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.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Forty-three years after Roe: Hope is alive

I just noticed that the little reflection on the anniversary of the tragedy of Roe v. Wade that I re-posted here and at First Thoughts after posting  on my Facebook page has been shared more times than anything else I've ever posted. I am grateful to everyone who shared it. The abortion license is continuing to gnaw at the conscience of our nation, as the Republican Ronald Reagan and the Democrat Robert P. Casey, and the saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta, told us it would. At some level most Americans--including those who do not yet dare to acknowledge, even to themselves, the justice of the pro-life cause--know that killing the unborn is not the answer. We must love mother and child equally, limitlessly, and unconditionally, and never pit the alleged good of one against the other.

In 1973, seven supremely fallible men in black robes purported to settle the abortion question. Supporters of the abortion license cheered. Pro-life citizens were, they insisted, "on the wrong side of history." (Sound familiar?) Legal, publicly funded abortion was, they claimed, "enlightened" policy. It was required for women's equality, reducing the welfare rolls, and "social hygiene." Resistance was futile. All the young people were for it. Only a few elderly priests and some back woods fundamentalists were still against it. The priests would soon die out and the "fundamentalists" were already marginal. The churches would get on board--several already were as members of the "Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights"--and stay on board. Soon abortion would be integrated fully into American life and no one who mattered would question it. In a few short years, it would no longer be an issue in American politics and most people would forget that it ever was.

But the pro-life movement kept faith with abortion's tiny victims. In the great civil rights struggle of the post-segregation era, a grassroots movement kept the flame burning and kept hope alive. We refused to abandon the unborn to the "tender mercies"--or women to the ghoulish "compassion"--of the abortionists at Planned Parenthood and the like. We had little support among the wealthy, powerful, and influential. Wall Street hoped we would go away. The media were solidly playing for the other team. The intellectual elites mostly sneered. But janitors and school teachers, factory workers and stay-at-home moms, insurance salesmen and office workers and cashiers at the grocery store, and retired people from all walks of life refused to leave the field. They prayed and protested and counseled on sidewalks in front of the abortion mills. They pounded the marble floors in the legisaltive chambers. They built pro-life pregnancy centers across the nation to provide material, moral, and spiritual support for our pregnant sisters in need (and so often in fear).

And guess what? Young people came flooding into the movement. Brilliant, courageous, dedicated, determined young men and women. "I survived Roe v. Wade," they declared, "but Roe v. Wade will not survive me." And they meant--and mean--it.

In the meantime, science marched on, confirming and reconfirming and reconfirming yet again the biological fact of the humanity of the child in the womb. The anti-scientific posturing about the impossibility of knowing "when life begins" became more and more implausible, to the point that it now sounds ridiculous. And that is for the simple reason that it *is ridiculous*. Serious, intellectually competent defenders of abortion no longer claim that abortion is not, or cannot be known to be, the violent killing of a human being in utero. And sometimes they reprimand their fellow abortion supporters for continuing to talk such nonsense. Peter Singer, for example, speaks plainly of abortion as the taking of human life and warns those who try to rest the "pro-choice" case on denying that fact that they are placing their (and his) cause in jeopardy. The late Ronald Dworkin candidly (and accurately, if chillingly) described abortions as "choices for death." People like Singer and Dworkin want to build the case for abortion on the idea that no one has dignity or a basic right to life merely on the basis of his or her humanity. Merely to be a human being is not enough. To be a person--a creature with worth and interests that count (Singer) and rights (Dworkin), one must acquire or attain other features or qualities. That is, I believe, bad philosophy--and incompatible with the basic principles of our civilization and polity; but at least it does not rely on denying basic facts known to anyone who has taken the trouble to acquaint himself or herself with modern human embryology and developmental biology.

I believe I know how the story ultimately ends. I've had a peek at the last page of the book. But that's a matter of faith. And I cannot predict where we will go in the short to medium or even medium to long term. Not do I have any idea how long the "long-term" will be. I don't know how long the little corpses will continue to pile up or the hearts of so many other victims of abortion, including (by their own testimony) many women who have sought or submitted to abortions, will continue to be broken. I do not believe that the future is determined or that history has definite trajectories or "sides." Truth and justice, however, do have sides--right and wrong sides. And we should deeply care about being on the right side, even in circumstances in which there is little ground for hope of success or victory anytime soon. But when it comes to protecting unborn babies and their mothers, we are, thank God, not in such circumstances. Evidence is everywhere that our prayers and efforts are availing. Hearts are turning. Young and old are gaining strength, confidence, and courage. They are committing to the cause, deepening their commitment to the cause, finding their voices.

We shall overcome.

January 23, 2016 | Permalink

Friday, January 22, 2016

March for Life and Evangelical Christians

On this anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, pro-life advocates are not to be deterred by the prediction of two feet of snow this weekend. This interesting piece in today's Washington Post discusses a new addition to the annual March for Life: pro-life evangelicals. The article provides a history of the division between pro-life Catholics and evangelicals rooted in anti-Catholicism and a resistance to expanding the pro-life message to include other social justice issues. The author describes the division as "theological, cultural, and political." The article posits that evangelicals have changed course - joining in the march - due to the striking public indifference to the Planned Parenthood videos. Here is an excerpt:

"The evangelical community needs to recognize what the Catholic community has been doing for four decades. . . . It's critical for evangelicals to wake up to that commitment," [Focus on the Family President Jim] Daly said…. "It's unfortunate it's taken 40 years for us to do that."

Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore — who also co-sponsored the new effort — said the reaction to the videos was "a sobering moment" for the antiabortion movement.

For myself, I have often thought that the true pro-life position is not limited to the abortion question, but properly fits within the idea of dignity from conception to natural death – necessarily calling on us to care about these lives after birth as well as before. As the USCCB puts it, "The life and dignity of every person must be respected and protected at every stage and in every condition." While connecting a pro-life stance to a greater cause of social justice may in one sense expand the reaches of the pro-life movement, this piece suggests it may contract it. In any event, the piece is worth a read.

January 22, 2016 | Permalink

"Christianity and the New Spirit of Capitalism"

The Eleventh Annual John F. Scarpa Conference on Law, Politics, and Culture will be held on Friday, November 11, 2016, at Villanova University School of Law.   Yale's Professor Kathryn Tanner will deliver the keynote address on "Christianity and the New Spirit of Capitalism," the topic of her Spring 2016 Gifford Lectures. Professor Tanner's attention to the Christian moral norms that should govern any economy parallels teachings of Pope Francis that have disconcerted many Catholics.   

Other speakers at the Conference will include:

Mary Hirschfeld (Assistant Professor of Theology and Economics, Villanova University)
Robert Hockett (Edward Cornell Professor of Law, Cornell Law School)
Joseph Kaboski (Singer Foundation Professor of Economics, Notre Dame)
Patrick Byrne (Professor of Philosophy, Boston College)
Andrew Yuengert (Professor of Economics, Pepperdine University)
Jesus Fernandez-Villaverde (Professor of Economics, University of Pennsylvania)
Brian McCall (Merrill Professor of Law, University of Oklahoma)

Details about the Conference schedule will be announced in due course. Please mark your calendars for November 11, 2016.

January 22, 2016 in Brennan, Patrick | Permalink

Jacqueline Rivers' forceful defense of religious liberty at AEI

This past Tuesday, American Enterprise Institute convened a discussion of W. Bradford Wilcox and Nicholas H. Wolfinger’s new book, “Soul Mates: Religion, Sex, Love, and Marriage among African Americans and Latinos” (Oxford University Press, 2016) about faith and family in minority communities. I have yet to watch the second promising panel with Douthat, Alvare and Pastor Suarez, but I at least wanted to alert MOJers to Harvard's Jacqueline Rivers' forceful defense of religious liberty at the very end of her excellent ten minute panel presentation here (from 29:36 to 40:00): 

What is troubling is in the current climate there is growing intolerance for Christian faith, and even more so, growing intolerance for holding to the teachings of the Bible which are the very source of these positive norms that are being taught in churches. How much more important it is--it is really in the interest of the state--to make sure that there is neither let nor hinderance in the promulgation of thriving black churches because we have the potential to change this cultural direction. 

Here is the event description from the website: 

Dr. Wilcox presented data suggesting that the black family is surprisingly strong, in his view because of the black church. Slate Magazine’s Jamelle Bouie also praised the black church but discussed structural factors — mass incarceration and housing discrimination, in particular — that impede the church’s work. Harvard’s Jacqueline Rivers and The Washington Post’s Michelle Singletary argued that the black church should better emphasize the importance of marriage before sex.

Dr. Wolfinger showed that Latino families are as strong as white families, despite lower incomes. Helen Alvare of George Mason University Law School confirmed how important family life is in Latino culture, but she also posited that the Catholic Church could improve in teaching the principles of family life. Evangelical Pastor Tony Suarez discussed the Gospel’s central role in helping his community improve. The New York Times’ Ross Douthat compared adaptations in the black and Latino Christian communities and wondered if increased drug addiction among the white working class reflects a failure to make similar adjustments.

January 22, 2016 in Bachiochi, Erika | Permalink

"A republic . . . if you can keep it." Why Lincoln defied Dred Scott and we must defy Roe.

Today, January 22, 2016, the 43rd anniversary of the monstrous decision of the Supreme Court to deprive an entire class of human beings--those hidden in their mothers' wombs waiting to be born--of the most basic human right, we recall that the Supreme Court did this once before in our history. Men and women of African descent, stolen and carried in bondage to our shores, were--in defiance of the first principles of our Nation's founding--deprived by the Supreme Court of their most basic rights. The case was Dred Scott v. Sandford, the Roe v. Wade of its time.

As with Roe, the Dred Scott decision lacked any warrant in the text, logic, structure, or original understanding of the Constitution. It was, as Abraham Lincoln rightly insisted, an act of judicial will, not law, and as such an assault on the very Constitution in whose name the justices purported to act. Dred Scott, like Roe v. Wade, was a case of judicial usurpation in the cause of mass dehumanization.

While Lincoln, as a matter of prudence, was willing to treat the ruling as binding on the parties to the suit as to the object of the suit, he adamantly refused, not only in word but also in deed, to treat the holding of Dred Scott as valid or binding as a rule on him as President or on the Congress. Expressly rejecting the false doctrine of judicial supremacy in constitutional interpretation, the Great Emancipator defied the Dred Scott holding by treating free blacks as citizens (something the justices had said they could never be) and by promoting and signing into law an act of Congress restricting slavery in the federal territories.

Lincoln refused to treat an abusive and anti-constitutional edict of the Supreme Court as "the law of the land." We would do well to emulate him, lest we (to use his words) "practically resign [our] government into the hands of that eminent tribunal." Lincoln saw something that we must not fail to perceive today, namely, that what is at stake in a case like Dred Scott v. Sandford (and Roe v Wade) is not only the moral principle of the inherent and equal dignity of each and every member of the human family---the principle of the Declaration---but also the principle of republican government: government of the people BY and FOR the people.

In standing defiantly against the fundamentally lawless holding in Roe, and by insisting that those who aspire to high political office do likewise if they wish to have our votes, we are standing BOTH for the unborn and their human rights AND for constitutional self-government--the form of government that Benjamin Franklin famously said he and his fellow Founders had given us . . . "if you can keep it."

Let's keep it.

January 22, 2016 | Permalink

Don't miss Frederica M-G today on NRO

On this 43rd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, when many of us destined for the nation's capital have had to cancel our trips and day after conference presentations due to the impending and potentially "historic" snowstorm, it sure is uplifting to read this fine argument--and hearty challenge--issued by long time pro-life feminist Frederica Mathewes-Green, today on NRO. It begins with her story and just gets better and better: 

At the time of the Roe v. Wade decision, I was a college student — an anti-war, mother-earth, feminist, hippie college student. That particular January I was taking a semester off, living in the D.C. area and volunteering at the feminist “underground newspaper” Off Our Backs. As you’d guess, I was strongly in favor of legalizing abortion. The bumper sticker on my car read, “Don’t labor under a misconception; legalize abortion.”

January 22, 2016 in Bachiochi, Erika | Permalink

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law

Congratulations to my friends at Villanova, where it was announced yesterday that the Law School has received a $25 million gift from Charles Widger and will now be named the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law.

January 21, 2016 in Moreland, Michael | Permalink

Catholic Social Thought and Distributism in Houellebecq's "Submission"

I recently read the much-discussed new(ish) novel by Michel Houellebecq, "Submission."  There have been loads of reviews; here's just one, from The University Bookman.  I cannot say that it's a cheery or uplifting read but it's certainly sharp, sobering, and provocative.  (There is some great writing.  I loved this line:  "I knew next to nothing about the south-west, really, only that it was a region where they ate duck confit, and duck confit struck me as incompatible with civil war.  Though, of course, I could be wrong.")  In any event . . .  in a later chapter describing the changes that take place and the policies that are adopted by the new "national unity government," led by Mohammed Ben Abbes, a charismatic member of the Muslim Brotherhood, there're several pages devoted to Chesteron, Belloc, and distributism.  It turns out that Abbes had been profoundly influenced by this movement, and so sets about to "end state subsidies for big business" and "adopt policies that favoured craftsmen and small business owners.  These measures were an instant hit . . .[,]"

Here's another line, which tells the reader quite a bit about the main character:  "[E]ven the word humanism made me want to vomit, but that might have been the canapes.  I'd overdone it on the canapes."

January 21, 2016 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A bit of warmth on a cold day

Because it's been as cold as 30 below (with wind chill) in Minnesota this past week, and because beautiful pictures of people with Down Syndrome always cheer me up, I offer you this lovely article from The Telegraph, by Tim Stanley.  The topic is sobering, (how people with Down Syndrome "risk 'extinction' at the hands of science, fear and ignorance"), but the message is positive, and the pictures are beautiful, including a 16th Century Flemish painting of the Nativity, in which a shepherd and an angel appear to have Down Syndrome, and the actress Jamie Brewer walking the runway at Fashion Week in New York. 


ADDITION:  Thanks to Susan Stabile, check out this most beautiful reading of my favorite psalm, 139, here.


January 19, 2016 in Schiltz, Elizabeth | Permalink

An amicus brief in the Little Sisters case

The amicus briefs in the Little Sisters case are pouring in and, as you'd expect, there are a lot (HT:  SCOTUSblog). Here is a link to a brief that I signed, along with MOJ-ers Marc and Robby and a number of other Constitutional Law Scholars supporting the Little Sisters' RFRA challenge to the mandate.  The main point is that it would not violate the Establishment Clause to accommodate the Little Sisters under RFRA.

January 19, 2016 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink