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.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

The Coronavirus Novena

I want to thank one of our loyal MOJ readers, Anne, for passing this along. 

While we face the coronavirus pandemic, let us turn to the face of God in prayer and ask for His healing, His help and His protection.  We will pray for all who are affected, for all who are sick and suffering, for all those who work in the medical profession, and for those who have died as well as for their grieving family members. 

Read more at: https://www.praymorenovenas.com/pandemic-novena

March 18, 2020 | Permalink

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

The Religious-Freedom Revolution

Even as the world, and Washington, D.C., has turned its attention to addressing the coronavirus, a slow but persistent revolution is underway in an area of policy that usually has flown under almost everyone’s radar. That issue is international religious freedom, or IRF, as we in the business call it, and the impact of this revolution could be felt for many years to come.

Full article at National Review.

March 17, 2020 | Permalink

Monday, March 16, 2020

Rice-Hasson Lecture Postponed

The Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School was scheduled to host our inaugural Rice-Hasson Distinguished Lecture on March 30th with our very special guest, Mary Ann Glendon. While we are disappointed that the COVID-19 public health emergency has closed our campus for the time being, we look forward to rescheduling this event for the coming fall.

Personally, this moment in our history has made me reflect on the true value of face to face interaction and how we learn best and grow together when part of a community. Our university President, Fr. John Jenkins made an excellent point recently in a video addressed to the Notre Dame community. That is, we are a community even when we are far apart geographically. That’s true. Notre Dame students will continue to learn from their professors, although remotely. Notre Dame scholars will continue to say and write important things, although many of them without the benefit and luxury of our beautiful campus with the presence of students and colleagues. I’m not sure when we will all return to campus and have the chance to gather and learn together again. But, I know I’ll never take it for granted.

March 16, 2020 | Permalink

Monday, March 9, 2020

RESCHEDULED: Late March Symposium on Feminism (w pro-life/pro-choice scholars) at Columbia U

Just a note for any who were interested:  due to the coronavirus threat, this event has been postponed until next fall. We'll post the date as soon as it's available.

March 9, 2020 in Bachiochi, Erika | Permalink

Monday, March 2, 2020

"The Nuclear Family Was a Mistake"

It is, I realize, fashionable to roll one's eyes (or do worse!) over David Brooks's meaning-mongering, but . . . I thought this essay, "The Nuclear Family Was a Mistake", was a really good read.  (I'd also recommend Brad Wilcox's response.)  In more than a view places, Brooks touches on themes that resonate with Catholic anthropology.  For example:

As factories opened in the big U.S. cities, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, young men and women left their extended families to chase the American dream. These young people married as soon as they could. A young man on a farm might wait until 26 to get married; in the lonely city, men married at 22 or 23. From 1890 to 1960, the average age of first marriage dropped by 3.6 years for men and 2.2 years for women.

The families they started were nuclear families. The decline of multigenerational cohabiting families exactly mirrors the decline in farm employment. Children were no longer raised to assume economic roles—they were raised so that at adolescence they could fly from the nest, become independent, and seek partners of their own. They were raised not for embeddedness but for autonomy. By the 1920s, the nuclear family with a male breadwinner had replaced the corporate family as the dominant family form. By 1960, 77.5 percent of all children were living with their two parents, who were married, and apart from their extended family.

Interestingly, many "progressives" who will (reflexively?) recoil from what might seem "conservative" in Brooks's piece also tend to support a political figure, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who made many consonant points in her "controversial" 2004 book, The Two Income Trap.


March 2, 2020 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Make the Family Great Again petition

Recently some pro-family advocates presented a petition to Professor Mary Ann Glendon in her capacity as chairing the U.S. State Department's Commission on Unalienable Rights. Although I had not signed the petition or authorized my signature to be attached to it, the organizers added my name. When I called the mistake to their attention, they promptly removed my name, although by then media coverage of the petition had mentioned me as a signatory. The error was, I have no doubt, an innocent one, since I am well-known to be in sympathy with the organizers' principal aims. I am grateful to them for promptly rectifying it.

March 1, 2020 | Permalink

Friday, February 28, 2020

Manent on "Our Post-Liberal Predicament"

In the Church Life Journal, a great piece from Pierre Manent.  A bit:

I believe that the most precise way to designate what afflicts us, what troubles and demoralizes us, is to say simply: we no longer know what law is; we have lost the intelligence of law. The point is not to deplore that we disobey the law, that our morals are disordered, that the youth, as is often said, are without standards—all that is perhaps true, but the main point is that we no longer understand what the law is about. We no longer understand law according to its essence. We no longer understand law as the rule and measure of action. Our most urgent task is therefore to recover the intelligence of law as rule and measure of action. Thomas Aquinas is certainly the author who can best help us—Christians as well as non-Christians confronted with the loss of law’s meaning—to carry out this task, if only we make the effort to understand his work in its full amplitude. Our purpose is nevertheless not so much to expound Thomas’s restorative views as to examine our predicament more closely.

I have said that we have lost an understanding of law, or law’s intelligence. We have not lost it by inadvertence or negligence. We have lost it because we wanted to lose it. More precisely, we have fled from law. We are still fleeing from it. We have been fleeing from law since we took up the project—let us call it “the modern project”—to organize common life, the human world, on a basis other than law. We have been fleeing from the law since we undertook to regulate our actions otherwise than by law, to seek the rule of our actions elsewhere than in law. This is not a matter of a moment’s distraction or mistake. What is at stake is an immense enterprise to which we owe, for better and for worse, the driving and ordering of our common life over three or four centuries.

February 28, 2020 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

RESCHEDULED: Late March Symposium on Feminism (w pro-life/pro-choice scholars) at Columbia U

Just a note for any who were interested:  due to the coronavirus threat, this event has been postponed until next fall. We'll post the date as soon as it's available.

Elizabeth Schiltz, Kim Daniels, Melissa Moschella, Rachel McNair and I (among others) are participating in an all day symposium with pro-choice feminist scholars on March 28th at Columbia University. Pro-choice scholars include Reva Siegel, Robin West and Eva Feder Kittay. The event is sponsored by Feminists Choosing Life of New York with support from both pro-life and pro-choice student groups. 


February 28, 2020 in Bachiochi, Erika | Permalink

Thursday, February 27, 2020

ND grant will fund research to confront Church’s sex abuse crisis


Richard Garnett, the Paul J. Schierl/Fort Howard Corporation Professor of Law at Notre Dame Law School and faculty director of the Law School’s Program on Church, State & Society, has been awarded funding from the University of Notre Dame’s Church Sexual Abuse Crisis Research Grant Program to address issues emerging from the crisis and to prevent abuse in the future.

The Church Sexual Abuse Crisis Research Grant Program is one initiative of Notre Dame’s Research and Scholarship Task Force that University President Rev. John I Jenkins, C.S.C., established in 2018 in response to news of the crisis of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

Garnett’s research proposal, “Consequences of the Sexual Abuse Crisis: Related Legal Issues and Policy,” considers how the Church can move forward and prevent sexual abuse while maintaining its autonomy. The proposal, which will be run under the Program on Church, State & Society, includes a series of three public events with experts and academic scholars from various disciplines related to these issues. Invited speakers will include scholars from the Notre Dame community, as well as top legal scholars from around the country and internationally.

The discussions will center around three themes: the sexual-abuse scandals and church-state relations — comparisons and best practices; historical antecedents and responses to scandals in the Church; and recent state interventions in the Catholic Church as a result of crimes of sexual abuse of minors perpetrated by clerics.

“The sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church has damaged the reputation of the Church in devastating ways. As the Church works to regain the trust of its own members and society at large, the University of Notre Dame can help in the process by sponsoring serious research and by fostering important discussions,” said Garnett. “As some of these discussions will inevitably lead to ideas regarding church structure and church autonomy, the Program on Church, State & Society is well positioned to hold meaningful conversations about Church reform and prevention of sexual abuse while preserving its needed autonomy.”

The University is dedicating up to $1 million over three years to fund research projects that address issues emerging from the Church’s sexual abuse crisis.

The grants provided by the Research and Scholarship Task Force are intended to address the various aspects of the crisis, including proposals that address maintaining safe environments for minors, maintaining safe environments for adults in asymmetrical power relationships, understanding the history and causes of the crisis, and proposing reforms in the Church and society to which the current crisis gives rise.

February 27, 2020 | Permalink

Monday, February 24, 2020

Cana Journal Interview

Cana Journal has published an interview with me on faith and vocation. There are some editing or transcription errors in it, so I'm posting a corrected version (with some emendations of my own) here.

Robert P. George is McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University. He is also frequently a Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School. In addition to his academic service, Professor George has served as Chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. He has also served on the President’s Council on Bioethics, as a presidential appointee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights, and as the U.S. member of UNESCO’s World Commission on the Ethics of Science and Technology. He is a former Judicial Fellow at the Supreme Court of the United States, where he received the Justice Tom C. Clark Award.

Q: How did you come to the work you do right now? 

When I was an undergraduate at Swarthmore, I took an introductory survey course in political theory and among the readings we were assigned Plato’s dialogue Gorgias. In that dialogue, Plato gets the reader to reflect on the whole point of argument, the whole point of discussion--what philosophers call dialectic. The dialogue persuaded me of the intrinsic value of truth and therefore, the idea that truth and knowledge of the truth is not simply instrumentally valuable, that is as means to some other end. Rather it is intrinsically valuable and worthwhile for our flourishing.

That fundamentally transformed my outlook on life. It made me a knowledge seeker and a truth seeker in a way I had not really been before. Although I didn’t know it at the time, it put me on the path to understanding my vocation as a truth seeker, a teacher, and someone who was interested in and devoted to searching for the truth, preserving knowledge of the truth, and transmitting knowledge to others. So that was the experience early in my life that set me on the path to where I am today. I have no doubt that in the back of all that was my own Christian faith. Even before I encountered Plato, I had been brought up in the Christian faith and was a devoted Christian; but what the experience of reading Plato taught me is a deeper understanding of what it means to search for truth. A deeper understanding of what the truth is, and why it is valuable. I combined that with the conviction that the most fundamental truth is the person of Jesus Christ.  Jesus is what he says he is. He is the way, the truth, and the life. This truth, when we truly take it aboard, has a transformative effect on the life of the Christian believer.

Q: In your vocation as a professor and legal scholar, how do you believe your Christian faith intersects with your career? 

The key thing is that it reinforces for me a belief in the importance of truth seeking. The Christian is fundamentally concerned with understanding reality as it is, not being deceived, not favoring what we would like to be true over what is actually true. A scholar has to be a person dedicated to the truth and I think my Christian faith is at the foundation of my dedication to the truth. 

Q: Can you recall times in your career where your faith has hindered your ability to operate in your career? 

Well, of course there is a great deal of hostility to Christianity, at least serious Christianity in the elite sector of our culture. This sector is dominated by secular progressivism. So anyone who is an open and devout believer is going to run into prejudice and obstacles. So yes, I run into that prejudice, lack of open mindedness, and unwillingness to consider claims on their merits, but I’ve never let it hold me, nor has it held me, back. I push ahead and try to do my work as a scholar and a teacher, firmly in the conviction that truth is liberating and if we open ourselves up to the truth, all will be well. 

Q: How does your life of faith set you apart as you teach students or write papers? 

I always try very hard to practice what I preach on this and all my convictions. I firmly believe that education is not and must never degenerate into indoctrination. It is not my job as a teacher to tell students what to think. My job is to teach them how to think deeply, clearly, and critically for themselves. I have no doubt that, like all of my moral convictions, this one is  built on my Christian beliefs. Although, one needn’t be a Christian in order to have this conviction. Still I am a Christian and it’s that Christian faith that is at the foundation of my convictions. Any real teacher will avoid indoctrination at all costs and will genuinely teach students to be all truth seekers, teaching them to think for themselves. Now, I believe that the Christian message, including moral teachings, is luminous and powerful, so I certainly believe that message is going to have a tremendous amount of appeal if it is presented fairly to anyone, including students. But again, I present all views fairly. I don’t privilege the Christian view in my teaching, although I am a Christian and my students might know full well that I am. I try to present competing views, their competing arguments, and let my students decide for themselves. 

Q: What is your perspective on the role of faith in a person’s vocation in general? 

First, as a Christian, I believe that everyone has a vocation. That is, God has a plan for everyone and that it is our task to discern God’s plan for ourselves. Now in doing that, we use reason, assessing the talents God has given us, and the strengths that we all have. We also try to be realistic about our own limitations and weaknesses. I’m pretty sure that I don’t have a vocation to be a basketball star because God has not blessed me with the talent to make jump shots. So I assess, as would anyone assess, my talents and use my intellect for that. However, the discernment of your particular vocation, what God is calling you to do not just professionally, but more comprehensively, is a process that not only requires intellect, but also prayer, meditation, scriptural study, engaging the word of God, and liturgy. I believe that all of these spiritual practices, together with our rational inquiry, are part of the project of discerning one’s vocation.

What God is calling one to be could include one’s life  as a possible spouse—is God calling me to marry? Is God calling me to family life? Is God calling me, if one is a man, to the celibate priesthood or, if one is a woman, to be a sister or nun? This line of questioning also applies when it comes to work. What is God calling me to do with what he has given me? What are the opportunities he has given me? I could do many different things, but what’s the one God has in mind for me? So I think we have to draw on all our spiritual and intellectual resources to find the truth about what we’re being called to.

Not all of us are called to be scholars. Some of us are called to be healers, some of us are called to be activists working in the cause of justice. Now that doesn’t mean any of us can and should be absolutely single-minded and suppose the only good we’re going to do in the world is whatever happens to be at the center of our professional lines. Even though I’m called to be a scholar and to the life of truth seeking, I’m also called to do justice. I’m also called to reach out in compassionate care for those who are in need. We’re all called to serve a vast range of human needs. We should be good citizens, whether we are scholars or doctors or insurance salesmen or plumbers or priests. We are all called to be good citizens, good neighbors, and honest participants in the economy. Our lives are complex and we can’t just be satisfied to be good at meeting our professional obligations—there’s more to it than that. 

Q: Speaking as a college student, there are too many options laid out before me, vocationally, to choose from. I can become a bit anxious. How is the truth that God has a specific plan for my life good news? 

If we don’t have a belief in personal vocation--a belief that God has a plan for our lives--then the likely alternatives is that we would fall into the trap of thinking that we should choose, from the wide range of choices of what we could do with our lives, what we desire the most (what would "make us happiest").  All we could do, then, would be to assess our desires. All we could do is try to figure out what we want more than others. It’s hopeless, it’s fruitless, and it’s frustrating. We need to be thinking not about what we desire, assessing what is the stronger desire between doing this and doing that. Instead, we should be focused on the question: What should we be desiring? We shouldn’t be the slaves of desire. We should be masters of desire. We should be masters of ourselves. There is a sense in which self-mastery is the whole project of human life. It’s putting faith and reason in the leadership position and putting feeling, emotion, desire in a secondary role so we’re not just pushed around by our desires or our feelings or emotions. Rather we’re deciding on the basis of faith and reason what we should want, we are shaping our own lives. 

Q: How do you communicate that to students who look to their feelings to figure out their direction in life?  

I try to encourage a self-critical perspective. First, young men and women need to realize what they are doing in life. Then they need to ask themselves if this is a good thing to do or if it is going to be a dead end. I think they’ll see pretty quickly, once they get some critical perspective on the situation, that trying to figure out what to do on the basis of an assessment of one’s desires is like a dead-end street. It’s like turning down an alley trying to get somewhere and finding it’s blocked on the other side and you need to back out and find another way. So it is the same in getting students to be self-critical. Let reason do the preparatory work in clearing the ground, in preparing it for faith. 

Q: What do you say to the Christian who comes up against a roadblock in their professional vocation or in their relationships? 

Remember that the believer does not exist apart from the Church. We are not on our own. We are part of the Body of Christ and the resources of the Church are there whenever we hit obstacles. Moreover, we shouldn’t wait for those obstacles to finally avail ourselves of the resources of the Church. We should look for spiritual direction from our pastors and from those who are in ministry serving the Church in that way. Pray, meditate, attend liturgy, avail yourself of all the resources that the church makes available to us to meet the challenges and obstacles that every Christian is going to face in life. The Church is not just incidental or optional. The individual believer exists only as part of the church, the mystical body of Christ. We have to remember that. 

Q: Your perspective seems countercultural to the view of America as a society of individuals detached from everyone else. 

Christianity is a deeply radical faith. It has been deeply radical since Jesus began his public ministry at 30 years old. It’s been deeply radical ever since the scandal of the crucifixion of the Son of the living God. It’s been a deeply radical faith ever since the earliest disciples of Jesus took on the Roman world.

Q: How do you maintain that radicalness in the midst of the ordinary rhythms of life?

I believe that’s pretty easy, really, because we’re living in a society that has largely abandoned Christianity. It’s therefore easy--if we are even half serious in our understanding--to grasp the radical nature of Christianity. We do it when we think about Christianity’s commitment to the profound dignity of each and every member of the human family—that’s countercultural today. We stand up for the precious and vulnerable child in the womb, that’s radical today. When we stand up for marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife, that’s radical today. Our problem is not appreciating the radical claims of the Christian faith. Our problem is living up to it. That takes, among other things, courage--a virtue that is always in short supply. 

Robert P George

February 24, 2020 | Permalink