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.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Judge not?

I'm grateful for the friendly tone of Steve's most recent comment, and happy to reflect with him on the important question he raises:

"I wonder in general what the standard is for calling one’s Catholicism into question and I wonder whether [Ted] Kennedy’s actions ever crossed that threshold."

I've already said all I intend to say about Ted Kennedy's conduct, and I've cited biographical works that contain all the gory details.  Here I'll say a word in reply to Steve's question about "the standard for calling [some]one's Catholicism into question."  I think it is legitimate---and sometimes necessary---to do so when a politician cultivates an image of himself as devout and uses his religion for political gain, yet consistently defies its tenets in the way he lives.  Such a politician can scarcely appeal to the "judge not" principle to immunize himself from criticism or to condemn those who expose his hypocrisy.

That is why I opened my very first post replying to Steve with the following points:

"Joseph P. Kennedy, John F. Kennedy, and Edward M. Kennedy (until public revelations of his conduct made it no longer possible) each depicted himself, or permitted his political machinery to depict him, as a man who was loyal in belief and practice to Catholic teaching.  They used their professed Catholicism to paint a false picture of themselves for political purposes.  They sought to deceive the voting public, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, about the kind of men they were, and they exploited the image they created of themselves as dedicated Catholics who lived by the teachings of the Church."

Had the Kennedys (those I mentioned, not everyone in the family---certainly not Eunice Kennedy Shriver, for example) not ginned up a false image of themselves as deeply loyal to Catholic teaching and exploited that image for politican gain, there would have been no hypocrisy for Professor Arkes, me, or anyone else to point out.

Steve says that he finds attacks on the dead to be unsettling.  This is to his personal credit, but I think I can assure him that it is not a function of his "liberal squeamshness."  Like Steve, I live in a segment of the world populated almost entirely by liberals.  In my twenty-five years as a professor, I've encountered no squeamishness about criticizing dead conservatives---often in the most vituperative terms.  You can test this yourself:  just mention "Richard Nixon" or "Ronald Reagan" or "Jerry Falwell" in the faculty lounge.


Berg, Thomas | Permalink

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