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, March 31, 2018

"Why Catholic Colleges Excel at Basketball"

Because the country's greatest NCAA men's basketball program is not competing in the Final Four, and notwithstanding my beloved spouse's attachments to the great state of Kansas, I'm cheering for Loyola and Villanova tonight.  (Catholic opposition to Michigan is, of course, overdetermined.  Sorry, Prof. Moreland.)  This NYT article -- despite a cringe-inducing, clunky line about "dogma-tinged" charisms -- is a good read about the many reasons why urban Catholic schools have excelled at basketball.  And, of course, how about the Irish?

March 31, 2018 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Quid Est Veritas?

Good news: viewed from a certain perspective, at least, religious faith at Harvard is alive and well. Indeed Harvard’s founding religious movement, Puritanism, is more robust than ever. To be sure, the New Puritanism has taken an explicitly self-denying, self-abnegating, indeed self-extirpating form. The university-wide Diversity Task Force, doing what Puritans have always done best, finally scrubbed from the lyrics of “Fair Harvard,” the University’s song, any reference to the Puritans themselves, as offensively narrow and exclusionary.

The reactionary mind will object that this obliterates, quite deliberately, any reference to the true origins of Harvard, which was founded as a seminary for dissenting ministers. That truth has now been been deemed not merely embarrassing, but offensive. Oddly enough, or perhaps not oddly at all, Harvard’s decision to drop its original motto Christo et Ecclesiae in favor of Veritas means that it has ended up with neither Christ, nor Church, nor Truth. The University’s new motto is, in effect, “None of the Above.” For the poor old reactionaries, this denouement is unsettling.

But this is benighted thinking. After all, to quote another broad-minded administrator coping with religion issues, “Quid est ‘Veritas’”? The search for truth invidiously excludes error. Far better to consider both truth and falsehood without bias or discrimination — the master principle of a training college for neo-Puritan ministers. In the New Model Harvard, the faculty and the visitors may “spend their time in nothing else, but to see and hear some new thing” — the Endless Conversation, in which Truth is that worst of all things, a “conversation-stopper.” Faced with the choice between Christ and Barabbas, Harvard will create a new Office of Inclusion to study the matter and issue a report that suggests choosing both, as long as Christ will promise to behave.

No, the problem with the Diversity Task Force’s purity campaign against Puritans is not that it went too far. It is that it did not go far enough, given its own stated aims. It must be taken to its logical conclusion.


In the middle of Harvard Yard stands, or rather sits, a figure from the Dark Time — no mere lyrical reference, but the brazen image of a Puritan minister himself, whose iron shoe incautious tourists touch and even kiss. (The students, who know the barbarian rituals of their fellows, never do). Unless and until the statue of the Founder is smashed in righteous wrath, there can be no true inclusion, no true diversity, at Harvard (er, I mean, at the College; the H-word will of course have to go as well). The final, fateful, consummation and self-overcoming of Puritanism will occur when the Hideous Idol is brought low with jackhammers, in a sacred frenzy of auto-iconoclasm.

What should take its place? If, as the neo-Puritans tell us, the problem with old-Puritanism is its exclusionary character, then what is needed is a symbol of the one worldwide faith that is truly diverse and inclusive, truly universal, truly ... what’s the word? ... Catholic. We will still have a statue of a seated pastor in the Yard. Believe me, we will. A Pastor Aeternus, in fact, enthroned in full sovereignty, teaching Veritas indeed, infallibly so. All will then be welcome to kiss the iron slipper. Students of the Pontifical Catholic University of Cambridge: welcome home!



March 31, 2018 | Permalink

God and the World, 14. The Cross

There has been some talk recently about a papal interview with a journalist. One of my favorite such interviews has been organized in God and the World. It is a conversation between then-Cardinal Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI, and Peter Seewald.

Here are two questions and answers appropriate for our meditation this time in the liturgical year:

14. The Cross

We are used to thinking of suffering as something we try to avoid at all costs. And there is nothing that many societies get more angry about than the Christian idea that one should bear with pain, should endure suffering, should even sometimes give oneself up to it, in order thereby to overcome it. "Suffering," John Paul II believes, "is a part of the mystery of being human." Why is this?

Today what people have in view is eliminating suffering from the world. For the individual, that means avoiding pain and suffering in whatever way. Yet we must also see that it is in this very way the world becomes very hard and very cold. Pain is part of being human. Anyone who really wanted to get rid of suffering would have to get rid of love before everything else, because there can be no love without suffering, because it always demands an element of self-sacrifice, because, given temperamental differences and the drama of situations, it will always bring with it renunciation and pain.

When we know that the way of love---this exodus, this going out of oneself---is the true way by which man becomes human, then we also understand that suffering is the process through which we mature. Anyone who has inwardly accepted suffering becomes more mature and more understanding of others, becomes more human. Anyone who has consistently avoided suffering does not understand other people; he becomes hard and selfish.

Love itself is a passion, something we endure. In love I experience first a happiness, a general feeling of happiness. Yet, on the other hand, I am taken out of my comfortable tranquility and have to let myself be reshaped. If we say that suffering is the inner side of love, we then also understand why it is so important to learn how to suffer---and why, conversely, the avoidance of suffering renders someone unfit to cope with life. He would be left with an existential emptiness, which could then only be combined with bitterness, with rejection, and no longer with any acceptance or progress toward maturity.


What would actually have happened if Christ had not appeared and if he had not died on the tree of the Cross? Would the world long since have come to ruin without him?

That we cannot say. Yet we can say that man would have no access to God. He would then only be able to relate to God in occasional fragmentary attempts. And, in the end, he would not know who or what God actually is.

Something of the light of God shines through in the great religions of the world, of course, and yet they remain a matter of fragments and questions. But if the question about God finds no answer, if the road to him is blocked, if there is no forgiveness, which can only come with the authority of God himself, then human life is nothing but a meaningless experiment. Thus, God himself has parted the clouds at a certain point. He has turned on the light and has shown us the way that is the truth, that makes it possible for us to live, and that is life itself.



March 31, 2018 in Walsh, Kevin | Permalink

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Liberalism & Christianity conference audio is now available

Find the audio of the Thomistic Institute's excellent conference at Harvard Law last month here.

Might I recommend Fr. Thomas Joseph White's inspired closing remarks  - a mere 13 minutes of your time - to you this Holy Week? 

March 27, 2018 in Bachiochi, Erika | Permalink

Monday, March 26, 2018

Timely Harvard Law Event on Human Trafficking

I had the privilege of moderating a deeply informative -- if deeply troubling -- event on human trafficking at Harvard Law School late last week. Organized by third year law student Tiernan Kane of the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, and co-sponsored by HJLPP, the Harvard Law Women's Association, the Harvard Law School Republicans, and the Abigail Adams Institute (where I am a research fellow), the event was perfectly timed following Congressional passage of the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act. The bill awaits President Trump's signature but has already achieved notable success.

Keynoting the event was DOJ's Assistant Attorney General Beth Williams, a Harvard College, Harvard Law, and HJLPP alum. The panel included CUA Law's Mary Leary (former Assistant US Attorney and deputy chief of the Domestic Violence Unit for the Middlesex County District Attorney's Office in Cambridge, MA, and lead author of Perspective on Missing Persons Cases); David Tubbs (award-winning professor of politics at The King's College, author of Freedom's Orphans, and currently Ann & Herbert W. Vaughn Visiting Fellow at the James Madison Program); and Audrey Morrissey (associate director of My Life, My Choice in Boston, an organization that mentors commercially sexually-exploited girls). 

The moving and informative 60-minute video can be downloaded here. The forthcoming issue of the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy will be dedicated to the topic. I will post the articles when the issue becomes available. 

March 26, 2018 in Bachiochi, Erika | Permalink

Friday, March 23, 2018

Anderson, "Disagreement Is Not Always Discrimination"

Ryan Anderson has posted a new paper, "Disagreement is not always discrimination:  On Masterpiece Cakeshop and the Analogy to Interracial Marriage," here.  Abstract:

This Article first argues that Colorado misapplied its antidiscrimination statute, a misstep partly caused by Colorado’s misinterpretation of Obergefell v. Hodges. Colorado is part of a larger national trend in which authorities are using antidiscrimination statutes as swords to punish already marginalized people (such as supporters of the conjugal understanding of marriage), rather than as shields to protect people from unjust discrimination (such as African Americans in the wake of Jim Crow and today). Second, this Article argues that support for marriage as the union of husband and wife is essentially different from opposition to interracial marriage, and that the status of African Americans is importantly different from that of Americans who identify as gay. As a result, First Amendment protections for people who act on the belief that marriage unites husband and wife differ in critical ways from hypothesized First Amendment protections for racists—and the courts can distinguish the two cases. Third and finally, this Article argues that protections for citizens who support the conjugal understanding of marriage bear much more similarity to protections for pro-life citizens. Just as protections for pro-life citizens have not been deemed “discriminatory” on the basis of sex or otherwise anti-woman because pro-life medicine is not sexist, so too should pro-conjugal marriage actions be treated as non-discriminatory because such actions are not anti-gay.

I agree with Anderson (and have written here and here) that, too often, we fail in public discourse to distinguish (that is, to "discriminate") between discrimination and wrongful discrimination.  

March 23, 2018 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Thursday, March 22, 2018

World Down Syndrome Day, Part 2

If the video I shared yesterday was too sappy for you, check out this bracing and powerful response to Ruth Marcus!

March 22, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Happy World Down Syndrome Day

Do yourself a favor and take the time to watch this, a truly glorious celebration of love by 50 English mothers of kids with Down Syndrome.  See what you’re missing,?Iceland?

March 21, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

"Religious Freedom and the Common Good": Symposium at St. Thomas Law, March 23

Reposting this. Twin Cities and upper-Midwest readers, please come join us!

On Friday, March 23, in Minneapolis, the Law Journal at St. Thomas is sponsoring a symposium on "Religious Freedom and the Common Good." In past work, I've explored the idea that common-good-related arguments can be an important, overlooked ground for religious freedom in a society that needs to be persuaded of the importance of that principle. This conference will push that exploration further.

The program will bring together two groups--(1) social scientists who study the contributions of religion to society and (2) legal scholars, advocates, and policy analysts interested in religious freedom--for an interchange on how the two disciplines can learn from each other in the service of productive initiatives. Co-organizers are the Baylor University Institute for Study of Religion (ISR); St. Thomas's Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law, and Public Policy (co-directed by our own Lisa Schiltz); and the Religious Freedom Institute.

Here is the conference description, with times and titles of various presentations. A little more about the speakers:

  • Brian Grim (lunchtime speaker), founder of the Religious Freedom and Business Foundation, whose widely-reported study quantifies the socio-economic value that religion contributes in the US as $1.2 trillion yearly
  • Byron Johnson, director of the Baylor ISR and one of the leading sociologists on the empirical contributions of religious organizations
  • Anthony Picarello, general counsel and associate general secretary for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (which has made "freedom to serve others" an important part of its religious-freedom advocacy)
  • Jackie Rivers, an expert on the social role and contributions of African-American churches
  • Melissa Rogers, now at Brookings, who handled issues concerning faith-based institutions for the Obama White House
  • Sahar Aziz, Rutgers Law School, an expert on Muslim organizations, anti-terrorism efforts, and religious-freedom issues
  • Stanley Carlson-Thies, founder, Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance
  • Angela Carmella, Seton Hall Law School, an expert on Catholic social thought and religious freedom
  • Mark David Hall, political scientist at George Fox U., expert on the framers' understanding of religion and the common good
  • Dana Mataic (with Prof. Roger Finke, Penn State U.): on the causes and consequences of religious-freedom restrictions around the world
  • Yours truly

A description in text: 

     Challenges to religious freedom have become more prominent and intense in recent years, both in the US and abroad. The conflicts involve both individuals and nonprofit religious organizations, of varying faiths, and laws on matters from nondiscrimination to healthcare to national security. Arguments over these questions typically treat religious freedom as a matter of personal individual autonomy. But religious freedom may have another important dimension: the common good. Indeed, in an era of increasing skepticism toward many religious-freedom claims, the defense of religious freedom may increasingly rely on showing that it preserves space for religious groups to benefit individuals and society.

     Social scientists have done considerable research on the asserted contributions of religion and religious organizations for individual believers, for recipients of social services, and for society. But what are these contributions, and how well established are they? Moreover, what relationship do they have to religious freedom in the American tradition? Can religious freedom be justified in part based on its contributions to the common good, and how would such arguments affect the scope of religious freedom?
     To address these questions, this conference brings leading social scientists together with a variety of legal scholars, advocates, and policy experts. Among the topics will be the contributions of religious organizations to social services, the founders' views of religion's societal effects, the benefits and risks of religious freedom for African-Americans, the role of religious freedom in countering terrorism, a view of religious-freedom issues from within government service, and the causes and consequences of religious-freedom restrictions in various nations.
     Conference papers will be published in the University of St. Thomas Law Journal and, in shorter form, in other venues.

March 20, 2018 in Berg, Thomas, Current Affairs, Religion | Permalink

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Calling Out "Kennedy Catholicism"

Chris Kennedy


It’s still winter in here in Chicago (fresh snow yesterday), but things are about to heat up as this Tuesday, March 20th, marks the primary election for both parties. The Democratic candidates for governor feature a cast of deplorables when it comes to the issue of abortion and respect for unborn human life: State senator Dan Biss, billionaire and Hyatt Hotel heir J.B. Pritzker, and Chris Kennedy, son of the late Robert F. Kennedy and former president of the Merchandise Mart in Chicago (a former Kennedy family property).

Unsurprisingly, the position of each of these candidates on abortion reflects the extremism of the DNC – that abortion should be available through all nine months, for any reason, and paid for at public expense. Still, Kennedy’s stance is especially disappointing given that he (like other members of his family) outwardly identifies as Catholic.

The abortion issue received special attention here in Illinois this past year as the legislature passed and Governor Bruce Rauner signed into law HB40, a measure that provides for taxpayer funded abortions for state employees and Illinois Medicaid recipients. HB40 also repealed Illinois’ 1975 Abortion Law that would have restored the State’s prohibition against abortion in the event that Roe v. Wade were to be overturned.

Rauner’s decision to sign the law was a controversy in itself. He had campaigned for governor in 2014 as a fiscal conservative who had little interest in social issues. When HB40 (the full text of which appears here) was put forward Rauner promised the Republican caucus, various pro-life groups, and Cardinal Cupich himself that he would veto the bill. He lied to them all. In signing the bill, Rauner joined the dark ranks of many politicians – Republican and Democrat alike – who have betrayed voters – Democrat and Republican alike – who voted for them precisely because of their pro-life stance or their pledge not to advance the abortion license. Rauner’s contemptible behavior generated a substantial backlash and gave rise to a formidable primary opponent, pro-life State representative Jeanne Ives, West Point grad and Catholic mother of five.

But this hideous piece of legislation would never have reached Rauner’s desk in the first place were it not for the active support of many politicians who openly identity as Catholic, including, most prominently, Speaker of the Illinois House, Mike Madigan, and President of the Illinois Senate, John Cullerton. These individuals possess many of the signs of Catholic identity including the pedigree of Catholic education (e.g. Madigan went to St. Ignatius College Prep for high school, Notre Dame for college, and Loyola-Chicago for law school; Cullerton attended St. Francis High School in Wheaton, and Loyola-Chicago for both undergrad and law school) Both men regularly attend Mass, and the cultural/ethnic identity they share features prominently in their campaigns for office. But their public actions reflect a different identity: the culture of death.

HB40 was not an example of a policy matter upon which sincere Catholics could reasonably disagree in the exercise of their prudential judgment (e.g. whether the speed limit should be 55 mph or 65 mph, or a tax deduction should be 2.8 percent or 3.1 percent).

No. This was an instance in which Catholic politicians voted to support the murder of unborn children in the womb and to do so at taxpayer expense. This was a case in which those who claimed to be Catholic defied the teaching and pastoral counsel of the Church by knowingly and deliberately working to enshrine into law that which (as a matter of both faith and reason) the Church teaches is intrinsically evil, and to make the incidence of this evil more frequent through public subsidy.

How did Chris Kennedy approach the controversy over HB40?

On April 20, 2017, while the bill was under consideration in the legislature, Kennedy sent out an e-mail to his supporters and potential donors warning them that Roe v. Wade could be overturned, jeopardizing “a woman’s right to choose.” “Luckily,” he said, “our state is home to activist organizations like PersonalPAC, which have been working on the issue for years.” In the e-mail Kennedy not only criticized Rauner for vowing to veto HB40, he urged his supporters to contact their legislators “to ensure that the bill is passed with a veto-proof majority.”

Following Rauner’s reversal on the issue and his signing of HB40, Kennedy wrote to his supporters again, this time telling them that they should “celebrate” the news that “Governor Rauner signed HB40 into law – protecting Illinois women’s right to access safe, legal, abortion care.” He warned, however, that “Governor Rauner has waged countless attacks on Illinois women.” Kennedy expressed his own position in terms what were quite personal: “I’m raising my three daughters in the midst of this war on women. This is not what I want for my daughters.”

So here we have Chris Kennedy – one of the heirs to the Kennedy name, and perhaps to his family’s political legacy – set forth his vision for the future. The future that he wants for his daughters and for everyone else is safe and legal abortion. Here the standard bearer for the most prominent American family most closely associated with Catholicism in public life says that the Church’s most foundational teachings on public life mean absolutely nothing to him.

These are not the words of a faithful Catholic politician who is struggling – a man caught between the demands of his conscience and the demands of his political party. These are the words of a man whose spiritual and moral commitments and political convictions seem to perfectly align. These are the words of a politician who identifies as Catholic but is actively campaigning to advance the most conspicuous example of barbarism in the world today.

If one had any doubt as to Chris Kennedy’s commitment to the abortion license and his lack of commitment to the Catholicism he publicly espouses, one need only listen to the answer he gave in response to a question posed to him at DePaul University around the same time as the HB40 controversy. A recording of Kennedy’s answer is available on Soundcloud (here). A transcript of the answer follows below:

Question: I’m a Catholic as well… I wanted to know how you reconciled being a Democrat and the abortion thing and also being Catholic and being such a public figure while being Catholic?

Kennedy: Um, on the abortion thing, I think you know we have laws in our country and the laws are the laws. And if if, and I think we ought to protect them. I’m a big believer in science and medicine and I think a relationship should be between a woman and her doctor. I’ve had four kids, my, my wife’s OB, I was in all of those meetings, the woman never even looked at me. Never even looked at me. She was like, I was over there and she talked to her and those were her relationships. I learned a lot from that and I don’t think I have a role in all of that. And I don’t think I should tell other people what we should do either.

Question: You’re not worried about being excommunicated? [Laughter]

Kennedy: I actually like the Cardinal in Chicago. I like the Pope. But if the last guy did it to me I wouldn’t have minded. [Laughter]

Let that sink in for a minute.

Kennedy is so attached to the Catholic Church, so on fire for the faith, so full of the Holy Spirit that it would not bother him to be excommunicated.  Moreover, what attachment he does have for the Church seems more driven by personality (i.e. he likes Pope Francis and Cardinal Cupich but didn’t care for Cardinal George) rather than by a belief in the truth of the faith – a truth that, when it comes to the dignity of every human being, he flatly rejects.

Now, of course, Kennedy’s position on abortion isn’t new. It has been peddled by Chris Kennedy's late uncle, Ted Kennedy, by Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, Tim Kaine, and dozens of others for many years. Neophyte Catholic Democratic politicians like Conor Lamb dutifully learn to mouth the same line (see here and here for differing perspectives on this fact).

It was given the air of intellectual respectability by Mario Cuomo when he spoke at Notre Dame in 1984 – not because it was intellectual, or respectable, or even coherent (see here), but because it was what supporters of abortion rights who also claimed to be Catholic needed to hear in order to save face. It was celebrated in order to give a ready answer to the obvious disconnect between the foundational premise of any genuinely Catholic perspective on law and politics (i.e. That the life of every human being matters; That the common good cannot be advanced or sustained through the deliberate killing of innocent human beings) and the abortion license as the necessary companion to the new ethic of sexual liberation. Notwithstanding its repetition over the years, the Cuomo position hasn’t improved with age.  It was vinegar when it was first put into the bottle in 1984, and the cork has long ago disintegrated.

Now Chris Kennedy does not speak for every pro-choice Catholic politician. Still, the next time you hear a Catholic politician talking about how much he loves his faith, how he loves being Catholic, how his family always celebrated St. Patrick’s Day, how he looks back fondly on his days as an altar boy, and how much he loves the Church for what it does to care for the sick, the hungry, the immigrant, and the homeless, but that he feels compelled to support the legal killing of children in the womb – you would be well within reason to question whether that person understands the Church to be anything other an NGO – one that he happens to agree with on certain “policy” positions and disagrees with on others – rather than an ontological and eschatological reality founded on the truth of Christ – a community that proclaims that it is our responsibility to protect the weakest and most vulnerable, one that fulfills the Lord’s command by calling individuals and the whole world to repentance.

Moreover, the next time you hear a Catholic bishop say that his constituent, so-and-so politician, is a good man or a good woman, a person of good faith and good character, and a good Catholic in full communion with the Church, who is struggling to serve the common good (as can be seen in his or her other efforts "Just look what he tried to do on gun ownership and immigration!"), even as he or she votes in favor of the killing of unborn children in the womb and at public expense, you would be well within reason (and your rights within the Church) to question how that can be so, and if it is not, who is served by the lie and why.

March 18, 2018 | Permalink