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.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

"The inferiority of a Jesuit education"

Would any educated person today care whether someone was educated by Jesuits?  Harvard used to refuse Catholics *because* of their Catholic education. Good for Harvard, in a way.  

July 17, 2014 in Brennan, Patrick | Permalink

Monday, July 14, 2014

The essential rule of interpretation of Pope Francis

The essential rule of interpretation of Pope Francis: No, it's not the great-nice-try that was the "hermeneutic of continuity."  Instead, according to Fr. Bernd Hagenkord, SJ, Head of the German-language Section of Vatican Radio, it is power:

Francis knows exactly how power is spelled,” says Bernd Hagenkord, a Jesuit who is in charge of German programming for Vatican Radio. “He’s a communicator in the league with Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama.They say he’s being unclear, but we know exactly what he means.

For the context of the quote, follow the lead in Rorate Caeli

As one senior European prelate who has served under the last three popes once told me, "Francis doesn't often refer to himself Pope, but when you're in his presence, you know that he knows he's the Pope, and that's why he doesn't need to call himself Pope."  Indeed, we know exactly what he means.    

July 14, 2014 in Brennan, Patrick | Permalink

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Mixed messages on poverty from the Domus [UPDATED]

Pope Francis has stressed his desire for a "poor Church for the poor."  Now the same Vicar of Christ has convened many of the world's most highly paid athletes, participants in the recent World Cup, to play a soccer match in Rome for the purpose of promoting "dialogue" among world religions.

We in the United States have heard much about a "consistent ethic of life."  I'm just wondering, therefore, as something of a thought experiment, what place professional sports, especially (but not only) at the richest level, would have in a "consistent ethic of poverty."  

Consider how much it costs to travel far to attend the World Cup.  Consider, further, what immediate benefit, if any, the playing of the World Cup has to the poor of Brazil. I've been to Brazil; I've seen (and smelled) the poverty; and I can conjure the impassable gap between the hovels and the stadium.

We've heard Pope Francis pass moral judgment on everything from pets (he's down on them) to nice cars (he won't ride in them and criticizes some who do).  What about the bread and circuses of professional sports industries that concentrate vast sums of money in the hands of small groups of those who are lucky enough to be able-bodied, coached, and thus relieved of life's ordinary burdens in order to "play" all the time?  Don't get me wrong, sport has its place in a healthy human life, perhaps even as an example of what some refer to as the "basic good" known as "play."  Sana mens in sano corpore, and all that.  

But what about the economics of professional sport as such?  What has the Holy Father to say on this topic?  Perhaps I've missed it, but I do keep a pretty attentive eye on what gets published under the name Franciscus, including the redacted homilies preached in the Domus, and I can't recall any condemnation of the mega-wealth accumulated on the backs of the poor (and the middle-class) in the name of, say, World Cup.

I recently read an editorial some place that baldly contended that the World Cup mocks the poor.  It's a contention that's worth pondering, especially now as the beneficiaries of the World Cup prepare to gather in Rome at Pope Francis's invitation in order to engage in "dialogue."  

(Never mind the lack of all evidence that professional athletes are dialogically inclined or adept.  In any event, calling something "dialogue" doesn't necessarily make it a good idea, not even in this post-Vatican II Church).    


UPDATE:  A reader helpfully called my attention to an address Pope Francis delivered in May 2, 2014, to Italian soccer players and officials in which he warned that "today soccer is turning into a big business: advertising, television, and so on. But the financial factor must not prevail over the sporting factor because it risks polluting everything, both at the national and local level."  A story about the address is here

I'm not sure exactly what the Pope meant to rule out when he stated on May 2nd that "the financial factor must not prevail over the sporting factor."  Speaking a week later to the U.N. officials in Rome, the Holy Father set off a firestorm by speaking far more bluntly when he called attention to governments' responsibility to effect "legitimate redistribution" of wealth.  By challenging modern governments to concern themselves with legitimate redistribution, the Pope was doing no more than commendably echoing basic tenets of traditional Catholic social doctrine.  One wonders, therefore, how the Pope would urge experts to apply that doctrine to the mega-wealth amassed by the beneficiaries of the professional sports industries.    


July 13, 2014 in Brennan, Patrick | Permalink

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Dietrich von Hildebrand on "religious pluralism"

As we move forward following the Court's decision in Hobby Lobby, it's important to be clear about what we mean if we think, as many still do, that the answer to our day's social problems amounts to no more than a consensus that values pluralism.  Consider, by contrast, the judgment of Dietrich von Hildebrand (1889-1977), whom Ven. Pope Pius XII described as nothing less than "a 20th century doctor of the Church" (Pope Saint John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI had similarly admiring things to say about von Hildebrand's work as a theologian):  

Insofar as cultures are concerned, multiplicity has a value, just as does the pluralism of national characters.  When, however, it comes to metaphysical or ethical truth -- and especially when it comes to religion -- any pluralism is an evil.  Evil, too, are the many fluctuations in the life of religion that occur in history.  Unlike cultural pluralism, religious pluralism is in no way a sign of life, but rather a symptom of human fraility and insufficiency.  Great metaphysical and ethical truths, and the true religion itself, are destined to take root among men.  Here the 'oughtness' of assuming social reality gives to their aliveness a special significance.  It represents a descending of Christ into the soul of the individual person and the erecting of His Kingdom in the interpersonal sphere.  It is the dimension of Christ's victory that He predicted in saying: 'Where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am in the midst of them.'  To supplant truth in its transcendent existence with a merely social reality is to imprison man and history in a desolate immanentism.  On the other hand, the incarnation of transcendent truth in man and history represents the victory of transcendence over the purely immanent.  

Trojan Horse in the City of God: The Catholic Crisis Explained 103-04 (1967; 1993).

John Cardinal O'Connor's Foreword to the 1993 edition of von Hildebrand's book adds the following:  "It is against secularism that von Hildebrand inveighs most strongly and consistently.  It is the invasion of secularism into the life of the Church that he sees as most analogous to the invasion of Troy by the Athenians.  'To be sure,' he says, 'secularization is an evil primarily because it implies an apostasy from Christ, and it is for this reason that we fight it on every page of this book'"  Id. at xi.  The late Cardinal O'Connor's Foreword concludes with these words about what the Church should be doing in every age:  "I hope that [readers] will take special note of Dietrich von Hildebrand's quoting John Henry Cardinal Newman about the Church: 'She holds that unless She can, in Her own way, do good to souls, it is no use Her doing anything.'"  Ibid.


By the way, von Hildebrand was sentenced to death (in absentia) by the Nazis for publishing a weekly opposition newspaper with the assistance of the great Austrian Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss, who for his part was assassinated by the Nazis in 1934. 


July 3, 2014 in Brennan, Patrick | Permalink

Tuesday, July 1, 2014


Enough already of the hosannas on high in praise of what little the Supreme Court actually accomplished for the good and the true in Hobby Lobby.  Joey Fishkin offers a sober perspective here, to which I would be grateful to hear Archbishop Kurtz, president of the USCCB, reply once he's done "thank[ing] God for RFRA" here.  Archbishop Chaput's praise (here) is appropriately muted, but is he correct when he asserts that "In our country, no person and no organization grounded in religious conviction should be forced to choose between complying with the law and violating their religious beliefs"?  Our criminal law is busy every day denying individuals the opportunity to act on their "religious beliefs," and for that I do indeed thank God.  The Church through and since the Second Vatican Council has encouraged licentious thinking about "religious liberty."  I offer the corrective perspective of Catholic Tradition here and here.           

July 1, 2014 in Brennan, Patrick | Permalink

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


Hearty congratulations to Mark Movsesian and our own Marc DeGirolami on their success in creating at St. John's University a center that would go on, in a very short time from its founding, to host a rich conference on law and religion at Rome, indeed in the Vatican. Wow!  It's amazing what a Catholic educational institution can do when its members are given the freedom institutionally to raise and address the serious questions that actually matter for the salvation of souls.  

Turning to the particulars of the event itself, I do wonder how to resolve the ambiguities in the following quoted words spoken by Pope Francis in introducing the conference:

He called religious freedom “a fundamental right of man.” It is “not simply freedom of thought or private worship,” but “the freedom to live according to ethical principles, both privately and publicly, consequent to the truth one has found.”

As I say, there are ambiguities in the quoted words.  Is it in fact morally required -- or even allowed -- of states that they permit or facilitate the "public[]" exercise of "the truth one has found"?  Of course not.  Because a soul, even an earnest seeker, might have "found" "truth" that is in fact a dangerous falsehood, even on Mill's account.  So, is the Pope asserting that the *public* "freedom" he mentions is in fact limited to *true* "ethical principles"?  Okay, then, but what gloss does the Pope intend, if any, on Dignitatis and the Catechism on "public order" and the "common good," respectively?     

June 24, 2014 in Brennan, Patrick | Permalink

Sunday, June 8, 2014

New theology

Pope Francis on the Feast of Pentecost:

"The Holy Spirit teaches us: He is our interior Master. He guides us along the right path through life's situations. He teaches us the path, the street .... He is more than just a teacher of doctrine. The Spirit is a teacher of life. Certainly  knowledge, understanding is also a part of life but within the broader and more harmonious horizon of Christian existence."  

The drive-by shooting at "doctrine" is one thing.  Another is the claimed opposition between "Christian existence," on the one hand, and "knowledge, understanding" ("also [sic] a part of life"), on the other.      

June 8, 2014 in Brennan, Patrick | Permalink

Thursday, June 5, 2014


Global Perspectives on Subsidiarty, edited by Michelle Evans and Augusto Zimmerman, has just been published.  In addition to my "Subsidiarity in the Tradition of Catholic Social Doctrine" (a fairly final version of which is here ), the volume includes such chapters as "Subsidiarity in the Writings of Aristotle and Aquinas" by Nicholas Aroney, "The Relationship Between Sphere Sovereignty and Subsidiarity" by Lael Daniel Weinberger, "Subsidiarity and Social Pluralism" by Jonathan Chaplin, and "Subsidiarity and the Reform of the Welfare of the Nation State" by Robert A. Sirico, among many others.  

This rich volume offers a much-needed correction of the ubiquitous confusions --  especially among those who miss or deny what Roger Scruton recently called "the good of government" -- according to which subsidiarity amounts to either a norm of smallness per se or of devolution. Any serious academic library should own a copy of this book.     

June 5, 2014 in Brennan, Patrick | Permalink

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

"High legal threshold," indeed.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, darling of some Republicans I know, has publicly refused to appeal yesterday's decision by the Hon. John E. Jones, III, striking down Pennsylvania's law recognizing marriage as limited to opposite-sex couples.  Mr. Corbett is running for office, of course, so he assures us that the reason for his dereliction of the same office is "the high legal threshold set forth by Judge Jones in this case."  High legal threshold?  Does Judge Jones make the law?  (Judge Jones's opinion reads like a C+ final exam in sophomore Judicial Opinion Writing, but that's another matter).  Ironically, Judge Jones flatters himself by likening his own judicial (prophetic?) behavior to that of the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education, which he (erroneously) claims overruled Plessy v. Ferguson.  Would Governor Corbett have lived (campaigned?) by a mere District Court decision on the wrong side of the race issue?  In any event, Corbett, recently shown grinning and shaking hands with Pope Francis, assures us that "[a]s a Roman Catholic, the traditional teaching of my faith has not wavered."  Who in the world wondered whether Corbett's dismal failure could cause the teaching of the Church to "waver[]."  Who cares about Corbett's "private" faith that apparently has so little public punch?  Ahh, the Republicans!

May 21, 2014 in Brennan, Patrick | Permalink

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Implementing religious law in modern nation-states

The Robbins Collection at U.C. Berkeley recently convened a marvelous symposium on the vexed topic of implementing religious law in modern nation-states.  The invited symposiasts were asked to speak from their respective traditions, which were Christian, Jewish, and Muslim.  The resulting conversation was richly clarifying and instructively inconclusive on points of cross-tradition import.  My contribution to the symposium is here.

May 8, 2014 in Brennan, Patrick | Permalink