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, September 9, 2017

Notre Dame's President, Fr. John Jenkins, writes to Sen. Feinstein to criticize anti-religious questioning

Go Irish.  

 . . . Your concern, as you expressed it, is that “dogma lives loudly in [Professor Barrett], and that is a concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for years in this country.” I am one in whose heart “dogma lives loudly”, as it has for centuries in the lives of many Americans, some of whom have given their lives in service to this nation. Indeed, it lived loudly in the hearts of those who founded our nation as one where citizens could practice their faith freely and without apology.

Professor Barrett has made it clear that she would “follow unflinchingly” all legal precedent and, in rare cases in which her conscience would not allow her to do so, she would recuse herself. I can assure you that she is a person of integrity who acts in accord with the principles she articulates.

It is chilling to hear from a United States Senator that this might now disqualify someone from service as a federal judge. I ask you and your colleagues to respect those in whom “dogma lives loudly”—which is a condition we call faith. For the attempt to live such faith while one upholds the law should command respect, not evoke concern. . . .

September 9, 2017 | Permalink

Friday, September 8, 2017

Democrats for Life Statement on the Questioning of Amy Barrett

Democrats for Life have issued a statement criticizing Democratic senators for the questioning of Amy Barrett in her confirmation hearing. Some excerpts:

     Democrats For Life of America (DFLA) expresses its disappointment with Democratic senators and interest groups who are attacking federal court of appeals nominee Amy Barrett for her personal religious views on the dignity of human life at all stages.

     Vigorous questioning of President Trump's judicial nominees is needed to ensure that if confirmed to the court, they will follow the law and protect civil rights and liberties.  But Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) stepped over a crucial line when she told Barrett in Wednesday's confirmation hearing: "The dogma lives loudly within you. And that's of concern when it comes to big issues." 

     Feinstein really means one issue, of course: abortion.  And what she denigrates as "dogma" is the Catholic teaching that a human being is a person with dignity from the moment of conception--a belief held by millions of Americans, including believers of all faiths and nonbelievers alike. 

     But Senator Feinstein has no basis for holding this "dogma" against Professor Barrett.  The nominee repeatedly made it clear that as a judge on a lower federal court, she would follow her oath to decide cases not by her personal views, but according to the law as set forth by the U.S. Supreme Court.  Sen. Feinstein had no evidence with which to question those assurances.  So instead she suggested that Barrett's statements could not be trusted because "the dogma lives loudly within [her]." ...

     Unbelievably, senators and interest groups have attacked Barrett with a 20-year-old article she co-wrote--not about abortion, but about Catholic judges conscientiously opposed to the death penalty!

     That article noted the strong Catholic teaching against capital punishment, and it said that a Catholic judge who opposed issuing a death sentence might have to remove ("recuse") herself from the case, which is a well-established practice. The article made it clear that recusal would be the proper step: The judge may not stay on the case and rule according to personal beliefs instead of the law. 

     Yet Democratic senators and supposedly "progressive" interest groups are claiming that Barrett said she would impose her beliefs upon the law—when, in fact, she said the exact opposite.

     In other words: Barrett said that a judge should never contradict the law but should remove himself from a case if he, in conscience, believes that ordering the execution of a human being would be immoral.  And Democratic senators are expressing "concern" about that.  When did our party--which once stood up for the conscientious claims of civil-rights marchers--become so fearful and dismissive of personal moral conscience? ...

     Democratic leaders remain so committed to protecting abortion from even minimal threats that they'll trample on other principles to do so.  A nominee repeatedly makes it clear that she won't impose her personal beliefs as a judge--that she'll remove herself from a case if she faces a conflict of conscience.  But Democrats still reject her because they think that she has strong personal religious beliefs ("dogma").

     It's another example of how the Democratic Party loses its way when it focuses on protecting rigid abortion-rights ideology to the exclusion of all other principles.  That same misguided focus has caused the party to lose all branches of the federal government and, in the last eight years, 1000 legislative seats around the country....

September 8, 2017 in Berg, Thomas, Current Affairs | Permalink

Thank you, Senator Feinstein!

In considering Senator Feinstein's revealing TV performance the other day, its openness is the only thing surprising about her open hostility to what a politician who panders to pro-abortionists seems to think of as Professor Amy Coney Barrett's "living dogmatism." The hostility is familiar.

Discerning viewers may have detected an element of unspoken envy as well. ("You have deep convictions. I have to perform for powerful factions. Poor me.") 

It is likely to be several months, though, before we may look back to see that the longest lasting and most powerful effect of Senator Feinstein's revealing phrase was to significantly increase the likelihood that the next Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States would be Judge Amy Coney Barrett of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

President Trump and his advisers are well aware of the power of the "But Gorsuch!" Effect. And Senator Feinstein has inadvertently created a new celebrity federal judge. 

In our forthcoming Supreme Court round-up for First Things ("A Less Corrupt Term"), Marc and I discuss some ways in which the "reality-TV-ification" of our governing institutions has reached the Supreme Court. The "dogma lives loudly within you" merchandise that has already appeared (reminiscent of the "Notorious RBG" merchandise that has popped up in recent years) suggests the emergence of a certain celebrity factor from unexpected quarters. And that factor will be unquestionably attractive for an Executive Producer looking to revive a flagging series through the Introduction of a New Character to the Show. 

A nomination like this might not be enough to get the Executive Producer invited to speak at Notre Dame's graduation, but it would certainly be good for ratings ... and isn't that what matters these days? So while I agree with Rick that Senator Feinstein's comment was "disgraceful," we might instead consider it "deplorable."

How will this one turn out? We'll have to stay tuned all season to see.

September 8, 2017 in Walsh, Kevin | Permalink

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Paul Horwitz on religious tests, animus, and judicial nominations

Worth a read (as per usual).

September 7, 2017 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Some quick thoughts on "Land O'Lakes" at 50

A few days ago, at Notre Dame, the Cushwa Center convened an event to mark the 50th anniversary of the "Land O'Lakes" statement.  Included in the event was a very thoughtful talk about the event, its context, and its implications by my friend and colleague, Dean John McGreevy (author of, among other things, this great book).  To simplify, Dean McGreevy described the statement as ambitious, not naive, and as reflecting a commitment to deepen Catholic institutions' Catholic character, not to secularize.

The address is not yet available online, but I expect it will be soon.  I enjoyed and appreciated the presentation and -- for the most part -- agreed with it.  Two quick thoughts:  First, I think that discussions of the effects of Land O'Lakes should not focus on the University of Notre Dame.  I agree with Dean McGreevy that Notre Dame is in most respects more meaningfully and interestingly Catholic than it was 50 years ago -- and, as the Statement's writers hoped, it 's certainly better and more important.  I also think that this is, at least in part, a product of the commitments and aspirations expressed in the Statement.  That said, the critics of the Statement, and of the state of Catholic higher education generally, seem to be on solid ground when they say that at many Catholic institutions, this deepening and improving has not happened, and there has been a tendency to secularization, a loss of distinctiveness, etc.  

Next, with respect to the Statement's famous and much discussed opening claim that Catholic universities must have "a true autonomy and academic freedom in the face of authority of whatever kind, lay or clerical, external to the academic community itself":  My sense is that many of those who invoke and endorse the Statement frame this claim as being almost entirely about resisting clunky and ham-handed interventions by bishops in matters of university policy and governance.  Such interventions are, indeed, unhelpful.  However, in today's world, it seems pretty clear to me that the "external" interferences we should be more worried about come in the form of regulations, research-funding conditions, "Dear Colleague" letters, student-loan eligibility, employment law, NCAA policies, and -- increasingly corporate sponsorships.  It seems much more likely that the Department of Education, or the NCAA, or UnderArmour are much more likely to undermine a Catholic university's appropriate autonomy than is the local ordinary.  I see no pressing need for Catholic universities to shy away from healthy, constructive, deferential relationships with the "institutional Church"; I do have serious worries about the implications of our increasing entanglements with ideologically oriented corporations and with regulators.

September 7, 2017 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Paul Blanshard lives . . . in the U.S. Senate

I was very proud of my friend and colleague, Prof. Amy Coney Barrett, during her excellent, clear, and composed presentation before the Senate's Judiciary Committee today.  The performance of several of the senators, however, was disgraceful.  Sens. Feinstein, Durbin, Hirono, etc., basically served as a living Thomas Nast cartoon.  I'm hoping that Democrats for Life and others who profess to desire civility, dialogue, and charity will repudiate the tactics employed by these senators. 

UPDATE:  And in Steve Bannon's head.

September 6, 2017 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Oren Cass on "Reforming Labor Unions"

In the latest print issue of City Journa(a great publication), and also in this podcast, Oren Cass discusses ways that labor unions themselves, and our labor-regulatory framework, could be reformed to better account for changed realities since WWII and also to strengthen unions -- he proposes "labor coops" -- to make them more meaningful civil-society institutions (rather than primarily partisan actors).  Check it out.  

And, in case you don't have it handy, here's Laborem exercens (1981).

September 5, 2017 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink