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.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Manent on "Our Post-Liberal Predicament"

In the Church Life Journal, a great piece from Pierre Manent.  A bit:

I believe that the most precise way to designate what afflicts us, what troubles and demoralizes us, is to say simply: we no longer know what law is; we have lost the intelligence of law. The point is not to deplore that we disobey the law, that our morals are disordered, that the youth, as is often said, are without standards—all that is perhaps true, but the main point is that we no longer understand what the law is about. We no longer understand law according to its essence. We no longer understand law as the rule and measure of action. Our most urgent task is therefore to recover the intelligence of law as rule and measure of action. Thomas Aquinas is certainly the author who can best help us—Christians as well as non-Christians confronted with the loss of law’s meaning—to carry out this task, if only we make the effort to understand his work in its full amplitude. Our purpose is nevertheless not so much to expound Thomas’s restorative views as to examine our predicament more closely.

I have said that we have lost an understanding of law, or law’s intelligence. We have not lost it by inadvertence or negligence. We have lost it because we wanted to lose it. More precisely, we have fled from law. We are still fleeing from it. We have been fleeing from law since we took up the project—let us call it “the modern project”—to organize common life, the human world, on a basis other than law. We have been fleeing from the law since we undertook to regulate our actions otherwise than by law, to seek the rule of our actions elsewhere than in law. This is not a matter of a moment’s distraction or mistake. What is at stake is an immense enterprise to which we owe, for better and for worse, the driving and ordering of our common life over three or four centuries.

February 28, 2020 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

RESCHEDULED: Late March Symposium on Feminism (w pro-life/pro-choice scholars) at Columbia U

Just a note for any who were interested:  due to the coronavirus threat, this event has been postponed until next fall. We'll post the date as soon as it's available.

Elizabeth Schiltz, Kim Daniels, Melissa Moschella, Rachel McNair and I (among others) are participating in an all day symposium with pro-choice feminist scholars on March 28th at Columbia University. Pro-choice scholars include Reva Siegel, Robin West and Eva Feder Kittay. The event is sponsored by Feminists Choosing Life of New York with support from both pro-life and pro-choice student groups. 


February 28, 2020 in Bachiochi, Erika | Permalink

Thursday, February 27, 2020

ND grant will fund research to confront Church’s sex abuse crisis


Richard Garnett, the Paul J. Schierl/Fort Howard Corporation Professor of Law at Notre Dame Law School and faculty director of the Law School’s Program on Church, State & Society, has been awarded funding from the University of Notre Dame’s Church Sexual Abuse Crisis Research Grant Program to address issues emerging from the crisis and to prevent abuse in the future.

The Church Sexual Abuse Crisis Research Grant Program is one initiative of Notre Dame’s Research and Scholarship Task Force that University President Rev. John I Jenkins, C.S.C., established in 2018 in response to news of the crisis of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

Garnett’s research proposal, “Consequences of the Sexual Abuse Crisis: Related Legal Issues and Policy,” considers how the Church can move forward and prevent sexual abuse while maintaining its autonomy. The proposal, which will be run under the Program on Church, State & Society, includes a series of three public events with experts and academic scholars from various disciplines related to these issues. Invited speakers will include scholars from the Notre Dame community, as well as top legal scholars from around the country and internationally.

The discussions will center around three themes: the sexual-abuse scandals and church-state relations — comparisons and best practices; historical antecedents and responses to scandals in the Church; and recent state interventions in the Catholic Church as a result of crimes of sexual abuse of minors perpetrated by clerics.

“The sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church has damaged the reputation of the Church in devastating ways. As the Church works to regain the trust of its own members and society at large, the University of Notre Dame can help in the process by sponsoring serious research and by fostering important discussions,” said Garnett. “As some of these discussions will inevitably lead to ideas regarding church structure and church autonomy, the Program on Church, State & Society is well positioned to hold meaningful conversations about Church reform and prevention of sexual abuse while preserving its needed autonomy.”

The University is dedicating up to $1 million over three years to fund research projects that address issues emerging from the Church’s sexual abuse crisis.

The grants provided by the Research and Scholarship Task Force are intended to address the various aspects of the crisis, including proposals that address maintaining safe environments for minors, maintaining safe environments for adults in asymmetrical power relationships, understanding the history and causes of the crisis, and proposing reforms in the Church and society to which the current crisis gives rise.

February 27, 2020 | Permalink

Monday, February 24, 2020

Cana Journal Interview

Cana Journal has published an interview with me on faith and vocation. There are some editing or transcription errors in it, so I'm posting a corrected version (with some emendations of my own) here.

Robert P. George is McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University. He is also frequently a Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School. In addition to his academic service, Professor George has served as Chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. He has also served on the President’s Council on Bioethics, as a presidential appointee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights, and as the U.S. member of UNESCO’s World Commission on the Ethics of Science and Technology. He is a former Judicial Fellow at the Supreme Court of the United States, where he received the Justice Tom C. Clark Award.

Q: How did you come to the work you do right now? 

When I was an undergraduate at Swarthmore, I took an introductory survey course in political theory and among the readings we were assigned Plato’s dialogue Gorgias. In that dialogue, Plato gets the reader to reflect on the whole point of argument, the whole point of discussion--what philosophers call dialectic. The dialogue persuaded me of the intrinsic value of truth and therefore, the idea that truth and knowledge of the truth is not simply instrumentally valuable, that is as means to some other end. Rather it is intrinsically valuable and worthwhile for our flourishing.

That fundamentally transformed my outlook on life. It made me a knowledge seeker and a truth seeker in a way I had not really been before. Although I didn’t know it at the time, it put me on the path to understanding my vocation as a truth seeker, a teacher, and someone who was interested in and devoted to searching for the truth, preserving knowledge of the truth, and transmitting knowledge to others. So that was the experience early in my life that set me on the path to where I am today. I have no doubt that in the back of all that was my own Christian faith. Even before I encountered Plato, I had been brought up in the Christian faith and was a devoted Christian; but what the experience of reading Plato taught me is a deeper understanding of what it means to search for truth. A deeper understanding of what the truth is, and why it is valuable. I combined that with the conviction that the most fundamental truth is the person of Jesus Christ.  Jesus is what he says he is. He is the way, the truth, and the life. This truth, when we truly take it aboard, has a transformative effect on the life of the Christian believer.

Q: In your vocation as a professor and legal scholar, how do you believe your Christian faith intersects with your career? 

The key thing is that it reinforces for me a belief in the importance of truth seeking. The Christian is fundamentally concerned with understanding reality as it is, not being deceived, not favoring what we would like to be true over what is actually true. A scholar has to be a person dedicated to the truth and I think my Christian faith is at the foundation of my dedication to the truth. 

Q: Can you recall times in your career where your faith has hindered your ability to operate in your career? 

Well, of course there is a great deal of hostility to Christianity, at least serious Christianity in the elite sector of our culture. This sector is dominated by secular progressivism. So anyone who is an open and devout believer is going to run into prejudice and obstacles. So yes, I run into that prejudice, lack of open mindedness, and unwillingness to consider claims on their merits, but I’ve never let it hold me, nor has it held me, back. I push ahead and try to do my work as a scholar and a teacher, firmly in the conviction that truth is liberating and if we open ourselves up to the truth, all will be well. 

Q: How does your life of faith set you apart as you teach students or write papers? 

I always try very hard to practice what I preach on this and all my convictions. I firmly believe that education is not and must never degenerate into indoctrination. It is not my job as a teacher to tell students what to think. My job is to teach them how to think deeply, clearly, and critically for themselves. I have no doubt that, like all of my moral convictions, this one is  built on my Christian beliefs. Although, one needn’t be a Christian in order to have this conviction. Still I am a Christian and it’s that Christian faith that is at the foundation of my convictions. Any real teacher will avoid indoctrination at all costs and will genuinely teach students to be all truth seekers, teaching them to think for themselves. Now, I believe that the Christian message, including moral teachings, is luminous and powerful, so I certainly believe that message is going to have a tremendous amount of appeal if it is presented fairly to anyone, including students. But again, I present all views fairly. I don’t privilege the Christian view in my teaching, although I am a Christian and my students might know full well that I am. I try to present competing views, their competing arguments, and let my students decide for themselves. 

Q: What is your perspective on the role of faith in a person’s vocation in general? 

First, as a Christian, I believe that everyone has a vocation. That is, God has a plan for everyone and that it is our task to discern God’s plan for ourselves. Now in doing that, we use reason, assessing the talents God has given us, and the strengths that we all have. We also try to be realistic about our own limitations and weaknesses. I’m pretty sure that I don’t have a vocation to be a basketball star because God has not blessed me with the talent to make jump shots. So I assess, as would anyone assess, my talents and use my intellect for that. However, the discernment of your particular vocation, what God is calling you to do not just professionally, but more comprehensively, is a process that not only requires intellect, but also prayer, meditation, scriptural study, engaging the word of God, and liturgy. I believe that all of these spiritual practices, together with our rational inquiry, are part of the project of discerning one’s vocation.

What God is calling one to be could include one’s life  as a possible spouse—is God calling me to marry? Is God calling me to family life? Is God calling me, if one is a man, to the celibate priesthood or, if one is a woman, to be a sister or nun? This line of questioning also applies when it comes to work. What is God calling me to do with what he has given me? What are the opportunities he has given me? I could do many different things, but what’s the one God has in mind for me? So I think we have to draw on all our spiritual and intellectual resources to find the truth about what we’re being called to.

Not all of us are called to be scholars. Some of us are called to be healers, some of us are called to be activists working in the cause of justice. Now that doesn’t mean any of us can and should be absolutely single-minded and suppose the only good we’re going to do in the world is whatever happens to be at the center of our professional lines. Even though I’m called to be a scholar and to the life of truth seeking, I’m also called to do justice. I’m also called to reach out in compassionate care for those who are in need. We’re all called to serve a vast range of human needs. We should be good citizens, whether we are scholars or doctors or insurance salesmen or plumbers or priests. We are all called to be good citizens, good neighbors, and honest participants in the economy. Our lives are complex and we can’t just be satisfied to be good at meeting our professional obligations—there’s more to it than that. 

Q: Speaking as a college student, there are too many options laid out before me, vocationally, to choose from. I can become a bit anxious. How is the truth that God has a specific plan for my life good news? 

If we don’t have a belief in personal vocation--a belief that God has a plan for our lives--then the likely alternatives is that we would fall into the trap of thinking that we should choose, from the wide range of choices of what we could do with our lives, what we desire the most (what would "make us happiest").  All we could do, then, would be to assess our desires. All we could do is try to figure out what we want more than others. It’s hopeless, it’s fruitless, and it’s frustrating. We need to be thinking not about what we desire, assessing what is the stronger desire between doing this and doing that. Instead, we should be focused on the question: What should we be desiring? We shouldn’t be the slaves of desire. We should be masters of desire. We should be masters of ourselves. There is a sense in which self-mastery is the whole project of human life. It’s putting faith and reason in the leadership position and putting feeling, emotion, desire in a secondary role so we’re not just pushed around by our desires or our feelings or emotions. Rather we’re deciding on the basis of faith and reason what we should want, we are shaping our own lives. 

Q: How do you communicate that to students who look to their feelings to figure out their direction in life?  

I try to encourage a self-critical perspective. First, young men and women need to realize what they are doing in life. Then they need to ask themselves if this is a good thing to do or if it is going to be a dead end. I think they’ll see pretty quickly, once they get some critical perspective on the situation, that trying to figure out what to do on the basis of an assessment of one’s desires is like a dead-end street. It’s like turning down an alley trying to get somewhere and finding it’s blocked on the other side and you need to back out and find another way. So it is the same in getting students to be self-critical. Let reason do the preparatory work in clearing the ground, in preparing it for faith. 

Q: What do you say to the Christian who comes up against a roadblock in their professional vocation or in their relationships? 

Remember that the believer does not exist apart from the Church. We are not on our own. We are part of the Body of Christ and the resources of the Church are there whenever we hit obstacles. Moreover, we shouldn’t wait for those obstacles to finally avail ourselves of the resources of the Church. We should look for spiritual direction from our pastors and from those who are in ministry serving the Church in that way. Pray, meditate, attend liturgy, avail yourself of all the resources that the church makes available to us to meet the challenges and obstacles that every Christian is going to face in life. The Church is not just incidental or optional. The individual believer exists only as part of the church, the mystical body of Christ. We have to remember that. 

Q: Your perspective seems countercultural to the view of America as a society of individuals detached from everyone else. 

Christianity is a deeply radical faith. It has been deeply radical since Jesus began his public ministry at 30 years old. It’s been deeply radical ever since the scandal of the crucifixion of the Son of the living God. It’s been a deeply radical faith ever since the earliest disciples of Jesus took on the Roman world.

Q: How do you maintain that radicalness in the midst of the ordinary rhythms of life?

I believe that’s pretty easy, really, because we’re living in a society that has largely abandoned Christianity. It’s therefore easy--if we are even half serious in our understanding--to grasp the radical nature of Christianity. We do it when we think about Christianity’s commitment to the profound dignity of each and every member of the human family—that’s countercultural today. We stand up for the precious and vulnerable child in the womb, that’s radical today. When we stand up for marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife, that’s radical today. Our problem is not appreciating the radical claims of the Christian faith. Our problem is living up to it. That takes, among other things, courage--a virtue that is always in short supply. 

Robert P George

February 24, 2020 | Permalink

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Mirror of Justice Anniversary: Revised Past Post on Purpose of Blog on Catholic Legal Thought

Although posted many years ago, I came across this again recently and it no longer appears to be retrievable online. I’m redacting it into a more general discussion of the purpose of a blog on Catholic Legal Thought (rather than focused on the controversy of the moment that prompted the original post).  I hope it still resonates today.

In blogging on the Mirror of Justice, we should not just be talking to each other but mindful of our larger audience, who are not always privy to the richness and diversity of perspectives, projects, and internal dialogues that constitute the growing and exciting field of Catholic Legal Studies. In so doing, we often are responding to what we see as errors by other public commentators, including other Catholic thinkers. But whenever we poke at supposed flaws in another Catholic thinker’s message, we should acknowledge the flaws our own ability to get out our message and to more effectively penetrate the culture with our alternative approach toward thinking about issues of legal and public moment.

We should not make the mistake of treating the blogosphere as the universe. Most of us blogging on Catholic legal issues devote far more attention to these matters in the context of serious scholarship published in traditional venues and through carefully developed presentations and responses at conferences. Questions about Catholic teaching and social justice are the subject of regular and spirited debates among Catholic legal scholars of all political hue in symposia and at various conferences. While blogs, such as Mirror of Justice, are an important means by which Catholic Legal Studies is developed, a blog hardly substitutes for the other means either in terms of scholarly depth or community-building.

And in translating Catholic teaching into public-regarding proposals, we must remember the principle of prudential judgment in Catholic thought. That the laity are given the apostolate of working within the political realm means that the Church must respect and honor the different expertise of political leaders, economists, lawyers, and others regarding appropriate measures undertaken to promote social justice.  Most questions of public policy involve prudential judgments that should be guided by moral principles—and here is where Catholic Legal Studies is important in offering a framework for discussion and principles upon which to draw—but upon which persons of good will and common faith reasonably may differ.

For example, whether certain circumstances present the occasion for the use of military force in accord with principles of just war or whether a particular piece of legislation regarding provision of governmental benefits to the disadvantaged or disabled is the best means to advance the preferential option for the poor are questions that demand both morally sensitive and realistically pragmatic evaluations. In answering such policy questions, the decision-maker often must balance conflicting moral precepts or justifiable human interests, or at least may find that the underlying moral principles do not point unambiguously in one direction.

Church leaders contributing to a moral dialogue in public society appropriately may opine as to whether a particular measure or proposed course of action contributes to or undermines the common good. But policy suggestions by clerical or lay leaders in the Church must not be mistaken for the teaching of the Magisterium on matters of doctrine and morals to which all faithful Catholics must confess. In sum, most policy choices involve the exercise of prudential judgment, and the Church respects the expertise and special vocation of those holding public office in making those decisions.

In contrast with most public policy matters, which require prudential judgment and on which persons taking different views do not thereby fall out of communion with the Church, there are certain forms of societal behavior that implicate public policy that are so manifestly and grievously wrong as to be categorically prohibited.  In these instances of intrinsic evil—slavery, genocide, racist oppression, and abortion—moral principle and public policy effectively merge, sharply circumscribing prudential judgment.

Finally, we should avoid the common categorical error of too readily and simplistically labeling Catholic thinkers in secular political terms. I do not mean to resist the label conservative, which has its purpose, but neither is it fully descriptive of my thinking or my engagement with the Catholic intellectual tradition. Whether categorized as conservative or liberal, one point of consensus among those of us across the spectrum on the Mirror of Justice is that we intend to be a contradiction to this society, in seeking common ground or at least a common framework for discussion that transcends ideological lines.

February 13, 2020 in Sisk, Greg | Permalink

St. John's CLR & JCLS Conference on History of Catholic Legal Education by Breen & Strang

Conference image

This evening and tomorrow, the St. John's Center for Law and Religion and the Journal of Catholic Legal Studies (which I'm honored to advise) are delighted to be hosting a conference on a forthcoming book by Professors John Breen and Lee Strang, A Light Unseen: A History of Catholic Legal Education in the United States

The conference will convene a "deans panel" and a "professors panel" to comment on various features of the book and the project, with responses from John and Lee. Participants include Deans Kathleen Boozang, Marcus Cole, Vincent Rougeau, William Treanor, and Robert Vischer; and Professors Angela Carmella, Teresa Collett, Rick Garnett, Jeff Pojanowski, and Amy Uelman. Our own Dean Michael Simons will be the master of ceremonies and Judge Richard Sullivan and Professor Margaret Turano will moderate. Our students have worked very hard to put this terrific event together.

Details and registration at this link. A happy fortuity that the conference coincides with this blog's anniversary.

February 13, 2020 in DeGirolami, Marc | Permalink

Happy (16th!) Blog-iversary to Mirror of Justice

It's more than a little jarring, for me, to be reminded that blogs (or the Internet, or computers) have existed for 16 years, but there it is.  Anyway, back in February of 2004, our merry band -- several whom are still with us! -- launched this blog, "dedicated to Catholic legal theory."  My very first post was called "Law and Moral Anthropology" - theme I've returned to (probably too) many times over the years.  Here's a bit, and I am not sure my thinking has changed much:

One of our shared goals for this blog is to . . . "discover[] how our Catholic perspective can inform our understanding of the law." One line of inquiry that, in my view, is particularly promising -- and one that I know several of my colleagues have written and thought about -- involves working through the implications for legal questions of a Catholic "moral anthropology." By "moral anthropology," I mean an account of what it is about the human person that does the work in moral arguments about what we ought or ought not to do and about how we ought or ought not to be treated; I mean, in Pope John Paul II's words, the “moral truth about the human person."

The Psalmist asked, "Lord, what is man . . . that thou makest account of him?” (Ps. 143:3). This is not only a prayer, but a starting point for jurisprudential reflection. All moral problems are anthropological problems, because moral arguments are built, for the most part, on anthropological presuppositions. That is, as Professor Elshtain has put it, our attempts at moral judgment tend to reflect our “foundational assumptions about what it means to be human." Jean Bethke Elshtain, The Dignity of the Human Person and the Idea of Human Rights: Four Inquiries, 14 JOURNAL OF LAW AND RELIGION 53, 53 (1999-2000). As my colleague John Coughlin has written, the "anthropological question" is both "perennial" and profound: "What does it mean to be a human being?” Rev. John J. Coughlin, Law and Theology: Reflections on What it Means to Be Human, 74 ST. JOHN’S LAW REVIEW 609, 609 (2000).

In one article of mine, "Christian Witness, Moral Anthropology, and the Death Penalty," I explore the implications for the death penalty of a Catholic anthropology, one that emphasizes our "creaturehood" more than, say, our "autonomy." And, my friend Steve Smith (University of San Diego) has an paper out that discusses what a "person as believer" anthropology might mean for our freedom-of-religion jurisprudence that fleshes out excellent article. I wonder if any of my colleagues have any thoughts on these matters?

February 13, 2020 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Some misreporting of my views in a Breitbart article

This kind of incompetent reporting of things I've said drives me nuts. I guess that it "goes with the territory," though, for people who take the risk of commenting on public affairs.
I'm sure the reporter means well, but I did not offer any sort of defense of Edgewood College's health plan--which I've never read--nor did I say that the Catholic Church supports some abortions. An interviewer asked me about the Catholic Church's position, and my own, on certain types of situations that sometimes arise in the course of pregnancy. I accurately reported that sometimes fetal death occurs as a foreseen and accepted side-effect of an act whose object is not the death of the fetus. I provided as an example the case of an aggressive uterine cancer in a pregnant woman requiring immediate removal of the uterus before fetal viability. Unless the procedure is performed mother and child will both perish. The Catholic Church does not say that the procedure is impermissible. Nor do I think it is morally impermissible. I noted that sometimes people refer to this sort of case as "indirect abortion." I said that I believe referring to it as an "abortion" is misleading and should not be done.
I also noted that it is not an abortion, nor is it impermissible, to remove from a woman's body the remains of a fetus who has died, as, sadly, sometimes happens. I certainly did not characterize this as a case of a morally permissible abortion.

February 8, 2020 | Permalink

Friday, February 7, 2020

"Friendship in a Time of Cyberattack"

I enjoyed this piece, "Friendship in a Time of Cyberattack," by my theorist-and-theologian friend (and fellow Duke Blue Devils fan!), Mike Baxter.  Pope Francis, Guardini, Pieper, Berry, Simon, and MacIntyre all make appearances in Mike's discussion of friendship, time, technology, the university, and the polis. Here's just a little bit:

What the cyberattack did for us at Regis is open up the possibility of recognizing how our life and work together is so deeply dependent on digital technology and to consider the ways it could be enhanced by making ourselves less dependent on it. . . .

The cyberattack also created commonality between faculty and students, for we were in the same boat, with emails failing, assignments not posting, tests and exams running late. More importantly, there was a more personal touch to the interactions between students and faculty. Papers were graded by hand, in the penmanship of the grader. With no email, more students came by during office hours to ask about something. And there was a deeper sense that class was going to occur in the classroom, with everyone together, rather than dispersed through list-servers, online bulletin boards, and such. Finally, most importantly, it created common ground among faculty, for the simple fact that there was more time, what with fewer meetings, no department and college wide assessments to do, and so on; and with more time comes more conversations about what we are teaching and working on. An added factor here was that with on-line resources down, intellectual conversation is more likely to occur locally, which can be surprisingly fruitful. In other words, with our on-line capacities down, we were less able to have conversations with colleagues across the country and found ourselves drawn more into talking with colleagues down the hall or in the building across the quad.

In these (and other) ways we found ourselves gifted with the time and space for cultivating or renewing friendships in all the varieties and permutations discussed by Aristotle: utility, pleasure, among equals, among those older and younger, and, most importantly, true friendship, based on a common pursuit of the good. . . .

February 7, 2020 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Catholic colleges finally win independence from the federal Labor Board

From John Garvey in America,

On Jan. 28, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit held that the National Labor Relations Board could not order religious colleges and universities to recognize adjunct faculty unions. The decision (Duquesne University of the Holy Spirit v. N.L.R.B.) is a welcome one at schools like my own, because it makes clear that our religious mission naturally extends to those who carry out its core function—teaching college students.

The N.L.R.B. (i.e., the government) imagines that it can carve the universe of higher education neatly into secular and religious parts. If it had its way, it would claim authority to oversee course loads, the manner of teaching, the teachers’ obligation to counsel students, and other terms and conditions of employment for all faculty, excepting only those specifically charged with “propagating religious tenets, or engaging in religious indoctrination or religious training.”

Full article.

February 7, 2020 | Permalink