Wednesday, November 27, 2019
I know that some people believe that "honest journalist" is a contradiction in terms, but I personally know lots of honest journalists. They tell the truth. When they quote people, they do it accurately and provide the context of the quoted words so that no false impression of what was said will be created. When they quote someone quoting someone else, they make that clear, too. When someone is responding to something someone else is saying, they also make that clear.
I point these things out in order to invite readers to look at this column by veteran New York Times writer Thomas Edsall. It is mainly an attack on Attorney General William Barr for the controversial speech he recently gave at the University of Notre Dame. But he also takes shots at two other conservative Catholic writers, Mary Eberstadt and me. Here's what he says in reference to me:
"Not to be outdone, Robert George, a professor of jurisprudence and the director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton, declared in a speech at the Catholic Information Center’s annual dinner on Oct. 23 that the sexual revolution has produced a paganism reminiscent of pre-Christian Rome: “The neo-pagans are in no mood to be accommodating,” George said: "Christians and others who dissent from progressive orthodoxy can expect 'the hard line approach'. We are to be treated like the defeated Germans and Japanese after World War II."
Well, yes, I did say that "we are to be treated like the defeated Germans and Japanese after World War II." But I was expressly quoting a respected and influential mainstream left-wing scholar at Harvard Law School: Mark Tushnet. And it was Tushnet who explicitly called for treating social and religious conservatives with a "hard line" like the defeated Germans and Japanese were treated by the victorious allies after the Second World War.
Here are Tushnet's words (which I quoted--expressly noting that I was quoting them--in the speech to which Edsall refers):
"The culture wars are over; they lost, we won. … For liberals, the question now is how to deal with the losers in the culture wars. That’s mostly a question of tactics. My own judgment is that taking a hard line (“You lost, live with it”) is better than trying to accommodate the losers, who – remember – defended, and are defending, positions that liberals regard as having no normative pull at all. Trying to be nice to the losers didn’t work well after the Civil War … (And taking a hard line seemed to work reasonably well in Germany and Japan after 1945.) I should note that LGBT activists in particular seem to have settled on the hard-line approach, while some liberal academics defend more accommodating approaches. When specific battles in the culture wars were being fought, it might have made sense to try to be accommodating after a local victory, because other related fights were going on, and a hard line might have stiffened the opposition in those fights. But the war’s over, and we won." (Mark Tushnet, blog post, "Abandoning Defensive Crouch Liberal Constitutionalism, May 6, 2016)
Edsall's omitting the fact that I was quoting Tushnet (and taking him at his word) was deeply dishonest. It's the kind of conduct that gives journalists and journalism a bad name, and gives conservatives good reason to doubt the honesty of outfits like the New York Times.
Here's Edsall's column:
Nothing would please me more that for readers to read the column, my speech, and Tushnet's blog post and judge for yourselves.
November 27, 2019 | Permalink
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."
Thursday, November 21, 2019
During my semester of serving as a certified legal intern for the public defender's office in juvenile court, representing children who have been accused of committing acts that would be crimes if committed by an adult, I have experienced and learned a lot. And as a product of seemingly unrelated reading, including Catholic bioethics and American Constitutional law, I would like to discuss the issue of "fathers," starting with this question:
Can a "morally neutral" culture create anything good?
Sure, but only by chance, or consensus, or when seasonal conditions allow since there is, by design, no authoritative agreement on what's good and what's not. Failures in fatherhood are a social problem in our culture, truly a moral problem and enigma; a problem that is bigger than anything I could hope to solve, or even understand, as a law-student intern working with kids who need adequate care in addition to some moral correction. The problem is this: in the lives of juveniles who are judged by the state to be "delinquent," what is the role of "a father" and who can make a man into a good father?
Wednesday, November 13, 2019
The president of the major association of of evangelical Protestant higher-education institutions, the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU), has issued a statement in conjunction with the Supreme Court arguments on the DACA-recission case. The CCCU has supported protection for "Dreamers" for a long time, and in the current case it joined an amicus brief supporting DACA's legality. I blog this not for the purpose of discussing the legal issues in the case or endorsing the challenge to the recission.
I only want to call attention to the participation of "Dreamers" in CCCU institutions as one of the countless instances in which faith-based institutions with "traditional" views are contributing to the common good--and in particular, are living and working with, and helping to empower, communities that are vulnerable in some way. Indeed, in significant parts of the country evangelical (and Catholic) higher-education institutions have high percentages of student of color. In our politically polarized times, such work is too often ignored. This is an opportunity to pay attention to it.
From the statement by president Shirley Hoogstra:
This is very close to home for one of our campuses as Norma Ramírez is a PhD candidate in clinical psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary [a CCCU member] and one of the plaintiffs in the case. You can read more of her story here. You can also watch this video to hear from her directly.
The CCCU has supported a permanent solution for Dreamers since the DREAM Act was first introduced in 2001. As part of our ongoing court strategy, we recently signed on to two amicus briefs addressing the Supreme Court cases on DACA. These briefs target crucial ideas to our immigration policy perspective; they argue for the protection of DACA recipients as they contribute to society and to our institutions and in the promotion of defense of human dignity.
The CCCU continues to support a bipartisan, legal, permanent legislative solution for DACA recipients, and feels the urgency of this issue for our students, their families, their employers, their churches, and their communities. What’s at stake? These young people have become integral parts of their communities, and removing them from the U.S. would impose a huge financial, as well as emotional, burden on the country. Beyond the economic arguments, though, we also feel a moral imperative. The CCCU believes that all persons are made by our Creator God, are made in His image, and therefore are endowed with dignity (Genesis 1:27). These young people—and those around them—need stability in order to thrive. Mass deportation would unconscionably break up families.
Fortunately, Ahmari has already walked back any idolatry-accusing implication of his "burning incense" tweet. Ahmari didn't mean to say Hall was an idolater, he clarified, but that he was willing to join Hall in paying civic reverence.
This clarification in place, we can think about a hard question surrounding a stance on which Ahmari, French, Hall, and many others agree. That stance is that it is appropriate to pay some civic reference to the Founders. A hard question about it: How do we establish and maintain appropriate boundaries around this civic reverence?
Suppose, for example, you are as anti-Jefferson as Ahmari and I are. It only makes sense that you would make your anti-Jeffersonian case by reference to Alexander Hamilton (as Ahmari has) or John Marshall (as I have). One might even try to rally people around a symbol of one aspect of our current constitutional order in which one set of powerful American Catholics is positioned over the next decade or so to repair damage done by other powerful American Catholics in the past several decades.
We all need to make sure, though, that whatever-the-word-is-for-appropriate-filiopietism does not slip into idolatry. Civic reverence must be subordinated to reverence for the one true God. And it is here that things can be exceedingly tricky in a polity in which "law is king." With that function spoken for in the realm of civic orthodoxy, what about priest and prophet?
To simplify, perhaps oversimplify, Ahmari's exercise of a prophetic function appeared to cast Hall in the role of priest for an idolatrous cult of the Founders. Ahmari then clarified that he meant paying reverence of a different sort. This is very challenging. How, if at all, can we maintain a prophetic stance from the point of view of true reverence, while also performing and policing priestly functions in the subordinate realm of maintaining civic orthodoxy?
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.
It is useful for anyone interested in the maintenance of orthodoxy to bear in mind the difference between heresy and apostasy. The Code of Canon Law sets forth this distinction in Canon 751, which differentiates among heresy, apostasy, and schism:
Can. 751 Heresy is the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt after the reception of baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.
The distinguishing factor here seems to be rejection of part of the faith ("some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith), as compared with rejection of the whole ("total repudiation of the Christian faith"). There are different ways in which heresy and apostasy may each be more damaging than the other in certain respects. But from the point of view of maintaining orthodoxy within a community, heresy seems more dangerous in that it might travel under the appearance of orthodoxy precisely because it differs from orthodoxy only in some truth rather than in repudiation of the faith itself.
Friday, November 8, 2019
In the 130 years since John Henry Newman’s death, few concepts have been more misunderstood and distorted than “conscience.” The danger is greater today than when the great saint wrote. The distorted view of conscience that Newman described as oriented to self and not to God has penetrated Western culture and religion. For many, the obligation to follow one’s conscience has been embraced, but fidelity to truth has been set aside. This untethered and counterfeit “freedom of conscience” has led to a widespread subjectivism that Newman saw emerging within modern European society, even in his own day.
Read more at Public Discourse.
November 8, 2019 | Permalink
Wednesday, November 6, 2019
Religious Freedom Under Scrutiny argues that without freedom of religion or belief, human rights cannot fully address our complex needs, yearnings, and vulnerabilities as human beings. Furthermore, ignoring or marginalizing freedom of religion or belief would weaken the plausibility, attractiveness, and legitimacy of the entire system of human rights.
Read more at the Law and Religion Forum.
November 6, 2019 | Permalink
- A Catholic Debate over Liberalism
- Charitable Giving and Taxes
- The Church would not exist without women
- Fixing Law Schools
- "Saving Democracy from the Managerial Elite"