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, December 12, 2013

Silecchia’s “Opening Doors to Life”

A colleague here at Catholic University School of Law and MOJ alum, Lucia Silecchia, has written a beautiful piece for the National Review Online. One normally does not use the adjective "beautiful" to describe an op-ed on a legal issue. However, Prof. Silecchia's important reflections on the UN's "International Day of Persons With Disabilities" and its implications for other social issues is an important reminder and well worth the read.

December 12, 2013 in Leary, Mary G. | Permalink

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Nelson Mandela

"Never before in history was one human being so universally acknowledged in his lifetime as the embodiment of magnanimity and reconciliation as Nelson Mandela was."

These are the opening words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu's remembrance of Nelson Mandela published earlier this week in the Washington Post. Notwithstanding all that has been written or said over the past few days about this larger than life figure, we still seem unable to capture in words the significance of this great man. It seems appropriate for a Catholic legal blog to discuss this student of the law and father of a nation. Yet, words fail to do him or his legacy justice. In my view, Archbishop Tutu's reflection comes closest to capturing the personal and public attributes and struggles so many admire. It is worth a read.

December 8, 2013 in Leary, Mary G. | Permalink

Monday, November 11, 2013

Vatican and Human Trafficking

Last week, experts on Human Trafficking from around the world gathered at the Vatican to discuss the growing problem of labor and sex trafficking of human beings. The program was at the direction of Pope Francis who has spoken openly about this problem of modern day slavery. I had waited on blogging about the important conference, which had multi-disciplinary experts from throughout the world, some affiliated with the work of the Church but most independent of it. I waited because I wanted to share with MOJ readers some of the press coverage. Sadly, there was limited coverage of the continued work of the Church in this area (however, it was covered by some Catholic outlets including here and here).

The conference entitled "Trafficking in Human Beings: Modern Slavery" was jointly hosted by Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the World Federation of the Catholic Medical Associations. It featured presentations from 18 experts as diverse as an inspector from Scotland Yard, an Assistant Attorney General from Texas, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Trafficking of Persons, Especially Women and Children, and the European Commission's Anti-Trafficking Coordinator.

As the program noted, The Second Vatican Council observes that "'slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children, and disgraceful working conditions where people are treated as instruments of gain rather than free and responsible persons' are 'infamies' which 'poison human society, debase their perpetrators' and constitute 'a supreme dishonour to the creator'." If the level of speakers in any indication, it does appear that the Holy See is continuing its leadership on this issue and Pope Francis is looking to build on this conference. Although the press coverage was limited, the event did produce a Joint Statement by all participants calling on all relevant actors to take specific measures. It included calling on the Holy See to ratify both the Palermo Protocol as well as the Council of Europe's Convention of Human Trafficking. In addition to calling upon international actors to engage in specific measures, the Statement also listed measures that can be taken by the faithful and individual parishes.

Pope Francis has been outspoken on human trafficking, calling it "despicable" and "a disgrace for our societies which describe themselves as civilized." These are strong words and ones that are being followed up by action. One headline of the coverage read "Pope Wants to Step Up Fight Against Modern Slavery." From the looks of this conference and the actions recommended, this is an accurate description. A major obstacle to fighting human trafficking has been the division between nations and the limited reach of each nation state. Unlike many nation states, the Holy See stands uniquely positioned to mobilize people throughout the globe and this work is a positive step in combatting the deplorable conditions of millions of victims throughout the world.

November 11, 2013 in Leary, Mary G. | Permalink

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Baseball and Catholic Legal Theory

This is a blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory. As Rick noted recently, we are loathe to impose our personal views on issues of the day because this is "not a … 'current events' blog." While at times we have entertained discussion on events which some cynical folks could perhaps argue are not directly on point with Catholic legal theory (see here, here, and here), we have tried to stay the course. I for one, however, have both enjoyed and been challenged by these other entries. I believe they arise from deep passions about the state of being human and answer the Ignatian call of "cura personalis." Indeed, as one of the nation's leading Catholic and Jesuit universities notes, "St. Ignatius believed that God could be discovered in every human endeavor, facet of learning and experience, and field of study. Consequently, he promoted the development of the spiritual, intellectual, artistic, social, and physical aspects of each person."

Therefore, particularly while the Church is in the hands of the Jesuit Pope Francis, I feel authorized…no indeed compelled…to comment upon a major spiritual force in my own life – the Boston Red Sox.

This is, of course, a challenge. While surely I could talk about the team being an example of faith (8 decades of support without a title), redemption (compare last season to this season), or healing (see the tremendous work of the Red Sox Foundation with veterans and the team's support of Boston Strong), that would miss the mark to connect to legal theory. Fortunately, the Bishops have offered me a path.

The Boston Globe recently reported that Cardinal O'Malley of Boston and Archbishop Carlson of St. Louis have a wager between them on the World Series. This is no small amount, but $100, no less. Like Captain Renault, I was at first "shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on here!" As a responsible member of this blog, I set out to discover if this sort of behavior was consistent with Catholic social doctrine. I was relieved to discover that Catechism 2413 addresses this issue, stating that "Games of chance (card games, etc.) or wagers are not in themselves contrary to justice. They become morally unacceptable when they deprive someone of what is necessary to provide for his needs and those of others." Fortunately, neither of these Church officials will be depriving themselves of what is necessary to provide for their needs, because the wager will be paid to the winning Archdiocese's Catholic Charities fund. This is an excellent model of integrating the development of the physical with the social obligation of service to others…much like the Red Sox have done with their aforementioned charity work. It further echoes the Pope's statements this summer about the power of sport and its athletes to build and transform communities. Therefore, this wager appears to be both legal and morally responsible.

Having succeeded in my mission of offering a blog post which touches on the Red Sox and Catholic legal theory, I am now free to say what I really wanted to say: Go Sox.

October 26, 2013 in Leary, Mary G. | Permalink

Friday, September 20, 2013

Lynn Appeal Update

Earlier this week the Pennsylvania Superior Court heard oral argument in Monsignor Lynn's appeal. A summary of the status of the case and the events of oral argument are here and here. The main argument discussed is a technical statutory one regarding the propriety of the statute utilized in the prosecution. As I have blogged earlier, this is a fascinating case on a number of levels including regarding the liability of those who perhaps were not direct abusers but who were aware of accusations. The coverage of the appeal is worth a read to understand the technical arguments.

September 20, 2013 in Leary, Mary G. | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 13, 2013

Collaboration to Protect the Vulnerable

This Monday I was fortunate to be able to participate in a panel discussion on child sex trafficking at Microsoft's Silicon Valley campus. The purpose of the discussion was to allow recipients of Microsoft research grants like me to discuss some of our research regarding the role of technology in child sex trafficking. It was a wonderful example of how research universities and private businesses can partner to address such a critical issue as human trafficking.

Why is this relevant to a blog regarding Catholic legal thought? Well, two reasons come to mind. First, I have had occasion recently to review my university's mission statement. Being able to work on such an important issue regarding the inherent dignity of children is an opportunity not possible on this scale without this funding from Microsoft. This kind of collaboration helps researchers work toward and attain one of our University goals: to "discover and impart the truth through excellence in…research, all in service to … the world."

Secondly, I was pleased to see that within the audience of stakeholders working on the front lines of this issue were people from Catholic organizations. In the audience was the Director of the Office of Social Ministries for the Diocese of San Jose. I learned from her that Bishop McGrath has prioritized the eradication of Human Trafficking. She shared with me the Diocese's mission statement on this issue which beautifully states in part:

"As a Catholic faith community we value the dignity and rights of all persons and we endeavor to educate, influence public policy, and engage our community for the purpose of eradicating human trafficking in all its forms.  We work in collaboration with other faith communities, law enforcement and established organizations addressing the issue."  (emphasis in original)

Also in the audience was a sister from the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. Those of us who have been working in this field know that well before human trafficking reached public consciousness, women religious were working in the trenches providing direct care to victims and calling for social change. The work of organizations as diverse as Microsoft's Digital Crimes Unit and this network of front line workers are strong reminders of the potential social impact we can all have when we collaborate to defeat indignities inflicted on our most vulnerable children.

September 13, 2013 in Leary, Mary G. | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The March and Faith

It was an electric day here in Washington. This 50th anniversary of the March on Washington filled the city with energy as the participants and onlookers both reflected on the past and looked toward the future. So much has been and will be written about the day, that this post is in no way an attempt to capture the entirety of the day. Many will no doubt offer numerous and moving accounts with each having its own insight.

I would like to highlight one aspect of the news coverage of day that struck me as particularly relevant to MOJ and its mission. As a law professor at a religiously affiliated institution, I often encounter (as I am sure many here do) the argument that religion and faith have no place in policy, laws, or debate. Indeed, some have argued persuasively that a bias exists against religion, and indeed faith of any kind, playing any role in policy development. Professor Garnett noted a thread of this just days ago when commenting on some secular forces hijacking such public events.

However, as the country celebrated this March and its significance in a social movement, the prominent role spirituality and faith played in this day flies in the face of the position minimizing the integral role faith and faith based institutions can play. The power of faith goes far beyond the inspiring Dr. King, whose spiritual leadership soared throughout his work and transformed America. But the entire fabric of that day - from the biblical quotations, to the active role of organized churches, to the spiritual hymns that provided the background music – was fused with faith as a conductor of social reform. Even 50 years later the day began with prayer, progressed to a President invoking God as the source of dignity for all people, and continued with bells ringing from churches throughout the world. What is remarkable is not just that faith played such an integral role, but that it explicitly and openly did so in a public and prideful way.

To be sure many forces fuel and influence important social movements. Some of these forces are individual and others collective. Yesterday is a reminder of a portion of those forces. In a world perhaps resistant to any interplay between faith and policy, yesterday underscores that faith and faith institutions can play integral roles in the liberation of the oppressed and protection of the vulnerable. Faith can inspire; faith can fuel; faith can sustain; faith can guide…good stuff to remember for those of us fortunate to teach a generation of future lawyers, activists, and policy makers.

August 29, 2013 in Leary, Mary G. | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Sexual Assault and The Military: The Answer Goes Beyond What the Pentagon or Congress Propose

Recently, the Pentagon announced several measures aimed at preventing and prosecuting sexual assault cases in the military. These changes were apparently supported by many members of Congress, but fall short of what many members continue to demand.

While I am pleased that the military is taking some action to respond to this problem, and pleased that Congress may be pushing the Pentagon to do more, I find much of this discussion about sexual assaults in the military has a certain "Captain Renault – esque" ring to it ("I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!"). One must wonder how these actors can be surprised that staggering numbers of women (and men, but my focus today is women) are being perceived as objects by men to be used regardless of whether the women consent.

Consider the culture the military tacitly endorses. It has long been the case that outside many military bases are thriving sex industries. Not only are these industries problematic for women, in their modern day form they are understood to be staffed largely by trafficked women. Although military regulations have been passed to forbid purchasing women for sex, these trafficking industries continue to prosper and it has been reported the regulations are rarely enforced. While one might seek comfort in the fact that recently, as in just this summer, the Military Exchange stores stopped selling "adult" magazines, do not be too impressed. The reason for the change according to the Army spokesman was not enlightenment:

"Along with other magazine sales, sales of adult sophisticated titles at [Army and Air Force Exchange Service] stores have declined 86 percent since 1998," said an Army spokesman, Lt. Col. Antwan C. Williams. "Like their civilian counterparts, exchange shoppers' increased reliance on digital devices to access content virtually has resulted in a sustained decrease in demand for printed magazines."

To appreciate my point I encourage you to go to this link to this news story and see the juxtaposition of an official army spokesman calling these publications "adult sophisticated titles" and the picture of the cover pages of these "titles" which includes "headlines" such as: "Fatal Attraction: 9 Deadly Fetishes." I am sorry, I thought "adult sophisticated titles" were Jane Austen novels.

Is it any wonder, therefore, the result? The military has created a climate in which it tacitly endorses "industries" whose very function is to objectify women as sexual objects for men's use. It has a climate in which its official spokesman refers to violent "deadly fetish" images that objectify women as "sophisticated adult titles." It is a climate with regulations but then fails to investigate hundreds of Department of Defense employees who violate the regulations. Is it any wonder that the people within this climate receiving these messages actually start acting consistently with the messages? Is it any wonder that they actually start to believe that women exist to be their objects to be used regardless of consent? I think not. The only shocking thing here is that the military is surprised.

While it is a positive step that the military and Congress actually have noticed this plight, nothing will change until they acknowledge the elephant in the room. That elephant is the climate they have allowed to thrive on and off base which sends a repeated message about the objectification of women- about denying the inherent dignity of women. Until that is included in the discussion on how to move forward, the climate endorsing this perception of women as objects will continue…and so will the assaults.

August 18, 2013 in Leary, Mary G. | Permalink | Comments (3)

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Reflections on a Challenging Time

Helen Alvaré from George Mason has an insightful piece over on Public Discourse discussing many of the major legal actions of the Supreme Court, Department of Health and Human Services, and Texas State Legislature during the past month. Placing them in a larger context, her reflections are well worth the read.

July 13, 2013 in Leary, Mary G. | Permalink | Comments (5)

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Morality of a World Without Privacy

Thanks to Greg for this post asking whether we should be concerned about the "surveillance state." His piece raises important questions about privacy and its importance in our civic lives. I would like to add to his list of concerns. I have written here and elsewhere that the threat to privacy is not only limited to the government. I would suggest that private companies' constant tracking of our data, and our compliance with it, is a potentially greater threat to our privacy than the government.

While privacy itself is surely not a uniquely Catholic issue, this dialog underscores a moral dimension to our societal decisions about the privacy regime we are creating. Thus far, it seems we have allowed our privacy to take a back seat to commercial forces, as we have accepted trading our privacy for convenience. Concomitant with this, we have a generation of children "living their lives online," according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project's report on Teens and Social Networking. These children share their names, schools, places they live, and interests in a very unregulated space and with limited guidance (either in public policy or model behavior from adults). While they are concerned about privacy in some contexts, they are relatively unconcerned with third party access to their data. The implications of this for their adult lives, the future ability of the state to monitor its citizens, and the ability of commercial entities to control their choices have yet to be realized.

While this may not seem to have moral implications, I offer an analogy. In the context of environmental concerns, many, including the Holy See, have reframed environmental questions as moral questions concerning the kind of planet we are leaving future generations by failing to consider the costs of our actions. Similarly, in the fiscal context many have questioned the morality of saddling our children with significant debt (whether personal or public). I would suggest that we should also begin asking: what kind of "digital climate" we are leaving our children. If it is a climate in which our children have no place free from institutional monitoring (governmental or commercial), that has implications for their freedom (including freedom of religion), personal and spiritual development, and personal growth which should be considered before the damage is irreversible.

June 17, 2013 in Leary, Mary G. | Permalink | Comments (3)