Monday, August 31, 2020
I very much enjoyed and appreciated George Weigel's recent-ish book, The Irony of Modern Catholic History. I realize that my liking the work was probably over-determined, given its themes and plot-lines and characters. My sense is that Weigel wrote it as an ecclesiological work -- and it is -- but I also think it (i.e., its helpful presentation of the Catholic engagement with, and proposals to, "modernity") should be incorporated into political-theory courses.
On John Paul II and freedom: "A truly human freedom is one in which we freely choose what can rationally be known to be good, and do so as a matter of habit. Freedom as willfulness is like a child banging on a piano; the freedom that makes for mature individuals and coherent societies is like an artist who has mastered the disciplines that allow him or her to make real music on the piano[.]"
Benedict XVI at Westminster: "Religion . . . is not a problem for legislators to solve, but a vital contributor to the national conversation."
Benedict XVI again, at the Bundestag: "[T]here is also an ecology of man. Man too has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate at will. Man is not merely self-creating freedom. Man does not create himself."
Weigel on the two: "[They] constantly called the late modern world to [the] freedom for excellence. . . . Freedom for excellence, they argued, was humanism in full."
Thursday, August 27, 2020
Notre Dame’s Potenziani Program in Constitutional Studies and the Tocqueville Program will host a lecture by Charles Kesler of Claremont McKenna College. This virtual event is free and open to the public. Recording will be made available.
The event is today at 12:45PM Eastern.
August 27, 2020 | Permalink
Tuesday, August 25, 2020
There was nothing surprising about the [Espinoza] decision, and it changed little; it was the inevitable next link in a long chain of decisions. To those observers still attached to the most expansive rhetoric of no-aid separationism, it is the world turned upside down.
But the Court has been steadily marching away from that rhetoric for thirty-five years now. The more recent decisions, including Espinoza, do a far better job than no-aid separationism of separating the religious choice and commitments of the American people from the coercive power of the government. And that is the separation that is and should be the ultimate concern of the Religion Clauses—to minimize the government’s interference with or influence on religion, and to leave each American free to exercise or reject religion in his or her own way, neither encouraged by the government nor discouraged or penalized by the government.
Monday, August 24, 2020
August 25th marks the third anniversary of the Burmese military campaign in Rakhine State that resulted in mass atrocities and displaced hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) will host a virtual event to discuss the current situation of Rohingya Muslims in Burma and in refugee camps in Bangladesh, as well as the pending international lawsuits against the Burmese government on August 27th.
August 24, 2020 | Permalink
Sunday, August 23, 2020
Deadline approaching for Fred C. Zacharias Memorial Prize for Scholarship in Professional Responsibility
Submissions and nominations of articles are being accepted for the eleventh annual Fred C. Zacharias Memorial Prize fo
Saturday, August 22, 2020
As we celebrate the centenary of the ratification of the constitutional amendment that gave women the right to vote, for most it will not be a shock to learn that the Catholic Church was not out front in the movement for women's suffrage. Nonetheless, we can still find ways to celebrate the journey toward increasing appreciation of women's contributions to public life - in this very brief CNS piece, with a little bit of help from Star Wars - The Rise of Skywalker.
A few years ago, as I was checking out my new classroom space prior to the first day of class, I ran into one of my IT colleagues who making sure all systems were go. Something about the way he moved made me realize that he was carrying a heavy weight. When we both pressed pause on our checklist of tasks, he was very relieved to connect beyond “how are you / I’m fine,” and we calendared a lunch to continue the conversation. As I left the classroom that morning, I could feel there was a shift in me. This tiny gesture of attention helped me to feel ready to work in that space to receive a new group of students.
Perhaps because at that moment I was working with Ed Pellegrino’s wonderful 1983 article, Professional Studies and Catholic Universities: The Consecration of Expertise for a book chapter on Catholic education, what came to mind was the image of pouring oil over an altar, as part of consecrating a new sacred space. The altar was ready.
In DC our local regulations are such that I am not starting the semester in a new physical space. What might it mean to “consecrate” a Zoom space to receive a new group of students this Fall? My Religion & the Work of a Lawyer seminar is not tiny, but it is manageable enough (24) to at least offer to meet and begin to get to know each student individually before the official start of classes. So far, to a person the students have been deeply appreciative of the chance for us to “see” each other in almost regular size (rather than as one among many squares) and to have a conversation beyond “how are you / I’m fine.” And with each meeting, I have felt a growing sense of calm with the idea of starting a very interactive discussion-based seminar online.
I have also been exploring new tech options to help the class as a whole process student input after breakout discussions. As part of an online orientation program, I did a test run of “Jamboard,” and made a mess of it. The little post-its rolled into the shared board too fast, and were too many and too small for me to process. But felix colpa: reflecting on exactly what went wrong, I realized that this was the “shift” that I needed. I had been overly focused on the question of how technology could help me to consolidate student input and to communicate that in an efficient and effective way. The shift? To foreground the question of how to honor each person as they give their input – which probably also means slowing down everything (the input and the discussion of the input).
Again, Pellegrino: “For the authentic Christian, no sphere of life can be isolated from faith. All work, however mundane or humble, becomes a ministry, and in that sense, consecrated.” I am not sure how long we will be online. But I am sure that we can continue to find ways not only to humanize the Zoom space, but even to consecrate our work in this platform.
Friday, August 21, 2020
One of the things our Program on Church, State & Society is best known for on campus is our Summer Fellowship opportunity, which provides outstanding NDLS students with stipends to work at religious organizations or law firms that serve religiously affiliated organizations.
We have been providing these fellowships for six years now, and have sent Notre Dame law students to numerous placements around the nation. We are especially grateful to the organizations that hosted our students this past summer: the Office of the General Counsel at the Catholic University of America, Catholic Charities Legal Assistance in Chicago, and Napa Legal Institute. We are also especially thankful to the donors that provide the funding to make these fellowships possible.
You can read about the 2020 summer fellows here.
August 21, 2020 | Permalink
Wednesday, August 19, 2020
Long before coronavirus was a household name, our country’s Catholic school system was already in a state of emergency. Fifty years past its peak size, Catholic education was suffering an enrollment crisis and school closures en masse. Meanwhile, paradoxically, our country’s need for vibrant and engaged Catholic schools had never seemed greater. Parents were growing wary of traditional public and charter schools for a variety of reasons—some cultural, some academic—and the sentiment was reaching critical mass.
And then, disaster struck. The Covid-19 pandemic has, in many ways, exacerbated the crisis Catholic schools were facing before coronavirus reached our shores; to date, 98 Catholic schools in the U.S. have announced permanent closure in response to enrollment and tuition declines driven by Covid-19’s economic toll. But at the same time, it has also deepened our nation’s need for Catholic schools—perhaps even serving as a Hail Mary pass for the sector’s revitalization, right at the pivotal moment.
Full article at Church Life Journal.
August 19, 2020 | Permalink
Tuesday, August 18, 2020
I've posted two pieces on SSRN discussing religious freedom and its connection with my current interest, political and cultural polarization.
The first is "'Christian Bigots' and 'Muslim Terrorists': Religious Liberty in a Polarized Age," forthcoming as a chapter in a new book from Routledge Publishers. Unfortunately, the publisher locks up chapters and won't allow free posting of drafts. But any reader interested in a draft is welcome to write me at tcberg at stthomas dot edu.
[R]eligious liberty has joined the list of issues that most sharply divide partisans. By now it is well established that America is deeply, increasingly polarized between competing political-cultural outlooks. After briefly summarizing the processes of ideological “sorting,” negative polarization, and political feedback loops that intensify the polarization, this paper identifies the damage when religious liberty becomes a contributing factor in polarization. Religious liberty protection is designed to reduce people’s fear and resentment of others—which in turn fuel polarization—by making room, as much as possible, for people of fundamentally differing commitments to live consistently with those commitments. This key purpose of religious liberty will fail, however, if debate over that protection simply replicates the underlying polarization of views. If anything, current religious-liberty disputes intensify the underlying fights.
Although the religious-liberty circumstances of Muslims and conservative Christians differ, the two share important features—including the fact that others view them with hostility, as “Christian bigots” or “Muslim terrorists.” I identify parallels between the two groups and argue that these parallels support recognizing substantial protection for both.
The second article is "Religious Freedom Amid the Tumult," discussing the recent important Supreme Court decisions on religious liberty, issued amid--and connecting in various ways with--pandemic, polarization, and racial-justice protests. A bit from the abstract:
Among many lessons from today’s crises is that religion, freely chosen and exercised, is a vital aspect of human identity. Religious exercise provides individuals with strength and comfort in the stresses of a pandemic. Religious belief motivates service to others in schools and social-service agencies; credible legal threats to those organizations aggravate our already dangerous polarization. Now as much as ever, it is vital to defend religious freedom for all. Despite some mixed signals, the current Supreme Court seems willing to shoulder that task.
But to defend religious freedom credibly means recognizing rights for others too. Christian conservatives must support religious liberty and equality for Muslims as well. A credible defense of religious freedom also calls for confronting rather than denying the problems of racial inequality. And it calls for drawing careful lines so that LGBT people can participate in economic life and traditionalist religious organizations can follow their religious identity.