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
Monday, October 22, 2018
Here's a post I did, the day after Blessed Pope John Paul II's death, back in April of 2005:
I'm sure that many of us are reflecting on the effect that the Holy Father had on our faith and lives, and thanking God for the gift of his ministry and example. It also makes sense, here on MOJ, for us to consider what the Pope's work and thought might mean for law and legal theory. A few thoughts:
First, many of the Pope's writings focus on the importance of culture as the arena in which human persons live, thrive, and search for truth. His was not a reductionist Christianity -- one in which the choices and hopes of persons drop out of the analysis, and are replaced merely by one "dialectic" or another. Nor is Christianity merely a matter of a rightly ordered interior life. We are precious and particular, bearing the "weight of glory," but also social, relational, political -- and cultural. And, he recognized, law both shapes and is shaped by culture.
Second, the Pope returned again and again to the theme of freedom. Certainly, for lawyers -- and particularly for lawyers living and working in our constitutional democracy -- questions about the extent to which law can and should liberate (and, perhaps, liberate-by-restraining?) are appropriately on the front burner. It's fair to say that John Paul II proposed an understanding of freedom -- and of its connection with (T)ruth -- that contrasts instructively with the more libertarian, self-centered understanding that seems ascendant in our law (particularly our constitutional law) today.
Third, I imagine we will be working out for decades the implications of the Pope's proposal that the God-given dignity of the human person, and the norm of love, richly understood, should occupy center-stage in our conversations about morality -- rather than utilitarian calculations, historical movements, or supposed categorical imperatives. This proposal seems particularly powerful when it comes to the matter of religious freedom.
Finally, there is the (perhaps, at first) surprising fact that, at the end of the 20th Century, it was a mystical Pope who "stepped up" and reminded a world that had been distracted, or perhaps chastened, by reason's failures, and had embraced a excessively modest, post-modern skepticism, of the dignity and proper ends (without overlooking the limits) of reason.
There's a lot more to say, of course. I would, for what it's worth, encourage any MOJ readers who work with or advise law journals to consider commissioning essays, or even symposia, on John Paul II's jurisprudential legacy.
Sunday, October 7, 2018
Story here. Very troubling. A bit:
China’s crackdown on religion has taken a significant turn over the last two months, reaching a sustained intensity not seen since the Cultural Revolution. Outside the Three-Self Patriotic Movement churches—the state-sanctioned Christian churches—Christians have been facing steadily increasing pressure for the last 10 years. In 2017, the crosses of hundreds of churches were removed in Zhejiang Province. Cameras and other monitoring devices were also installed in churches throughout the province.
The situation is not isolated to Christians. Authorities in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region have been working to develop and implement a massive electronic surveillance system straight out of Nineteen Eighty-Four, including facial and iris recognition, speech recognition software, and even DNA sampling. Chinese authorities have also instituted a reeducation program, detaining Uighurs in “reeducation camps” and even luring Uighur students studying abroad to return to China under false pretenses, only to be detained.