Tuesday, November 20, 2018
Also from the Church Life Journal, here's David Bentley Hart:
We speak today very easily, if not always sincerely, of the intrinsic dignity of every human person. For us, this is merely a received piety, and one of immemorial authority. And yet, if we take the time to wonder just how old a moral intuition it is, there is a good chance that our historical imagination will carry us only as far back as the “Age of Enlightenment” and the epoch of the “Rights of Man.” But our modern notion that there is such a thing as innate human worth, residing in every individual of every class and culture, is at best the very late consequence of a cultural, conceptual, and moral revolution that erupted many centuries earlier, and in the middle of a world that was anything but hospitable to its principles. And I am tempted to think that the nature of that revolution became visible for the first time only in the tale of Peter’s tears. . . .
An (as usual) interesting piece from the Church Life Journal, published at Notre Dame. Here's a bit:
. . . We often wonder whether the Christian faith entails a political doctrine, as it does a social one. This question is not relevant. For if Christians necessarily practice their citizenship, if there is such a thing as Christian citizenship, it does not designate a political regime which might be specifically Christian, in virtue of the following principle: “My kingdom does not belong to this world (John 18:36). In belonging to Christ, Christians belong to a kingdom which does not belong to this world but rather to God, a kingdom which has no necessary or even privileged political expression. Christianity does not entail any particular political doctrine, whether it be established or competing with it—and thus always of the same nature as itself: Christians live in the city without belonging to it and without supporting a competing political doctrine. The question of Christian citizenship is not one of which political doctrine might be derived from Christianity, but rather one of its very absence. Christianity does not consist of promoting or practicing a political doctrine in any way: it is essentially a way of living in the city. . . .
. . . Far from entailing a theocratic doctrine which would confer temporal power upon the ministers of the will of God, Romans 13:1 theorizes, beyond the relationship of the Christians to the law and the state, the main conditions of the common good as a universal good. These conditions, which I analyze in detail in my book, are threefold: the non-idolatry of power, the search for peace, and the respect for freedom, first and foremost religious freedom. However, they may also be summarized in a single condition: the patience of love. By the end of this work, the Pauline reference to the will of God completely loses its status of an “anti-democratic transcendence.” On the contrary, it becomes clear that it theorizes the conditions of a true democracy, if one thinks, following Claude Lefort, that a true democracy is not first and foremost a political regime and that the impossibility of appropriating power to oneself is its fundamental condition. Only then might one consider that Christian citizenship, which has no necessary or even privileged political expression, nevertheless favors the establishment and preservation of a form of government and society that can be conceived of today as the best guarantee of the universal common good.
Tuesday, November 13, 2018
It is, of course, entirely sensible for Catholic and non-Catholics alike to be angry, even disgusted, at the way many bishops and other Church leaders have mishandled credible allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation by clergy. However, one response to this mishandling that I believe is sometimes thrown around (not only by trial lawyers but recently and several times by The Washington Post) too cavalierly is lifting/extending/re-opening/etc. statutes of limitations on lawsuits and prosecutions.
Certainly, it would be unjust to make changes to limitations periods in a way that only affected Catholic clergy or dioceses. (See this 2005 Mirror of Justice post.) And, these limitations provisions generally have "built in" to themselves or are subject to judge-made tolling rules of various kinds. The statutes' protections are not and should not be absolute. But, it is important to remember, that -- like the procedural safeguards we use in all kinds of contexts, including cases involving very serious offenses -- these rules reflect and serve crucial, fundamental due-process and fairness values. It seems to me that, if they are to be revised, any such revisions should proceed deliberately and fairly, with appropriate consideration of the goods they serve.
Here is a substantial post, at the Semiduplex blog, addressing the panel discussion that closed the Notre Dame Center for Ethics & Culture Fall Conference. I'm still (!) mulling over what I thought about the conversation, but I encourage MOJ readers to watch it (or read about it). I did have a sense that there was a missing "voice" or perspective, although I'm not entirely sure how to describe the position or stance I'm thinking of. (Maybe Maritain/Murray/Wojtyla? Maybe Michael Moreland!)
Friday, November 9, 2018
Option for the Poor: Engaging the Social Tradition
2019 Catholic Social Tradition Conference
March 21–23, 2019 | University of Notre Dame
Presenters should provide original and creative insights into the systemic problems faced by marginalized populations and how to address them through the lens of the Catholic social tradition. The Center for Social Concerns at the University of Notre Dame requests proposals and creative works regarding the development of the Catholic social tradition in the following areas:
— Historical development and critique of the social doctrine, and how Church mechanisms can support social change
— Identify present social issues and potential solutions in light of the Church’s teaching on the option for the poor
— How the Church can promote social action based on the option for the poor within today’s pluralistic society
Now accepting proposals for papers or creative works. Abstract is limited to 500 words. The deadline for submission is November 30, 2018.
More info here.
[Our own Adrian Vermeule provides this report from the (always excellent) Fall Conference of the Notre Dame Center for Ethics & Culture:]
The Center for Ethics and Culture Hosts the Debate
Last weekend, at an extraordinarily rich and instructive conference hosted by the Center for Ethics and Culture at Notre Dame, the closing panel was a conversation among Patrick Deneen, Phil Munoz, Gladden Pappin and myself, acutely moderated by Carter Snead. The set theme was “Catholicism and the American Project.”
As the video of the discussion shows, each of the panelists interpreted this theme differently and thus began from a different point. Deneen took it to mean “Notre Dame and the American Project,” and began by discussing their relationship. Munoz took it to mean “The American Project and Catholicism,” and began with an explication of the (putative) liberal virtues of the Constitution of 1789. In different ways, both Pappin and myself took it to mean “The Catholic Church and the American Project” — Pappin beginning with a general account of integralism and its relationship to ecclesiology, myself with an attempt to explain Leo XIII’s providential vision for an integral Church in America, and his condemnation(s) of the errors of Americanism.
Wednesday, October 31, 2018
Here's a news story on a recent "death-row volunteer" case:
A death row inmate who participated in the Special Olympics as a child wanted to be executed. But a lawyer—not his lawyer, another one—wanted to save him.
The U.S. Supreme Court Oct. 29 effectively took the inmate’s side in the unusual dispute, permitting Rodney Berget’s execution to go forward. South Dakota officials killed him that night.
Berget had testified at sentencing that he knew he was “guilty of taking Ronald Johnson’s life,” referring to the victim corrections officer he killed while trying to escape a previous prison stint. “I’m not going to beg the court or ask the court to spare my life,” he said. “I believe I deserve the death penalty for what I’ve done.”
I wrote an essay, a while back, on the issue of such "volunteers", on legal ethics, on my own experience with such a case, and on Catholic Social Thought. Here's the abstract:
What should lawyers think about and respond to death-row volunteers? When a defendant accused of a capital crime attempts to plead guilty, or instructs his lawyer not to present a particular defense; when a convicted killer refuses to permit the introduction of potentially life-saving mitigating evidence - or even urges the jury to impose a death sentence - at the sentencing phase of a death-eligible case; when a condemned inmate refuses to file, or to appeal the denial of, habeas corpus and other post-conviction petitions for relief; when he elects not to object to a particular capital-punishment method, to call into question his own competence to be executed, or to file an eleventh-hour, last-ditch appeal citing newly discovered evidence of his innocence -what should lawyers do?
These are not questions of merely professional interest, narrowly conceived, for lawyers and judges. That said, the death-row volunteer is of particular interest to lawyers because he poses particularly chilling problems for lawyers. It is suggested in this paper that something is missing from our thinking and conversations about the death-row-volunteer problem: Our arguments - which sound primarily in the register of choice, competence, and autonomy - reflect and proceed from an unsound moral anthropology. That is, they proceed from a flawed 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. The unfortunate result is that the professed commitment to human dignity that drives and sustains so many capital-defense lawyers is often undermined by these same lawyers' responses to death-row volunteers.
Saturday, October 27, 2018
This editorial, titled (perhaps more tendentiously than the author would have preferred) "The Pope Doesn't Understand China", by Cardinal Zen, appeared recently in The New York Times. I share some of the author's concerns. (Certainly, foolish statements about condition in China like those of Bishop Sorondo -- here -- do not inspire confidence in the soundness of the advice that Pope Francis is receiving on this topic.) Although some diplomatic flexibility and procedural adjustments could well be warranted, in order to make the best of a bad situation and provide the best possible pastoral care to Catholics living in the PRC, it does not seem to me that there are reasons for optimism about China's regime when it comes to religious and political freedom. Indeed, the evidence seems overwhelming that things are getting worse.
An up-and-coming film critic at the University of Notre Dame -- one Maggie Garnett -- has an eloquent and powerful review of the Gosnell movie up at The Rover. Highly recommended! A taste:
All women deserve better than abortion.
Do we avoid watching this movie because it conflicts with our beliefs? Because it makes us uncomfortable? Because it is disturbing? It’s undeniable that Gosnell is a pro-life movie and its content can be disturbing, but it is a movie that every single person should see. Yes, Dr. Gosnell is representative of the worst abuses of doctors in the abortion industry. Yes, the vast majority of clinics perform only legal abortions. Yes, the vast majority of clinics ensure only licensed physicians and nurses are administering treatment and medication. Yes, the vast majority of clinics keep their facilities clean and women safe. But the reality of the most careful, legal, and sterilized abortion is still the death of a human being, often following the choice of a mother who is frightened and feels as if she has no other option. The reality of all abortions is disturbing, heart-wrenching, and gutting.
Perhaps it takes a monster like Kermit Gosnell to move hearts and minds to recognize the reality of abortion, whether performed illegally or by the letter of the law.
The seats in the courtroom at Kermit Gosnell’s trial were largely left empty. It took a murder conviction to get people to pay attention. This movie, and its theater seats, should not be ignored in the same way. It is a timely, powerful, and thought provoking film that cannot be set aside.
Wednesday, October 24, 2018