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, July 23, 2009

Charity is not the same as being generous

A reader responds to another reader who wrote "government mandated health care may decrease the amount of charity given to those in need by generous strangers." The second reader responds:

Being charitable is not being generous.  It is a duty. I was talking with a friend the other day, and he brought up the fact that we've really lost all concept of "enough," which is to say that the Catholic tradition has always been very strong on the fact that once you have a certain level of stuff/quality of life, the rest that you get isn't yours anymore. It may be that prudentially we are better off letting the individual dispose of that excess rather than the government, but that does not mean that ontologically it belongs to the individual.

July 23, 2009 in Scaperlanda, Mike | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Health Care Rationing Part X

A reader responded to my posting of Prof. Wertheim's comments on health care rationing.  The reader seems skeptical (perhaps less skeptical than me) of the government's ability to ration health care in a better manner than the market.  But, the reader raises what is to me a very intersesting point and one not heard much in the health care debates.  As with government take over of other social services, government mandated health care may decrease the amount of charity given to those in need by generous strangers.  In short, the human contact - one person opening themselves up to another in need - might be further lost and this possible cost ought to at least be discussed.  And,  "if there is rigid government health care rationing that cannot be gotten around (in the name of equality) then whether a person needs extraordinary procedures or not, and whether private insurance might have been willing to pay for it, or generous strangers are willing to pay for it or not, some needed treatments will just be out of bounds as not fitting the health care specs and budget for the year. In that sense, there is a way in which government rationing can itself be unjust; precisely because of government's power, getting around whatever  unjust decisions it makes is harder than if the market makes an unjust decision."

What do you think?

July 23, 2009 in Scaperlanda, Mike | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

"What Truths We Hold": Reflections

This morning, I posted Bernard Coughlin, S.J.'s essay "What Truths We Hold," referring to it as an excellent essay.  After a back and forth email exchange with one of our readers, my opinion of the piece has been downgraded from "excellent" to "good" for its lack of nuance on an important point.  We can always, in the midst of political realities, attempt to find common ground as Michael P. suggests here.  That is not to say that I would support the legislation Michael refers to (I haven't read it) but only to say that we can attempt to find common ground.

What we cannot do, and I think this is what Fr. B. Coughlin was attempting to articulate, is compromise on the question of the fetus's right to life and the state's duty to protect innocent life, including fetal life.

July 23, 2009 in Scaperlanda, Mike | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

NYT, July 23, 2009

House Democrats Seek Moderate Ground on Abortion

Democratic House members from both sides of the abortion debate are introducing legislation aimed at trying to reduce the number of abortions around the country.

Introduced by Representatives Tim Ryan of Ohio, who is anti-abortion, and Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, who is for abortion rights, the bill would, among other aspects, increase access to contraceptives for low-income women and expand adoption programs.

At a news conference announcing the bill, Mr. Ryan and Ms. DeLauro, flanked by leaders of advocacy groups, said the bill could help soften the partisan divide over abortion.

[Read the rest, here.]

July 23, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Health Care Rationing continued

Villanova law professor, Ellen Wertheim, responds to previoius postings on health care rationing with this:

The exchange on health care rationing has been particularly fascinating, as I teach in the areas of law and medicine and bioethics.

If you ask almost anyone who teaches in these areas, they would agree that this country already has a system of health care rationing.  The basis for the rationing is wealth.  If you are wealthy and/or have good insurance, you will get the finest care.  If you are poor and/or under- or uninsured, the care you receive (if any) is likely to be inferior.  The question is not whether we should ration health care in our society; the question is what form that rationing should take.  I am among those who believe that our current system combines the worst of all possible rationing worlds, since making the availability of health care depend on the wealth of the patient is maximally unfair and even grotesque in light of our nation’s ostensible commitment to equality. 

This position has obvious implications for health care reform.  Rationing based on wealth has developed largely because of the privatization of health care and the lack of government involvement in its provision, and it tends to follow that any effort to make health care more accessible to those who cannot pay for it should be welcome.  Principles of Catholic social thought surely should require no less.

I agree with Ellen that principles of Catholic Social Thought require us to figure out ways to distribute health care so that it isn't rationed (or at least is rationed less) along wealth lines.  The tough question for me is "how" to do so given all the complexities of human nature and human society.

July 23, 2009 in Scaperlanda, Mike | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

"What Truths We Hold"

Bernard J. Coughlin, S.J., former president and current chancellor of Gonzaga University, has an excellent essay "on the square" on President Obama's call for common ground on abortion.  Here is a taste:

In the nineteenth century it was the right of freedom versus the right to enslave; in the twentieth century it is the right to life versus the right to kill the innocent. And much as people would hope to find common ground, there is no common ground to be found. The right to life is not granted by kings, rulers, clergymen, parliaments, or congresses. It is the Creator’s work, not to be fudged.

In disputes over civil laws—the best housing policy, the best health policy, the wisest tax laws—it is reasonable to hope for common ground. But in some matters there is no common ground. The president encouraged his audience to “increase adoptions” and to “reduce the number of abortions.” Friends of mine have suggested the same, and it is all to the good. But abortion always kills an infant. I can readily imagine President Lincoln hearing from the slave owners: “We will decrease the number of slaves,” and “We will increase social services.” But he also knew that one slave is still a slave. And one fetus killed is still killing an innocent life.


It is not faith that tells us that abortion kills an innocent life. It is science. And the more we know about it the more the phrase “a woman’s right to choose” is recognized as simply a euphemism for “a woman’s right to kill the child in her womb.”


Every infant is God’s child, and his gift to us as a sister and brother. And just as President Obama has so praiseworthily pledged himself to guarantee every child the right to an education, so should he first, and with far greater righteousness, pledge himself to guarantee every child, as far as humanly possible, the right to life.

The president says: “We must find a way to live together.” All the while, the infant in the womb is answering: “But first I have to live.”

For the whole essay, click here.

July 23, 2009 in Scaperlanda, Mike | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I agree, Religious and Sexual Freedoms are not opposed

Michael P., you are right, religious and sexual freedoms are not opposed.  And, it is fitting that you would have so titled your post on this the memorial of Mary Magdelene.  As Fr. Raymond-Leopold Bruckberger, O.P. said:  "There must have emanated from this man, who was the Christ, a light, a power far above nature to free the love of a burning and passionate woman like Mary Magdalene from all obsession, pacify it, order it, and at the same time bring it to full flower."

July 22, 2009 in Scaperlanda, Mike | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

OMG: Obama is not a U.S. citizen!!!!!

Please reassure me, Rick, that this is not a critical mass of the base--or "base"--of the Republican Party.  See here.

July 22, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

"As U.S. troops withdraw, Iraqi Catholics targeted"

"Analysts say Islamic militants are trying to drive out last of naion's Christian minority."  For this OSV story, click here.

July 22, 2009 in Scaperlanda, Mike | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Leader of the Free World

A reader responds:

Thanks for posting the D'Agata essay.  One very minor thing jumped out at me, but something I've never really thought of before. 

The president of the United States is often described as "the leader of the free world."  See D'Agata:  "met the first African American man to lead the free world ...." 

True enough, I guess, if the world is seen as populated by countries.  But the world is populated by ... people.

So, couldn't the Pope be properly described as "the leader of the (truly) free world".

Just a thought.

July 22, 2009 in Scaperlanda, Mike | Permalink | TrackBack (0)