect of survival. If a woman sadly miscarries earlier and expels a non-viable, but temporarily alive, but unborn child with a transient heartbeat, there isn't a county recorder in the country who would record a live birth. The miscarriage is sad enough; we don't worsen it with the grief of death before life has meaningfully taken hold. But that's what the "Born Alive" Act does. For the most part, it redefines live birth to include non-viable unborn who lack any meaningful chance of survival.

Rob Vischer and Rick Garnett responded on this blog with admirable philosophical and historical critiques.  But what strikes me as most bizarre in Doug's statement is that, in point of fact, for an infant to be considered “born alive” does not require that it have reached any particular stage of gestation. Here’s the Illinois vital records statute, which is the one relevant to Obama’s votes and which also happens to be fairly typical:

"Live birth" means the complete expulsion or extraction from its mother of a product of human conception, irrespective of the duration of pregnancy, which after such separation breathes or shows any other evidence of life such as beating of the heart, pulsation of the umbilical cord, or definite movement of voluntary muscles, whether or not the umbilical cord has been cut or the placenta is attached. § 410 ILCS 535/1(5) (Emphasis added.)

(See also the analyses found in Clarke Forsythe’s 1987 article on the “born alive “ rule in criminal law, 21 Valparaiso University Law Review 563 (1987), and in Joe Dellapenna’s  mammoth tome  on the history of abortion. Hadley Arkes' book on Natural Rights is also helpful here.) Indeed, it was precisely because the “Born Alive” Act did little more than recodify accepted practice that it was passed unanimously at the federal level and (eventually, after Obama had left) even in Illinois. (I understand that the law’s main purpose, or causal impetus at least, was to stop devations from this accepted practice, through intentional neglect of children aborted whole and alive near the nebulous border of viability, as uncovered by nurse Jill Stanek.)

Given the Illinois statute, why on earth would a careful scholar like Doug make such a strange and absolute empirical claim? I don’t understand.

September 19, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)