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, November 30, 2019

Foreword to Rabbi Dovid Cohen's book of Jewish Wisdom: *We're Almost There*

I'm posting here the text of my Foreword to Rabbi Dovid M. Cohen's excellent book We're Almost There: Living with Patience, Perseverance & Pupose (Mosaica press, 2016).


Jews often teach by telling stories and learn by listening to them.  The best stories for teaching and learning are not parables—though there are many wonderful parables.  Rather, they are true stories—stories of the lived experience of men and women.  The book you hold in your hands is a collection of such stories.  From them, you will derive wisdom, though I must warn you that you will shed a tear or two along the way.  (Don’t worry, however, for you will also be rewarded by a chuckle now and then.)

Rabbi Dovid Cohen teaches us by sharing the stories of his life.  He does more, however, than merely recount the facts. He interprets them and shares with us his reflections—invariably thoughtful and instructive—on their meaning.  In doing so, he gives us a window into his life and, indeed, into his soul.  But his stories are not just about him. They are about a people—his people, the Jewish people—a people whose rich traditions and deep spirituality, whose ancient books and modern sages, have shaped him from top to bottom. They give us a window into Jewishness.

Are these stories just for Jews, then?

No. Any gentile—at least any gentile who, like me, is willing to look up unfamiliar Yiddish or Hebrew words—has much to learn from Rabbi Dovid’s stories.  And that is because the Jewish people, though “a people set apart,” are a people with a mission in the world—a divine mission.  They are a people who are called to be “a light unto the nations.”  And, true to that mission, Rabbi Dovid offers enlightenment—wisdom—to anyone who reads his stories thoughtfully and with a desire to learn.

Gentiles and Jews alike face the ordinary and sometimes extraordinary challenges that are the essence of leading a human life.  We come into the world as children, full of wonder and needful of years of attentive care and nurturance. We are rational creatures, yet we have feelings and emotions.  We experience joy and anger, happiness and hurt, affection and pain.  We are required to earn our daily bread. We fall in love, marry, and have children of our own.  As we watch with joy our sons and daughters grow into fine men and women, we watch with sadness our beloved parents grow frail with age.  We have in laws.  And neighbors.  And friends. And people with whom we are not so friendly.  We are, in a sense, locked into our own subjectivity, yet we can share our thoughts and feelings with others.  We are individuals, yet members of communities.  We are material beings, yet also spiritual beings to whom the Almighty has given a share of the divine powers of reason and freedom of the will.  As the Bible says, “we are made in the image and likeness of God.”  Yet unlike God, we are mortal—mere “dust of the earth.” And we live our lives in contemplation of our deaths.

These are, as I say, challenges common to all people in all times and at all places.  Many traditions offer insights into them.  But there is a special perspective—offering a unique body of wisdom—rooted in the experience of the Jews as God’s chosen people.

The great pagan philosopher Plato taught that the “unexamined life is not worth living.” Rabbi Dovid teaches through his stories that it is worth living an examined life.  He has encountered life’s challenges—everything from changing professions to bringing up a disabled child—reflectively, looking for meaning, and finding it.  How is it that he finds it, when so many others say they look for meaning yet find only meaninglessness?  It is because Rabbi Dovid does not stumble around in the dark.  He has a light.  It is the light of faith.  It is in the light of faith that what is invisible in the darkness becomes clear.

Yet the Rabbi’s faith is not an uncritical faith.  Nor does it make all the answers to life’s challenges obvious or easy.  It doesn’t solve the great and sometimes painful mysteries, such as why the beautiful and brilliant daughter of a neighbor suddenly dies at the age of eighteen.  But faith sustains him—and, he teaches, faith can sustain us—in hope and in the redeeming power of the God for whom we, as spiritual creatures, long.  As we come to terms with life’s challenges, seeking meaning in the light of faith, we find ourselves, in a sense, cooperating with God—praying, studying, following His commandments in caring not only for ourselves but for others.  And in this cooperation, we experience not slavery, but rather freedom, the freedom that faith-sustaining hope alone can make possible.

Robert P. George,  Princeton University

November 30, 2019 | Permalink

Universalism, means-testing, the "Nordic model" . . . and school choice

A recent issue of Commonweal includes a short piece by Max Foley-Keene called "Equality Isn't Cheap."  Among other things, the author compares the "Nordic Welfare Model" to the "basic-security" model and argues that:

[a] welfare regime based on means-testing and income targeting . . . necessarily divides those who receive benefits from those who don’t. That leads non-recipients to grumble about having to subsidize an underclass of moochers, while recipients are subject to dehumanizing stigma. Such programs tend to be socially divisive and politically unstable. In contrast, universal programs promise to transcend existing economic cleavages and create broad social solidarity, because everyone benefits; this solidarity, in turn, helps protect universal programs from political attack.

He concludes by calling for "a politics that recognizes the satisfaction of social needs as a communal responsibility, that builds broad solidarity around preserving public goods, and that doesn’t fret over spending some cash."

Readers can decide for themselves whether the model Foley-Keene discusses is (in the United States) feasible or morally attractive.  I did want to note, though, that from a Catholic perspective -- and notwithstanding the common view that the model or something like it is consistent with, or even supported by, the Church's social teachings -- it cannot be that the state assumes for itself the provision, and "crowd[s] out" non-state providers, the "basic necessity" or "social benefit" of "education."  This is because parents have the moral, and in justice the legal, right to direct and control the education of their children and religious communities have the right to operate schools.  As is stated in Dignitatis humanae:

Government, in consequence, must acknowledge the right of parents to make a genuinely free choice of schools and of other means of education, and the use of this freedom of choice is not to be made a reason for imposing unjust burdens on parents, whether directly or indirectly. Besides, the right of parents are violated, if their children are forced to attend lessons or instructions which are not in agreement with their religious beliefs, or if a single system of education, from which all religious formation is excluded, is imposed upon all.

November 30, 2019 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Further to "Honest Journalism?" (correspondence)

Further to my post "Honest Journalism?" here is my correspondence with Thomas Edsall, beginning with his message requesting a transcript of my Catholic Information Center speech. (Update and correction: My reference to a paper of mine in the Cambridge Companion to the Philosophy of Law should have been to the Cambridge Companion to Natural Law Jurisprudence.)


From: Thomas Byrne Edsall 
Sent: Wednesday, November 6, 2019 4:31 PM
To: Robert P. George
Subject: Request for speech transcript NYT

Dear Professor George

Could you possibly send me a transcript of your speech:

“Robert P. George Keynote Remarks | 2019 John Paul II New Evangelization Award Dinner”


Tom Edsall

New York Times Columnist


Columbia Graduate School of Journalism



From: Robert P. George 
Sent: Wednesday, November 06, 2019 4:47 PM
To: Thomas Byrne Edsall
Subject: RE: Request for speech transcript NYT

Dear Mr. Edsall:

Here is a link to my remarks, which were posted at the Catholic law professors blog “Mirror of Justice”:  https://mirrorofjustice.blogs.com/mirrorofjustice/2019/10/remarks-at-the-2019-catholic-information-center-annual-dinner.html

I’m taking the liberty of attaching a paper I have some years ago at a conference at the Vatican. It provides background for the after-dinner remarks I made at the event at the Mayflower Hotel.

It has been some years since we’ve been in touch. I hope you are doing well.


Robert George


From: Thomas Byrne Edsall 
Sent: Thursday, November 7, 2019 2:19 PM
To: Robert P. George 
Subject: RE: Request for speech transcript NYT

Dear Professor George

Thanks very much for sending the speech and the earlier Vatican conference paper. Both are very interesting and raise a series of questions. I don’t pose these questions to dispute your statements; instead, I think your views need further explication.

You argue the faithful must have the courage to “boldly bear witness to truths that are unpopular among those controlling the levers of cultural, political, and economic power” and that they must have the courage to engage the battle.

First question: Can you be more specific about how to go about engaging the battle? Through some sort of dissent, or confrontation? Is persuasion adequate? How forceful do the faithful need to be? How do you win when you are outnumbered and in the minority?

Second, who are your adversaries? The overwhelming take-over of much of corporate America, including most especially the entertainment media, suggests that there is money to be made by accomodation to and promotion of a libertine culture. Is the free market and capitalism your enemy?

If you want to do battle with paganism, isn’t your primary opponent Donald Trump, who, more than any Democrat, would appear to personify paganism? If that is the case, how do you deal with evangelical protestants and many if their leaders who have abandoned many previously held moral standards for politicians and fallen overwhelmingly in line behind Trump.

Probably the most secular and non-believing constituency is made up of well-educated whites, including many Princeton students. A high percentage, if not a strong majority, support views on sexual behavior that you consider anathema. In terms of actual behavior, however, this group has shown a decline in divorce and out of wedlock childbearing, a goal I think you support, while these dysfunctional behaviors are now growing in the white working class, which is at least nominally more socially conservative. How do you explain this?

I would be grateful for you thoughts,


Tom Edsall

Thomas B. Edsall

New York Times Columnist


Columbia Graduate School of Journalism



Dear Mr. Edsall:

I’m returning from London and Oxford to the U.S. and I’ve taken a few minutes on the flight to reflect on your questions. What I can offer are reflections prompted by them, rather than answers to them. That’s because in most cases I don’t know the answers.

What I’m asking people—my fellow Catholics and others—to do is to think more deeply than ever before about what they believe and why they believe it so that they can go out into the world and give the reasons for their beliefs, especially those beliefs that are unfashionable and even reviled in the most affluent and influential sectors of society.  That’s what I mean by “boldly bearing witness to truths that are unpopular among those controlling the levers of cultural, political, and economic power.” I conceive the “battle” as a war of ideas—ideas about what is right and wrong, good and bad, just and unjust. I believe in the luminosity and power of truth—I completely buy what Pope John Paul II said in his encyclical letter Veritatis Splendor—but truth does not go out and state itself. If it is to be heard, someone’s got to speak it. And where it is unpopular, where people can suffer adverse personal or professional consequences for speaking it, that takes courage. Some Catholics seem to think they are entitled to stay silent about such truths; they suppose it’s the task of the bishops to speak it to the culture. This reflects the sort of clericalism that the Second Vatican Council tried finally to shake off. It has done a lot of harm to the Christian religion (especially among the Catholics and Eastern Orthodox) historically and, as Protestants have long rightly pointed out, is unbiblical. Truth-speaking is every Christian’s job. (I actually think it’s every person’s job.)

How forceful am I asking people to be? Well, I don’t think we need a lot of screaming and shouting and I’m certainly against any form of intimidation or violence. Period. Because I believe in the luminosity and power of truth, I don’t mind people speaking it gently—and I think it should always be spoken lovingly. On my understanding (and the historic Christian understanding—shaped not only by the Bible but profoundly by Aristotelian philosophy mediated especially through the great medieval Christian philosophers and theologians) moral truth is what it is because human nature and the human good are constituted in a particular way. Moral norms are shaped by the requirements of human flourishing (what Greeks like Aristotle had in mind in speaking of eudaimonia). Even those truths that strike people in a given set of cultural circumstances as challenging truths, hard truths, demanding truths—if they be truths at all—are, from the point of view of the tradition(s) of thought from which I speak, grounded in humanistic ideals—the desire for people to flourish. It is important to see that on this account (whether in its Christian or Greek articulations) flourishing is not a matter of doing what one wants, or getting what one desires, or even being whom one chooses to be (in the modern quasi-existentialist or contemporary identitarian senses). There is an objective standard of flourishing (because there is a determinate human nature and, correspondingly, human good). At the same time, within a broad range, individual lives (and communities) reasonably differ because the human good, though determinate is variegated. Most of our choices are among reasonable, morally upright options—and in making them each of us fashions a life, and we human beings taken altogether fashion billions of interestingly different human lives (and we create very different cultures). But some of the choices we face are between what is morally right and what is morally wrong.  I’ll attach a paper of mine from the Cambridge Companion to Philosophy of Law that expands on what I’m saying here.

Of course, there are reasonable people of goodwill who disagree with the Catholic/biblical/natural-law understanding of morality, and they should be engaged in respectful dialogue and civil debate. I’ve written about this and done a great deal of speaking about it (both in formal classroom settings and at public events) with Cornel West. I’m against treating intellectual opponents as enemies. I regard them as partners in the truth-seeking project. One of the questions you asked was “Who are your adversaries?” Well, as I suggested in my CIC remarks, quoting at length Professor Mark Tushnet of Harvard, they are people who, for example, want to treat devout Catholics and Evangelicals, observant Jews, faithful Mormons, Muslims, and other believers in traditional moral norms “the way we treated the defeated Japanese and Germans after World War II.” They are people who join Beto O’Rourke in wanting to selectively yank the tax-exempt status of churches who refuse to conform to secular progressive ideology on questions related to marriage, sexual morality, and the sanctity of human life. They are the woke (of whom President Obama recently and rightly complained) who want to shut down dissenting speech on the campuses of colleges and universities that advertise themselves as non-sectarian and open to the full and free range and exchange of ideas, and turn these institutions into engines of indoctrination that would embarrass even most religiously-affiliated colleges and universities. They are people who want to bully dissenters into silence or acquiescence, and who smear decent, honorable people as the equivalent of racists. They are people who put words like religious liberty and conscience in quotation marks (“religious liberty,” “conscience”) and who would force decent, honorable Christians, Jews, Muslims, and others to choose between violating their consciences (no quotation marks) and giving up their businesses or professions. They are people like the mayor of Atlanta who fired Kelvin Cochran and the people at Mozilla who did in Brendan Eich. They are people like those who concussed the liberal international relations scholar Allison Stanger at Middlebury or those who threatened the Bernie Sanders-supporting Brett Weinstein and Heather Heying, eventually driving them out of Evergreen State, because they were not woke enough.

Your question about capitalism is, of course, an old one, but remains a good one. The concern you mention was among the considerations at the heart of Catholicism’s historic wariness about capitalism. And it is famously why Irving Kristol gave capitalism (only) two cheers. This is a question I need to give a good deal more thought to, but I’m inclined to think Kristol got it right. The market is a good thing, but it is not good-in-itself. It is a means, not an end. It can lift people out of poverty (good!) and it can generate trade in drugs, porn, and even human beings (very bad!). The market itself must be regulated, and moral considerations need to be among those taken into account in deciding what regulations are reasonable and desirable. Here’s how I put it in the attached paper on “Constitutional Structures”:

Surely a conception of the common good that is serious about the principle of subsidiarity will respect private property and take care to maintain a reasonably free system of economic exchange—that is to say, a market economy, though it will not suppose that nothing should be publicly owned (think of public highways, for example, or municipal buildings, parks, prisons, public schools, and the like) or that the market may not legitimately be regulated to protect public health, safety, and morals (to again use the classic common law formulation of the purposes of law and government), prevent exploitation and abuse, monopolization and the restraint of trade, price gouging, predatory lending, and other unfair practices, and so forth. We should not suppose that socialism and laissez-faire are the only, or only principled, options.

You asked about Donald Trump and paganism. I’ve never bought the argument that many Evangelicals and conservative Catholics make for supporting Trump. I understand it, I think. And I don’t think that people who make it are idiots. (A lot of my relatives and friends where I grew up in West Virginia support Trump—and they are decent, intelligent people.) My own judgment, though, is that it’s unsound. The essence of the argument is that Trump is King Cyrus: “Yes, he’s a pagan; but God is nevertheless using him to protect us against the hegemonic forces that seek our destruction.” Trump is transactional. That’s it. As far as I can tell, he has no very firm convictions (except perhaps that free trade is bad). Whatever the ultra-embarrassing Paula White (“the President’s pastor”) may say, he’s the same Donald Trump who used to proclaim his allegiance to “New York values” and support dilation and extraction (“partial-birth”) abortion. Was it Palmerston who said, “countries don’t have permanent friends, they only have interests”? Well, President Trump doesn’t have permanent beliefs, he only has interests. And for now it is in his interest to fulfill many of his promises to social conservatives (no public funding of abortion or abortion advocacy; conscience protection; judges). But the deal seems to be that social conservatives, in return, go silent on policies (and other things about him) that they in fact don’t (or at least shouldn’t) like. I agree with the Trump supporters that, with the Democrats moving further and further leftward (beyond Obama and way beyond Clinton), the election of a Democratic President and Congress would have catastrophic consequences for religious conservatives and things we deeply believe in. My long-term (or perhaps even medium-term) worry, though, is that the things we believe in will be discredited by the taint of association with the President. Here are a couple of items pertaining to my own attitude towards President Trump:   https://www.newsmax.com/Headline/catholic-leaders-oppose-trump/2016/03/07/id/717955/ and https://www.wthrockmorton.com/2016/06/20/evangelicals-meeting-with-trump-brothers-and-sisters-what-else-do-you-need-to-know/ (please see the quotation of me in the article).

You asked about who I regard as my adversaries and I offered some thoughts about that. It might help to illuminate things if I said who I regard as my allies: certain Evangelical thinkers and leaders, including white Evangelicals like Russell Moore and African-American Evangelicals like Rev. Eugene Rivers; Jewish thinkers and leaders like Rabbi Meir Soloveichik (who spoke at the CIC dinner: https://cicdc.org/video/rabbi-dr-meir-soloveichik-remarks-2019-john-paul-ii-new-evangelization-award-dinner/?fbclid=IwAR2wriam0TUxCbBDLmRh0b628bQa6nHJneoZ1XKKodfU-6As-Ettgn-pfks) and Rabbi Jonathan Sacks; Mormons like Katrina Lantos Swett and Matthew Holland; Muslims like Shaykh Hamza Yusuf and Ismail Royer; and fellow Catholics like Mary Ann Glendon and Archbishop Charles Chaput. These are people who share my view that we are in a tragic dilemma politically and the most important thing any of us can do is try to keep our wits about us, and to quote myself (but I think they’d all agree), “bear faithful witness”—which means openly speaking the truth as best we understand it no matter whether the ox being gored is Democratic of Trumpian.

You asked about Belmont and Fishtown. I’m far from entirely sure what to make of it. The only thing I’m confident about is that Murray is right that we need the folks in Fishtown to practice what many preach (but fail to practice) and we need the folks in Belmont to preach what many practice (but fail to preach—and sometimes even preach against). As early as 1965 Moynihan saw that the material consequences of sexual anarchy and the fatherlessness that comes in its train (as family breakdown and the failure of family formation become more common) would bear down hardest on the poorest and therefore most vulnerable sectors of the community. What he didn’t foresee, I think, was that what began in largely minority sectors would be replicated in white rural and working class communities. But it’s scarcely a surprise that it did. Anyway, people in Hollywood and other celebrities can, in a sense, afford to live the lives I read about on the covers of People magazine when I’m in the check-out line at the grocery store. People in Watts—or in West Virginia—can’t.  And yet, as you say, and as Murray, Brad Wilcox, David and Amber Lapp, and other sociologists have shown, the recent trends are for the affluent to lead more conventional lives—with even the divorce rate for them (after rising for many years) now falling. Are these the children of divorce, who want to make sure their children do not go through the same trauma? Are they people who have figured out that divorce, out-of-wedlock child bearing, etc. tend, even among the well-off, to damage people’s financial standing and even lower their standard of living? Is there some other explanation? (Typically in these matters the explanations are “multi-factorial”.) The sociologists will have to figure it out and let us know.

Well, those are my thoughts. As I said, they are necessarily more in the mode of reflections than answers. The older I get, the odder, or at least more complicated, the world seems to get, and the more impervious it seems to become to being figured out—at least by me.

Best wishes,

Robert George

November 27, 2019 | Permalink

Honest Journalism?

I know that some people believe that "honest journalist" is a contradiction in terms, but I personally know lots of honest journalists. They tell the truth. When they quote people, they do it accurately and provide the context of the quoted words so that no false impression of what was said will be created. When they quote someone quoting someone else, they make that clear, too. When someone is responding to something someone else is saying, they also make that clear.

I point these things out in order to invite readers to look at this column by veteran New York Times writer Thomas Edsall. It is mainly an attack on Attorney General William Barr for the controversial speech he recently gave at the University of Notre Dame. But he also takes shots at two other conservative Catholic writers, Mary Eberstadt and me. Here's what he says in reference to me:

"Not to be outdone, Robert George, a professor of jurisprudence and the director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton, declared in a speech at the Catholic Information Center’s annual dinner on Oct. 23 that the sexual revolution has produced a paganism reminiscent of pre-Christian Rome: “The neo-pagans are in no mood to be accommodating,” George said:  "Christians and others who dissent from progressive orthodoxy can expect 'the hard line approach'. We are to be treated like the defeated Germans and Japanese after World War II."

Well, yes, I did say that "we are to be treated like the defeated Germans and Japanese after World War II."  But I was expressly quoting a respected and influential mainstream left-wing scholar at Harvard Law School: Mark Tushnet. And it was Tushnet who explicitly called for treating social and religious conservatives with a "hard line" like the defeated Germans and Japanese were treated by the victorious allies after the Second World War.

Here are Tushnet's words (which I quoted--expressly noting that I was quoting them--in the speech to which Edsall refers):

"The culture wars are over; they lost, we won. … For liberals, the question now is how to deal with the losers in the culture wars. That’s mostly a question of tactics. My own judgment is that taking a hard line (“You lost, live with it”) is better than trying to accommodate the losers, who – remember – defended, and are defending, positions that liberals regard as having no normative pull at all. Trying to be nice to the losers didn’t work well after the Civil War … (And taking a hard line seemed to work reasonably well in Germany and Japan after 1945.) I should note that LGBT activists in particular seem to have settled on the hard-line approach, while some liberal academics defend more accommodating approaches. When specific battles in the culture wars were being fought, it might have made sense to try to be accommodating after a local victory, because other related fights were going on, and a hard line might have stiffened the opposition in those fights. But the war’s over, and we won." (Mark Tushnet, blog post, "Abandoning Defensive Crouch Liberal Constitutionalism, May 6, 2016)

Edsall's omitting the fact that I was quoting Tushnet (and taking him at his word) was deeply dishonest. It's the kind of conduct that gives journalists and journalism a bad name, and gives conservatives good reason to doubt the honesty of outfits like the New York Times.

Here's Edsall's column:


Nothing would please me more that for readers to read the column, my speech, and Tushnet's blog post and judge for yourselves. 


November 27, 2019 | Permalink

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Christ the King and "Quas Primas"

Re-upping this, from 8 years ago:

In my experience, preachers in Catholic parishes don't know quite what to do with the Feast of Christ the King[.]  Usually, the day's "message" or "theme" has been (again, in my experience) something to the effect that we should ask if we are "putting Jesus first in our lives" (and, certainly, we should). 

And yet . . . especially in light of the emerging (and much needed) focus in the Church on religious liberty and the realities of both aggressive secularism and persecution, it's worth (re-)reading Quas Primas, the encyclical of Pope Pius XI that instituted the feast day in 1925, and remembering that this institution's purpose sounded more in political theology than in personal piety and devotion.  This feast -- which we celebrate, again, this Sunday -- is a reminder that government is not all, that there are things which are not Caesar's, and that everything, in the end, is "under God."

November 24, 2019 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Fatherhood needs support from Church and Society, State can't go it alone

During my semester of serving as a certified legal intern for the public defender's office in juvenile court, representing children who have been accused of committing acts that would be crimes if committed by an adult, I have experienced and learned a lot.  And as a product of seemingly unrelated reading, including Catholic bioethics and American Constitutional law, I would like to discuss the issue of "fathers," starting with this question:

Can a "morally neutral" culture create anything good? 

Sure, but only by chance, or consensus, or when seasonal conditions allow since there is, by design, no authoritative agreement on what's good and what's not.  Failures in fatherhood are a social problem in our culture, truly a moral problem and enigma; a problem that is bigger than anything I could hope to solve, or even understand, as a law-student intern working with kids who need adequate care in addition to some moral correction.  The problem is this: in the lives of juveniles who are judged by the state to be "delinquent," what is the role of "a father" and who can make a man into a good father?  

Most of the clients I've represented do not have a father who is present in their lives.  But every single human being does indeed have a male origin, in addition to their mother.  No person alive today exists but for the union of one male and one female, cooperating with the gift of life which God has given to humankind.  Perhaps more "provable" than the origins of the first man and first woman is the present-day fact that "male and female [God] create[s] them"—that is, all babies, all children, each one of us—that was us, created by a male and a female, not by ourselves.  Most of these young people have a mother who is present, or some other family.  But it has been rare to see a father in the courtroom, and even rarer to see the birth-father.  And when he is there, things seem to turn out "better" for the kid, i.e. they don't sit in state-controlled detention, but they get to go home.
Maybe the only ultimate answer which doesn't "drill down" any further is: each man himself is responsible for becoming and being a good father, because who can be forced to be good?  Or who can be good for (in place of) another?  Part of my intent is to place blame on men, all men, for we have failed to build a society of men who take honor in being good fathers, and who condemn appropriately all those vices which lead men to abandon their duties instead of shouldering them.  
Three social players shape boys into the men they may become: Church, State, and Society.  Briefly, 1) how do each of these approach the role of "fathers"? and 2) what tools do they have to stem the problem of fatherless delinquents?  This is no expert analysis, but it's a soul-crushing problem seeing it face-to-face, even once a week, for a semester, so this is my best shot.
The Catholic Church tells men they are created in God's image and called to be virtuous, and the Church claims to have the moral authority to tell men who they are, and how they ought to be.  It tells men to take up their crosses daily, to lay down their lives for others in acts of love, and to be like Christ.  The Church says that marriage or holy orders—both forms of fatherhoodare two primary vocations in life for men.  The Church teaches that men and women are both inherently dignified by being each created in God's perfect image.  Therefore neither is complete in themselves, and all human persons have an inherent dignity which is irrespective of their sex, but they are not "the same"—rather, they are both good, both needed, both an image.  The Church tells men to love their wives, to not be harsh with their children, to provide for their families or risk being kicked out of Christian community (not providing for your relatives, especially your household, is to deny the faith and be damnable).  The Church thus speaks harshly, appropriately, to men who would faint at the obligations of family.  And it holds up a good wife and children as gifts from God—good things, not pathologies.  It tells men: this is who you are, as men you are sons of the Good Father, and as men, being men, you are made to be good fathers; not perfect, but good.
Our State tells men they may be required to pay financial restitution for their absence in the lives of their children and their wives (or children's mothers), it tells men to take responsibility for their actions and they will be rewarded.  The State has power to arrest a man and impose jail time as an attempt to compel him to pay this money.  Neither of these replaces a father, obviously, but the State can provide very beneficial services like health care, counseling, and some education.  The State also has the power to remove an abusive father with jail time or restrictions.  The State can give financial benefits to married couples through tax structure, and other recognition which may slightly encourage men to be committed fathers.  The State is forced to deal with young people who don't have adequate care at home when these young people "get into trouble"—where else will they go?  Who will be a father to them?  A pair of parents would be better suited to handle unruly children than one parent alone.  Who can work and keep a teenager out of trouble at the same time?  It's a miracle when it happens, and it should not be ignored.  Juvenile detention is sometimes better for a child than their home life; this is unfortunately true.
Our Society tells men they should be kind, they should take responsibility for their actions, they should provide for the needs of others, and they should at the same time be whatever they want to be.  Even if some in our society do encourage fathers, does our current society, with its highest value seeming to be some sort of moral "neutrality," have the tools to do it effectively?  Is "men being men" associated with good fatherhood?  Can we do this?  Should we?  I think we need to do something, but maybe it's hopeless or too fraught with the risk of offending others... Let's not give up so easily.
Our society doesn't seem to do much to tell men: You should seek to be a good father.  You should be a good husband, and you have inalienable moral duties to any human beings you create, and any woman you procreate with, whether you want it or not, figure it out beforehand—it's on you.  You should be a good son and a good brother.  You should be a good man, and this entails being a father in one way or another.  And you are made for this, so you can do it.  
But there is so much brokenness, and there are so many heart-breaking cases.  Who can take away the sins of the entire world?  It seems impossible that the past suffering of others could be made right by someone else, it seems that harmony could be out of reach.  But maybe we can do more than we think.  And maybe the Church needs to speak more to men, telling us not to neglect fatherhood, but to aspire to it above all other status.  Whether this is seen as "heteronormative" or just what we need right now, I think it would be good.

November 21, 2019 in Current Affairs, Religion | Permalink

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Evangelical Higher Ed Institutions on (and for) DACA Recipients

The president of the major association of of evangelical Protestant higher-education institutions, the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU), has issued a statement in conjunction with the Supreme Court arguments on the DACA-recission case. The CCCU has supported protection for "Dreamers" for a long time, and in the current case it joined an amicus brief supporting DACA's legality. I blog this not for the purpose of discussing the legal issues in the case or endorsing the challenge to the recission.

I only want to call attention to the participation of "Dreamers" in CCCU institutions as one of the countless instances in which faith-based institutions with "traditional" views are contributing to the common good--and in particular, are living and working with, and helping to empower, communities that are vulnerable in some way. Indeed, in significant parts of the country evangelical (and Catholic) higher-education institutions have high percentages of student of color. In our politically polarized times, such work is too often ignored. This is an opportunity to pay attention to it.

From the statement by president Shirley Hoogstra: 

This is very close to home for one of our campuses as Norma Ramírez is a PhD candidate in clinical psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary [a CCCU member] and one of the plaintiffs in the case. You can read more of her story here. You can also watch this video to hear from her directly.

       The CCCU has supported a permanent solution for Dreamers since the DREAM Act was first introduced in 2001. As part of our ongoing court strategy, we recently signed on to two amicus briefs addressing the Supreme Court cases on DACA. These briefs target crucial ideas to our immigration policy perspective; they argue for the protection of DACA recipients as they contribute to society and to our institutions and in the promotion of defense of human dignity.

       The CCCU continues to support a bipartisan, legal, permanent legislative solution for DACA recipients, and feels the urgency of this issue for our students, their families, their employers, their churches, and their communities. What’s at stake? These young people have become integral parts of their communities, and removing them from the U.S. would impose a huge financial, as well as emotional, burden on the country. Beyond the economic arguments, though, we also feel a moral imperative. The CCCU believes that all persons are made by our Creator God, are made in His image, and therefore are endowed with dignity (Genesis 1:27). These young people—and those around them—need stability in order to thrive. Mass deportation would unconscionably break up families.

November 13, 2019 in Berg, Thomas, Current Affairs, Religion | Permalink

"[I]f burning incense to the Founders will help us advance our cause today, I'm fine with it."

Strike two for Sohrab Amari? Actually, just another wild pitch. First the beanball at David French, now a heater inside and low for Mark David Hall. Who is on whose team here?

Screenshot 2019-11-13 09.38.50

Fortunately, Ahmari has already walked back any idolatry-accusing implication of his "burning incense" tweet. Ahmari didn't mean to say Hall was an idolater, he clarified, but that he was willing to join Hall in paying civic reverence. 

Screenshot 2019-11-13 09.36.32

This clarification in place, we can think about a hard question surrounding a stance on which Ahmari, French, Hall, and many others agree. That stance is that it is appropriate to pay some civic reference to the Founders. A hard question about it: How do we establish and maintain appropriate boundaries around this civic reverence?

Suppose, for example, you are as anti-Jefferson as Ahmari and I are. It only makes sense that you would make your anti-Jeffersonian case by reference to Alexander Hamilton (as Ahmari has) or John Marshall (as I have). One might even try to rally people around a symbol of one aspect of our current constitutional order in which one set of powerful American Catholics  is positioned over the next decade or so to repair damage done by other powerful American Catholics in the past several decades.

We all need to make sure, though, that whatever-the-word-is-for-appropriate-filiopietism does not slip into idolatry. Civic reverence must be subordinated to reverence for the one true God. And it is here that things can be exceedingly tricky in a polity in which "law is king." With that function spoken for in the realm of civic orthodoxy, what about priest and prophet?

To simplify, perhaps oversimplify, Ahmari's exercise of a prophetic function appeared to cast Hall in the role of priest for an idolatrous cult of the Founders. Ahmari then clarified that he meant paying reverence of a different sort. This is very challenging. How, if at all, can we maintain a prophetic stance from the point of view of true reverence, while also performing and policing priestly functions in the subordinate realm of maintaining civic orthodoxy?

November 13, 2019 in Walsh, Kevin | Permalink

Sen. Rubio's Catholic University of America speech

A little while ago, Sen. Marco Rubio gave a speech at the Catholic University of America, which -- among other things -- held up the Social Teaching tradition of the Catholic Church (including Pope Leo XIII's Rerum novarum) as a helpful guide to thinking about economic and social policy in the United States.  (Here is a report on the speech, from America magazine.)  Because it was a public address by a politician, it had its share of slogans and bumper-sticker lines, and of high-sounding quotations from the quotable.  In my view, though, it was welcome and should be charitably engaged by those of us who think that tradition has something to say to the project of ordering our lives together and is not the sole property or platform of either of our two major political parties.  There's no need, as I see it, for churlishness or condescension, simply because (a) the Senator is not a trained theologian or (b) he's a Republican who is clearly thinking about a path to higher office.  I thought, for example, the (different) reactions of Stephen Schneck and Chad Pecknold were helpful.  More like this, please. 

UPDATE:  And, less like this (more churlish and partisan) one.

November 13, 2019 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Monday, November 11, 2019

Announcing the winners for the Zacharias Prize in Professional Responsibility

From MOJ-friend Prof. Sam Levine (Touro) comes this news:

The winners have been selected for the tenth annual Fred C. Zacharias Memorial Prize for Scholarship in Professional Responsibility.  This year's co-winners are Michael Moffitt, Settlement Malpractice, 86 U. Chi. L. Rev. 1825 (2019), and Jessica A. Roth, The "New" District Court Activism in Criminal Justice Reform, 74 N.Y.U. Ann. Surv. Am. L. 277 (2019). The award will be presented at the AALS Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., in January.


November 11, 2019 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink