Saturday, June 19, 2021
Few words in contemporary discourse are as hokey and tedious as "weaponization"; it simply means "making an argument that makes me uncomfortable because it forces me to consider the possibility that I'm failing to act as I should." And so, the "statement of principles", issued by some politicians who support abortion rights, which objects to the alleged "weaponization" of the Eucharist (note that no such "weaponization" has really occured), is pretty thin stuff.
As it happens, my own view is that it would difficult to administer -- i.e., to expect parish priests to administer -- a live-action, case-by-case rule that officials who fail to support legal protections for unborn children should be denied the Eucharist (just as it would be difficult to administer such a rule that focused on officials' -- or my own -- many other failures). But, this letter -- like much of the astroturfed outrage being expressed on social media about a "weaponization" that, again, has not actually happened -- is making a different point: The letter's claim is that the letter writers are entitled (a) to support, fund, and indeed coerce people to provide a wrong action and (b) to declare themselves immune from the Church's determinations regarding the sacramental implications of such support (etc.)
The letter writers claim that they "agree with the Church about the value of human life." Not that "agreement" is really the issue but . . . they don't (agree). As for the invocation of the "primacy of conscience" in this context, John Henry Newman is rolling over in . . . I mean, he's enjoying the Beatific Vision and is utterly unmoved by the writers' mistake.
It seems unremarkable to me for Catholic bishops to remind Catholics that (i) legal regimes that do not protect unborn children are unjust; (b) it is wrong to support knowingly injustice; and (c) one should avoid receiving the Eucharist if one is aware that one is engaged in wrong actions. It seems urgently needed for our bishops to teach and lead better with respect to love and reverence for the Eucharist. Again: I'm inclined to think it's a mistake to focus on politicians with such reminders and I'm inclined to think that priests should not adjudicate questions about mental states, etc., at the front of the Communion line. Still, the letter is exquisitely individualistic, even Promethean; it does not seem particularly Catholic.
This piece, in America, tells a story about Catholicism in the United States, and about President Biden, that is very difficult to square with the facts. In its narrative, there was a hopeful, Council-inspired Catholicism in America, of which Mr. Biden's "authentic and beaut[iful]" faith was a part, but then abortion politics came along and caused people to (unfairly) question the "sincerity" of that faith. Nowhere in the piece is it mentioned that Mr. Biden previously opposed abortion, and its public funding, but then (like many other political figures) changed his stance in order to conform to perceived political-advancement necessities. The culture warriors to whom he (and others) surrendered were not pro-life Catholic bishops.
The piece goes on to suggest that the ongoing debates about politicians, abortion, and the Eucharist is about "ownership" of the "brand" of Catholicism. This seems a strange way to frame the question; the Church's pro-life and sacramental teachings are not about "branding" but about truths. Nor, contrary to the piece, do these teachings have anything to do with an asserted "hesitation about democracy" (except, I suppose, insofar as they reflect a view that truths about sacraments and human dignity are not determined by majority vote). It is asserted that the Church "cannot control public policy outcomes" (true enough) and that "[w]e must accompany democracy in order to build up the people who would choose the common good through democracy" (indeed) but it is never conceded that those who "choose" (and, indeed, would expand dramatically) the American abortion regime are opposing, not choosing, the "common good."
Friday, June 18, 2021
A marvelous review in these pages last November inspired me to read a new book by O. Carter Snead, “What It Means to Be Human: The Case for the Body in Human Bioethics.” It was published by Harvard University Press on Oct. 13. Covid-19 had begun its transformation of American life a few months before, and of course the book made no mention of it.
Yet Mr. Snead’s volume helped explain the bizarre and at times perverse response of prosperous Western nations to the pandemic: the long discontinuation of economic life, the belief that pixelated screens can facilitate human relationships, the prohibitions on ordinary social interactions, the fetishization of masks. These policies and practices weren’t handed down from the ether by Reason and Science but bore the weight of contemporary assumptions about—to borrow Mr. Snead’s title—what it means to be human.
Full article by Barton Swaim at WSJ: https://www.wsj.com/articles/why-shutdowns-and-masks-suit-the-elite-11624038950
June 18, 2021 | Permalink
Thursday, June 17, 2021
A unanimous Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a Catholic foster care agency in Philadelphia may turn away gay and lesbian couples as clients, a victory for conservatives with the potential to shift the balance between LGBTQ rights and the First Amendment's protection of religious exercise.
In one of the most significant cases before a Supreme Court that has become more conservative in recent years, the justices handed down the most high profile defeat to LGBTQ rights advocates since a 2018 decision absolved a Colorado baker of discrimination for refusing to create a custom wedding cake for a same-sex couple.
Catholic Social Services said its religious views keep it from screening same-sex couples as foster parents. The agency, with a long history of placing foster children, said it shouldn’t be blocked from its work because of those views. Philadelphia countered that all of itsfoster care agencies are required to not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.
"It is striking, and telling, that the court's more liberal justices joined the court's decision," said Richard Garnett, director of the University of Notre Dame law school program on church, state and society. "Today's ruling illustrates that respect for religious freedom should not be a partisan, or left-right issue."
June 17, 2021 | Permalink
Thursday, June 10, 2021
The theme of this year’s Review is “Religion’s Role in Overcoming Divides and Strengthening American Democracy.”
BYU’s RFAR will address questions such as "Is it possible for religion to help overcome divides and strengthen democracy in the U.S? Partisan and social divides have rocked the country over the last year; to what extent can or does religion play a role in healing conflict and creating a stable, just democratic society?"
Register today for updates and information. Registration is free.
June 10, 2021 | Permalink
Tuesday, June 8, 2021
In 1948, Justice Stanley Reed pithily proposed that a “[r]ule of law should not be drawn from a figure of speech.” Justice Reed was referring to President Thomas Jefferson’s reference, in an 1802 piece of constituent-service correspondence, to the “wall of separation between church and State” supposedly built by “the whole American people” when the First Amendment to the Constitution was ratified.
Chancellor Howard Gillman and Dean Erwin Chemerinsky insist, in The Religion Clauses, that “Thomas Jefferson got it right” and that “the First Amendment was meant to create a wall that separates church and state.” The better view, though, was expressed in 1985, by then-Justice William Rehnquist, who warned that “[i]t is impossible to build sound constitutional doctrine upon a mistaken understanding of constitutional history, but unfortunately the Establishment Clause has been expressly freighted with Jefferson’s misleading metaphor for nearly 40 years.”
Full book review by Rick Garnett at Law & Liberty: https://lawliberty.org/book-review/gillman-and-chemerinskys-masonic-religion-clauses/
June 8, 2021 | Permalink
Wednesday, June 2, 2021
Notre Dame Law School’s Religious Liberty Initiative will bring together some of the world’s foremost thought leaders on religious freedom at the end of June for the inaugural Notre Dame Religious Liberty Summit.
The summit, to be held on Notre Dame’s campus, will stimulate conversations between scholars, advocates, and religious leaders about the future of religious liberty in the United States and around the world.
His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, will deliver a keynote address, followed by a panel on interfaith cooperation with Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Rabbi Dr. Meir Y. Soloveichik of the Congregation Shearith Israel, and Dr. Jacqueline Rivers of the Seymour Institute.
June 2, 2021 | Permalink