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, May 31, 2012

The Wonder Drug . . . That Comes at a Terrible Price

Just when you think the world can suffer no deeper depravity than what has already taken place, the world surprises yet again.

Witness this report from South Korea where customs officials recently seized pills made from the dried flesh of aborted children from China (here). Labeled as “stamina boosters” or “rejuvenation pills” the tablets are reportedly used “to enhance sexual performance” (here).

As Pundit & Pundette wryly notes (here) “But of course.  It's like the circle of life.  Well, not life, exactly, but with 13 million abortions a year [in China], dead baby is definitely a renewable resource.”

In his Modest Proposal, Jonathan Swift recommended that the severe poverty in Ireland could be relieved by selling the young children of the poor to the wealthy for consumption.

“I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricasie, or a ragoust.”

What Swift intended as satire in the 18th century has been realized as tragedy in the 21st century with one difference.  Apparently the best use for the remains of dead children isn’t as a source of nutrition for adults but as a drug to enhance sexual virility.

This is yet another of the many wrongs committed by abortion.  The act of abortion not only takes the life of the unborn child, the legal recognition of this act also denies the child his or her very humanity, and with it the dignity that is integral to membership in the human family.  With the commodification of his or her remains, the aborted child has no dignity even in death.

The drug made from the dried flesh of dead human children may work wondrous results, but it comes a price . . . the price is one’s soul, and the soul of our culture.

Doubtless should a second term of the Obama administration become a reality Secretary Sebelius will find that “health” reasons necessitate the inclusion of this wonder pill on the HHS’s list of approved drugs that employers must make available to their employees.  And with the promotion of certain “preventive health services” by Sebelius and Obama’s HHS, the pills may even be available for “free” since these services will help ensure a ready supply of domestically produced raw materials.  (The legal reform of health care, you see, is all about cost savings!).

As we know from the current debate over the HHS contraception/sterilization/abortifacient mandate, what is advertised as “free” may come at a terrible price.  The price of the current mandate is the loss of religious freedom.  The price of the “rejuvenation pills” made from the flesh of aborted children is the loss of human dignity – for the children, for the consumers of such pills, and for all of us.

May 31, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Scholars Letter on North Dakota Religious Liberty Amendment

Yesterday I blogged about the debate over the proposed North Dakota amendment to apply the "compelling interest" test to state religious-freedom claims (see my own op-ed defense of the proposal).  Now, to counter the groundless warnings about what the proposal would do, a group of religious liberty scholars (including MOJers Garnett, George, Sisk, and Berg) have issued a letter to the state legislative council, making among others the following points:

If the sky has not fallen in the 31 states where these provisions are already the law, including neighboring states like Minnesota, there is no reason to think the experience will be any different in North Dakota. 

Indeed, these laws typically do not wind up applying to large numbers of cases. But those few cases are often of intense importance to the people affected. We should not punish a person for practicing his religion unless we have a very good reason. These cases are about whether people pay fines, or go to jail, for practicing their religion—in America, in the 21st century.

May 31, 2012 in Berg, Thomas | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Former NY Capital Defender Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle lost his job as head of NY state's capital defense office for a really good reason: the state abolished the death penalty. Here is a wonderful interview with him that ranges over many important topics, including (briefly) his own reflections on fighting lymphoma. Kevin spoke and wrote for the St. Thomas Law Journal's symposium several years ago on "The Future of Pro-Life Progressivism." You can download his remarks here. They were witty, tough-minded, compassionate, and wholly and deeply Catholic (his first category of advice: "Don't burn your bridges, but make damn sure you char them"). The same features come through in this interview. Read it for an uplifting reminder, amid all the bickering these days, how many people are out there living the faith powerfully. Thanks and prayers for Kevin.

May 31, 2012 in Berg, Thomas | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

O'Callaghan on "Pentecost and the Mandate"

My friend and colleague, John O'Callaghan (Philosophy) has a guest-post up at America called "Pentecost and the Mandate" that is, I think, really good.  A bit:

  Pentecost reminds us that it is the task of all Christians to leave the rooms in which they huddle in fear of others' thoughts and actions, and despite their failings make manifest the gift that is offered to us all. Today in the United States the freedom to give that gift as the church understands it—a vision of how human life flourishes in caring for the sick, educating the young, feeding the hungry, comforting the dying, and so on—is threatened by those who hold the political and legal power to coerce the lives of citizens and the institutions within which they assemble. The HHS Mandate requires church institutions of any sort, not just Catholic, to act in ways contrary to what they believe is part of that gift they would offer the world. It claims the authority to coerce the lives of Christians precisely as Christians, if they dare to act beyond the walls of their church buildings in concert with and for people who do not share their faith.

May 31, 2012 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | Comments (20) | TrackBack (0)

Winters responds to Garnett

Here, Michael Sean Winters responds to a recent post of mine about the Smith case.  At the end of the day (putting aside the question of how to read Dignitatis humanae), I think the disagreement between Winters and I comes down to (i) whether it is true that it was Justice Scalia, rather than those who ratified the First and Fourteenth Amendments, who is responsible for the rule in Smith and (ii) as a general matter, do we think that the challenging project of accommodating religious objectors to the community's generally applicable laws is one that is best assigned to politically accountable legislatures (who are probably better situated than courts to collect the information necessary for cost-benefit judgments) or to constitutional courts.  And, in my view (and in Justice Scalia's), to opt for the former is not, in any way, to disdain religious freedom.

Thanks, of course, to Winters for the detailed response.

May 31, 2012 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

McGinnis on Berman

Have a look at John McGinnis's short introductory post on a planned multi-part series on the work of the late great Harold Berman.  I had not known that Professor Berman was an expert in the law of the former Soviet Union.  Professor McGinnis connects that expertise to Berman's larger historical project.   

May 31, 2012 in DeGirolami, Marc | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Bishop Wester responds to Dowd

Here.  (HT:  Distinctly Catholic.)

In an age of sound-bite journalism, the Catholic Church’s positions on complex issues are often relegated to simplified remarks. While we respect the opinions of others, it is essential to avoid simplifying the current religious liberty debate to the point of distortion, as New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, unfortunately, did in her May 24 column in The Tribune ("Father doesn’t know best," Opinion).

In an effort to make a case against the church’s objection to the Health and Human Services mandate requiring most religious institutions to offer contraception within their health insurance policies, Dowd ignores complicated First Amendment issues and church teaching to try to paint the Catholic Church as anti-women and abusive. Unfortunately, a column that was ostensibly about a relevant issue ended up as nothing more than a rambling attack on the Catholic Church. . . .

Well said.

May 31, 2012 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sex-selection abortion ban = anti-Asian?

We are told that today's GOP is becoming a whites-only affair.  How did this come to pass?  Well, according to Dana Millbank, it's due in part to Republicans' insistence on proposing legislation to ban sex-selection abortions.  Such a law, in the view of Rep. Barbara Lee, would "lead to further stigmatization of women, especially Asian Pacific American women."  Millbank writes that the problem "is that it's not entirely clear there is a problem" with sex-selection abortion in the U.S.  He acknowledges that "[s]ex-selection abortion is a huge tragedy in parts of Asia, but to the extent it's happening in this country, it's mostly among Asian immigrants."  I'm not sure I follow Millbank's logic.  It's not clear it's a problem in this country, but (or because?) it's happening "mostly among Asian immigrants?"  Or does the fact that the practice is concentrated among a particular minority group mean that legislation targeting the practice is inescapably discriminatory?  As Millbank puts it, this is "paternalism toward minority groups," and may cause the GOP to "lose Asian Americans." 

Perhaps there are other flaws in the proposed legislation (which apparently has little chance of passing the House), but I'm having a very hard time seeing the bill as anti-Asian.  If the political community deems a practice morally odious and unacceptable, why does the prudence of its legal prohibition depend on the concentration of its practitioners within a particular racial or immigrant group?  We would not hesitate to use law to try to prevent the custom of sati from taking root in the United States -- i.e., a widow throwing herself on her husband's funeral pyre -- even if practitioners tended to be concentrated within immigrant Hindu communities.  So why does a bill banning sex-selection abortion automatically become part of the "GOP for whites only" narrative?

May 31, 2012 in Vischer, Rob | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)

Steinfels on "The Bishops and Religious Liberty"

Commonweal is hosting a symposium on the current religious freedom / HHS mandate / lawsuits / Bishops' statement cluster of issues, here.  Our own Michael Moreland will be contributing.

Peter Steinfels' opening statement is, as one would expect, thoughtful.  The concerns he expresses are, I think, reasonable, even if I do not, in the end, share all of them.  I think it is worth noting that, despite his judgment that the Bishops' "campaign is poorly conceived and runs a high risk of harming the very causes it would defend", he acknowledges several times that the "religious employer" exemption contained in the preventive-services mandate is troubling and that the Bishops were and are right to protest it.  This exemption is, at present, the law, and there has been no indication that it is going to be changed.  It remains as troubling as it was, when it -- for a time -- united "progressive" and "conservative" Catholics in opposition.  This exemption is a key target of the recently filed lawsuits, and so I continue to not understand the criticisms -- especially when they come from Catholics and others who see, or at least saw, the objectionable nature of this narrow exemption -- of the recent lawsuits, which were -- as Fr. Jenkins made clear -- filed with regret and only after careful consideration.

I look forward to the other contributions.  Given the authors, I expect that they will avoid what I regard as the mistake of presuming partisan aims on the part of those of us who oppose the mandate, agree with the Bishops that religious-freedom is vulnerable and in need of renewed defense at present, and who believe that (unfortunately) this administration's insensitivity to religious freedom has made political and legal responses necessary.  I am confident that they, unlike some, will avoid the unhelpful and unfair charge that we are somehow unable to distinguish between real and imaginary threats, or that we fail to appreciate the important distinctions that exist between, say, requirements that one act immorally and requirements that one pay taxes.  And, I believe they will resist any temptation to imagine that our concerns about religious liberty generally, or the HHS mandate in particular, reflect an unsophisticated or unthinking failure to appreciate the realities of political life in a pluralistic society. 

May 31, 2012 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

From Judge to Priest: A story made for MOJ

A friend passed on this piece , about former judge and now Fr. Tim Corcoran.  A really nice read:

. . . He's had a colorful adult life. A stint in the Navy that included combat duty in Vietnam at the same time his career-Marine father served. And his distinguished legal career included a law practice, a 14-year judgeship on the federal bench for the Middle District of Florida and service as a certified mediator.

At age 62, with retirement within his grasp, and the chance to golf and sail and play bridge to his heart's content, he did something most men of a certain age would never consider.

He entered the seminary to become a priest. . . .

May 30, 2012 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | TrackBack (0)