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, October 29, 2012

"Reformation Day"

I gather that, tomorrow, while I am celebrating the eve of All Saints Day, some people are marking "Reformation Day."  Maybe, in an ecumenical gesture, I'll re-read a few pages of Brad Gregory's "The Unintended Reformation" . . .

October 29, 2012 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friedman on being "pro-life"

Thomas Friedman took a break from extolling the virtues of Chinese-style authoritarianism to explain what it really means to be "pro-life," and why -- given what it really means -- he is.  He goes beyond the (in my view, not persuasive) arguments of Charles Reid and others that a vote for Obama is, in fact, a "pro-life" vote because -- despite his opposition to providing legal protection or meaningful moral status to unborn children -- his policies are likely to result, on balance, in fewer abortions.  (I think this prediction is quite flawed, but that's another matter.) 

For Friedman, it turns out that being "pro-life" has not much to do with one's views on abortion, and instead means (my words) "supporting policies that will result, all things considered, in more total life-days -- that is, in more people living longer than they otherwise would."  So, "being pro-life" involves, for example, supporting regulations of unhealthy sugar-rich sodas and dramatic policies aimed at reducing the predicted impacts of climate change.

Now, it is true, I think, that the reasons one has for opposing abortion are reasons that also should affect one's views on other issues.  Abortion is wrong when and because it is the unjustified killing of an innocent, vulnerable human person; other unjustified killings of innocent, vulnerable human persons are also wrong.  But (as Friedman is smart enough that he should know), the abortion "issue" is not one of mere vitalism; to say that reducing the speed limit and regulating abortion are "pro-life" in the same way because both result in fewer deaths is, well, obtuse.  Kind of like celebrating Chinese-style authoritarianism.


October 29, 2012 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

"The Punishment Jurist"

I've posted a new essay, The Punishment Jurist, a short critical history of the thought of Sir James Fitzjames Stephen, whose manner of expression is as furiously powerful as the wind of a hurricane.  Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!

October 29, 2012 in DeGirolami, Marc | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Barack Obama, Planned Parenthood, and the "Preventive Health Care" Fraud

From today's Daily Caller:

Pro-life activists are blowing the whistle on President Barack Obama’s claim during an appearance on the “Tonight Show” this week that Planned Parenthood provides mammograms.

. . .

“Last night on the Jay Leno program, President Obama once again misled the public and in particular women, continuing his false advertising campaign that the nation’s top abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, provides mammograms at its clinics,” added Lila Rose, president of the pro-life Live Action, in a statement. “The fact is that while Planned Parenthood, which receives almost half a billion dollars a year in taxpayer funds, does over 300,000 abortions a year at its clinics, it does zero mammograms. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, no Planned Parenthood clinic in the country is authorized to perform mammograms under the federal Mammogram Quality Standards Act.”

October 27, 2012 in Sisk, Greg | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Our 100% pro-abortion rights "pro-life" president?

In 2008 there were some serious pro-life people who actually bought the kind of argument Charles Reid is once again selling.  I'm confident that it won't happen this time.  Those were "messianic days" when grown men and women could talk themselves into believing that the election of Barack Obama would stop the rise of the oceans and cause the earth to heal. So why couldn't such a figure somehow hypostatically unite the apparent opposites of "pro-life" and "pro-choice" in the person of himself?  The argument sounded novel and interesting back then.  It's now stale and,increasingly, ridiculous. President Obama is by far the greatest friend the abortion lobby and the movement for legal abortion and its public funding ever had in the White House.  If you don't believe me, just ask them.  He's their man.  Obama fervently believes, and has consistently acted on the belief, that children in utero have no rights that others must respect.  He opposes any meaningful legal protections for unborn babies.  Under the regime of law he supports, they may be killed at any time for any reason; and he has vowed to make sure things stay that way.  He has even opposed the prohibition of sex-selection abortions.  For the full litany of the President's offenses against sanctity of life principles, just visit the websites of major pro-life organizations such as the National Right to Life Committee, Americans United for Life, and the Susan B. Anthony List.  Or, if you prefer, you can get the information from the websites of major pro-abortion groups, such as Planned Parenthood or NARAL.  It doesn't matter which side you go to for the info.  Obama and his supporters do not try to hide his abortion extremism.  They celebrate and praise him for it.  (They just don't call it extremism.  They call it support for "reproductive health.")  So the information is easily available to anyone who wants to have a look.  As for Charles Reid's argument, as I said, I doubt that it will move many votes Obama's way this time.  Serious pro-life people just aren't buying it.  They know an abortion advocate when they have seen one in action as the nation's chief executive for four years.  What Reid is offering will be relevant on November 6, if at all, only in salving the consciences of folks on the left who will, in any case, vote for Obama despite his pro-abortion record. It gives them a story to tell themselves about how they are actually, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, living by their principles and defending unborn babies.  That story is that Obama may be a 100 per cent "abortion rights" guy by the standards of Planned Parenthood and NARAL, but actually he's "the pro-life candidate."

October 27, 2012 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 26, 2012

"Catholic, Pro-Life, and Voting for Barack Obama"

Charles J. Reid, Jr.

Professor of Law, University of St. Thomas

Catholic, Pro-Life and Voting for Barack Obama

Huffington Posted: 10/26/2012 2:37 pm

Life matters. From conception to natural death, it matters. This is a principle Catholics must carry with them into the voting booth.

But it is not a simple binary equation. It is not an either/or proposition. In the end, determining which candidate better serves the interests of life is a prudential judgment. A simple promise to overturn Roe v. Wade does not automatically make one the pro-life candidate.

In my estimation, Barack Obama is the more seriously pro-life candidate in this year's presidential contest. Voters should not forget his early connections to the Catholic Church. He attended St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School in Jakarta for three years. His mother, Ann Dunham, assisted Fr. A.M. Kaderman, S.J., in managing an English-language training school during this time. When Barack Obama worked as a community organizer in the middle 1980s, he did so out of the rectory of Holy Rosary Catholic Church on the South Side of Chicago, where he helped to coordinate the efforts of eight Catholic parishes and numerous other religious organizations to improve the lives of unemployed steel workers and others whom the financialized economy was leaving in the dust. He still considers the late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin of Chicago an inspiration. (On this background, see the wonderful new book by the Catholic legal scholars Douglas Kmiec and Ed Gaffney, and the Harvard Medical School Professor of Pediatrics, Dr. Patrick Whelan, "America Undecided: Catholic, Independent, and Social Justice Perspectives on Election 2012.")

Kmiec, Gaffney and Whelan stress that there is no more powerful abortifacient in this country than poverty. It may be difficult for the comfortable, upper-middle class conservative Catholics who support Mitt Romney for "pro-life" reasons to associate with this reality. But imagine for a moment a young woman, 18 or 20, 25 or even 30 years old. She comes from a broken, impoverished family and has little real economic future. She's gone through a bad relationship or two, and faces a soul-crushing existence being nickel-and-dimed through a series of dead-end jobs in America's service economy. She is poor, desperate, alone and maybe even threatened by her boyfriend. The jobs are so haphazard, the poverty so shattering, that family formation is impossible. A powerful description of the plight of women who lead these lives of invisible suffering can be found in Barbara Ehrenreich's "Nickel-and-Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America" (2001). Conditions have only grown more acute in the decade since Ehrenreich wrote her book.

In fear, in humiliation, in aching isolation, she seeks an abortion. This bleak portrait depicts the tragic dimensions of the abortion crisis in America. It is a crisis born not of the selfish pursuit of the glittering baubles of American materialism, but of the panic-stricken sense of having nowhere to turn. And it is fed at the top by politicians who prize Randian individualism and the unfettered quest for riches above every human value.

The Netherlands and Germany have abortion rates less than one-third of the United States. Why? Because those nations address the cause of abortion at its root -- poverty. They provide pre-natal and post-natal care, and a social system that genuinely assists the new mother who chooses life.

President Obama's Affordable Care Act represents a small, measured step in the direction of maternal assistance for women in crisis. It does not go nearly far enough, in my judgment, but in our present political environment it is probably the best that can be achieved. It is grounded on the basic premise of Catholic social thought, reiterated time and again by the popes, from Leo XIII to Benedict XVI, that health care is a fundamental right. It is the indispensable starting point of a seamless ethic of life.

The Affordable Care Act legislatively recognizes this fundamental moral right. Among its provisions, the ACA creates a Pregnancy Assistance Fund. Specifically on the issue of crisis pregnancy, this fund assists in several ways. It can cover the salary of counselors who point young women in the direction of social services. It supports parenting classes and aids with day-care costs at colleges and universities. It teaches and supports and, in sum, helps equip panicked, pregnant young women to become responsible, future-directed young mothers.

The Affordable Care Act helps save unborn lives in other ways as well. It increases tax credits for adoptions, making this loving alternative more affordable and more readily available. It recognizes that Medicaid currently pays for one-third of all live births in America and promises to maintain adequate funding for this vital service. Abortion is a serious wrong, but it is better, as the proverbial saying goes, to light a candle than to curse the darkness.

And what do the Republicans, that ostensible pro-life party, offer in return? They deny that health care is a basic right, describing it instead as a matter of "personal responsibility," thereby repudiating a foundational principle of Catholic social thought. They promise the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, including presumably the Pregnancy Assistance Fund and the adoption credits. They solemnly pledge to slash budgetary allocations to Medicaid, thus fueling the ever-deepening desperation of the pregnant poor. And in life's final years, the Republicans will voucherize Medicare, putting at risk the health and well-being of millions of senior citizens.

Well, one might retort, perhaps the Republicans will at last reverse Roe v. Wade. The reversal of Roe v. Wade has been a part of every Republican platform since 1980. Hasn't happened yet. Catholics who cling to this thin reed should prepare for disappointment. The Supreme Court will perpetually be one vote short of reversal.

A recent poll shows that Catholics prefer candidates who give attention to the poor than abortion (see Chicago Tribune, "Catholics Want More Focus on Poverty Than Abortion, Survey Finds," October 24, 2012). In reality, it is not one or the other. Fight poverty, and you fight abortion. So, I am voting for life -- Obama-Biden 2012.

[Charles J. Reid, Jr., has degrees in canon law and civil law from the Catholic University of America; and a Ph.D. in medieval history from Cornell University. He was raised in a union household in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and graduated from the University of Milwaukee with degrees in classical languages and history.]

October 26, 2012 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Back to the Basics of Religious Liberty

This year, the Murphy Institute's Hot Topic: Cool Talk is joining the bandwagon in focusing on religious liberty.  Speakers at our first two programs this year shared what I thought was a very telling message -- getting "back to the basics" of the religious traditions they represented.

Just last week, Rob Vischer from UST Law and Abdulwahid Qalinle, an adjunct law professor at the University of Minnesota Law School and director of its Islamic Law and Human Rights Program, engaged the topic:  The Dangers of Anti-Sharia Laws: Muslim and Catholic Perspectives.  (We co-sponsored this with UST's Muslim-Christian Dialogue Center.)  As you can see from the video of the event here, one of the points made a number of times by Professor Qalinle (most directly in response to an audience question about Pakistan's blasphemy laws) was that the Koran says: "do not insult the religous beliefs of others", and allows people to disbelieve the Koran itself, if they are not convinced of its truth.

In September we opened the program with a dialogue on "Vatican II on Religious Freedom: European and American Perspectives", featuring UST Law's Reggie Whitt and the Most Reverend Charles Morerod, OP, of the diocese of Fribourg, Lausanne, and Geneva, Switzerland.  Bishop Morerod is the former rector of the Angelicum in Rome,the former Secretary General of the International Theological Commission and Consultor for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and currently a member of the Congregation for Catholic Education. One of Bishop Morerod's basic points in describing the evolution of Church thought that led to the promulgation of Dignitas Humanae was the Church asking itself (if I may paraphrase, since Bishop Morerod used much sophisticated and elegant language, as you can see by watching this video of the event) "What Would (did) Jesus Do?"  As Bishop Morerod put it, Jesus never forced any of his disciples to follow him, and, indeed, most of the people he encountered did not choose to follow him.

When I get lost in the thickets of some of the more sophisticated religious libery debates, I sometimes find it helpful to be reminded of the basics.

October 26, 2012 in Schiltz, Elizabeth | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Jacques Barzun, R.I.P.

"Cultural Critic Saw the Sun Setting on the West."  More here.  And, you can buy his (amazing) Dawn to Decadence here.

October 26, 2012 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A great story about a great program

Read a wonderful piece about Notre Dame's outstanding, game-changing Alliance for Catholic Education (A.C.E.) program, in The New York Times (!!), here:

Devoting themselves to society’s overlooked and left-behind, voluntarily accepting a wage of $1,000 a month that is roughly at the federal poverty line, living in intentional Christian households, the 1,600 teachers produced by ACE in its 19-year history have formed the 21st-century equivalent of the sisters and brothers from Catholic religious orders whose sacrifices for decades sustained the American parochial school system.       

“Perhaps the ACErs were an anticipation of what the religious life would look like in the next generation,” the priest and author Andrew M. Greeley wrote in his novel “The Bishop at the Lake.”       

The Rev. Nathan Wills, a former ACE teacher who recently visited with the Tucson cohort, looked backward for an analogy. “It’s a reflection of the disciples,” he said. “This is what the apostles did when Jesus sent them to teach. They set up communities in the midst of difficult circumstances.” . . .


October 25, 2012 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Rob Vischer Selected as St. Thomas Law's Next Dean!

I'm very happy to report the following news about St. Thomas Law and our UST and MOJ colleague and friend Rob.  Full story here.


Robert Vischer, associate dean for academic affairs and professor of law at the University of St. Thomas School of Law, will become the new dean of the school, it was announced Thursday. 

He begins his term on Jan. 1, said Dr. Susan Huber, executive vice president and chief academic officer.  He was selected from among a strong group of finalist candidates.

Vischer is one of the nation’s leading scholars relating lawyers’ moral formation, including faith-based formation, to their professional development and excellence – a central part of the school’s Catholic mission.   Huber said Vischer’s experience on the St. Thomas faculty (since 2005) and as associate dean (since 2011) prepare him well to serve as the school’s third dean since it opened in 2001.

Among his scholarly publications are numerous articles and two Cambridge University Press books – Martin Luther King Jr. and the Morality of Legal Practice: Lessons in Love and Justice, scheduled for release next month, and Conscience and the Common Good: Reclaiming the Space Between Person and State (2010).  Vischer’s honors at the School of Law include Professor of the Year (elected by students) in 2008 and 2011, and Dean’s Awards for Outstanding Scholarship in 2009 and Outstanding Teacher in 2007. At St. John’s University School of Law, where he taught before coming to UST, he was named Professor of the Year in 2005 and received the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2003.

“I am confident that Rob will lead the school to a new educational destination during this critical period of time for legal education,” Huber said.  “His belief in keeping the mission of the school authentic and vibrant balances well with his concern for openly addressing the challenges facing all law schools today.”

Those challenges include a soft hiring market for new attorneys and a decrease in applications to law schools, but Vischer believes St. Thomas is well positioned to deal with critical issues.

“We have built an innovative program of legal education on our distinctive mission, which is a big draw for students,” he said. “We take professional formation seriously, equipping our graduates to excel in teamwork and building relationships, and impressing upon them the importance of developing a foundational moral commitment to serve others.” These attributes, he added, are important to employers and clients.

October 25, 2012 in Berg, Thomas | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)