Sunday, January 31, 2016
A friend forwarded an article that has appeared in a once noble Catholic publication that no longer deserves to be named, impugning the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus. Upon reading it, a passage from Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson came rushing to mind. Writing of the aftermath of Johnson's death, Boswell said:
Many who trembled at his presence were forward in assault when they no longer apprehended danger. When one of his little pragmatical foes was invidiously snarling at his fame, at Sir Joshua's Reynolds' table, the Revd. Dr. Parr exclaimed with his usual bold animation, "Aye, now that the old lion is dead every ass thinks that he may kick at him."
January 31, 2016 | Permalink
Today the Church celebrates the feast of St. John Bosco, a great saint and role model for educators.
Don Bosco distilled his "preventive method" of education to three elements: reason, religion, and kindness. Here is a recent description of that method.
Today's Saint of the Day feature at AmericanCatholic.org concludes with this apt quotation from G.K. Chesterton: "“Every education teaches a philosophy; if not by dogma then by suggestion, by implication, by atmosphere. Every part of that education has a connection with every other part. If it does not all combine to convey some general view of life, it is not education at all.”
Mary, Help of Christians, Pray for Us.
January 31, 2016 | Permalink
Saturday, January 30, 2016
This book review by Louis Markos at The Federalist piqued my interest in getting my hands on a copy of Michael Walsh, The Devil's Pleasure Palace: The Cult of Critical Theory and the Subversion of the West. Here's a quotation from the book in the review:
Chief among the weaknesses of Western man today are his fundamental lack of cultural self-confidence, his willingness to open his ears to the siren song of nihilism, a juvenile eagerness to believe the worst about himself and his society and to relish, on some level, his own prospective destruction.
The review's mention of the First Amendment and repressive tolerance reminded me more than a little bit of some of the themes explored in Marc O. DeGirolami, Virtue, Freedom, and the First Amendment. I don't know what Marc would say, though, about the call for renewed emphasis on heroism.
January 30, 2016 | Permalink
Friday, January 29, 2016
In gathering up some library books and removing old post-its from them, I (apparently, again) came across the following passage from Mark Massa's superb book, Anti-Catholicism in America: The Last Acceptable Prejudice. This passage identifies the moment at which the anti-Catholic crusader Paul Blanshard decided to devote his talents to a new kind of muckraking, with the Catholic Church as his target. Apparently this happened at my undergraduate alma mater, Dartmouth College, in a place where I spent a lot of time, the stacks of Baker Library. Curiously enough, the work that triggered Blanchard, Davis's Moral and Pastoral Theology, is the same work cited by Justice Alito in footnote 34 of his opinion for the Court in Hobby Lobby. At least Dartmouth had some good books in its library.
Here's Massa's account:
[T]he event that would reveal the path that brought Blanshard fame (of infamy) for several decades occurred while he was browsing in the Dartmouth College library. He came upon a four-volume work by the English Jesuit Henry Davis entitled Moral and Pastoral Theology. His eyes "bulged with astonishment" at the hypocrisy of sexually repressed celibate priests who "dared to prescribe the most detailed and viciously reactionary formulas" on sexuality, childbirth, and birth control. As Blanshard would later describe this accidental encounter, he stood dumbstruck in the Baker Library:
Did the public really know this amazing stuff? Why should I not take this volume and other documents of the Catholic underworld and do a deliberate muckraking job, using the techniques that Lincoln Steffens and other American muckrakers had used in exposing corporate and public graft in the United States? Why not? This was apparently one field not yet preempted by the muckrakers.
After a "short dip into the lower reaches of Catholic medical dogma," Blanshard went to Washington, D.C., and began "long research into Catholic documents which was to occupy much of my time and energy for several years." Blanshard's course on Catholic "dogma" took him to carrels in the Library of Congress and even into the belly of the Beast itself, the library of the Catholic University of America.
The fruits of this intensive study were the articles in the pages of The Nation. Blanshard never discovered anything in the complex webs of intellectual traditions that comprise Catholic theology, canon law, and philosophy that even nuanced the blinding insight he claimed to have had that fateful afternoon at Dartmouth College. Like the faith delivered to the saints of old, his original sense that the "viciously reactionary formulas" of the old Roman Church represented a looming threat to democratic culture in general and to the political traditions of the United States in particular never wavered.
Source: Mark Massa, S.J., Anti-Catholicism in America: The Last Acceptable Prejudice 65 (2005)
Thursday, January 28, 2016
I am teaching a seminar this semester at Notre Dame on Catholic social thought and law, and this week we are discussing the remarkable legacy of Pope Leo XIII (r. 1878-1903) through an examination of his famous social encyclical Rerum Novarum (1891) and other writings. For today's Feast of Saint Thomas Aquinas, here is a bit from Aeterni Patris (1879), the encyclical that rehabilitated the place of philosophy in modern Catholic intellectual life (and may all of us aspire to follow Thomas's example by "wanting neither...soundness of principles or strength of argument").
Among the Scholastic Doctors, the chief and master of all towers Thomas Aquinas, who, as Cajetan observes, because "he most venerated the ancient doctors of the Church, in a certain way seems to have inherited the intellect of all."(34) The doctrines of those illustrious men, like the scattered members of a body, Thomas collected together and cemented, distributed in wonderful order, and so increased with important additions that he is rightly and deservedly esteemed the special bulwark and glory of the Catholic faith. With his spirit at once humble and swift, his memory ready and tenacious, his life spotless throughout, a lover of truth for its own sake, richly endowed with human and divine science, like the sun he heated the world with the warmth of his virtues and filled it with the splendor of his teaching. Philosophy has no part which he did not touch finely at once and thoroughly; on the laws of reasoning, on God and incorporeal substances, on man and other sensible things, on human actions and their principles, he reasoned in such a manner that in him there is wanting neither a full array of questions, nor an apt disposal of the various parts, nor the best method of proceeding, nor soundness of principles or strength of argument, nor clearness and elegance of style, nor a facility for explaining what is abstruse.
I have the first of two posts up at the Liberty Law blog comparing originalism and traditionalism in constitutional interpretation. The first post uses Town of Greece v. Galloway while in the second I'll talk about the NLRB v. Noel Canning. The point of the posts is not to defend these decisions, but merely to distinguish them as traditionalist in interpretive method. Here's a bit from the end:
How is [traditionalism] different from originalism? Here things quickly become complicated because of the broad variety of originalist interpretive approaches. Shortly after the decision [in Town of Greece] was issued, Professor Michael Ramsey had an excellent and useful post on the degree to which Kennedy’s opinion was originalist, in which Ramsey concluded that it reflected a species of original expected applications originalism:
It’s not (typically for Kennedy) an exclusively originalist opinion, but there is a strong originalist element….Kennedy’s principal contention (following Marsh) is that the people who proposed the First Amendment also authorized sectarian legislative prayer, so the Amendment must permit it.
In academic terms, this is a version of “original expected application” – that is, how did the framers of a provision anticipate it affecting existing practices? It is fashionable in academic circles to look down on original expected applications. Under original meaning originalism, the question is: what did the text mean? It’s not, what did some people at the time think it would mean (or, worse, how did some people at the time apply it in practice once it was enacted)? If that’s right, Kennedy is looking in the wrong place – it shouldn’t matter what people thought would happen to legislative prayer, but rather what the text actually meant for legislative prayer.
And yet for the traditionalist it should and does matter that many people, including the drafters (but certainly not only they), did not believe there to be any inconsistency between the practice of legislative prayer and the meaning of disestablishment in the First Amendment. It furthermore matters for the traditionalist (as it does not for many originalists) that the practice was widely accepted in the colonial period as well as for long periods after the ratification of the Establishment Clause. That is because the traditionalist is more focused on practices than meanings when it comes to constitutional interpretation. Or perhaps it is better to say that the traditionalist believes that the meaning of text—particularly as to text that is itself abstract—is far better determined and understood by recourse to concrete practices than by recourse to still other abstract principles.
Here there may be some further overlap between traditionalism and those sub-varieties of public meaning originalism that are receptive to discerning meaning from practices and customs. Professors John McGinnis and Michael Rappaport have written favorably about this interpretive approach in this paper. Professor Ramsey puts the point well from the originalist perspective: “If a very broad consensus at the time of enactment (or shortly after) thought that provision X did not ban activity Y, that is surely strong evidence that the original public meaning of X did not ban activity Y.” For the traditionalist, practices (not principles) are not “merely evidence” or “some evidence” or even “strong evidence” of meaning. Meaning is constituted by practices. The endurance of those practices and the degree of their social acceptance—before, during, and after textual ratification—are also constituents of meaning. None of this implies that these are the only constituents. Neither does it imply that new practices cannot be enfolded into existing meanings. That the founders did not know about email or the Internet, for example, does not mean, on the traditionalist view, that the Fourth Amendment cannot apply to those new media today. But practices that were familiar; widespread; continuous before, during and after the founding; and constitutionally unobjectionable offer more than “evidence” of the meaning of the Establishment Clause. For the traditionalist, they are themselves part of that meaning.
Wednesday, January 27, 2016
Monday, January 25, 2016
I've been asked to announce the upcoming conference on Human Ecology, co-sponsored by the Napa Institute and CUA School of Business and Economics, March 15-18. Below is the conference summary and you can find more (including speaker bios and conference schedule) here:
Catholic teachings on the common good are comprehensive and universal. They communicate truths and principles which are relevant to every aspect of human flourishing. For the anniversaries of the great documents of Catholic social teaching Rerum Novarum, Centesimus Annus, and our newest addition to Catholic social teaching Laudato Si, CUA and The Napa Institute have convened a conference on Human Ecology that attempts to integrate and convey the wisdom of 125 years of the Catholic Church’ s social encyclicals and eternal teaching.
There is no question that our Catholic faith gives us strong moral motivations to help our neighbor, to help the poor, and to help the many charitable institutions that are run or inspired by the Church. One of the purposes of this conference is to extend our understanding of how our Catholic faith helps to build up a just and flourishing society, and how it may alleviate the material and spiritual poverty facing so many of our neighbors.
Pope Leo XIII in Rerum Novarum wrote that the church’ s desire is that the poor should rise above poverty and they should better their condition in life. He believes that this promotion is most likely to occur through the virtues. Similarly, Pope St. John Paul II in Centesimus Annus notes that the poor are right to ask for a share in the material goods of the society and to make good use for their capacity to work. He notes that in order for this to be the case, certain economic conditions as well as political stability are required for human beings to make good use of their own labor.
Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium tells us that business is a vocation and a noble one, it is a vocation provided by God so that each person would be challenged by a greater meaning in life to serve the common good, by striving to increase the goods of this world and making them more accessible to all. InLaudato Si, our Holy Father also examines corporate social responsibility for the common good of an "integral ecology" and the “care for our common home."
What is required for a truly sustainable, widespread, and inclusive prosperity? What is the vocation of business leaders who are committed to their Catholic faith, to the common good, and to the life of virtue?
These are the fundamental questions that our Human Ecology conference will ask in order to spur us all, Church leaders, scholars, and business leaders, to the heights of our own capacities and gifts.
The amicus briefs in support of Whole Women's Health are pouring in. Scotusblog is of course keeping track here, and Center for Reproductive Rights has posted summaries of the many amici in support of their position. MOJ readers have likely already heard the disturbing news that one brief offered by 100+ female attorneys opens with the line, "I am an attorney because I had an abortion."
I respond to this brief and others supporting the view that abortion is necessary for women's full equality in an article in today's new Boston-based online newspaper, the NewBostonPost. (My complete argument against this position can be found here, and I hope to write more as the March arguments approach.)
The NBP is a pro-life, pro-family paper seeks to provide a more becoming alternative to the Boston Herald. "Although neither partisan nor agenda driven, the NewBostonPost aims to provide a home for conservative, libertarian, classical liberal, and moderate voices in an effort to promote constructive and civil debate on issues of concern to New Englanders and all Americans." Please support their important efforts (here in desolate New England) with a point and a click.
This story was both inspiriting and, for me, moving. It tells of a group of high school students who volunteer to serve as pallbearers for those who die alone, unremembered and without family. From the story:
The students, dressed in jackets and ties, carry the plain wooden coffin, and take part in a short memorial. They read together, as a group:
"Dear Lord, thank you for opening our hearts and minds to this corporal work of mercy. We are here to bear witness to the life and passing of Nicholas Miller.
"He died alone with no family to comfort him.
"But today we are his family, we are here as his sons.
"We are honored to stand together before him now, to commemorate his life, and to remember him in death, as we commend his soul to his eternal rest."
The student volunteers come from The Roxbury Latin School, and are shepherded by Assistant Headmaster Michael Pojman. RL happens to be my old high school. Mr. Pojman was my Chemistry teacher. Well done, alma mater.