Tuesday, January 14, 2020
This Wall Street Journal piece -- which is, I gather, a condensed version of a forthcoming book -- "Saving Democracy from the Managerial Elite", by Michael Lind, is worth a read and might well be of interest to MOJ readers and people interested in Catholic approaches to "the social question." A lot of it echoes things that (many) others have been saying lately -- Chris Arnade, Rusty Reno, Tim Carney, J.D. Vance, Robert Putnam, etc., etc. Two things that struck me (in a good way) were (1) Lind's recognition that, even in the context of this debate, it makes sense to distinguish between public-employee unions and private labor unions, given that the former tend increasingly to reflect and advance the interests of those Lind calls "the managerial elite" at the expense of less mobile and credentialed people and (2) his implicit (I wish it were explicit!) acknowledgement that getting past some of our current polarization and pathologies will require policies that make it possible for traditional religious believers to have meaningful access to alternatives to "public school monopolies" for the education of their children.
Friday, January 10, 2020
My friend and colleague Gerard Bradley has a Public Discourse essay up, which is worth a read, called "Learning from Integralism." A bit:
[T]he First Amendment stipulates that the truth or falsity of putatively revealed propositions is beyond the scope of authoritative resolution by those with care of our political society. The First Amendment does not say, or suppose, or even suggest that all such propositions are in reality somehow equally true (or false), or that they have at most the “truth” of poetry, or that all such alleged revelations are fantastical or mere human projections. Not at all: the First Amendment was ratified by a population that took the tenets of natural and revealed religion most seriously. It has been supported by countless Americans—notably including America’s Catholics—since. By recognizing and affirming the truths of natural religion—including the truth that a divine entity created what there is and sustains it in being out of providential care for humanity—America’s political leaders implicitly endorsed the entailment that such a divine entity would communicate somehow with humankind. They endorsed, in other words, the proposition that genuine revelation is not only possible, but likely.
Monday, January 6, 2020
Here is an interesting opinion piece, by Thomas Hibbs, which discusses (among other things) the work of my Notre Dame colleagues at the Lab for Economic Opportunities. A bit:
We all understand poverty is a problem, one that can seem intractable and inevitable. But what if the way we have approached poverty has been wrong for years, for generations even?
There’s evidence it might be.
The traditional model of the American social service industry has long been a one-size-fits-all approach that treats the symptoms of poverty — transportation, child care, food insecurity — but does nothing to address the cause. The result traps the poor in a never-ending cycle of dependency and stigma, creating repeat customers.
That scathing indictment comes not from a critic of the war on poverty but from one of its most passionate advocates.
Thursday, December 19, 2019
Jon Hannah already noted the good news that the Supreme Court has agreed to review the Ninth Circuit's (misguided) rulings in St. James School and Our Lady of Guadalupe school. In each of these cases, the Ninth Circuit adopted a very narrow version of the "ministerial exception," which was unanimously confirmed to be constitutionally required by the Supreme Court in the Hosanna-Tabor case. Here is an amicus brief, filed on behalf of a number of church-state scholars (including MOJers Michael Moreland and me), urging the Court to grant cert. (and reverse). From the "summary of the argument":
In Hosanna-Tabor, this Court affirmed that the
ministerial exception protects the autonomy of
religious organizations to select those who perform
significant religious functions, including religion
teachers and others who help transmit the faith. Both
history and precedent show that the First
Amendment forbids the government from
“interfer[ing] with the internal governance of the
church.” Hosanna-Tabor, 565 U.S. at 188. And to
protect the right of religious autonomy, religious
organizations must have the freedom to “control . . .
the selection of those who will personify [their] beliefs”
or “teach their faith.” Id. at 188, 196. The ministerial
exception embodies this principle by prohibiting the
government from imposing sanctions on religious
organizations for the hiring and firing of key religious
personnel, including religion teachers.
In the decision below, the Ninth Circuit
misconstrued the ministerial exception in two ways.
First, it misread Hosanna-Tabor as adopting a set of
mechanical requirements that must be satisfied in
every case for the ministerial exception to apply.
Second, it failed to recognize that the core purpose of
protecting religious autonomy requires applying the
exception to all employees who have significant
The Ninth Circuit’s decision not only departs from
this Court’s precedent and the history underpinning
the ministerial exception, but also conflicts with every
other Circuit to address this issue.
Friday, December 6, 2019
For many (Ed.: Many!) years, we at MOJ have highlighted the importance for law and legal theory of attention to philosophical and moral anthropology -- that is, to an understanding of what human persons really are and are for. It's about five years old now, but my friend and colleague Christian Smith's The Sacred Project of American Sociology is a great way to enter the conversation on this crucial subject (especially his appendix on "critical realist personalism").
Meaningful school choice is endorsed clearly in the Church's social teachings. And, it enjoys strong public support, according to a new poll.
Particularly striking is the fact that large numbers of Democratic voters -- indeed, pretty much the same numbers as on the Republican side -- express support for school choice. And yet, it is a near article-of-faith among the Democrats' leadership and activists (in particular, the public-employee-union-members base) that choice-and-opportunity-enhancing measures must be opposed and resisted. A political-market failure, it appears.
Saturday, November 30, 2019
A recent issue of Commonweal includes a short piece by Max Foley-Keene called "Equality Isn't Cheap." Among other things, the author compares the "Nordic Welfare Model" to the "basic-security" model and argues that:
[a] welfare regime based on means-testing and income targeting . . . necessarily divides those who receive benefits from those who don’t. That leads non-recipients to grumble about having to subsidize an underclass of moochers, while recipients are subject to dehumanizing stigma. Such programs tend to be socially divisive and politically unstable. In contrast, universal programs promise to transcend existing economic cleavages and create broad social solidarity, because everyone benefits; this solidarity, in turn, helps protect universal programs from political attack.
He concludes by calling for "a politics that recognizes the satisfaction of social needs as a communal responsibility, that builds broad solidarity around preserving public goods, and that doesn’t fret over spending some cash."
Readers can decide for themselves whether the model Foley-Keene discusses is (in the United States) feasible or morally attractive. I did want to note, though, that from a Catholic perspective -- and notwithstanding the common view that the model or something like it is consistent with, or even supported by, the Church's social teachings -- it cannot be that the state assumes for itself the provision, and "crowd[s] out" non-state providers, the "basic necessity" or "social benefit" of "education." This is because parents have the moral, and in justice the legal, right to direct and control the education of their children and religious communities have the right to operate schools. As is stated in Dignitatis humanae:
Government, in consequence, must acknowledge the right of parents to make a genuinely free choice of schools and of other means of education, and the use of this freedom of choice is not to be made a reason for imposing unjust burdens on parents, whether directly or indirectly. Besides, the right of parents are violated, if their children are forced to attend lessons or instructions which are not in agreement with their religious beliefs, or if a single system of education, from which all religious formation is excluded, is imposed upon all.
Sunday, November 24, 2019
Re-upping this, from 8 years ago:
In my experience, preachers in Catholic parishes don't know quite what to do with the Feast of Christ the King[.] 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" (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."
Wednesday, November 13, 2019
A little while ago, Sen. Marco Rubio gave a speech at the Catholic University of America, which -- among other things -- held up the Social Teaching tradition of the Catholic Church (including Pope Leo XIII's Rerum novarum) as a helpful guide to thinking about economic and social policy in the United States. (Here is a report on the speech, from America magazine.) Because it was a public address by a politician, it had its share of slogans and bumper-sticker lines, and of high-sounding quotations from the quotable. In my view, though, it was welcome and should be charitably engaged by those of us who think that tradition has something to say to the project of ordering our lives together and is not the sole property or platform of either of our two major political parties. There's no need, as I see it, for churlishness or condescension, simply because (a) the Senator is not a trained theologian or (b) he's a Republican who is clearly thinking about a path to higher office. I thought, for example, the (different) reactions of Stephen Schneck and Chad Pecknold were helpful. More like this, please.
UPDATE: And, less like this (more churlish and partisan) one.
Monday, November 11, 2019
From MOJ-friend Prof. Sam Levine (Touro) comes this news:
The winners have been selected for the tenth annual Fred C. Zacharias Memorial Prize for Scholarship in Professional Responsibility. This year's co-winners are Michael Moffitt, Settlement Malpractice, 86 U. Chi. L. Rev. 1825 (2019), and Jessica A. Roth, The "New" District Court Activism in Criminal Justice Reform, 74 N.Y.U. Ann. Surv. Am. L. 277 (2019). The award will be presented at the AALS Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., in January.