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.

Monday, August 9, 2021

Catholic University Law School is hiring

I am pleased to share that The Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law, is seeking to hire at least four faculty members. 

We are seeking two tenure track and one tenure eligible faculty member  for positions to begin in Spring 2022 or Fall 2022. These positions are for candidates interested in participating in the school’s new Project on Constitutional Originalism and the Catholic Intellectual Tradition, more fully described at https://communications.catholic.edu/news/2021/04/law-originalism-gift.html.

We are also seeking an entry-level candidate to serve as a member of the law school’s faculty while also contributing to the University’s Institute for Latin American and Iberian Studies (the “Institute”), described at https://ilais.catholic.edu/en/ilais-mission.

We seek candidates who can teach, in addition to the natural areas of fit with the Project (such as Constitutional and Administrative Law) or the Institute, the following subjects:  Property, Family Law, and Trusts and Estates; Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, and Evidence; Corporate and Securities Law; and Contracts and Commercial Law.

Candidates must be committed to teaching, producing outstanding scholarship, engaging as active members of the Law School and University communities, and making a significant contribution to the mission of the University and Catholic Law.  Candidates must possess a J.D. or equivalent, superior academic credentials, and relevant professional experience, such as teaching, legal practice, or judicial clerkships. 

 For details on how to apply, please review the full opportunity descriptions at https://provost.catholic.edu/_media/faculty-position-ads/law-tt-pco-and-cit,-2021,-rev.pdf;  at https://provost.catholic.edu/_media/faculty-position-ads/law-tenured-2021,rev.pdf; and  at https://provost.catholic.edu/_media/faculty-position-ads/law-tt-ilias-2021,-rev.pdf

As a Catholic institution, our mission commits us to respecting the dignity of each human person, and to welcoming scholars who will bring a diversity of “backgrounds, religious affiliations, viewpoints, and contributions” to the law school’s vibrant intellectual community. We recognize the importance of diversity in our faculty and encourage applications from those with diverse backgrounds.

August 9, 2021 in Leary, Mary G. | Permalink

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Hypocrites at times? Yes!

These were the words of Sister Veronica Openibo, the leader of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus who spoke on February 23 at the Vatican summit on sexual abuse of minors.  After reading about her profound speech I had simply planned to post a link to it without any commentary, as by all accounts her blunt speech captured so much of the Church crisis.  Unfortunately, her speech has not yet been posted by the Holy See but should appear here when available.   The video is available here.

Sr. Openibo, a Nigerian sister, earned her graduate degree from Boston College and is the first African sister to be elected leader of her order, which was originally founded in England.  She was one of three women to speak at the meeting.  For those without time to watch the video, here are some of what the media has reported she shared with the overwhelmingly male audience:

CNN covered her speech noting:

“In clear, direct and unsparing language, Openibo challenged the church's culture of silence on sexual issues and said priests are too often put on pedestals. Openibo also criticized the practice of letting elderly clergy who had abused children retire quietly with their pension and good names in place.

‘Let us not hide such events anymore because of the fear of making mistakes,’ Openibo said after reading a searing summary of abuse cases she has heard about during her work on sexual education in Nigeria.

‘Too often we want to keep silent until the storm has passed! This storm will not pass by. Our credibility is at stake.’"

She specifically rejected the claims by some bishops that this is not a problem in Africa and Asia by referring to the many cases she has worked on first hand. 

Crux included the following from her speech:

“’We must acknowledge that our mediocrity, hypocrisy and complacency have brought us to this disgraceful and scandalous place we find ourselves as a Church,’ she said.

She urged a strong “zero tolerance” policy: ‘By taking the necessary steps and maintaining zero tolerance with regard to sexual abuse we will release the oppressed.…’”

Notably, Crux also reported that she praised the Pope for his apparent change of heart on the abuse crisis.

“’I read with great interest many articles about the pope’s reactions in the case of the Chilean bishops - from a denial of accusations, to anger because of deception and cover-up, to the acceptance of resignations of bishops,’ she said.

‘I admire you, Brother Francis, for taking time as a true Jesuit, to discern and be humble enough to change your mind, to apologize and take action. This is an example for all of us….’”

As we wait for the sharing of the full text of her and other presentations, Crux has written an analysis of the outsized impact of  the three women who spoke at the meeting.  While in some way they all were part of the inner workings of the Church, they also seem to have made the most of this rare opportunity and provided an essential voice in the discussion of the crisis.

This impact mirrors the words of Pope Francis who closed the meeting with a mass in which he is reported to have stated “Indeed, in people’s justified anger, the Church sees the reflection of the wrath of God, betrayed and insulted by these deceitful consecrated persons….It is our duty to pay close heed to this silent, choked cry.”

While the summit was filled with at times frank and blistering acknowledgement of failings, some continue to criticize the meeting as lacking concrete steps.  However, healthy skepticism remains with many faithful that these words will result in action – the kind of action that will bring justice and transparency. 

The next weeks and months are the critical time.  They will demonstrate whether this summit was a success and the only measurement will be concrete measures to effectuate responsibility, accountability, and transparency.

As the meeting comes to a close, I think of the words of the well respected survivor of abuse, Marie Collins, who served on the Pope’s 2013 commission on child sexual abuse that was supposed to address this issue. Ms. Collins faithfully tried to serve on this commission, but ultimately resigned after a number of years due to the failure of the curia to execute the recommendation of the commission.  When asked what she would have told the Pope about her resignation she stated that “she would have asked him for three things: that the commission be given the power to implement their recommendations; that it be given more funds to do its work; and to lift the ban on recruiting professional staff from outside the church to work on the issue.”

The hierarchy would be wise to heed that advice now and actually execute a zero tolerance policy with independent outside lay experts leading the effort, and the institutional support to execute the vision of accountability, justice, and transparency in a real way. 


February 24, 2019 in Leary, Mary G. | Permalink

Friday, February 22, 2019

Summit on Clerical Sexual Abuse - Day I

February 21st marked the first day of The Protection of Minors in the Church Meeting at the Vatican.  There is an extensive website with the text of many of the presentations here.  Furthermore, Crux has coverage here.  

There were some positive signs and other rather disturbing ones.  On the positive side, Pope Francis opened the meeting noting, “The Holy People of God are watching us and wait for more than simple condemnations, they expect concrete and effective measures.”  Now is not the time for vague spiritual statements.  Now is the time for specific actions.  The structure of the meeting seems to suggest an understanding of that with each day having a theme.  The first was Responsibility, Friday is Accountability, and next will be Transparency.  These themes certainly reflect pillars necessary for the hierarchy to move forward. 

Also positive was the opening of the meeting with video testimonials from survivors of clerical abuse.  They were candid and searing (one woman describing repeated rapes by a priest, forced abortions, and severe beatings), but if the text released by the Vatican is any indication – relatively brief.  Voices of survivors are essential to this process.  One of the causes of this crisis is a fundamental failure of the Church hierarchy to understand the realities of child sexual abuse – its violence, its destruction, its pain, the lifelong scars inflicted not only on the victims, but their present and future families.  As one victim described it in the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report, it is “murder of the soul.”  These video statements, although brief, appear to begin with answering the question “what hurt you most?”  This is an important question – the answers to which must be heard by these clerics.

While the voices of some survivors were indeed present, the theme of responsibility to provide justice to survivors was aptly captured by this survivor’s op ed which all should read.  It captures some of the lifelong pain endured by survivors and the bishops could benefit from reading it. 

That being said, one must ask how one can become a bishop in the Church hierarchy and still need to be educated on the realities of sexual abuse.  Some bishops were quoted as saying the problem in their diocese was very minimal, or still resisting bishops’ accountability for a failure to act.  Yet, as The Atlantic reported recently, major news organizations began covering stories of abuse by the early nineties.  But it extends much further than that.  The reality is that this has been an issue in our world and in the Church hierarchy for over 100 years.  In 1870 a bishop wrongly excommunicated Mother Mary MacKillop for her disclosing a priest’s sexual abuse of a child (the bishop rescinded this action on his deathbed).  The fact of the matter is that one should not need to be educated on a problem – both the abuse and the efforts to create a climate of silence – that has been well documented, for over a century.  Understanding of this issue should be a prerequisite for any person serving the faithful, but certainly to becoming a leader in the hierarchy.  If child sexual abuse were understood – truly understood in all its horror - the resistance to reform and accountability of bishops, would likely disappear.

Similarly, some survivor groups are disappointed with the Pope’s “21 points of reflection” which appear to be intended as a framework for conversation.  Prior to the meeting survivors and advocacy groups demanded that this meeting “deliver clear outcomes if it is to begin to restore the church’s damaged credibility on the issue and avoid being seen as a talking shop.”  While these points call for some specific action, in the eyes of many survivors they fall short of the “concrete” zero tolerance policy so often promised, but not achieved.

This is a meeting of leaders.  Leadership requires knowledge and courage.  Hopefully the bishops are receiving some of that knowledge over these days – knowledge they should already have possessed.  But the challenge in the past has been to both listening and then to execution.  Whether they have the courage to act on this overdue knowledge correctly will be determined in the coming days. 

February 22, 2019 in Leary, Mary G. | Permalink

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Looking Back at MOJ and Looking to the Future for the Church

I have delayed and delayed a post on MOJ’s anniversary…so much so it is past the anniversary week.  My delay has not been due to lacking the right words to capture the importance of this blog.  It is axiomatic that this blog brings to the legal dialog deep reflection on Catholic legal thought.  This is a necessary component of legal education and contemporrary legal thinking.

Rather, this delay has been due to the near despair I have for our Church and its future.  The wave of revelations regarding child sexual abuse, sexual assault and human trafficking of nuns, and sexual abuse of adults that have emerged in the last 6 months have been devastating to the faithful.  The pain that these actions inflicted on the victims and survivors is immeasurable and matched possibly only by the institutional cover up by church leaders.  These innocents, these children or other people, faithfully turned to the Church for help or to devote their lives, only to be met with victimization of sexual assaults. they then were victimized again by the very institution to which they turned when it engaged in a massive cover up.  It is difficult to have hope when in 2002 the Church hierarchy apologized and asked for the trust of the faithful to address this horrible sin, only to learn that not only did they not seriously address it, but engaged in an even further cover up

Early on in my blogging with MOJ I reported on the trial of Msgr. William Lynn in Philadelphia.  At that time, it was extremely unusual for MOJ to write about this muddy water of such a sensational trial.  Regardless of how one felt about the merits of the prosecution, two themes emerged from those posts.  First, the allegations of cover up and indifference were shocking and almost unbelievable.  Second, I predicted it would be a watershed event that a clergy member could be held responsible not for abusing children but for playing a role in the reassignment of abusive priests.  I thought at that time that it would be the rare occurrence that my criminal law research agenda would overlap with the subject matter of MOJ. 

Now we know all of that was incorrect.  As revealed by the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report; 60 minutes, or admissions from the Holy See itself, the active cover up exceeds our worst imaginings.  The cover up is not a thing of the past, but as demonstrated most recently here in Washington, it continues.  By that I refer to Archbishop Wuerl’s 2018 statements that he knew nothing about his predecessor defrocked Theodore McCarrick’s sexual abuse.  As was revealed in January, in fact he had reported McCarrick’s action in 2004.  So even after the grand jury report and a new round of claims of transparency, the faithful received less than truthful information, incomplete lists of offending priests, and a website to defend the Cardinal.  Fifteen years ago, we could not have imagined the abuse committed by the clergy and the lengths they have gone to circle wagons around the hierarchy rather than a circle of love around victims and survivors. 

With the Protection of Minors in the Church meeting scheduled to begin tomorrow, the question remains, how does the institutional church arise from this crisis?  Many have offered solutions.  I myself have called for path with the minimal five  hallmarks of independent review, accountability, transparency, survivor input, and execution of proposals.  This includes a top to bottom outside analysis of causes, climates, and solution by an independent inspector general, followed by execution of solutions without delay.  This necessarily requires a change in leadership and review of leadership on the diocesan level which may involve the reinstatement of some leaders, but not others.  It also requires transparency and a transformative role of the laity, survivors, and those outside Church hierarchy to lay out the path forward.  Others have called for many other proposals, addressing difficult topics such as the role of women, celibacy, and lay people.    

During this pain, the Church hierarchy is at crossroads.  Will it finally take the right actions, or will it fail as it did in Baltimore, Dallas, or previous attempts to address the issue ending in failure due to a lack of commitment?  As is so often the case, there is a path forward.  I would love to claim I created it, but I found it one weekday mass in the sermon of a new Jesuit priest.  It was the day after the revelation that Archbishop Wuerl seemed to be less than candid about his knowledge of McCarrick – a revelation that again shook the Washington faithful.  It also was a few days after the Epiphany.  Here, in this small daily mass with about 20 parishioners, this parish priest offered the way forward.

“As I prayed this morning, the scripture that came to me…was where Jesus says: “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” The truth. And if I am afraid of the truth – if we are afraid of the truth – then we are afraid of the One we have come to meet at this table.”

The path forward is as simple as that.  The truth. I think MOJ has brought some of that to the Catholic legal dialog over the years.  And I hope the Cardinals and the hierarchy listen to this simple guidance from a young priest: show the world the absolute truth.  It is the way.

February 21, 2019 in Leary, Mary G. | Permalink

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Dean Announcement at The Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law

This year CUA's Law School Dean, Dan Attridge, announced he would be stepping down.  After this very successful Deanship, the University has begun its national search.  Below is the announcement as well as contact information.  Of course, MOJ'ers can also feel free to contact me directly with any questions as well as a more lengthy description of the position.


As the national university of the Catholic Church in the United States, the Catholic University of America is committed to being a comprehensive Catholic and American institution of higher learning, faithful to the teachings of Jesus Christ as handed on by the Church. Dedicated to advancing the dialogue between faith and reason, the Catholic University of America seeks to discover and impart the truth through excellence in teaching and research, all in service to the Church, the nation, and the world.

Established in 1897, the Columbus School of Law is a national leader in preparing students of all faiths for the practice of law. The Law School has outstanding programs, institutes, externships, study-abroad opportunities, and nationally recognized clinics. Located in the nation’s capital, the Law School is housed in a beautiful modern building specifically designed for contemporary legal education, with state-of-the-art technology throughout its classrooms and library. The Law School offers three degrees: the Juris Doctor (J.D.), including a full-time day program and a part-time evening program; the Master of Laws (LL.M.); and the Master of Legal Studies (M.L.S.)

The School’s approach to legal education can be summarized with three words: practical, focused, and connected, also referred to as the CUA Law Advantage. The School shines as a gem within legal education in Washington, comprising collegial and compassionate students, a supportive and academically distinguished faculty, and an accomplished and well-connected alumni base that is actively involved in assisting current students to reach their goals.

The Law School seeks a distinguished legal scholar or member of the legal profession to serve as its next Dean. Reporting to the Provost, the Dean is the School of Law’s chief academic, advancement, financial, and administrative officer, with overall responsibility for its academic programs, operating budget, personnel management, strategic planning, public relations, and fundraising. The Dean is also the Law School’s primary representative to the University, alumni, and legal communities.

The next Dean will be presented with the opportunity not only to propel CUA Law to higher levels of prominence and distinction, but also to serve among the senior leaders of an international, Catholic research university.

CUA seeks a Dean who will make a significant contribution to advancing the University’s mission and goals, continue to advance the national academic and professional standing of the Law School, and provide strategic vision at an important time in its history. Candidates should have demonstrated leadership, administrative, and fundraising abilities and offer a long-term vision for the continued growth of CUA Law. Because the Law School seeks a vibrant intellectual leader, all candidates are expected to meet the qualifications for appointment at the rank of full professor with continuous tenure by their scholarly publications and/or distinguished contributions to the profession.

Nominations, inquires, and applications should be sent in confidence to: [email protected]

The Catholic University of America is an Affirmative Action, Equal Opportunity Employer.


September 13, 2018 in Leary, Mary G. | Permalink

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Call for Papers: Law and Development Conference - The Catholic University of America and Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland

Cua-logo.gif   Jagellonian logo

The American Law Program at the Catholic University of America School of Law and the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland are hosting a fabulous conference next year which will be of interest to all MOJ readers and contributors.  They have issued a call for papers and I encourage all to consider a submission.  Here is a summary of the purpose of the conference which will be held in Krakow - a beautiful city if you have not had the pleasure of teaching there.  I have highlighted the specific aspects that may be of interest.

"Academic purpose: The research project’s aim is to look at the concept of ‘development’ from alternative perspectives and analyze how different approaches thereto influence law. ‘Sustainable development’ is about balancing economic progress, environmental protection, individual rights, and collective interests. It requires a holistic approach to human beings in their individual and social dimensions, which can be seen as a reference to ‘integral human development’ – a concept present in Catholic social teaching.

‘Development’ may be seen as a value or a goal. But it also has a normative dimension influencing lawmaking and legal application. It is a rule of interpretation, which harmonizes the application of conflicting norms, and which is often based on the ethical and anthropological assumptions of the decision maker.

This research project is also about how different approaches to ‘development’ and their impact on law may coexist in pluralistic and multicultural societies and how to evaluate their legitimacy. The problem may be analyzed from the overarching theoretical perspective as well as based on case studies stemming out from different legal branches."

The details regarding submission and the opportunity for publication are as follows:

Dates: March 16, 2018

Arrangements: 300-word paper proposals should be submitted by October 10, 2017 at [email protected] Successful applicants will be notified by October 20, 2017. Accommodation for selected speakers at the university’s hotel will be provided by Jagiellonian University (two nights for speakers from Europe, 3 nights for speakers from outside Europe). Travel costs must be provided by participants.

Publication: The best conference papers will be published with Catholic University Law Review. Final draft will be due by late January 2018 for those who would like to be considered for publication. 

 Should you have any questions, please reach out to my colleagues: Prof. Leah Wortham ([email protected]) and Prof. Megan Labelle ([email protected])

September 20, 2017 in Leary, Mary G. | Permalink

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Reflections on Freedom in Contemporary Society

Like our colleague, Rob, this Fourth of July caused me to reflect on what it means to celebrate our nation. While we can all say we treasure freedom, I often feel as though that word is an abstract term for many of us. Indeed, most Americans are fortunate to have been born into a state of freedom - in the sense that we are not actual slaves.  Therefore,  when we say we are "thankful for our freedom," do we really have any sense of what it is like to not be free?  I am not sure that someone from my generation who is not in the military can really can imagine a true threat to our free lives in the same way an American who survived Pearl Harbor or the Cuban missile crisis can.  When we see those bumper stickers that say "freedom is not free," do we really understand laying down our lives in order to live outside of a totalitarian regime, end enslavement, or allow others to escape oppression?  I suspect, again with the exception of our veterans of the longest war, not.  I think most of us would be perplexed in identifying what role we play in creating the freedom that we enjoy.

But the truth is we play a significant role in achieving or denying freedom.  If we define freedom more broadly to include more than freedom from totalitarian government or the institutution of slavery, but consistent with the TVPA's definition of modern slavery- we see we have a role to play in ending it as significant as the minutmemen of 18th century New England.  

This point was brought home earlier this week by Pope Francis who reminded us that so much hunger and poverty is cause by the "indifference of many and the selfishness of the few."   While we think of actively supporting an unjust government or the institution of state sanctioned slavery as the only ways in which we remove freedom from others, we are wrong. Our indifference can have the same effect. In a world with an estimated 21 million people working in conditions of forced labor, we must recognize that more people are enslaved today than at any other time in history - including at the height of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. We also know through research that poverty and hunger are major causes of modern day slavery - operating as factors that push people into conditions of forced labor or sex trafficking. 

Therefore, every time we ignore or are indifferent to the hunger and poverty of others, we are encouraging modern day slavery. On this  Fourth of July, the Holy Father's words implore is to do more than eat hot dogs and apple pie and appreciate our freedom. Rather, they call us to appreciate our role as consumers or bystanders who, through our indifference, contribute to slavery of others. In the words of Pope Francis, "All of us realize that the intention to provide everyone with his or her daily bread is not enough. Rather, there is a need to recognize that all have a right to it...." Therefore, perhaps we can celebrate this freedom by - as consumers and bystanders - working to eliminate the enslavement of others and truly appreciate freedom in a new way. 

July 4, 2017 in Leary, Mary G. | Permalink

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Dignity: A Journal on Sexual Exploitation and Violence

The concept of human dignity is one that has been central to Catholic thinking for centuries.  This social teaching remains relevant today in our increasingly complex world.   In the context of crime and exploitation,  the American Catholic Bishops wrote the following  in A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Social Justice (2000):

The fundamental starting point for all of Catholic social teaching is the defense of human life and dignity: every human person is created in the image and likeness of God and has an inviolable dignity, value, and worth, regardless of race, gender, class, or other human characteristics.

Indeed, just last month Rick reminded us of a conference at Notre Dame examining the intellectual appeal of human dignity as a concept.

A new online journal exploring these issues as they relate to exploitation and violence has just been founded  by Donna Hughes at The University of Rhode Island, one of the leading world experts in the study of human trafficking . (Full disclosure, I am on the editorial board).  The journal, entitled  Dignity: A Journal on Sexual Exploitation and Violence,  will focus on not only various forms of exploitation and violence, but also how they “harm the dignity and health of individuals, the integrity and security of communities, and the strength and character of nations.”

Here is an excerpt of the full description:

Dignity: A Journal on Sexual Exploitation and Violence is an open access, peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary journal dedicated to publishing original scholarly articles on topics related to sexual exploitation, violence, and slavery. . . . The journal encourages investigations and discussion of challenges to dignity and justice such as corruption, lack of rule of law, harmful cultural practices, and laws and policies that justify and institutionalize inequality, violence and exploitation. The journal is a forum to examine how individuals, civil societies and states have responded to improve human and civil rights. Dignity aims to contribute to evidence-based knowledge and theoretical development of these topics to give people the tools to end sexual exploitation, violence, and slavery.

This journal has the potential to make a very positive contribution to scholarship, crossing not only disciplines, but also other social divisions to focus on the fundamental harm to human dignity so many forms of exploitation cause.  At a time of extreme division on social issues, perhaps this can be a forum for finding common ground and ultimately contributing to a more robust protection of vulnerable people. 

To that end the first call for papers has been issued.

May 18, 2016 in Leary, Mary G. | Permalink

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

A Step Closer to Justice for Murdered Jesuit Priests

Some important new stories have been lost in the midst of the media frenzy of the Presidential primary. One of interest to MOJ readers involves an important step toward justice regarding the 1989 massacre of 6 Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her daughter

It has been over 25 years since Salvadoran soldiers brutally murdered Ignacio Ellacuría, S.J., Ignacio Martín-Baró, S.J., Segundo Montes, S.J., Juan Ramón Moreno, S.J., Joaquín López y López, S.J., Amando López, S.J., Elba Ramos and her 16 year old daughter, Celina Ramos. In the intervening years, we have seen cover ups, trials, amnesties, complaints, arrests, extraditions, and numerous other events. To this day, however, complete justice for these victims has never been achieved.

However, as the National Catholic Reporter states, "[t]he impunity enjoyed for 25 years by the killers of six Jesuit priests in El Salvador began splintering Feb. 5 after a U.S. judge ordered one of the suspects who'd fled to the United States to be extradited to Spain to stand trial for one of the most notorious crimes of the country's civil war."

The main recent litigation in this case has been occurring in Spain through a criminal complaint filed by the Center for Justice and Accountability against former Salvadoran President Alfredo Cristiani Burkard and several former military members (five of the victims were Spanish citizens). This legal proceeding has resulted in indictments for 20 individuals and triggered many legal disputes. (A complete summary of the case may be found here). But on February 5, 2016 U.S. Magistrate Judge Kimberly Swank issued what has been called a historic ruling when she ordered United States Marshals to take custody of Col. Inocente Orlando Montano for extradition to Spain.

This is remarkable for many reasons, but two important aspects of this immediately emerge. First, she issued a lengthy 23 page ruling in which she made detailed factual findings regarding Montano's role and the events surrounding November 16, 1989. Secondly, this seemingly minor procedural event in the magistrate court of the Eastern District of North Carolina seems to have triggered further arrests of suspects in El Salvador. Hours later, Salvadoran authorities arrested four former members of the military and the President called for the others to turn themselves into authorities.

Again, in the words of the National Catholic Reporter,

Sources familiar with the case said that the historic ruling by U.S. Magistrate Kimberly Swank in the Montano case likely provided Salvadoran authorities the cover they needed to begin arresting former high-ranking officers in a country where the military still holds enormous power.

Montano is the highest-ranking official in recent history to be ordered extradited from the United States for human rights violations. At the time of the massacre, Montano served as the Vice Minister of Defense for Public Safety, in command of the National Police, the Treasury Police, and the National Guard.

While there are no doubt many more legal battles to be fought, accountability is essential in this case and all cases. This is indeed a step forward by a magistrate judge which has implications throughout the world.

February 9, 2016 in Leary, Mary G. | Permalink

Monday, February 1, 2016

Human Trafficking Awareness

As National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month comes to an end, it seems apt to comment here at MOJ on this growing form of human degradation and the role we play in its existence. But what does this pressing social and moral issue have to do with Catholic Legal Thought? The relevance is more than the obvious fact that that it "strips victims of their freedom and violates the dignity of the human person created in the image of God." Given the intersection this form of exploitation has with criminal law, international law, labor law, government corruption, and other legal institutions; modern day slavery implicates the obligations of the Church and legal community to respond in a unique way. Failure to do so destines both the American Church and society to repeat a complicated and at times troubling history regarding slavery.

Today, things seem to be progressing at a different pace than the past. Just a few days ago, in an address to the Italian Committee on Bioethics, Pope Francis reminded us that "the ecclesial community and civil society meet and are called to cooperate, in accordance to their distinct skills." As I have written elsewhere, the Church has a unique role to play in combatting human trafficking. This crime knows no geographical boundaries. Therefore, where some governmental organizations are limited by geo-political realities, the Church has the ability to transcend these borders. Moreover, the Church is so often found working with the most marginalized people throughout the world. It is here that human trafficking flourishes. Consequently, the Church and its many affiliated organizations can be essential in both learning information about the manifestations of this most adaptable form of human exploitation, as well as responding to its victims most authentically. This work is exponentially more effective when done in partnership with other aspects of civil and government society.

    It is no wonder, then, that the Church and others working in this area have recently highlighted a particular aspect of human trafficking. In a year in which there has been much discussion of refugees and conflict, the Church and other authorities have independently verified the human trafficking that is flourishing in areas of conflict. In November 2015, the Network of Christian Organizations Against Trafficking in Human Beings (COATNET) met in Paris to discuss the fight against human trafficking. Relying on research from Secours Catholic Caritas France, COATNET members recognized the many manifestations of human trafficking that arise out of conflict. As Caritas noted,

[w]hile some of the forms of exploitation…are specific to countries involved in direct conflict – child soldiering and organ trafficking to treat wounded fighters – the remaining types of trafficking in human beings have many points in common in conflict and post conflict periods."

Among the forms of exploitation beyond child soldiering, Caritas' research discussed collateral instances of trafficking. These include early and forced marriages for the purpose of sexual slavery – sometimes facilitated by kidnapping, but other times by families incorrectly believing that a child marriage may be a way for the child to escape exploitation of conflict. Caritas also shared in this research the reality of economic exploitation in a grey labor market by refugees fleeing conflict but unable to secure positions in the legal labor market. Not only do these regional Catholic organizations observe these phenomena throughout the world and inform our understanding of the forms of exploitation occurring on the ground, but they also confirm what they have labelled a "protection gap." That is to say, they note that identification and protection of victims is not considered and implemented during an emergency response to a conflict or refugee crisis.

    This research was echoed by the State Department's recent release of its fact sheet entitled "Modern Slavery as a Tactic in Armed Conflict." Here, the State Department focuses on armed groups in Syria and Iraq utilizing modern slavery not as a consequence of conflict but, rather, as an actual tactic. Interestingly, each report analyzes how human trafficking in areas of conflict exceeds child soldiering. Both the State Department and Caritas discuss that the slavery of women and children as a particularly devastating technique to effectuate domination of vulnerable civilians.


Women and children in armed conflicts are particularly vulnerable to multiple abuses, including those involving human trafficking and sexual and gender-based violence.

The use of modern slavery as a tactic in the armed conflicts in Iraq and Syria is particularly alarming. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), as well as other armed groups and militias, continue to intimidate populations and devastate communities through unconscionable violence, fear, and oppression. ISIL has made the targeting of women and children, particularly from Yezidi and other minority groups, a hallmark of its campaign of atrocities. In the past year, ISIL has abducted, systematically raped, and abused thousands of women and children, some as young as 8 years of age. Many of the horrific human rights abuses that ISIL has engaged in also amount to human trafficking. Women and children are sold and enslaved, distributed to ISIL fighters as spoils of war, forced into marriage and domestic servitude, or subjected to horrific physical and sexual abuse. ISIL has established "markets" where women and children are sold with price tags attached and has published a list of rules on how to treat female slaves once captured.

The observations of the State Department are in sync with and informed by those religious organizations working with these populations throughout the world. Much like in the 19th Century, the faithful are called upon to respond to modern slavery. The battles against this injustice and indignity are challenging ones. However, opposition is one made all the stronger when religious institutions and actors embrace their opportunity to combat it and work with civil society to eradicate it.

February 1, 2016 in Leary, Mary G. | Permalink