Friday, December 29, 2017
Coming up at Lumen Christi in Chicago: "Religion and Religious Expression in the Academy and Public Life"
Thursday, December 28, 2017
I haven't yet written about the Harvey Weinstein #metoo affair. I guess I haven't felt it necessary to use this particular cultural moment to jump up onto my regular soapbox. Suffice it to say, I'm not at all surprised this predatory behavior emerged out of the dark underbelly of Hollywood, the cultural epicenter (and exporter) of a vulgar and sex-saturated America. One is just left wondering whether the moment will serve as an opportunity to rethink how we think about sexual intimacy, sexual difference, and sexual equality. Might I recommend Women, Sex & the Church: A Case for Catholic Teaching?
Public Discourse has published some really good essays on the topic over the last few weeks. And the January issue of First Things has two well worth reading. All suggest how the #metoo moment presents the Church with an opening for which she has been preparing since JPII's Wednesday audiences more than thirty years ago. (Or, strike that: since her very founding). For a quick read that hits all the right notes, read this new editorial at the National Catholic Register. Here's a bit:
More than ever, we need a new social movement inspired by the Church’s own teachings on sexuality and chastity — chastity not as a form of social control, but as the path to an interior freedom born of self-restraint. This freedom makes it possible for a man to see every woman, but especially the woman he loves, as a priceless gift, not as an object to be used....And in marriage, this freedom creates the conditions for an authentic sexual relationship of mutual self-gift.
Though even further afield from 'Catholic legal theory,' I want to add one really practical (parenting) note about the self-restraint (though I prefer self-mastery) needed for self-gift. From my talk on the "hook up culture" at the World Meeting of Families in 2015:
The role of parents in forming our children to live lives of sexual integrity does not begin when boys and girls have reached their teen years and sexual hormones are already raging. If young men and women are going to resist both the urgings of their bodies and the cultural pressures toward recreational sexual encounters, self-mastery must be learned, in the smallest of ways, in the early years at home. As the Catechism puts it, chastity requires “an apprenticeship in self-mastery which is training in human freedom.” [Here I list the many, many practical ways the family serves as a school of virtue.] If children are habituated to give into their bodies’ every desire in little things [food, electronics, etc] or to remain sluggish in the face of family responsibilities, even well-catechized, intellectually converted teens will be hard-pressed to resist the allure of a premarital sexual relationship.
Finally, apropos of larger philosophical trends, if you haven't yet read Robby George's latest book, Conscience and Its Enemies, check out this lively presentation of its key chapter (in my view) at the recent Love & Fidelity Network conference. His description of the classical/revisionist disagreement of the nature of liberty and of a liberal arts education--to wit, what is it that we seek to liberate ourselves from?--is the proper lens through which we ought to understand the bad behavior in Hollywood and elsewhere. Is reason to be the master of my desires in and through the cultivation of intellectual and moral excellence (aka, virtue), or is reason, ala Hume, merely the "slave of the passions"?
Culturally, we've opted for the latter - so why are we so surprised?
Wednesday, December 27, 2017
Rod Dreher has a thought-provoking post reflecting on Joseph Roth's 1932 novel The Radetzky March, which narrates the decay and collapse of the Habsburg empire and society, culminating in WWI, through the story of one doomed aristocratic family:
What makes Radetzsky resonate so deeply is that the story it tells is a universal one, though it happens to be set in a particular time and place. It is a story about the effect of time on all human institutions and ways of seeing the world. It’s impossible to read Radetzsky without wondering if our own liberal democratic institutions and ways of ordering our experiences are declining as surely as the Austro-Hungarian monarchy — and we can’t see it clearly because we are caught up inside it, and we have powerful internal confirmation biases telling us that something this fine should be eternal....
The problem is that the people who would have been capable of making the kinds of changes that might have saved the system in some form were incapable of thinking outside the system. Consider how hard this would be for anybody, in any place and time. As Kierkegaard said, life has to be lived forwards, but can only be understood backwards.
Think about how the Republican Party, for example, could not see Trump coming, even though the signs were there.... Or think beyond the GOP, to the entire system. We can see that big, big changes need to be made, especially economically. But where is the will to make the changes? And who knows exactly what to do? We should also see, but many do not, that the way we are living in general is unsustainable. But we aren’t at the crisis point yet.
Much more follows: about Patrick Deneen's new book Why Liberalism Failed, and, as one might expect, how this relates to the "Benedict option."
Friday, December 22, 2017
In looking into the relationship between anti-immigrant sentiment and anti-Catholicism earlier today, I came across an interesting New York Times write-up of a panel on anti-Catholicism that took place in 2008. Unsurprisingly, Fr. Neuhaus's observations stood out. I've highlighted the most provocative and seemingly accurate Neuhaus-ism, which I've not previously seen.
The Rev. Richard John Neuhaus — a leading conservative intellectual, a former Lutheran pastor and the editor of the leading Catholic journal First Things — offered a surprising view on the question.
“To be a Catholic is not to be refused positions of influence in our society,” he said. “Indeed, one of the most acceptable things is to be a bad Catholic, and in the view of many people, the only good Catholic is a bad Catholic.”
Father Neuhaus dismissed the notion that anti-immigrant sentiment was related to anti-Catholicism, since many Latino immigrants to the United States are Catholic. (But he did note that the church, which has been strongly pro-immigrant, could be seen as having a vested interest in the immigration debate, since immigrants are a major source of members.)
Would that Fr. Neuhaus were wrong; but he was, and remains, right.
I was speaking yesterday with a politically astute acquaintance who had a theological rather than political take on why Senator Orrin Hatch has been a champion of amending the Constitution to make naturalized citizens eligible to be President of the United States.
My political take had been that the natural born citizen eligibility requirement was particularly salient for a Senator from Utah because (1) the "natural born" status of children born abroad to American parents is legally unclear, and (2) Utah voters are disproportionately more likely than voters in other states to have families with children born abroad to American parents. But (2) may not be true because Mormon missionaries are overwhelmingly single and stay that way during their mission.
My acquaintance's alternative explanation was the Mormon emphasis on conversion, and the similarity between naturalization and conversion. I'm not well-versed enough in Mormon theology to assess this explanation, but the similarity between naturalization and religious conversion is an obvious one.
Attend a naturalization ceremony and watch the new citizens take their oath to the United States (see around 3-minute mark), and you'll see how. Alternatively, consider the wording of the Oath of Allegiance:
I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.
The renunciation of one's prior allegiance, together with the promise to "bear true faith and allegiance" to the Constitution and laws of the United States of America, combines commitments of both head and heart.
According to Gerhard Casper, the "abjuration" oath probably originated with John Jay. It has been in federal law since the Naturalization Act of 1795, which in turn seems to have had a provision of New York's Constitution of 1777 as its model. If Casper is right, then the federal abjuration oath and the natural-born citizen requirement for presidential eligibility share the same parentage.
Many Americans of the founding generation were anti-Catholic, of course. Among this group, John Jay is particularly prominent. One of Jay's concerns was that Roman Catholics would hold an allegiance to the pope and other ecclesiastical authorities above allegiance to the civil government, and that even if such allegiance were abjured, Roman Catholics would treat the pope as having authority to absolve individuals' allegiance to the civil government. These concerns were later reflected in the 1850s proposal by Know Nothing leader Thomas Whitney to add "ecclesiastical" to the abjuration oath.
Given the history of the natural born citizen requirement and the historical intertwining of anti-Catholicism with anti-immigrant sentiment, American Catholics would seem to be a natural base of support for an amendment to remove the "natural born" presidential eligibility requirement from the Constitution.
It's time for a new season in our stance as a nation toward naturalized citizens. Go N.B.A.!
December 22, 2017 | Permalink
Thursday, December 21, 2017
National Review has published the text of a recent lecture given by George Weigel on Dignitatis Humanae and the question whether it is best seen as a "fundamental change or [a] development." As he puts it, "[d]id DH mark a rupture in the Catholic tradition’s thinking about the relationship between religious and political authority in society and in the state? Or was DH a genuine, which is to say organic, development of Catholic church-state theory?" Along the way, he provides some helpful reminders about Westphalia and all that (e.g., "the Westphalian formula, cuius regio eius religio — the prince’s religion is the religion of the state and must be the religion of the people — can and should be considered the modern West’s first experiment in the totalitarian coercion of conscience by state power.") Here's a bit:
So Dignitatis Humanae was not a surrender document in which the Church finally raised the white flag to political modernity; it was a retrieval and development of the Church’s own tradition. Moreover, it was also a genuine contribution to modern secular political theory. For to define religious freedom as a basic human right that a just state must acknowledge is to say that there are certain spheres of life into which state power must not intrude — and that is to help create the social space for a vibrant civil society. The modern state comes in many forms and flavors, but all of them seem to have a built-in tendency to occupy more and more social “space.” Religious freedom, embodied in constitutional and positive law and warranted by widely held cultural norms, is a crucial barrier to that “occupation,” for it declares part of the “space” of society off-limits to state-power. Thus religious freedom is a crucial buttress to genuine social pluralism as well as a barrier to the totalitarian temptation that infects all forms of political modernity.
Wednesday, December 20, 2017
I just had the chance to read EDPA Judge Beetlestone's opinion explaining the grant of preliminary injunctive relief to Pennsylvania in the Commonwealth's challenge to the overdue conscience protections afforded employers by Interim Final Regulations implementing the ACA and the RFRA. There are problems from beginning to end. But for now I'll focus on a particularly striking example of motivated reasoning in the opinion.
Students of judicial opinions are familiar with the concept of motivated reasoning. The example here, a type known as "biased assimilation," might perhaps even more accurately be described as a motivated _lack of_ reasoning. This is the "tendency to interpret information in a way that supports a desired conclusion. Supporting facts may seem overwhelmingly strong and negating facts may seem automatically weak."
To support a legal conclusion about the harm from unintended pregnancies that will result in the absence of a preliminary injunction, Judge Beetlestone credited an incredible statistic that can be shown to be false for anyone with some curiosity, an internet connection, and the ability to read footnotes.
Here's the sentence that sent me looking: "Eighty five percent of women who do not use any form of contraceptive services and who do not want to become pregnant, become pregnant in one year." Can that really be true? At a minimum, mustn't there be a population constraint of some sort, such as "sexually active women between ages __ and __"? As written, the sentence just can't be right.
The cited source is p. 106 of the Institute of Medicine Report. Sure enough, the table at that page does appear to support Judge Beetlestone's proposition. Table 5.3 is titled "Percentage of U.S. Women Experiencing an Unintended Pregnancy During First Year of Typical Use and Typical Year of Perfect Use, by Contraceptive Method." The first "method" is none, and this carries an 85% chance of "experiencing unintended pregnancy in first year" of both "typical use" and "perfect use."
But isn't there something strange going on here? The table is about "unintended pregnancies" and "contraceptive method," but the statistic is about the use of no method at all. Unfortunately, the citation in the IoM Report is not particularly helpful. It just says: "SOURCE: © 2007 by Contraceptive Technology Communications Reprinted by permission of Ardent Media, Inc." But Google steps in where the IoM authors fell short. I pasted the source material into a google search box and went to the first hit: http://www.contraceptivetechnology.org/. From there I clicked on "The Book," which brought me to a drop-down menu. The first choice was "Take a Peek > Contraceptive Efficacy." That sounded like what I was looking for, so I did take a peek. And I found a table very similar to the one in the IoM Report.
Among other things, this version has footnotes not included in the IoM version. The most important is footnote 4, which is the footnote to the "None" "method" yielding an unintended pregnancy rate of 85% in a year. It turns out that the number is pretty much the opposite of what Judge Beetlestone cited it for. Here's what the footnote says:
The percentages becoming pregnant in columns (2) and (3) are based on data from populations where contraception is not used and from women who cease using contraception in order to become pregnant. Among such populations, about 89% become pregnant within 1 year. This estimate was lowered slightly (to 85%) to represent the percentage who would become pregnant within 1 year among women now relying on reversible methods of contraception if they abandoned contraception altogether. (emphasis added)
The 85% figure is not about unintended pregnancies. The population includes "women who cease using contraception in order to become pregnant."
There are still a lot of unanswered questions about the population at issue (age range, sexual activity, and so on). But there's no need to go any further at this point. The district court's statistic was facially incredible, and a little digging would have easily uncovered the mistake.
It's just one example, to be sure, and just about one part of the opinion. But it has the virtue of being an unarguable error. The best explanation is biased assimilation.
December 20, 2017 | Permalink
Tuesday, December 19, 2017
There are tens of millions of American citizens who are not natural born, or whose status as natural born is a matter of some dispute. A naturalized citizen like Jennifer Granholm or Arnold Schwarzenegger is plainly ineligible for the presidency, for example, while someone born abroad to an American parent, like Ted Cruz, may or may not be eligible depending on the legal meaning of "natural born." With so many people excluded or placed under a shadow by the "natural born" requirement, there is no particular partisan valence to an amendment that eliminates it. But that kind of valence is inescapable once a proposed amendment appears instrumental to a particular person's candidacy.
One reason to move quickly on eliminating the "natural born" presidential eligibility requirement is to get it done before the amendment can be tied to a particular potential candidate. Examples of how partisan politics can distort perceptions are easy to come by. While the "birther" controversy about Barack Obama was brewing, for example, some were suspicious of attempts to eliminate the "natural born" requirement. Similarly, controversies about Republicans like John McCain and Ted Cruz led to (sometimes justified) accusations of motivated reasoning in dismissing concerns about "natural born" status.
Another reason to move quickly is that the idea is an obvious political winner with virtually no political downside. Politicians whose stances on illegal immigration have led to charges of anti-immigrant bias should be tripping over themselves to get out in front in support of an amendment to remove the last vestige of citizenship inequality. For them, the problem with illegal immigration is that it is illegal. People who follow the rules to become naturalized citizens are in a totally different category from people who haven't followed the rules and have stayed in the shadows as a consequence. Throwing symbolic support behind those who follow the rules is a way of underscoring this aspect of their viewpoint. That the support is largely symbolic does not make it insignificant. Symbolism matters.
Timing also matters. If an amendment to eliminate the "natural born" requirement were to become associated with Democrats before Republicans, that would probably guarantee that it goes nowhere in the present political climate. For too many, it would be viewed as just another mushy Democrat play for the immigrant vote. Interestingly, though, the partisan taint would probably not run in the other direction. If Republicans were to be the first champions of eliminating the "natural born" requirement, it could be attacked as politically opportunistic, to be sure. But the move could also be viewed as clever and perhaps even refreshing among the cynically minded, rather than as soft or devious. The merits of eliminating the "natural born" requirement would be sufficiently attractive to Democrats precisely on the merits that Republican championship of the amendment would not prevent them from also supporting it.
To get the ball rolling, it will be necessary to find the right political champions. Fortunately, that should not be difficult. There have been so many past failures to amend the natural born citizen requirement that the ranks of past proponents provide a natural place to start. And studying the reasons for those failures (apart from the sheer difficulty of the amendment process) can supply some starting insights about what to do differently.
In the back page entry of the January 2018 issue of First Things (available here), Matthew Schmitz argues that Rev. Richard John Neuhaus has been proven right. In a 1996 symposium issue of the magazine focusing on the judicial usurpation of democratic government (here and here), Neuhaus warned of “a growing alienation of millions of Americans from a government they do not recognize as theirs.” That, of course, sounds a lot like the Trump voter of 2016 (a connection that Schmitz does not expressly make) – alienated and doubting the moral legitimacy of the American regime under which he or she lives.
The piece is worth reading. Schmitz cites a recent study that shows that rising numbers of young Americans would welcome a strongman who does not have to "bother with parliament and elections" and who even would support military rule. Surely these statistics would seem to indicate that Neuhaus was, indeed, correct, even if this reaction among the electorate is prompted less by judicial usurpation (as reflected, preeminently, as Neuhaus noted, in the Supreme Court's creation of the abortion license, and more recently in the judicial redefinition of marriage) than it is by the fecklessness and inattention of the political branches.
I would add, however, that those who are abandoning what had been regarded as constituent elements of democratic society (e.g. rights to a free press, free speech, religious freedom, and conscience) are not exclusively or even mostly on the Right (if in fact Trump voters can collectively and meaningfully be described as being on “the Right”). Moreover, the people who question these commitments don't believe that they are abandoning democracy. The students and others protesting at Yale, Missouri, Berkeley and elsewhere don't believe that they are undermining democracy but fulfilling it.
Schmitz quotes Notre Dame's Scott Moore as concluding that Neuhaus was correct to see "the inadequacy of purely procedural commitments for ensuring the legitimacy of government." (This is something about which I have argued at some length. See here). Neuhaus knew, together with Pope John Paul II, that when "the procedural rules of democracy" become "untethered from the substantive truths of democracy" the result is "the end of democracy." But the procedural rules of liberal democracy at least afford the participants within it the opportunity to find their way back to the moral premises upon which all legitimate government is founded. When even these procedural rules are abandoned -- and worse still, abandoned in the name of democracy -- the groundwork for totalitarian rule is truly laid.
December 19, 2017 | Permalink
Sunday, December 17, 2017
THE CATHOLIC LAWYERS GUILD OF CHICAGO
cordially invites you, your family and other guests to attend its annual
2018 DAY OF REFLECTION
Faith: The Dynamism for Justice and Reconciliation
DATE & TIME:
Saturday, February 24, 2018
8:30am to 4:00pm
Archbishop Quigley Center
103 E. Chestnut St., Chicago
Fr. Joseph Daoust, S.J., is the superior of the Jesuit community at the Holy Rosary Mission at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. Fr. Daoust is also the former president of the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkley and former law professor at University of Detroit Mercy College of Law.
More information here.