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, February 15, 2009

Response to Eduardo

Our friend and former colleague Eduardo -- who has, to my great regret, decided to give dotCommonweal a monopoly on his blogging time -- has, several times over the years, suggested that the failure of pro-lifers to call for civil war calls into question the sincerity of their claims to regard abortion as a great moral evil.  And, as Michael P. notes, he has made the argument again, in this post, in response to Richard Stith's.  (Here, just for variety, is a post on this same question, by Will Baude.)

Because Eduardo and I have both posted many times on this question -- i.e., "if you say you think abortion is homicide, are you therefore required to punish women who procure abortions in the same way you punish murderers; if you think abortion is a monstrous moral evil, and that Roe is as wrong and illegitimate as any decision in history, are you therefore committed to violent civil war? -- and because I cannot seem to find the old posts, I'll just say, "no, you are not."  And, with all respect to Eduardo, I really don't understand why he would think otherwise. 

To be clear -- I don't know near as much about the Spanish Civil War as Eduardo does, and so am not speaking to the Stith-Penalver debate.  And, I'm pretty sure that among my many faults is not a proclivity for what Eduardo calls "unhinged . . . rhetoric."  I'm confused, though, by Eduardo's discomfort -- indeed, his insistence that those of us who say it can't really mean what we are saying -- with the observations that to the extent our current legal regime makes it impossible to regulate meaningfully what is a great moral wrong that regime is deeply flawed and that to the extent this feature of our legal regime reflects our culture's moral premises and priorities, our culture is deeply flawed, too.

Maybe Eduardo will rethink his ship-jumping to that other site, and come back home.  =-)  Clearly, I'm trying to goad him into doing just that.

February 15, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

The "Stimulus" Package

With respect to Network's endorsement, which Michael P. posted recently, of the "stimulus" package, it seems to me that, whatever one thinks of the social-justice or other merits of the various spending items listed by Network, the fact that the package includes provisions requiring discrimination against religious schools and universities is one (of many) reason(s) to withhold full throated support for this bloated monstrosity spending measure.

February 15, 2009 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | TrackBack (0)


An interesting story, about "eightmaps", a site that takes the names and ZIP codes of people who donated to California's Prop. 8 — information that California collects and makes public under state campaign finance disclosure laws — and overlays the data on a Google map:

FOR the backers of Proposition 8, the state ballot measure to stop single-sex couples from marrying in California, victory has been soured by the ugly specter of intimidation.

Some donors to groups supporting the measure have received death threats and envelopes containing a powdery white substance, and their businesses have been boycotted.

Intimidation is bad, of course, but we're supposed to think that disclosure and transparency are good, right?  So, what about this?

February 15, 2009 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Pornography and the Freedom of Speech

I teach a course on the Freedom of Speech, which focuses primarily on the First Amendment.  Each year, I struggle with the presentation of the cases and debates about obscenity and pornography.  On the one hand, I am moved by limited state, slippery slope, "counterspeech, not regulation", civil-libertarian arguments.  On the other, I am deeply unsatisfied by the view that pervades so much of our talk and thinking about regulating expression, i.e., "speech does not cause harm, and even if it does, pornography does not cause harms of a type that the government ought to be permitted to forestall through regulation."  Of course speech causes harm; we simply choose (as, in my view, we usually should) to assume the risk of that harm, or to employ means other than regulation to prevent and redress it.

Anyway . . . check out these two thought-provoking essays, over at "Public Discourse", by Roger Scruton and James Stoner, on the matter. 

February 15, 2009 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

The importance of Vatican City

David Gibson posted this, a few days ago, the 80th anniversary of the Lateran Pacts which, among other things, regularized the status of the Vatican.  While I'm pretty sure there is not -- any longer, anyway -- a need for the Papal States, etc., it does seem to me that not only the freedom of the Church, but religious freedom generally, is powerfully aided by the fact that the Roman Catholic Church has a place.  Thoughts?

February 15, 2009 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Once it's gone . . .

. . . it's really hard to get back (a university's "Catholic character", that is).  Or so this quote, from Prof. Maxim Shrayer, the chairman of the department of Slavic and Eastern languages and literatures at Boston College would suggest:

"I believe that the display of religious signs and symbols, such as the crucifix, in the classroom is contrary to the letter and spirt of open intellectual discourse that makes education worthwhile and distinguishes first-rate universities from mediocre and provincial ones," Maxim D. Shrayer, chairman of the department of Slavic and Eastern languages and literatures, said in an interview.

What twaddle.

February 15, 2009 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

"Unhinged Abortion Rhetoric" and the State

Michael P. links to Eduardo's "Democracy and Abortion" post at dotCommonweal.  Setting aside the question of whether using certain rhetoric, analogies, or comparisons is prudent or not in a given setting, Eduardo continues to attempt to dodge the central reality of the unborn's humanity by suggesting that if the pro-life movement really believed that abortion in America was the state sanctioned taking of an innocent human life, a bloody civil war would be justified against an illegitimate regime.  Since most pro-lifers don't advocate a bloody civil war, Eduardo concludes that talk of abortion as murder - or as "a form of mass-murder" - is "mostly just that - talk."

What I hear in this post and others from Eduardo and pro-abortion rights advocates is "hey, pro-lifers, put up or shut up. If you really believe abortion is murder or the intentional killing of an innocent human being, then you must take action. And, if you really believe your own rhetoric, then you must work to ban all abortion.  If the state won't bend, then you must attempt to overthrow the regime, by violence if necessary.  If you are unwilling to do this, then shut up because you don't truly believe your own rhetoric.  We the pro-choicers can dismiss you because you're just just talk."

This is an interesting rhetorical strategy for pro-abortion rights advocates to take.  Instead of trying to persuade the persuadable that the pro-choice position is more reasonable than the pro-life position, the strategy is to avoid the question of the justness of abortion by telling the uncommitted person "don't go with the pro-lifers because they don't really believe their own talk; if they did they'd be taking up arms." 

I don't think pro-lifers need to defend not taking up arms against the U.S. any more than non-violent abolitionists needed to defend not taking up arms against the U.S. in the period before the Civil War, or anymore than Karol Wojtyla needed to defend not taking up arms against the communist government in Poland, or anymore than Chinese Christians (and others) need to defend not taking up arms against their Communist government, or anymore than the the Jews needed to defend not taking up arms against the Roman occupation.  

There are many ways of working to eradicate evil in our midst.  That we don't advocate the most violent (and probably the most futile and wreckless) doesn't make us any less true believers in the cause to protect the unborn.  Although Eduardo might find the rhetoric immoderate, abortion is the taking of innocent human life. Instead of criticising the rhetoric, analogies, and comparisons of pro-lifers, I'd hope Eduardo and others in his camp would tell us why the state is justified in authorizing private parties to take innocent human life.

February 14, 2009 in Scaperlanda, Mike | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

When in Rome ... Stop by a Conference on School Funding

There may not be a lot of MOJ readers in Rome (or maybe there are -- and at the highest levels?) ...  Anyhow, there is a conference this Monday in Rome on "State Financing of Catholic Schools," held at the Pontifical University Antonianum, and co-sponsored by the university's canon-law faculty and the Acton Institute.  I'll be speaking along with Acton's president Fr. Robert Sirico and its research director Dr. Sam Gregg.  I'll speak on America's pattern of refusing funding to K-12 religious schools and on whether that tradition can be consistent with an appreciation for institutional pluralism.

February 14, 2009 in Berg, Thomas | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

The Economic Stimulus Package

As some MOJ readers may know, "Network" is a Catholic social justice lobby, in Washington, DC.  Network is staffed mainly by Catholic sisters.  I thought that MOJ readers would be interested in this message:

NETWORK logo Legislative Update - February 14, 2009

Special Valentine/Presidents Day Edition

 Your Senators and Representatives will be at home in the state and districts February 14-22. This is a great time to call on local offices, find out where they will be during the week, check for Town Hall Meetings - and go to talk with them. You can find contact information for local offices through our web site at http://capwiz.com/networklobby/dbq/officials/
On Friday February 13 the House and Senate voted to pass the final conference version of The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, H.R.1 -- also known as the "economic stimulus package." The House vote was 246-183. Sadly, not one House Republican was able to resist party pressure and support the common good. The Senate vote was 60-38. (60 votes were needed to pass the bill.) All Democratic senators voted for the bill, except Senator Kennedy, who was unable to return to Washington. Three Republican senators voted for the bill: Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, and Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe from Maine.
Although this bill, as any compromise bill, is far from perfect, it will help to provide approximately 3 million jobs.  As unemployment has continued to escalate over recent months, this is a tremendous step toward keeping more families from destitution. In addition to creating jobs, the legislation also improves safety net programs to support those who are already suffering the greatest losses.
In the past few weeks, we asked you to advocate for many provisions in the Recovery/Stimulus bill. The information below shows you what we supported and achieved, and what we opposed and kept out of the bill.
We hope that as you contact your members of Congress you will use this information to support or challenge them on their vote.  To find out how your representative and senators voted, go to http://capwiz.com/networklobby/keyvotes.xc/?lvl=C . You can enter your zip code or click on the final conference report vote for H.R.1.
Supported and achieved

Job creation
Job creation is a part of each provision included.
Head start and early head start
$  2.1 billion - provides 50,000 additional jobs for teachers and staff
Job training for all skill levels
$  3.95 billion under Workforce Investment Act
$    .25 billion for Job Corps
Unemployment Insurance
$27 billion for extension and increase in benefits
 "Greening" of our nation
$ 11 billion - Smart Electric Grid
$  2.3 billion for energy-efficient renovations of HUD units
$  5 billion for Weatherization Assistance Program
$    .5 billion for energy efficiency upgrades for Native American housing programs
$    .1 billion for lead-based paint removal
$ 20 billion energy tax credits
$  9.3 billion for mass transit
$  1.6 billion for Amtrak intercity rail services - emphasis on high-speed
Safety net programs
$  4 billion for HUD Capital Fund
$  2.3 billion for the HOME Program
$  1.5 billion in Neighborhood Stabilization Program
$  1.5 billion for emergency homeless shelter grants
$20 billion increase in food stamps (SNAP) and lifting time limit on receipt of assistance
Child Tax Credit - partial success
$14.8 billion
Maximum credit raised to $1000 per child.  At income above $75,000 ($150,000 per couple) phase out of $50 per $1000 of income.
The bad news:  Those with the least income receive the least benefit from the CTC. The floor to receive a credit is $3000 and the benefit is 15% of income. Therefore, earning $3000, the benefit would be $450 and earning $60,000, the benefit would be $9000.
Medicaid Federal Medical Assistance Percentages (FMAP)
$86.6 billion in additional federal matching payments for state programs
$84 million to create a Recovery Act Accountability and Transparency Board to coordinate oversight of federal spending
"Flash Reports" to Congress
Quarterly Reports to Congress and Administration
Reports posted on website: Recovery.gov
The bad news: protection for whistle-blowers on federal projects was removed from the bill, although retained for state and local level whistle-blowers.
Opposed and kept out of the Recovery bill
  • E-Verify Program - would have required all contracting employers to use the Internet-based program to verify the employment eligibility of their hires. This was removed from the bill.
  • $ 1 billion for Nuclear Weapons-related activities was removed from the bill.
2456 messages on Economic Recovery/Stimulus were sent via NETWORK's Legislative Action Center in January and February 2009. Thank you -- your messages made a difference!

February 14, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Channeling Eduardo ...

Our colleague and friend Eduardo Peñalver is no longer blogging here at MOJ.  But, happily, he is still blogging over at dotCommonweal.  Click here to read Eduardo's response ("Democracy and Abortion") to the posts, including the most recent post, by Richard Stith.

February 14, 2009 in Perry, Michael | Permalink | TrackBack (0)