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.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

California Supreme Court Upholds Proposition 8.

I haven't yet read the decision, but you can read it in full here.

May 26, 2009 in Stabile, Susan | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Catholics on the Court

Six down, three to go!  We can't rest until we've captured every seat! 

May 26, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Six (!!!) Catholics on the Court?

So, it sounds like President Obama will nominate Judge Sonia Sotomayor to replace Justice Souter.  Could it be that we will soon have a Supreme Court that is two-thirds Catholic (and 1/9th "White Anglo-Saxon Protestant")?  Poor Chris Hitchens!  And now for some bold punditry:  I am going to go out on a limb an predict that we will not seen op-eds like this one if Justice Sotomayor's votes are consonant with the social-justice teachings of the Catholic Church.

May 26, 2009 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Calo on CST and human rights

Valpo law prof Zachary Calo has posted his new paper, Catholic Social Thought, Political Liberalism, and the Idea of Human Rights.  Here is the abstract:

As the dominant moral vocabulary of modernity, the language of human rights establishes significant points of contact between the religious and the secular. Yet, the human rights movement increasingly finds itself in a contested relationship with religious ideas and communities. Even as the idea of human rights draws on the inherited moral resources of religion, the movement, at least in many of its dominant institutional and intellectual expressions, has established itself as an autonomous moral discourse. In this respect, the human rights movement, as an expression of western liberalism, presents itself as a totalizing moral theory that challenges countervailing theological accounts of human rights. This paper considers the distinctive account of human rights which has emerged out of Catholic social thought’s engagement with political and economic questions. Particular attention is given to the process by which Catholic thinking about human rights has embraced the possibilities of political liberalism while also bounding liberalism within a particularistic theologically-informed account of the human person. The distinctiveness of the Catholic account of human rights raises questions about the role of Catholicism, and religious communities more generally, in shaping the law of human rights. To what extent can secular and religious approaches to human rights law find common cause and overlapping consensus? How does a Catholic account of human rights rooted in theological anthropology relate to a regnant secular tradition which rests on theological categories shorn of religious content (and which has become its own intellectual and moral tradition that is, in important respects, a counter-theology)? While a Christian theological jurisprudence must maintain a concern with the common good, the fractured moral consensus of late modernity equally demands that the goods identified be described with reference to the internal resources of the tradition. Catholicism, in this respect, might both advance and challenge the universalistic impulses of the human rights movement.

May 26, 2009 in Vischer, Rob | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Scholars' letter re: SSM and religious liberty

Download NY letter.  Here (that is, back there <-------) iis the letter that Tom Berg and I, and some other religious-liberty scholars, sent to New York Assemblyman Sheldon Silver regarding SSM legislation and religious freedom.

May 26, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Church and the Abuse of Children, Con't

[MOJ friend Gerry Whyte (professor of law and former dean of the law faculty, Trinity College Dublin) sends this:]

Further to the child abuse scandal in Ireland, MOJ readers may be interested in this opinion piece in today's Irish Times written by the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin - here - and in this media report about the response of Cardinal Brady to last week's report - here.

May 25, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Taking the President at His Word

A week ago at Notre Dame, President Obama indicated his willingness to “honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause.”  Given his actions to date, some, like Wesley Smith, are inclined to view Obama’s words with a jaundiced eye.  As Smith notes, the Obama administration has not worked to revise the Bush administration’s rules on conscience protection for those who object to abortion on moral grounds, but to revoke them.



Still, Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, is more welcoming of the President’s remarks.  In response to President Obama’s comments concerning conscience protection at Notre Dame, Cardinal George made the following statement:


“I am grateful for President Obama’s statement on May 17 that we should all ‘honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion,’ and his support for conscience clauses advancing this goal.


            “Since 1973, federal laws protecting the conscience rights of health care providers have been an important part of our American civil rights tradition.  These laws should be fully implemented and enforced.  Caring health professionals and institutions should know that their deeply held religious or moral convictions will be respected as they exercise their right to serve patients in need. 


“Catholic providers, in particular, make a large and essential contribution to health care in our society.  Essential steps to protect these conscience rights will strengthen our health care system and enhance many patients’ access to necessary life-affirming care.


“A government that wants to reduce the tragic number of abortions in our society will also work to ensure that no one is forced to support or participate in abortion, whether through directly providing or referring for abortions or being forced to subsidize them with their tax dollars.  As this discussion continues we look forward to working with the Administration and other policy makers to advance this goal.”


I think that Cardinal George not only advocates the right position, he also, quite helpfully, assumes the right tone and outlook.


That is, we should assume, in the first instance, that the President meant what he said.  Charity demands as much.  By all means, the Catholic community should try to move forward with the President Obama on the important issue of conscience protection.  If, however, the President’s language rings empty in practice, if it turns out that the President’s carefully chosen words (i.e. the call for a “sensible” conscience clause) are mere verbal forms without substance (a rhetorical device designed to generate good will among the members of the audience while creating a useful soundbite), then I hope that the entire Catholic community – both those who supported the Obama candidacy and those who did not – would be of one voice in demanding more from the President and holding him to account.




May 25, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

More on religious freedom, exemptions, and SSM

Picking up on Bill A.'s recent Prawfsblawg post (here), I thought MOJ readers might be interested in this piece, by Peter Steinfels, in the Times ("Same-Sex Marriage Laws Pose Protection Quandary"), and this post, by Andy Koppelman, at Balkinization ("Support Your Local Bigot").  Both items relate to the efforts of several law professors (including Michael Perry, Doug Laycock, and Andy -- here is their letter to New Hampshire's governor -- and Robin Wilson, Carl Esbeck, Tom Berg, and me -- here is our letter).

Andy's thoughts regarding the question, "what is bigotry, anyway, and why is it a bad thing?" are interesting:  "Bigotry is wrong for two reasons", he writes, "First, it harms the people who are its objects. Second, it is a moral failing on the part of the bigot. It is important to distinguish these."  In his view, the objection to religious-liberty exemptions to same-sex marriage laws cannot really be that they will harm gay people, "because they will only be invoked by a few people and won’t have much effect on gay people’s opportunities.  It is rather that we shouldn’t accommodate bigotry."  And, in his view, there is no need to "beat up on" "antigay bigots, even the morally reprehensible ones," if "they can be rendered harmless."

Like Andy, I do not believe that all of those who support (as I do) and who would invoke religious-liberty exemptions from SSM laws are "bigots."  (I suspect Andy would be generous in admitting people to his category of those "on that side of the political divide who . . . are honestly doing their best to pursue the right as it is given to them to see the right.")  I do believe, though, that anyone who would claim the label "liberal" should support at least some such exemptions -- not simply because it is not worth the candle to beat up on "harmless" bigots -- but because the refusal (and even, frankly, the reluctance) to concede that there are some contexts or spheres (e.g., the internal polity and practices of a religious community) into which liberal norms need not extend and upon which they should not be imposed is profoundly illiberal.

May 24, 2009 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Steinfels on Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty

In this week's NY Times "Beliefs" column, Peter Steinfels writes about the efforts (involving three MOJers, Perry, Garnett, and Berg) to add meaningful religious-liberty protections to statutes recognizing same-sex marriage.  He isn't enthralled with the literary style of our proposed model exemption (in the letter you can link to here): "The language these scholars have crafted to balance [the] competing concerns is rather less eloquent than 'in sickness and in health' and 'till death do us part.'”  (What do you want; we're law professors.)  But he does, I think, implicitly endorse the importance of the project.

May 23, 2009 in Berg, Thomas | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Abuse--Sexual and Other--in the Irish Church

Here, here, and here.

UPDATE:  The matter is so horrible.  Some fairly wonder whether the institutional church isn't irredeemably corrupt.  Consider this reflection (NCR, 5/22/09) by Dominican priest Thomas Doyle, a canon lawyer and advocate for those abused by priests.  Fr. Doyle served as a consultant to the Dublin archdiocese's commission on abuse by clergy:

Irish abuse report demands decisive action

May 23, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)