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.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Abortion-funding and the Health Care Plan

According to the National Right to Life Committee (fact-sheet here), the proposed plan "will result in federally mandated coverage of abortion on demand in virtually all of America's health plans" and could also pre-empt (FOCA-style) many state laws that currently restrict abortion.

Will the House's pro-life Democrats insist that abortions and abortion clinics be excluded from the plan?  I do not see anything about the plan on the website of Democrats for Life, or at the one for Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good.

At America, Michael Sean Winters says that "it is time for Catholic Democrats to lay down some markers."  He adds,

Many of us pro-life Democrats have given the President the benefit of the doubt on the abortion issue because of his repeated commitment to trying to lower the abortion rate, a commitment he reiterated to Pope Benedict XVI last week. All the good will he has earned among Catholic swing voters, and all the arguments on his behalf progressive Catholics have mounted, all could be swept away if abortion is part of a federal option in health care. Politics is the art of compromise, but on this point, there can be none.

July 18, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Healing Polarization & Focolare’s Economy of Communion

A few thoughts on John Allen’s “gut check for American Catholicism.”  I know you will all be shocked to read that I’d agree with his assessment that among the “winners” in the encyclical is Focolare and its Economy of Communion project, as “the lone initiative singled our for praise” in Caritas in Veritate.


I’d see a further connection within Allen’s roundup: I think the Economy of Communion project and the Focolare spirituality generally also hold much promise for the work of healing the tendency that Allen describes for pro-life and peace-and-justice Catholics to move in separate circles, create their own echo chambers, and as Allen puts is, “travel down separate paths, having separate conversations and investing their time and treasure in distinct, sometimes even opposing efforts.” 


Last week I was reflecting on the group of people involved with the Economy of Communion project.  Some of us have been in conversation almost from its inception in 1991.  And as I went through the list of these friends, I realized that for many I could not remember if they were Republicans or Democrats.  I am sure the role of the state and political models has come up in our conversations over the years, but the focus – a common commitment to a concrete project in service to the poor, in the conviction that Gospel values can completely permeate an approach to business life -  has formed such a deep non-ideological bond that political alliances have been completely relativized and accepted among the normal differences in any group.


Similarly, what draws people to the Focolare spirituality is not a particular political agenda, but the spirituality of unity, which is grounded in the prayer of Jesus, “that all may be one,” and the conviction that this can permeate their everyday lives.  Especially during presidential campaign seasons, local Focolare communities have not been immune to the political tensions, and have had to work very hard to keep open the lines communication across political differences.  But the common bond in the spirituality lays a foundation for building the kinds of relationships of listening, love and trust that can bridge the political divide. 


Before the 2008 election season, in the New York area we did a formation program that we called “Citizens for a United World,” which started, like all Focolare gatherings, with a “pact” of mutual love.  Over the course of studying Catholic social teaching, many were able to recognize the ways in which they may have mischaracterized the “other” (political) side, see that our pro-life and peace-and-justice leanings were all integral to the work of building up the body of Christ, and move toward healing the relationships in tension, within the Focolare community, and also within their families, parishes, and other circles.


I agree with Allen that one of our big challenges in the life of the Church here is bring our pro-life and peace-and-justice energies into alignment so as to “breathe with both lungs.”  And I have the sense that in addition to Focolare, other ecclesial movements may have had analogous experiences of creating the kind of non-ideological space that can help to heal the divide.  These may be rare, but perhaps not as rare as we think.

July 18, 2009 in Uelmen, Amy | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Mountain man or new urbanist

Will the real Rick G., please stand up.  Are you a mountain man or a new urbanist at heart? 

July 17, 2009 in Scaperlanda, Mike | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Rocks vs. People

Welcome back to Rick!  His trip sounds (and looks) like it was a wonderful experience.  From a visual standpoint, it looks especially enticing to those of us here in the flatlands of the Middle West which, when it comes to vistas like the one he posted on MOJ is, shall we say, “topographically challenged.”



While the picture of the Tetons is, as Rick says, sublime, he goes on to opine that “it’s closer [to Catholic legal theory] than the White Sox.”



Well, I suppose, from a certain neo-pagan point of view that’s true (a modern or rather post-modern heresy to which, I know, Rick does not subscribe), but Catholic legal theory, of course, looks to the human person – the pinnacle of God’s creation – “who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself” who “fully find[s] himself . . . through a sincere gift of himself” (Gaudium et Spes, par. 24).  That is, as has often been said on MOJ, Christian anthropology is at the very heart of Catholic legal theory.  At the same time, this focus on humanity does not deny or lead us away from God since “[t]he truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light” (Gaudium et Spes, par. 22).



What is more, this marveling in the beauty of God’s handiwork in each human being and all the human family is something we share with our Jewish brothers and sisters.  In seeing Rick’s stunning photograph and contemplating its meaning for Catholic legal theory, I could not help but think of the Eighth Psalm:



“When I see your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you set in place – What are humans that you are mindful of them, mere mortals that you care for them?  Yet you have made them little less than a god, crowned them with glory and honor.  You have given them rule over the work of your hands, put all things at their feet”

July 17, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

"Til Joint Assisted Suicide Do Us Part"

More on health care and the culture of death:

British conductor Sir Edward Downes died last week, alongside his wife, at an assisted-suicide facility in Switzerland. Lady Downes was in the final stages of terminal cancer; Sir Edward was ailing ("almost blind and increasingly deaf," according to his son), but his condition wasn't fatal. He just wanted to die with his wife.

Of course, "just" probably isn't a fair word to use in this context; it minimizes the enormity of the decision—not to mention the profound commitment that these two people, married for over five decades, had to one another. But then again, in some ways it feels like precisely the right word: What could be more natural, more simple, than this decision?

And there's something of that bracing quality to the Times' newspaperly account of the Downes' final moments:

On Friday, the [Downes'] children said, they watched, weeping, as their parents drank “a small quantity of clear liquid” before lying down on adjacent beds, holding hands. “Within a couple of minutes they were asleep, and died within 10 minutes,” Caractacus Downes, the couple’s 41-year-old son, said in the interview after his return to Britain. “They wanted to be next to each other when they died.”

The son goes on to say, “It is a very civilized way to end your life, and I don’t understand why the legal position in this country [Britain] doesn’t allow it.”

July 17, 2009 in Scaperlanda, Mike | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Blog rankings

Uber-law-blogger Paul Caron has posted the latest law-blog rankings here.  MOJ is doing very well, but . . . it is a bit tough to be lagging behind the Wills, Trusts, & Estates Profs blog.  So, tell all your friends about MOJ, and let's make it a goal:  Catch WTEP in 2009!

July 17, 2009 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

St. Bernard comes through

As I mentioned here, I spent this week climbing in the Tetons.  It was a sublime, if exhausting, experience.  Thanks to all for the prayers and e-mails.  Here is Teewinot, which I climbed on Wednesday:

Does this have anything to do with Catholic Legal Theory?  Well, um, it IS sublime.  And, who are we kidding, it's closer than the White Sox.

July 17, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

"Making Men Moral" at 15

At Public Discourse, Micah Watson has posted an essay on Robert George's Making Men Moral, which was published 15 years ago.  A bit:

The work of Princeton professor Robert P. George has now spanned three decades and addressed several subjects, including, among others, analytic philosophy, constitutional law, philosophy of law, bioethics, and natural law theory. His discussions of these topics have been marked by two common principles—the perfectionist principle and the reason principle—both enjoying an august philosophical heritage, even as they have more recently fallen into disfavor. These principles, first expounded upon in book form in his 1994 work Making Men Moral: Civil Liberties and Public Morality, were the subject of a recent conference at Union University commemorating the 15th anniversary of that book.

We might articulate the perfectionist principle in this way: “religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools, and the means of education, shall forever be encouraged.”

Such was the position of the United States Congress as expressed three years before the Constitutional Convention in the Northwest Ordinance of 1784. The exact nature of the encouragement is not as important as the principle underlying it: republics depend on a virtuous citizenry and thus it is in the interest of the government to promote virtue. It is necessary, then, for government and law to partner with the institutions of religion, morality, and knowledge toward the perfectionist end of “making men moral.”

While the carrying out of this task is difficult and calls for principled and prudent leadership, the principle itself is much more controversial than it used to be. . . .

Many liberals . . . purport to reject a perfectionist role for government in the name of individual autonomy. In reality most do not object to government promoting an idea of the good as such. Rather, they worry about the content of what passes for good when traditionalists argue for a government role—they seem to have no problem when the government advances a liberal conception of the good life. Nevertheless, many liberals speak as though the role of government is to enable individuals to pursue their own understandings of the good life and this approach is in tension with the principle espoused by the 1784 Congress.

The second principle is a bit more complex. If the perfectionist principle holds that the government should play a role in encouraging citizens to be good, the reason principle holds that we can identify that good through careful deliberation and the exercise of universally available human reason. . . .

July 17, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Allen's gut check

Thank you Michael P. for posting John Allen's latest.  I wanted to highlight two bits of Allen's essay:

[T]he real "losers" from Caritas in Veritate are Catholics who operate as chaplains to political parties, cheerleaders for political candidates, and spin doctors for either the Bush or Obama administrations, cherry-picking among church teachings to support those positions. Needless to say, the American Catholic landscape is dotted with prominent examples of all the above.


Can American Catholics evangelize the country's politics, or are we content to be evangelized by it?

That, in any event, seems to be the gut-check posed by Caritas in Veritate.

July 17, 2009 in Scaperlanda, Mike | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

More on Health Care

At the end of his discussion of Peter Singers call for rationed health care, Fr. Araujo says:   "If the treatment is available and will do good for that person, it should be made available."  Is this always true?  Two further questions:  at what cost and who bears the cost?  Two more:  who decides what is good and by what criteria? 

Even if we get medical and pharmaceutical costs under control, is it the case that a parent ought to be able to take a child to the doctor every time she gets the sniffles (easy to do back in the HMO days with a $5 co-pay)?  Should an otherwise healthy 85 year old be eligible for a heart transplant? 

My intuition is that we have (and will continue to have) health care rationing at multiple levels - government, insurance company, and individual. Am I wrong about this?  I'm more concerned about the criteria for rationing.  Singers criteria, based upon his anthropology, would lead to a furher entrenchment of the culture of death.  A Catholic anthropology, taking into account all that Fr. Araujo discusses, would lead to the building of a culture of life.  Thoughts?

July 17, 2009 in Scaperlanda, Mike | Permalink | TrackBack (0)