Monday, September 27, 2010
According to this report, "[t]he Obama administration sought Friday to block a lawsuit over the scope of its targeted killing program for suspected terrorists, in a case that challenges the government to define the limits of its global battlefield against extremists." Let's put aside, for now, reactions of the "gee, this wasn't supposed to happen under the Obama Administration" or "Imagine if President Bush did this, how people would howl!" variety. (Oops.) I want to ask, instead, whether or not is clear that "targeted", extrajudicial killings are morally unjustifiable.
I take it that, for those of us who think that capital punishment is morally justifiable, it is clear that targeted, extrajudicial killings are morally unjustifiable as punishment. But, does it follow that it is always unjustifable for the government to authorize, outside of judicial processes, the killing of a person who is thought (with certainty, or something close to it?) to pose an imminent threat to the safety of others? Does the "distance" between the decision maker and the supposed-soon-to-be aggressor matter? Or, does the question reduce to the more familiar one about when lethal force is permissible in defense of self or others? Or, instead, to the question when it is permissible to kill a combatant (notwithstanding the fact that the decision-maker and the supposed-aggressor are not meeting on a "battlefield")?
On Saturday evening I performed a set of songs by Leonard Cohen at a venue called Cafe Improv, at the Princeton Arts Council. I know that several MoJers are interested in Cohen's music. Here is the link to a video of my performance of "Nancy," which I regard as one of Cohen's finest pieces of social criticism: http://rgeorge26.shutterfly.com/pictures/14. Although "Nancy" isn't one of them, many of Cohen's songs feature religious imagery, much of it Catholic. Even "Nancy" has some references to religion, or to its absence---"in the house of mystery, there was no one at all."
Friday, September 24, 2010
Here is a Zenit story on the USCCB's Commitee on Doctrine's recent statement critiquing a book ("The Sexual Person: Toward a Renewed Catholic Anthropology") by Todd Salzman and Michael Lawler. Here is a link to the Committee on Doctrine's statement. The Committee concludes that the book's methodology and conclusions depart from authentic presentations of Catholic theology.
This continues a welcome trend of the Bishops to issue elaborate statements explaining Church teaching and critiquing the work of theologians rather than pursuing a disciplinary approach.
Here's a post, at America, about the execution by Virginia of Teresa Lewis. I note that Ms. Lewis was represented, at the end, by my former law-practice colleague (and Notre Dame graduate), Jim Rocap.
In some of the commentary I've read about the case, the fact that Ms. Lewis is a woman has been highlighted. This fact, it seems to me, is not one that can or should be relevant to the question whether someone who has been duly convicted of a capital crime should be executed. There is also, as the America post mentions, the question of Ms. Lewis's mental capacities. It seems to me that these capacities are certaily relevant to the question whether a death-sentence can be justifed, though one has to concede, I think, that any efforts to find a clear "line" -- especially a clear point on the IQ scale -- separating those whose capacities are such that they can deserve execution and those who capacities are not are likely to fail.
At Public Discourse, Tom Farr reminds us, again, of the importance of religious freedom -- here and abroad -- to stability, security, and peace:
[T]he American experience teaches that religious liberty can be an effective way to engage religious actors in the project of self governance, and to forestall religion-based violence and terrorism. This is why religious freedom should be at the forefront of our counter-terrorism diplomacy. It is no accident that where religious freedom does not exist, or is under siege, Islamist terrorism is incubated, nourished, and exported, including to American shores.
A recent Pew Forum study shows that 70 percent of the world’s population lives in nations where religious liberty is severely restricted, most of them Muslim-majority nations. Extremist policies such as anti-blasphemy and anti-apostasy laws fuel the persecution of Christians in countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia, and the cruel repression of Muslim minorities in Pakistan and Iran. The absence of religious freedom prevents the emergence of Muslim reformers who oppose religion-based persecution and who are capable of developing a liberal Islamic political theology.
Unfortunately, American foreign policy has long been complicit in supporting authoritarian regimes in Muslim nations. It has also been lethargic and inept in advancing international religious freedom—even though it is required by law to do so—including in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Obama administration has been especially negligent on this score, failing even to mention religious freedom in its National Security Strategy. Almost two years into the President’s tenure, the senior State Department official responsible for promoting religious freedom abroad is still not in place. As I have argued here and here, the State Department has apparently concluded that the vigorous defense of religious liberty in Muslim-majority nations will offend Muslims and be resisted by their governments. . . .
Thursday, September 23, 2010
I've long wanted to understand more deeply what was at issue when Jacques Maritain and Charles De Koninck famously disagreed about the nature of the common good (and the individual person's relation thereto). The recent translation, by Ralph McInerny, and publication, by the University of Notre Press, of The Writings of Charles De Koninck (2009) have been a great help (to me). This link, to a blog I recently discovered and like a lot, states the terms of the debate with remarkable economy.
By “secularism,” he means a movement that “seeks to defend the absolute freedom of religious and other belief, seeks to maximise freedom of religious and other expression and protect the right to manifest religious belief insofar as it does not impinge disproportionately on the rights and freedoms of others.”
Most of what follows is unexceptionable, but then there’s goal number three, “End unjustified religious discrimination by” and his first example:
• Stopping faith schools from sacking or rejecting a teacher based on his/her religion or marital status.
So: to prevent discrimination, he demands discrimination. Faith schools aren’t allowed to propagate their faith by hiring only teachers who share it, which would seem to be a right implicit in the idea of a faith school. He evidently intends faith schools to become secularist institutions, in the usual sense of secularism. So maybe, even on his own grounds, the characterization and attacks aren’t so unfair after all.
The pope, by the way, is a subtler student of what might better be called “secularity” than this writer.
Pope Benedict XVI has, in recent months, expressed his admiration for the “American model” of religious liberty and church-state liberty. For example, during his trip last spring to the United States, the Pope noted, and seemed to praise, America’s “positive concept of secularism,” in which government respects both the role of religious arguments and commitments in the public square and the important distinction between religious and political authorities. . . .