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, April 8, 2021

The USNWR rankings and law-school debt

Insert here [       ] all of the usual (and correct) criticisms of the USNWR law-school rankings.   And, insert here [     ] the necessary caveats relating to the fact that the rankings' new incorporation of student-loan-debt matters did not help my own institution.  All that aside, it's far from clear to me why this incorporation makes much sense.  Just two, not-at-all-original concerns, for now:  First, as others have noted, it could create incentives to (all things considered) prefer admitting wealthier students.  And (a more abstract point, I guess), it seems to neglect the likelihood that higher student-debt loads at graduation are related to students' calculations/predictions regarding the value of education, networks, credentials, etc., in which they are investing.  We should care more, it seems to me, about whether those predictions are well-grounded than about the fact of student loans.

On the other hand:  I kind of like the possibilitythat the new metric could disincentivize the practice of using transfer-admissions (and strategically-small first-year classes) as a revenue-enhancing mechanism.  We'll see, I guess . . . 

April 8, 2021 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Monday, March 15, 2021

"Joe Biden and Catholicism in U.S. Politics"

The Berkley Center at Georgetown has posted a collection of short essays on the subject of "Joe Biden and Catholicism in U.S. Politics."  In my view, the authors (as a general matter) overstate the consonance between (a) President Biden's stated views and (b) the policies the Biden administration is likely to pursue with (c) plausible operationalizations of Catholic proposals and social teachings.  Among other things, there is in the essays a -- for me -- disappointing tendency to equate present-day public-sector unionism with the Church's longstanding emphasis on the dignity of work and the rights of workers.  And, the significance of Biden's and his administration's rejection of the Church's teachings -- that is, the truth -- about the rights and dignity of unborn children is downplayed.  (In fairness, I should note that I was invited to contribute one of the essays, and failed (multiple times!) to meet my deadline!)

In any event, check out the collection and, MOJ-ers, please weigh in with your thoughts on the topic!

March 15, 2021 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Prof. Seidman on Georgetown's "residual Catholicism"

An . . . interesting take on Georgetown University Law Center's Catholic character and mission, from Prof. Louis Michael Seidman:

"Georgetown Law Center is a nominally Catholic institution and one aspect of the residual Catholicism there is the notion that we’re educating the whole person. Frankly, that gives me the creeps."

Prof. Mark Tushnet's response should also be noted, though:

I would say we might want to think about whether different institutions could assert different kinds of jurisdiction and in this context it’s not irrelevant that Georgetown is an institution affiliated with the Society of Jesus and Harvard is not. It might well be that having a universe of 170 whatever law schools some of which take the care of the whole person seriously, others of which limit their jurisdiction, that might be a good thing.  Call it institutional pluralism or diversity. . . .

"Institutional pluralism."  I like that!

February 27, 2021 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

"What Joe Biden . . . owe[s] John Courtney Murray."

I don't think this piece, in America, is actually about what is in the title.   I am, to be sure, a fan of John Courtney Murray's work, and I agree with the piece's author, Prof. Massimo Faggioli (Villanova) that:

One of Murray’s most important contributions . . . is the principle of the distinction between state and society, and the conviction that the state is limited in its role toward society. “State is distinct from society,” he asserted, and “government submits itself to judgment by the truth of society; it is not itself a judge of the truth in society.”

Faggioli goes on to say that "[i]n the present moment, Murray’s assumption must be revised: Our societies have become more pluralistic and more secular, while political identities have often become more strongly linked to religious belief." I'm not sure what this means.  That is, it's not clear to me why these observations about our "societies" and "identifies" have any implications for Murray's emphasis on the aforementioned "distinction." 

In any event, the distinction matters.  Faggioli, strangely, seems to think that the threat to this distinction is (again) "the culture wars" or the asserted emphasis by "culture war[riors]" on "non-negotiables."  In fact, though, the most potent challenges to this distinction, and all that it protects and facilitates, are coming (and will increasingly come) from "progressives" who believe that the state should insist on, and use its various tools to bring about, congruence between (a) the egalitarian rules that constrain state action and (b) the practices, norms, and commitments of non-state communities and institutions.  In other words, the "healthy secularity" that Murray supported never meant, for Murray, that the Church should welcome being re-made by licensing and funding conditions.

January 20, 2021 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Barron on the Use and Misuse of "Culture Warrior"

I recommend this short post by Bishop Robert Barron, "'Culture Warrior' and the Fallacy of Misplaced Correctness."  It opens with this:

One of the least illuminating descriptors that makes its way around the Catholic commentariat is “culture warrior.” 

Barron is, in my view, correct.  One encounters this descriptor -- "culture warrior" -- all too often in Catholic commentary, and it is almost always used by more "progressive" Catholics as a way to express disapproval of things that more "conservative" Catholics say and do.  As Barron describes, the label is, often, unhelpfully contrasted with dialogue, mercy, humility, and accompaniment.  As I noted a few years ago, in this post:

There is, to be sure, a lot to regret about the reality of the "culture wars" and the way they've distorted politics and harmed discourse -- among those things, in my view, is the common but unhelpful practice of labeling those with whom one disagrees politically as "culture warriors" -- although it seems to me that regret will not change the reality.  It is simply the case -- and it does not make one a "culture warrior" who is "obsessed" to notice it -- that there are determined, well-funded, and increasingly powerful institutions, actors, and forces at work in the culture, in politics, in the law, and in the academy (for example) that oppose strongly the moral vision, commitments, and witness of the Catholic Church and that are doing what they can -- and they can do a lot -- to marginalize the Church, her teachings, and her institutions in public life.

As Barron notes:

[C]onsider the abstraction “culture warrior” as used . . . as a negative characterization of his opponent. [It] can’t possibly name anything real, since the accuser is every bit as much a culture warrior as the accused. It therefore functions as a smokescreen for what the accuser really wants to say, and I can think of at least two possibilities: either he doesn’t think that the issues his opponent is criticizing should in fact be criticized, or perhaps he feels that the way his opponent is characterizing the issue is unfair. In either case, the real matter is obscured, and the use of the term doesn’t move anyone even a bit closer to the truth. Infinitely preferable to trading in insulting abstractions that apply as much to oneself as to one’s opponent is to engage in the tough work of authentic argument.

December 29, 2020 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Happy Feast of St. Thomas Becket!


December 29, 2020 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Snead's "What It Means to Be Human" makes Wall Street Journal's "Books of the Year" list

The new book by my Notre Dame friend and colleague Carter Snead, What It Means to Be Human:  The Case for the Body in Public Bioethics, has been included in the Wall Street Journal's "10 Best Books of 2020" list.  As I've mentioned before, Snead's book is an outstanding reflection and exposition of the content and implications of Christian moral anthropology, and a model, in my view, of what "Catholic legal theory" should look like.

December 10, 2020 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Carter Snead on the "Anthropology of Expressive Individualism"

My friend and Notre Dame colleague, Carter Snead, has a new book out with Harvard University Press, called "What It Means to Be Human" (here).  I'd read it in draft, and think it's wonderful -- a fitting tribute to, among others, Alasdair MacIntyre and Charles Taylor, whose influences are clear in the work, and that it captures well some of the key, heartland proposals and commitments that launched for 16 years (so far) sustained the "Mirror of Justice" blog. Need a Christmas gift?  You couldn't do better.

Snead has also authored this essay, "the Anthopology of Expressive Individualism", which distills the book's claims nicely.  Here's a bit:

[E]xpressive individualism fails because it is, to borrow a phrase from Alasdair MacIntyre, “forgetful of the body.” Its vision of the human person does not reflect and thus cannot make sense of the full lived reality of human embodiment, with all that it entails. After all, human beings experience themselves and one another as living bodies, not disembodied wills.

Because human beings live and negotiate the world as bodies, they are necessarily subject to vulnerability, dependence, and finitude common to all living embodied beings, with all of the attendant challenges and gifts that follow. Thus, the anthropology of the atomized, unencumbered, inward-directed self of expressive individualism falls short because it cannot render intelligible either the core human realities of embodiment or recognize the unchosen debts that accrue to all human beings throughout their life spans.

An inexorable reality of embodied human life is dependence. Most obviously, given the way human beings come into the world, from the very beginning they depend on the beneficence and support of others for their very lives. Among mammals, human beings in their infancy and youth have an unusually long period of dependence for basic survival—infants and babies require help with nutrition, hygiene, and general protection. Obviously, this dependence on others for basic needs is not merely a transient feature limited to the beginnings of human life. There are, of course, those who spend their entire lives in conditions of radical dependency. But because all human beings exist as corruptible bodies, periods of serious illness, injury, and senescence create cycles of often-profound dependency throughout the life span for everyone. Consider, due to the very nature of living as bodies, in MacIntyre’s words, all human beings exist on a “scale of disability.”



December 2, 2020 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Christ the King and "Quas Primas"

In my experience, preachers in Catholic parishes don't know quite what to do with the Feast of Christ the King, which is today.  Usually, the day's "message" or "theme" has been (again, in my experience) something to the effect that we should ask if we are "putting Jesus first in our lives/hearts" (and, certainly, we should). 

And yet . . . especially in light of the emerging (and much needed) focus in the Church on religious liberty and the realities of both aggressive secularism and persecution, it's worth (re-)reading Quas Primas, the encyclical of Pope Pius XI that instituted the feast day in 1925, and remembering that this institution's purpose sounded more in political theology than in personal piety and devotion.  This feast -- which we celebrate, again, this Sunday -- is a reminder that government is not all, that there are things which are not Caesar's, and that everything, in the end, is "under God."

November 22, 2020 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Congratulations to Justice Amy Coney Barrett

I am delighted that my dear friend, neighbor, and colleague has been confirmed to the Supreme Court of the United States.  (Note to media-types:  It's not called "the United States Supreme Court.")  Here's the ND announcement.  (One hopes that more appropriate celebration and commemoration will be coming from the University soon.)  As I wrote here, a few years ago:

Judge Amy Coney Barrett is not a symbol or a meme. She is not merely the nominee to whom Senator Feinstein, Yoda-like, said, “The dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s a concern.” Her Catholic faith is deep and animating but, contrary to what was insinuated in a suspiciously timed news report, her participation in the ecumenical Christian community People of Praise is not so different from the lived religious experiences of millions of Americans. As is detailed in powerful supporting letters from the entire Notre Dame Law School faculty, from every living clerk who worked with her at the Supreme Court, from an ideologically and methodologically diverse array of prominent legal scholars, and from hundreds of her former students, she is a respected scholar, an award-winning teacher, a razor-sharp lawyer, a disciplined and diligent jurist, and a person of the highest character. And, if she were nominated and confirmed, she would be not just an excellent, but a great, Justice.

I'm very pleased that neither our dysfunctional politics nor the strange obsessions of a few theologians were able to prevent this welcome development. Warm congratulations to the justice.  

October 27, 2020 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink