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.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

"Sector Switchers" and Catholic Schools

A new report from the Friedman Foundation, called "Sector Switchers," is looks at "why Catholic schools convert to charters and what happens next."  Here's a bit from the summary:

For decades, Catholic schools, particularly inner-city Catholic schools, have seen declines in enrollment and an increasing need for subsidies from their dioceses. Many dioceses, however, have been unable to shoulder that burden, forcing schools to close. In response to difficult financial circumstances, the archdioceses of Indianapolis, Miami, and Washington, D.C., put a new twist on the typical story, “closing” a set of their inner-city schools, but allowing them to reopen as independently managed public charter schools.
That phenomenon raises interesting questions about the future of urban Catholic schooling. In this paper, we examine, both qualitatively and quantitatively, the effect of this conversion on the schools and communities involved.
As a general matter, I would strongly prefer that Catholic schools remain Catholic schools -- schools where a Catholic mission and commitment pervades the entire enterprise -- rather than "thriving charter schools in buildings that once housed Catholic schools," even if these charters are accompanied by various before- and after-school religious-education programs.  I support the charter-school movement -- very much! -- but believe tax credits and scholarships are essential to a just public-education-funding regime (because what happens in Catholic schools counts as "educating the public" it should be funded by the public).

April 30, 2014 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

A church-autonomy decision in Canada.

A story of interest:

A breakaway group of Anglican parishioners has been dealt a deathblow in their legal battle over ownership of a Riverside church.

The Supreme Court of Canada has refused to grant St. Aidan’s parishioners leave to appeal, dismissing their case with costs.

The group of about 100 parishioners broke away from the Anglican Church of Canada in 2008 over the church’s acceptance of same-sex marriage and other disagreements over interpretations of Scripture. The group joined the Anglican Network in Canada and went to court over ownership of the church building on Wyandotte Street East.

The Superior Court judge who heard the case in 2011 ruled the church assets belong to the Diocese of Huron, not the parishioners who amassed them. The parishioners appealed, but last year had their case dismissed by the Ontario Court of Appeal.

More here.

April 30, 2014 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

The execution in Oklahoma

What went wrong Tuesday in Oklahoma "will not only cause officials in that state to review carefully their execution procedures and methods," said Richard W. Garnett, a former Supreme Court law clerk who now teaches criminal and constitutional law at the University of Notre Dame, "it will also almost prompt many Americans across the country to rethink the wisdom, and the morality, of capital punishment."

"The Constitution allows capital punishment in some cases, and so the decision whether to use it or abandon it, and the moral responsibility for its use and misuse, are in our hands," he added.

More here.


April 30, 2014 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A(nother) mean-spirited attack on religious-liberty supporters at Slate

As Howard Wasserman notes (here, at Prawfsblawg), Mark Joseph Stern -- who writes regularly at Slate -- wrote a snarky hit-piece (my characterization, not Howard's) in which he accused "conservatives" of "hypocrisy" for not rising up in opposition to a North Carolina law that, he claimed, makes it a crime for "houses of worship to honor lifelong commitments they deem worthy of solemnization in the eyes of God."  

A law that purported to make it a crime for a religious community to include same-sex unions in its religious understanding and practice of marriage would, certainly, violate religious freedom.  And, I suspect that most, if not all, of those whom Stern charges with "hypocrisy" think as much.  As Ramesh Ponnuru and others have explained, though, Stern apparently misunderstands the North Carolina law he's writing about and so his "hypocrisy" charge is both unwarranted and uncharitable.  But, Stern has a practice of characterizing religious-accommodations and RFRA-type laws, and those who support them, in rhetorically excessive and inaccurate ways.  It would be nice if Slate made an effort to facilitate more thoughtful contributions to the debate.

April 29, 2014 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

"Throw a little love their way, and you'll bring out the best."

Rick is right to question the implicit anthropology of "Let It Go," but the Frozen songbook does have some elements more consistent with a Catholic understanding of human nature. And if the deluge of repetitive and catchy lyrics cannot be stopped, it can at least be redirected. I therefore modestly suggest that the Garnett household may be better off with "Fixer Upper" on human repeat. This song has its problems, too. But there's this, which seems right:

We're not sayin' you can change him,
'Cause people don't really change.

We're only saying that love's a force
That's powerful and strange.

People make bad choices if they're mad,
Or scared, or stressed.

Throw a little love their way.
Throw a little love their way.

And you'll bring out their best.
True love brings out the best!

Everyone's a bit of a fixer-upper,
That's what it's all about!

Father! Sister! Brother!
We need each other

to raise us up
and round us out.

Everyone’s a bit of a fixer-upper,
But when push comes to shove.

The only fixer-upper fixer
That can fix a fixer-upper

is true! true! true, true, true! 

Love, love, love, love, love

April 29, 2014 in Walsh, Kevin | Permalink

Monday, April 28, 2014

"Not unto me! not unto me, O Lord, but unto thy name, be the praise."

On April 11, 1828, the Richmond Enquirer ran a column containing a short autobiography written by Edmund Pendleton and dated July 20, 1793. A distinguished figure in Virginia, Pendleton presided over Virgnia's ratification convention for the United States Constitution in 1788. Beginning with his account of his selection for this role, here are his reflections on the blessings of Providence (with echoes of Psalm 115, but in the first person):

In 1788, when a State Convention was to meet to consider a new proposed plan of federal Government, and all the officers of the State made eligible, my good old friends in Caroline again called me to their representation in Convention, and that respectable body to preside over them, indulging me with sitting in all my official duties, usually performed standing. Thus without any classical education--without patrimony--without what is called the influence of Family Connection, and without solicitation, I have attained the highest offices of my Country.

I have often contemplated it as a rare and extraordinary instance, and pathetically exclaimed, "Not unto me! not unto me, O Lord, but unto thy name, be the praise." In his providence He was pleased to bestow on me a docile and unsassuming mind, a retentive memory, a fondness for reading, a clear head, and upright heart, with a calm temper, benevolent to all, though particular in friendship with but few: And if I had uncommon merit in public business, it was that of superior diligence and attention. . . . 

April 28, 2014 in Walsh, Kevin | Permalink

Paul Sigmund, RIP

The noted Princeton political theorist Paul Sigmund died yesterday at the age of 85. Paul's interests were catholic and Catholic: books on Nicholas of Cusa, natural law, liberation theology, and Chilean politics, as well as edited volumes on Thomas Aquinas and John Locke. He was at Princeton for over 50 years, beginning in 1963 when there were few Catholic intellectual voices outside of Catholic universities. The main current of his work was exploring the relation of Catholic political thought and the natural law tradition to liberal democracy in a range of contemporary (Christian Democracy in Chile) and historical (conciliarism) settings. He was also a wonderfully warm and intellectually curious man, as I saw firsthand when I rented a room in his home while at Princeton on a fellowship in the James Madison Program. His life was touched by tragedy, which made his good cheer and generosity all the more remarkable. Paul's wife Barbara Boggs Sigmund (daughter of Hale and Lindy Boggs) was Mayor of Princeton and a Democratic candidate for US Senate from New Jersey, but her political career and life with Paul and their sons were cut tragically short when she died from cancer 24 years ago. Requiescat in pace.

April 28, 2014 in Moreland, Michael | Permalink

"No rules for me . . . I'm free."

Odds are that MOJ readers have been hearing, as I have, the song "Let it go", from the movie Frozen, a lot.  I mean, I've been hearing it a lot.  Even my 20-month-old son wanders around the house singing the chorus at the top of his little lungs.  It's adorable, even if . . . repetitive.  But, unfortunately, there's this:

It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me
I’m free.

Ummm, no.   Sigh.

April 28, 2014 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

In defense of "deliberate" killing

Nigel Biggar's post, in which he responds to philosopher Chris Tollefsen's review of his (Biggar's) new book, is well worth a read.  The issues over which (it appears) Tollefsen (and others) disagree -- issues having to do with intention, deliberation, choice, means-and-ends, consequences, responsibility, and culpability -- with Biggar (and others) are difficult and -- who are we kidding? -- beyond my training or ability to work through confidently.  That said, and as I think I've said before here at Mirror of Justice, I have not been able to get to Tollefsen's position on some of these and similar matters.  Sometimes, it seems to me, people choose to act in way -- they choose to do something and they do so, as Biggar says, "deliberately" -- that they know will cause the death and that does cause the death of an innocent person.  And, sometimes, (it seems to me) it is morally permissible for them to do so.

April 28, 2014 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Sunday, April 27, 2014

What have we done to our young men and women?

Philadelphia Magazine has published a story about my beloved alma mater Swarthmore College that is so depressing I could almost not bear to read it. What it reveals about the sexual anarchy of campus culture is, however, by no means unique to Swarthmore. My students at Princeton and Harvard describe the same culture at those institutions. I suspect that it exists at all institutions, save, perhaps, the comparatively few which have maintained strong religious identities. It is unfathomably sad.

What have we done to our young people? What are they doing to each other and to themselves? The sexual revolution of the 1960s was supposed to usher in utopia and the Age of Aquarius, right? What it has produced is hell on earth---complete with ideologies hardened into orthodoxies to immunize it from truth-telling and to stigmatize and marginalize truth-tellers.

Sex need not be something ugly and brutal. Indeed, there are few things in this life as beautiful and joyful as the chaste and loving sexual congress of husband and wife in marriage. But so many of our young women and men don't seem to know it. Theirs is the world of the "hook up" culture where sex is an appetite to be sated and where individual satisfaction, not marital communion, is the point of it all, and where consent is the only norm of conduct.  Just think of all the things that can go wrong when the gift of our sexuality is (mis)understood in this way.  Well, all those things that can go wrong, are going wrong.

Here is an excerpt from the beginning of the Philadelphia Magazine article, followed by a link to the complete text.  May God have mercy on us.

[Lisa] Sendrow is a 23-year-old brunette from Princeton, New Jersey. Her mother is from Mexico; her dad is a Jewish guy from the Bronx. She graduated last spring and works in health care in Washington, D.C. If 3,000 smiling Facebook photos are a good barometer, her four years at Swarthmore seem to have passed by untroubled. But in the midwinter of 2013, Sendrow says, she was in her room with a guy with whom she’d been hooking up for three months. They’d now decided — mutually, she thought — just to be friends. When he ended up falling asleep on her bed, she changed into pajamas and climbed in next to him. Soon, he was putting his arm around her and taking off her clothes. “I basically said, ‘No, I don’t want to have sex with you.’ And then he said, ‘Okay, that’s fine’ and stopped,” Sendrow told me. “And then he started again a few minutes later, taking off my panties, taking off his boxers. I just kind of laid there and didn’t do anything — I had already said no. I was just tired and wanted to go to bed. I let him finish. I pulled my panties back on and went to sleep.”

A month and a half went by before Sendrow paid a visit to Tom Elverson, a drug and alcohol counselor at the school who also served as a liaison to its fraternities. A former frat brother at Swarthmore, he was jolly and bushy-mustached, a human mascot hired a decade earlier to smooth over alumni displeasure at the elimination of the football team, which his father had coached when Elverson was a student. When Sendrow told him she had been raped, he was incredulous. He told her the student was “such a good guy,” she says, and that she must be mistaken. Sendrow left his office in tears. She was so discouraged about going back to the administration that it wasn’t until several months later that she told a dean about the incident. Shortly thereafter, both students graduated, and Sendrow says she was never told the outcome of any investigation. (Elverson, whose position was eliminated by the school last summer, emailed me that he would answer the “great questions” I raised, but never wrote back.)

As the issue of campus assault gains national media traction, stories about incompetent or callous administrators have become bleakly — almost numbingly — familiar. But Sendrow’s account is also quite specific to Swarthmore. The unrest that’s roiled the little U.S. News & World Report juggernaut 11 miles southwest of Philadelphia over the past year — including dozens of allegations of student-on-student sexual assault, two federal investigations, two student-filed federal lawsuits, and four (unprecedented) expulsions for sexual misconduct — nominally revolves around a campus rape problem and an administration accused of abetting it.


April 27, 2014 | Permalink