Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Dino D'Agata concludes his essay, The Pope and the President: From Notre Dame to Vatican City and Back, with these words:
[T]he Church’s claim—that it is the bearer of Christ Himself in the world despite many of the highly glaring flaws of its adherents, both clergy and laity alike, as well as despite its historical mistakes—is what was really at stake the day its leader, a human being whose task is to witness Christ and not to evaluate another human being according to ethical guidelines, met the first African American man to lead the free world. One would hope that many Catholics, starting from the bishops themselves, would understand that Christianity means a human encounter in which Christ makes Himself known through the very presence of the baptized believer—something the Holy Father exemplified for us in his encounter with Barack Obama—an encounter that cannot be reduced to either side’s “positions” on a variety of topics. One would hope that Catholics—conservative and liberal alike—take their cue from this and stop reducing their faith to a set of easily apprehended ethical tenets when the true ontology of faith is unpredictable, because it has to do with the mystery of how God takes on human flesh in the present—something that can potentially throw back any believer, liberal and conservative alike, because it removes faith from the realm of one’s own intellectual pretensions and transcends any facile reductions of what a human being actually is to what he or she thinks or believes.
Monday, July 20, 2009
FIRST THINGS has a short essay by me with the above title, in which I explore the effect of choice on solidarity. Since that essay is a bit truncated, and is not available online in any event, I am providing a link to the original version.
The same argument could apply to choice at the time of death: Voluntary euthanasia makes it more likely that the disabled will be more burdened and less cared for, since they have an easy way out. And if they persist in choosing to live, they will get less sympathy and support because it's their own choice to do so.
There is a lesson here about freedom itself, but I have not quite formulated it.
[From a news release dated July 20, 2009:]
On 2 July 2009, the Constitutional Court of Slovenia held that Article 22 of the Registration of Same Sex Partnerships Act (RSSPA) violated the right to non-discrimination under Article 14 of the Constitution on the ground of sexual orientation. The decision was handed down in the case of Blažic and Kern v. Slovenia U-I-425/06-10. The applicants challenged Article 22, which sets out the inheritance regulations for same sex partnerships, on the basis that it regulated inheritance for same sex partners differently, and less favourably, than the Inheritance Act regulated inheritance for opposite sex partners.
The judgment which was adopted unanimously by all nine Constitutional Court judges is the first time that sexual orientation has been confirmed as a protected ground on which discrimination is prohibited under the “any other personal circumstance” clause of Article 14(1) of the Constitution.
In making its decision the Court noted the strong similarity between marriage and same sex partnerships:
“A registered partnership is a relationship which is in content similar to marriage or civil partnership. A stable connection between two persons, who are close to each other, who help and support each other is the key element of both. The ethical and emotional essence of a registered partnership, as stated in Article 8 of RSSPA, according to which the partners have to respect, trust and help each other, is similar to the union between a man and a woman. The legal situation of such a partnership is also similar to marriage. RSSPA also ensures mutual rights and obligations to partners, protects a weaker partner, regulates their legal position towards third parties, the state and the social environment.”
The decision represents an important victory in combating discriminatory statutory provisions and ensuring the equal rights for same sex couples in Slovenia. Reflecting on the significance of the case, Neža Kogovšek, the Director of the Ljubljana-based Peace Institute who represented the applicants, stated:
“This is a landmark decision that will assist the LGBT community in Slovenia to pursue their equal rights not only in the area of inheritance, but also with respect to other social and economic rights deriving from partnerships. The decision was issued at a moment when the public debate on the necessity for the complete equality of same sex partners with opposite sex partners is particularly burning in Slovenia.”
To read the ERT case summary, click here.
To read the full case (in Slovenian only), click here.
The magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church, with its patriarchal conception of the priesthood, is certainly not immune to Carter's critique, here. One of the commentators at dotCommonweal writes:
The Bible is meant to be used. but in an enlightened way, under the
guidance of the Spirit. The Catholic Church has made the same mistakes
as the Southern Baptists, using the Bible to prooftext sexism,
homophobia, slavery, rejection of religious freedom. We no longer quote
“compelle eos intrare” for the latter purpose, but our current official
documents still quote Romans 1 to teach that gays and lesbians are
disordered. Of course the Catholic Church claims to be more rational
than biblical fundamentalists because its views are ultimately grounded
in Natural Law — but here comes another nasty twist: it is the Vatican,
self-decreed “expert in humanity” that discovers by oracular means what
Natural Law dictates, and then treats its own dictates as Infallible,
punishing any who demur. Our game, therefore, is every bit as weird and
destructive as that of the Southern Baptists.
And, relatedly, read Fr. Richard McBrien's weekly column, this week titled "U.S. Women Religious and Loyalty Oaths", here.
Responding to my post on health care rationing, Denise Hunnell writes:
I responded to Peter Singer's article here. The problem with rationing is that it judges the patient, not the treatment. Catholic teaching is that we must determine what is proportionate care and what is disproportionate care. This judgment is made from the perspective of the patient or the patient's surrogate. This teaching of distinguishing proportionate vs disproportionate care has been developed in two Magisterial documents. The first is the Pope Pius XII, Address To members of the "Gregorio Mendel" Italian Institute of Genetics on reanimation and artificial respiration (November 24, 1957) In this document Pope Pius XII states that one is obligated to pursue ordinary or proportionate care.
In the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration on Euthanasia, (May 5, 1980) n IV, the principles for the determination of what is proportionate care and what is disproportionate care are more clearly stated:
In the final analysis, it pertains to the conscience either of the sick person, or of those qualified to speak in the sick person's name, or of the doctors, to decide, in the light of moral obligations and of the various aspects of the case. Everyone has the duty to care for his or her own health or to seek such care from others. Those whose task it is to care for the sick must do so conscientiously and administer the remedies that seem necessary or useful. However, is it necessary in all circumstances to have recourse to all possible remedies? In the past, moralists replied that one is never obliged to use "extraordinary" means. This reply, which as a principle still holds good, is perhaps less clear today, by reason of the imprecision of the term and the rapid progress made in the treatment of sickness. Thus some people prefer to speak of "proportionate" and "disproportionate" means. In any case, it will be possible to make a correct judgment as to the means by studying the type of treatment to be used, its degree of complexity or risk, its cost and the possibilities of using it, and comparing these elements with the result that can be expected, taking into account the state of the sick person and his or her physical and moral resources
The USCCB ethical and religious directives (ERD) state: “Proportionate means are those that in the judgment of the patient offer a reasonable hope of benefit and do not entail an excessive burden or impose excessive expense on the family or the community”(ERD 56) and “Disproportionate means are those that in the patient’s judgment do not offer a reasonable hope of benefit or entail an excessive burden or impose excessive expense on the family or the community”(ERD 57)
In the case of your 85-year-old, there is the added complication of a limited supply of organs. It is fair to triage an 85-year-old to lower on the transplant list because his risk/benefit analysis may not be as favorable as someone else's. Then it must be determined if the risk of the treatment in this individual patient is worth the anticipated benefit. Cost can be a consideration. You are not obligated to bankrupt your family to pursue care. The point is, it must always be the treatment that is being judged for benefit and burden, not the patient.
Thanks for continuing this discussion.
From a reader, responding to my post on health care rationing.
I think you're correct regarding the rationing question. In my opinion (and in the opinion of others more interesting than myself), the term rationing is being misused. Because resources are finite, rationing
*will* take place one way or another. The question is how those resources are rationed. A quick Google search revealed this linked article by Uwe Reinhardt, economics professor at Princeton. There, I think Professor Reinhardt does a pretty good job explaining the fundamental issue (though not in the most polite way, I'm afraid). In the end, I don't think it makes sense to be critical of rationing, but only of certain forms of rationing, and it's important to be clear what specific form we're being critical of.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Saturday, July 18, 2009
When planning your itinerary (I'm tempted to say itinerarium mentis . . . ) for this fall, don't forget to come to Villanova. We've got lots of very good stuff on offer, and Philadelphia is especially beautiful in the autumn.
Closest to my heart is the fourth annual John F. Scarpa Conference on Law, Politics, and Culture. This year the conference will be dedicated to exploring and celebrating the work of Joseph Vining, Hutchins Professor of Law at the University of Michigan. 2009 marks Professor Vining's fortieth anniversary on the Michigan faculty, and those who will gather to pay tribute to his surpassing scholarly contribution -- that ranges from administrative law and animal law to jurisprudence and corporate law -- include Judge John T. Noonan, Jr., James Boyd White (U Michigan), Steven Smith (San Diego), Lee Bollinger (Columbia), Jefferson Powell (Duke), and Jack Sammons (Mercer). The date for the conference is October 22nd.
On September 26, we will be hosting our annual conference on Catholic social thought. The topic this year is Catholic legal education. Our friend Tom Mengler, dean of the Univ. of St. Thomas School of Law, will deliver the plenary address. MOJers aplenty will also speak: Steve Shiffrin, Fr. Araujo SJ, Amy Uelmen, John Breen, Rick Garnett, and Susan Stabile. Other speakers will include William Wagner, Helen Alvare, George Garvey, Eric Claeys, Zach Calo, Greg Kalscheur SJ, Lee Strang, and Lucia Silecchia.
And then there's our annual Law Review symposium, which this year will be dedicated to the topic of sovereignty (and "why you're not the boss of me"). The date for the symosium is September 26th. Confirmed speakers include Hope Babcock, Kate Struve, Don Doernberg, Doug Enderson, and MOJ's own Greg Sisk.
Details about the events will be available on the Villanova Law homepage as the dates approach, but please plan early to attend.