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.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Prayers for Episcopalians

In response to my post on this subject, St. Thomas' Valerie Munson writes:

Like Michael S., I pray these days for our Episcopal brothers and sisters.  I pray for the many who suffer a crisis of faith because of their church leaders’ own crisis of faith.  I pray that those leaders will somehow hear and heed the call of the two commandments upon which are based all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 23:34-40).  I also pray that forgiveness will come one day for all.  (Matthew 18:21-22, Luke 6:27-28)  I have prayed these prayers for a very long time.

My work with traditional Anglican parishes and clergy in the Episcopal Church began twenty years ago in Philadelphia.  I witnessed no greater personal cruelty in my twenty-five years of private practice than that visited for many of those years by then-Bishop Charles Bennison and his advisors on faithful traditional Anglicans in the Diocese of Pennsylvania. Bennison wished to make it clear to those parishioners and clergy alike that they were not welcome in his Diocese.  He did. He saw to it that traditional parishes lived for years under constant threat that their clergy would be defrocked and their parish property seized.  He broke his word on countless occasions and in countless ways.    He misrepresented their words and intentions to others. He made a mockery of truth and trust at every turn.  He wanted traditional parishes to leave and they did.  As far as I know, their properties still sit empty – vibrant urban ministries gone.

Bennison has spent this week in a Pennsylvania state courtroom, the defendant in a jury trial that may well change First Amendment law on church autonomy.  After four pretrial hearings on jurisdiction, the court allowed the claim of a traditional Anglican priest that Bennison defrocked him by means of fraud and deceit to go forward.  This civil trial comes on the heels of a historic ecclesial trial in which Bennison was deposed based on a cover up of his brother’s sexual abuse of a girl in his parish 35 years ago. (You can read a little about both here.)            

My prayers for Episcopalians have changed somewhat over the past twenty years.  Now, I pray for myself as well.  I pray for the continued strength to bear a witness in the world that may help in some small measure to bind the wounds I have seen.

October 23, 2008 in Scaperlanda, Mike | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

On Mandatory Minimum Criminal Sentences, Senator Obama Gets It Right

The CNN political ticker reports today that the Republican National Committee is sending out automated telephone calls in battleground states, in which Rudy Giuliani says, “I’m calling for John McCain and the Republican National Committee, because you need to know that Barack Obama opposes mandatory prison sentences for sex offenders, drug dealers, and murderers. It’s true, I read Obama’s words myself.”

As CNN then reports, Senator Obama does not actually advocate lighter sentences or repeal of minimum sentences for violent criminals, but does question mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders. While Senator Obama in 2003 made a vague statement in favor of abolishing mandatory minimum sentences—without any references to sex offenders or murderers—he explained his position clearly in 2004:

I think it’s time we also took a hard look at the wisdom of locking up some first-time, non-violent drug users for decades. Someone once said that ‘…long minimum sentences for first-time users may not be the best way to occupy jail space and-or heal people from their disease.’ That someone was George W. Bush—six years ago. I don’t say this very often, but I agree with the president. The difference is, he hasn’t done anything about it.

Senator Obama is rightly recognizes that our society is suffering from its unwise and cruel policy of imposing lengthy minimum sentences on non-violent and low-level drug offenders. And Senator Obama is quite right that the Bush Administration, to its shame, has done little or nothing to change the situation, instead falling back into the same old, unthinking approach of promoting rigid and harsh sentences without full consideration of the nature of the offense or the offender. As I’ve written on the Mirror of Justice in the past, “[t]oo often, and especially at the federal level at least from Washington, D.C., the policy has sometimes appeared to be that every case referred by law enforcement should be prosecuted and every conviction should be emphasized by seeking the maximum sentence.”

My colleague here at the University of St. Thomas School of Law, Nekima Levy-Pounds, has focused her scholarship on this subject, emphasizing that current drug-sentencing practices disparately impact poor women of color and children. As she reports, excessive incarceration of African-American women who had a peripheral role in drug offenses wreak havoc on the family and leave children parentless, setting the stage for the next generation of offenders and another cycle of incarceration. You can read two of her articles on the subject here and here, with another work in progress that will be submitted for publication soon.

The scourge of mandatory minimum sentences for minor offenders can be traced back to precisely the sort of political tactics that areevidenced by Giuliani’s phone message against Obama. Politicians tout mandatory minimum sentences to flex their political muscles and promote themselves with constituents as tough on crime, while politicians who have the courage to challenge mandatory minimum sentences are attacked as weak on crime.

When it comes to highlighting Senator Obama’s appalling and dangerous positions on the sanctity of human life, readers at Mirror of Justice know that I have pulled no punches. But when it comes to criminal justice, Senator Obama’s thoughtful reconsideration of mandatory minimum sentences deserves to be lauded. For what I hope will not be the last time, I say, right on Barack Obama.

Greg Sisk

October 23, 2008 in Sisk, Greg | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Prosecuting women for abortion?

The question is often raised -- it has been discussed more than a few times here at MOJ -- whether those who support the overruling of Roe and the increased regulation of abortion are actually prepared to treat women who undergo abortions as "murderers" and, if not, why not?  It is suggested that the reluctance of most pro-lifers to so regard women who have abortions indicates, perhaps, that these pro-lifers don't really believe their own pro-life rhetoric.  (In my view, there is nothing hypocritical or otherwise suspect about saying (a) our Constitution permits legislatures to regulate abortion more closely than Roe permits; (b) abortion involves the killing of an innocent human person; and (c) women who have abortions should not be prosecuted and punished like those who commit homicides against born persons.)  With respect to this question, this essay, by Clarke Forsythe, called "Why the States did not prosecute women for abortions before Roe v. Wade", is helpful.

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

What actually reduces abortions

One of the questions at the heart of the "how should pro-lifers vote?" debate is whether the package of policies endorsed or proposed by Candidate X is likely to reduce the number of abortions.  (As I've suggested before, I think the "abortion issue" is about moving away from an unjust legal regime, and not just reducing the number of abortions, but let's put that aside for now.)  For those who are basing their decision, entirely or in part, on this abortion-reduction question, this essay, at the USCCB's web site, by Richard Doerflinger, seems like a must-read.  A taste:

In 1980 the Supreme Court upheld the Hyde amendment, and federally funded abortions went from 300,000 a year to nearly zero. With its decisions in Webster (1989) and Casey (1992), the Court began to uphold other abortion laws previously invalidated under Roe. States passed hundreds of modest but effective laws: bans on use of public funds and facilities; informed consent laws; parental involvement when minors seek abortion; etc.  Dr. Michael New's rigorous research has shown that these laws significantly reduce abortions. In the 1990s, debate on partial-birth abortion - kept in the public eye, ironically, by President Clinton's repeated vetoes of a ban on this grisly late-term procedure - alerted many Americans to the violence of abortion and shifted public attitudes in a pro-life direction, just as growing concern over AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases was giving new force to the abstinence message for teens. Now the Court has upheld a partial-birth abortion ban, and signaled that other laws to save unborn children and their mothers from the horrors of abortion may be valid. If Roe is reversed outright, that will allow more laws that can further reduce abortions.

By contrast, a pending federal "Freedom of Choice Act" (FOCA) would knock down current laws reducing abortions, and require public programs for pregnant women to fund abortion. No one supporting that bill can claim to favor reducing abortions.

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

Conscience Protections and Medicine

Professor Joseph Capizzi's column on Conscience Protections and Medicine will be of interest to some of our readers.  Here is one paragraph:

Conscience protections exist to allow people to heal the sick without having to kill the vulnerable. The vocal representatives of the entrenched pro-abortion, pro-contraception view propose legislation to overturn or amend “conscience protection” laws designed to permit Catholics (and others) to express in our wider society the commitments of their communities to the sanctity of life. Any attempts to advance conscience protections are presented as affronts to others’ potential freedoms, with little or no mention of the actual restrictions on the freedom of those interested in healing without killing. There is much discussion in our society about the content and limits of freedom. But freedom by any name should permit men or women of character to do what they know is right. In like manner, freedom is meaningless when a person is coerced to do what he knows is wrong.

HT:  Jonathan Watson

October 23, 2008 in Scaperlanda, Mike | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

MacIntyre's Third Option

In response to my MacIntyre post, Chuck Roth writes:

Here's my question.  I have no doubt that Obama's support of legalized abortion, etc., would require something very grave, indeed, to justify the remote material cooperation which voting for him would entail.  But why does it follow that one should vote for McCain?  McCain is far from perfect; he supports some embryonic stem cell research, some economic policies that I find morally objectionable, and (I think) a misapplication of just war principles. 
One could say that abortion is such a grave thing that it would always (or almost always) constitute a "proportionate reason" to remotely cooperate with the candidate most opposed to it, no matter what other evils one would thereby remotely assist.  But why is a binary choice between Democrat and Republican the only terms of the discussion? I am not nuts, I know that no third party candidate is a realistic possibility this year (or most years); but here in Chicago, there's also no realistic possibility that my vote will be determinative of the election. 
Why must one endorse the lesser evil, if one's endorsement has basically no chance of swinging things one way or another, and if one can avoid endorsing either evil?  Wouldn't a person in a dark blue or dark red state be morally advised to vote for neither Obama nor McCain? 
Admitted, it seems Quixotic and silly.  Go ahead, waste your vote, as they say.  But in another sense, registering one's disapprobation with both parties seems, if multiplied by many thousands, to send a clear message of available votes to the parties, if they alter their positions, or to a potential third party or independent candidate.  Why is that option not discussed in MoJ?  It seems to me a logical slip of great magnitude.

October 22, 2008 in Scaperlanda, Mike | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Alasdair MacIntyre on the Election (of 2004)

This November, I will cast a vote for one of the two major presidential candidates (and most regular readers of this blog can probably correctly guess how I will vote).  But, there is, as my daughter Anamaria reminds me, another possibility.  She points to Alasdair MacIntyre's 2004 paper "The Only Vote Worth Casting in November" as still relevant today.

October 22, 2008 in Scaperlanda, Mike | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Alasdair MacIntyre on the Election (of 2004)

This November, I will cast a vote for one of the two major presidential candidates (and most regular bloggers can probably correctly guess how I will vote).  But, there is, as my daughter Anamaria reminds me, another possibility.  She points to Alasdair MacIntyre's 2004 paper "The Only Vote Worth Casting in November" as still relevant today.

October 22, 2008 in Scaperlanda, Mike | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

"Virtual Reality: Its Distortion of Self and Others"

The Institute for the Psychological Sciences is "a Catholic graduate school of psychology" and has, for some years, sponsored the "John Henry Cardinal Newman Lectures" in Washington, D.C.  This year's theme, again, is "Virtual Reality", and the lecturers include Leon Kass, Fr. Kevin Flannery, and Roger Scruton.  More information is available here.

October 22, 2008 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The New Post-Lehman Borthers Immigration Landscape

Download LehmanBros.wmv

HT:  Brian McCall

October 21, 2008 in Scaperlanda, Mike | Permalink | TrackBack (0)