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.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Roberts on Berry on SSM

As the Supreme Court takes up the marriage question, Christopher Roberts offers an interesting reflection on Wendell Berry's recent reversal on the question:

Berry’s talk does not hold together either in its logical implications or with the vast majority of his prior work, yet it makes some rhetorical sense if he is merely distancing himself from bigotry. But if so, he protests too much. His speech concludes with some lovely and mystical words about the interconnectivity of all creation, and it’s clear that he imagines himself on the side of the gentle and good. But as his own substantial earlier work demonstrates, and as should have been obvious to a man of his public experience, not every commitment to traditional marriage is irrational and poisonous. Berry’s philosophical shortcuts in this talk are not benign.

March 26, 2013 in Vischer, Rob | Permalink | Comments (1)

The nones' retention problem

Michael Gerson offers more statistics about Americans' declining attachment to institutional religion.  One statistic had escaped my attention previously:

According to Pew, 74 percent of the nones grew up in a religious tradition of some sort. Yet while conversion has increased the ranks of the nones, retention is not particularly good. Protestantism, for example, loses about 20 percent of those raised Protestants. Of those raised unaffiliated, 40 percent fall away from the non-faith and rebel toward religion, making for a new generation of awkward Thanksgivings.


March 26, 2013 in Vischer, Rob | Permalink | Comments (0)

Another Dems for Life Brief on the Abortifacient Aspect of the HHS Mandate

As I mentioned a while back, Democrats for Life and former Congressman Bart Stupak are filing amicus briefs in various lawsuits against the HHS mandate.  The briefs, on which I am working, argue that the nation's distinctively strong tradition of protecting conscientious objections to facilitating abortions should extend to the objections to mandated insurance coverage of Ella and Plan B.  The latest brief (here) is in Conestoga Wood Specialities v. Sebelius (Third Circuit), a case brought by devout Mennonites who run a business and object to abortion though not to contraception in general.  The brief argues that the district court's denial of a preliminary injunction is

irreconcilable with our tradition of protecting health-care-related conscience in the commercial sphere—in particular the strong tradition, under federal and state laws, of protecting objections to abortion.  Protections for objections to facilitating abortion have extended to multiple categories of for-profit entities and individuals engaged in commerce, and to many kinds of indirect facilitation, including mandatory coverage of abortion in insurance plans.  When impositions are repeatedly prohibited under various conscience provisions, they cannot be dismissed as “insubstantial” burdens under RFRA.

March 26, 2013 in Berg, Thomas | Permalink | Comments (3)

Monday, March 25, 2013

Gender Equality and the "Hook-up Culture"

Two feminist legal theorists for whom I have great respect have recently written pieces on achieving equality between the genders that emphasize the need to take on the 'hook up-culture.' This kind of convergence is all the more remarkable because these two women come from very different perspectives.

Erika Bachiochi bravely jumped into the fray as what looks to me like the only pro-life voice of 10 people contributing to a "Roe at 40" series of blog essays by Notre Dame's Center for the Study of Social Movements.  Among the arguments she makes in her essay 10 Years Later: Let's Get Honest about Abortion, Roe, and Women's Equality is the following:

By equating equality with abortion access, we have capitulated to the misogynist view that equality requires women to become more like men, i.e., not pregnant. This is not to say in a biologically determinist fashion that because women’s bodies have the capacity to gestate fetal life, women are assumed by nature to be designed only, or even primarily, to be wives and mothers.  It is to say that a culture that relies on abortion to achieve equality between the sexes takes male—wombless—physiology as the norm, and in so doing perpetuates the cultural devaluation of motherhood, and of parenting generally, and the social conditions that are often inhospitable to childrearing. Abortion leaves every societal and familial injustice just as it is, and expects nothing more or different of men.

In her response to another contributor's criticism of her essay, Erika lauds : 

the effort to call men and women to a renewed sense of integrity and dignity with regard to their sexual lives. I, for one, think women ought to be at the forefront of such a movement, since we are the ones who deal disproportionately with the consequences of all-too-casual sexual encounters and failed contraception. It’s astonishing to me with so much heartbreak and so much unintended pregnancy—still, 50 years after the Pill—that mainstream feminists wouldn’t take a hard look at the way in which the sexual ethic on college campuses and post-college social scenes tends toward male prerogatives for low commitment sex.

Katharine Baker is one of the 'mainstream feminists' who has recently taken careful look at this issue, and arrived at much the same conclusion as Erika (though she does not share Erika's pro-life commitment.)  She recently posted an essay entitled Sex and Equality, soon too be published in Boston University L. Rev as part of a symposium on Hanna Rosin's book, The End of Men.  Baker's essay is sharp and punchy, and I think very effectively

challenges Rosin’s suggestion that contemporary sexual norms on college campuses serve women’s interests well. Unpacking the same data that Rosin uses to defend hook-up culture on women’s behalf, the essay argues that hook-up norms facilitate rape and may help explain the high rate of sexual assault on college campuses. Hook-up norms also perpetuate the sexual double standard, disproportionately hurt lower income women who cannot compete in hook-up status games, and valorize boorish, selfish male sexual behavior. In doing so, hook-up norms likely hurt young women’s ability to secure what they say they eventually want, which is sexual relationships rooted in equality.

March 25, 2013 in Schiltz, Elizabeth | Permalink

Friday, March 22, 2013

The sole aim of our life: to be love

Some, including the New York Times, want to perpetuate left/right divisions in the Church.  Recovering Lawyer, Heather King has a profound response on her Shirt of Flame blog.  Her is a taste:

To kiss the feet of AIDS patients and drug addicts, as Pope Francis has done,
comes from an entire being that has been formed, has been disciplined, and has
as its sole aim love. You don't have charity in one area and not in another. You
don't offer up one part of yourself and keep another. You offer it all. You lay
down your life.

Broken, stumbling, poor as we are--that's what we do  best.


March 22, 2013 in Scaperlanda, Mike | Permalink | Comments (4)

A reflection for Holy Week—Christian faith, the Law, and Peter


We are about to enter Holy Week as we finish Passion Week. Why do Christians—including those at the Mirror of Justice—celebrate this time? Because we are sinners and know that we are in need of reformation in this life because we are destined for another one. As we are reminded on Ash Wednesday, we must repent and believe in the Gospel because we are dust and to dust we shall inevitably return. I was reminded of this yesterday as I had a radical chemotherapy procedure done through the insertion of cytotoxins via several lumbar punctures. Even though doctors are trying to help prolong my life, I realize that this corporeal existence does not and cannot last forever. This is not the destiny of any of us; the destiny we share and must all face individually is judgment before God who will forgive us of our sins if we consciously seek the conversion taught by Christ. This is a life-long struggle, but it is the enterprise of the person of faith. During yesterday’s procedure,  I was also reminded of the passion of Christ who died not because he was a nice guy who simply cared for others but because, as God incarnate, He died for the remission of our sins. God incarnate shows us what we must do in this life to prepare for the next. The prayers used at the administration of ashes came to mind once again. We are all that woman in Saint’s Gospel who had sinned; Jesus encourages her and us that He does not condemn us, yet He also directs us to sin no more.

In this regard, I should like to call attention to the allocution delivered by our Holy Father Francis to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See earlier today. [HERE: scroll down for official text in English] In his address, Pope Francis recalled once again why he chose the name of Francis in order to honor the one of Assisi whose love for the poor who suffer the indignities of this corporeal existence. His exhortation urged the representatives of the nations of the world to help “the sick, orphans, the homeless and all the marginalized, thus striving to make society more humane and more just.” But Pope Francis properly noted that another Francis might be at work in his Petrine ministry, and that is the one of Xavier who went forth into the world seeking the conversion of souls, or as Father Ignatius argued, for the defense and propagation of the faith and for the progress of souls in Christian life. The Holy Father thus spoke of another kind of poverty that devastates the world today.

That is the poverty which is spiritual and afflicts, in particular, the developed countries of the world such as our own. He specifically noted and appropriated Pope Benedict’s phrase of the “tyranny of relativism” that afflicts those in the world who have no need for faith in God in their lives. Faith is essential to a just, peaceful, and secure world. And, the peace of Christ is essential to all this, but as Pope Francis continued, “there can be no true peace without truth” which Saint John’s Gospel (which we’ll hear next week) reminds us, is Christ who is the Truth in spite of what Pilate thought.

By the use of our God-given intelligence which capacitates us to comprehend the intelligible reality of ourselves, our human nature, and the world that surrounds us, we can live lives that place ourselves on the straight path to God and away from the crooked path to sin. We have the intelligence to formulate norms (including human law) that will facilitate this for Christians, other believers in God, and for all people of good will. This why Pope Francis reminded the members of the diplomatic corps that it “is not possible to build bridges between people while forgetting God” for He is what it’s all about. But by the same token, our path to God must also not forget our brothers and sisters everywhere regardless of who they are.

Somehow, some commentators who are superficially embracing Pope Francis are concentrating on his personal humility and his work with the marginalized—or those marginalized who are at the center of the causes that these advocates endorse. However, the selectivity in endorsing Pope Francis’s work must be carefully evaluated and critiqued. It is not only good to love those with whom you identify, but it is expected of Christians and certainly those of Loyola’s company to help all people understand and address the Original Sin that permeates the human condition. Humility and good works are wonderful and essential elements of Christian existence but they are empty if they are not directed to the conversion necessary for the salvation of souls. That is something that many in our developed world today forget, including the most prominent members of our society who think that embracing the ways of the world are a permissible means of seeking God. If these ways forget our sinfulness, then they become empty gestures that defy rather than accept what Francis lays before us. I say again to us all: repent and believe in the Gospel. Francis is helping us along the way by his own example.


RJA sj

March 22, 2013 in Araujo, Robert | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Ronald Dworkin, "Religion Without God"

The current issue of The New York Review of Books reports:

"Before he died on February 14, Ronald Dworkin sent to The New York Review a text of his new book, Religion Without God, to be published by Harvard University Press later this year. We publish here an excerpt from the first chapter. —The Editors"

The excerpt is here.


March 22, 2013 in Perry, Michael | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Philadelphia "House of Horrors" and the Silence of the "Pro-Choice" News Media

On the National Review blog, Mark Steyn in "The Unmourned" comments on the major news media blackout of ongoing developments in the trial of Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell and what that says about our society and especially about the unwillingness of the mainstream media to highlight any story that contravenes the pro-choice narrative.

Gosnell is one of those doctors willing to perform late-term abortions.  And he also acted to guarantee the result would be a dead baby, even if he had to take additional steps toward that end.  Viable babies aborted alive were regularly and callously terminated in Gosnell's "House of Horrors."

Thank goodness the Philadelphia district attorney finally acted to stop this ongoing atrocity.  And thank goodness for Pennsylvania's law prohibiting abortions after the 24th week.  Remember this episode the next time someone hyberbolically suggests that pro-life advocacy for changes in the law have produced nothing but "failure." If for nothing more than bringing an end to Gosnell's destruction of the innocents, a man who has aborted hundreds of unborn children and regularly practiced infanticide, Pennsylvania's law will have saved more lives than could any proposed national ban on assault weapons, however meritorious the latter proposal might be.

During the trial, Gosnell's medical assistant testified about the practice of killing at least ten babies after they survived the late-term abortion and how Gosnell joked about the gruesome practice.

Medical assistant Adrienne Moton admitted Tuesday that she had cut the necks of at least 10 babies after they were delivered, as Gosnell had instructed her. Gosnell and another employee regularly “snipped” the spines “to ensure fetal demise,” she said.

Moton sobbed as she recalled taking a cellphone photograph of one baby because he was bigger than any she had seen aborted before. She measured the fetus at nearly 30 weeks, and thought he could have survived, given his size and pinkish color. Gosnell later joked that the baby was so big he could have walked to the bus stop, she said.

Needless to say, if this were not an abortionist and if this hadn't occurred in an abortion clinic, this trial would be the lead story on every news channel and at the top of the fold in every newspaper.  Instead of the agonizingly long soap opera trial of Jodi Arias in Arizona for killing her boyfriend, the slaughter of dozens of babies ought to be the story of the day -- no, the story of the year.  Attention must be paid!


Medical assistant Adrienne Moton admitted Tuesday that she had cut the necks of at least 10 babies after they were delivered, as Gosnell had instructed her. Gosnell and another employee regularly “snipped” the spines “to ensure fetal demise,” she said.

Moton sobbed as she recalled taking a cellphone photograph of one baby because he was bigger than any she had seen aborted before. She measured the fetus at nearly 30 weeks, and thought he could have survived, given his size and pinkish color. Gosnell later joked that the baby was so big he could have walked to the bus stop, she said.

March 21, 2013 in Sisk, Greg | Permalink | Comments (1)

Celebrate World Down Sydrome Day -- Wear Lots of Socks!!

In celebration of World Down Syndrome Day (celebrated annually on March 21 or 3.21 -- in recognition of the fact that people with Down Syndrome have 3, instead of the typical 2, of the the 21st chromosome), I invite you to:

1.    wear lots of socks,

2.    watch this video about "the friendliest restaurant in America", and

3.    try to get your own hug from someone with Down Syndrome today!



March 21, 2013 in Schiltz, Elizabeth | Permalink | Comments (2)


I was among those who were most disappointed by Pope Benedict's abdication.  I am in no way disappointed by the preaching and living of the Gospel that I see here.  I am inspired by it, challenged by it, rebuked by it, encouraged by it.  Take fourteen minutes to watch the linked interview with the man who is now Pope Francis.  It's no wonder that "left" and "right" are scrambling to get their heads around what the Holy Spirit just gave the world in Pope Francis.  Pope Francis makes unmistakable -- as did Pope Benedict, in a slightly different idiom -- that everything must be subordinated to Christ.  Much has been said about Pope Francis's humility.  I do not doubt the depth and authenticity of his humility.  Pope Benedict's humility was masked by his fidelity to the Church visible, and for that sacrifice on his part I am deeply grateful.  No one who met Ratzinger on the street in Rome could doubt that his is a truly humble soul.    

March 21, 2013 in Brennan, Patrick | Permalink | Comments (1)