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, November 27, 2019

Honest Journalism?

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:

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/27/opinion/barr-liberals-family.html

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

Christ the King and "Quas Primas"

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."

November 24, 2019 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Fatherhood needs support from Church and Society, State can't go it alone

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?  

Most of the clients I've represented do not have a father who is present in their lives.  But every single human being does indeed have a male origin, in addition to their mother.  No person alive today exists but for the union of one male and one female, cooperating with the gift of life which God has given to humankind.  Perhaps more "provable" than the origins of the first man and first woman is the present-day fact that "male and female [God] create[s] them"—that is, all babies, all children, each one of us—that was us, created by a male and a female, not by ourselves.  Most of these young people have a mother who is present, or some other family.  But it has been rare to see a father in the courtroom, and even rarer to see the birth-father.  And when he is there, things seem to turn out "better" for the kid, i.e. they don't sit in state-controlled detention, but they get to go home.
 
Maybe the only ultimate answer which doesn't "drill down" any further is: each man himself is responsible for becoming and being a good father, because who can be forced to be good?  Or who can be good for (in place of) another?  Part of my intent is to place blame on men, all men, for we have failed to build a society of men who take honor in being good fathers, and who condemn appropriately all those vices which lead men to abandon their duties instead of shouldering them.  
 
Three social players shape boys into the men they may become: Church, State, and Society.  Briefly, 1) how do each of these approach the role of "fathers"? and 2) what tools do they have to stem the problem of fatherless delinquents?  This is no expert analysis, but it's a soul-crushing problem seeing it face-to-face, even once a week, for a semester, so this is my best shot.
 
The Catholic Church tells men they are created in God's image and called to be virtuous, and the Church claims to have the moral authority to tell men who they are, and how they ought to be.  It tells men to take up their crosses daily, to lay down their lives for others in acts of love, and to be like Christ.  The Church says that marriage or holy orders—both forms of fatherhoodare two primary vocations in life for men.  The Church teaches that men and women are both inherently dignified by being each created in God's perfect image.  Therefore neither is complete in themselves, and all human persons have an inherent dignity which is irrespective of their sex, but they are not "the same"—rather, they are both good, both needed, both an image.  The Church tells men to love their wives, to not be harsh with their children, to provide for their families or risk being kicked out of Christian community (not providing for your relatives, especially your household, is to deny the faith and be damnable).  The Church thus speaks harshly, appropriately, to men who would faint at the obligations of family.  And it holds up a good wife and children as gifts from God—good things, not pathologies.  It tells men: this is who you are, as men you are sons of the Good Father, and as men, being men, you are made to be good fathers; not perfect, but good.
 
Our State tells men they may be required to pay financial restitution for their absence in the lives of their children and their wives (or children's mothers), it tells men to take responsibility for their actions and they will be rewarded.  The State has power to arrest a man and impose jail time as an attempt to compel him to pay this money.  Neither of these replaces a father, obviously, but the State can provide very beneficial services like health care, counseling, and some education.  The State also has the power to remove an abusive father with jail time or restrictions.  The State can give financial benefits to married couples through tax structure, and other recognition which may slightly encourage men to be committed fathers.  The State is forced to deal with young people who don't have adequate care at home when these young people "get into trouble"—where else will they go?  Who will be a father to them?  A pair of parents would be better suited to handle unruly children than one parent alone.  Who can work and keep a teenager out of trouble at the same time?  It's a miracle when it happens, and it should not be ignored.  Juvenile detention is sometimes better for a child than their home life; this is unfortunately true.
 
Our Society tells men they should be kind, they should take responsibility for their actions, they should provide for the needs of others, and they should at the same time be whatever they want to be.  Even if some in our society do encourage fathers, does our current society, with its highest value seeming to be some sort of moral "neutrality," have the tools to do it effectively?  Is "men being men" associated with good fatherhood?  Can we do this?  Should we?  I think we need to do something, but maybe it's hopeless or too fraught with the risk of offending others... Let's not give up so easily.
 
Our society doesn't seem to do much to tell men: You should seek to be a good father.  You should be a good husband, and you have inalienable moral duties to any human beings you create, and any woman you procreate with, whether you want it or not, figure it out beforehand—it's on you.  You should be a good son and a good brother.  You should be a good man, and this entails being a father in one way or another.  And you are made for this, so you can do it.  
 
But there is so much brokenness, and there are so many heart-breaking cases.  Who can take away the sins of the entire world?  It seems impossible that the past suffering of others could be made right by someone else, it seems that harmony could be out of reach.  But maybe we can do more than we think.  And maybe the Church needs to speak more to men, telling us not to neglect fatherhood, but to aspire to it above all other status.  Whether this is seen as "heteronormative" or just what we need right now, I think it would be good.

November 21, 2019 in Current Affairs , Religion | Permalink

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Evangelical Higher Ed Institutions on (and for) DACA Recipients

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.

November 13, 2019 in Berg, Thomas , Current Affairs , Religion | Permalink

"[I]f burning incense to the Founders will help us advance our cause today, I'm fine with it."

Strike two for Sohrab Amari? Actually, just another wild pitch. First the beanball at David French, now a heater inside and low for Mark David Hall. Who is on whose team here?

Screenshot 2019-11-13 09.38.50

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. 

Screenshot 2019-11-13 09.36.32

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?

November 13, 2019 in Walsh, Kevin | Permalink

Sen. Rubio's Catholic University of America speech

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.

November 13, 2019 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Monday, November 11, 2019

Announcing the winners for the Zacharias Prize in Professional Responsibility

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.

Congrats!

November 11, 2019 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Is heresy more damaging to orthodoxy than apostasy?

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.

 

November 11, 2019 in Walsh, Kevin | Permalink

Friday, November 8, 2019

Saint John Henry Newman and Freedom of Conscience: Countering a Modern Apostasy

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

A Defense of Religious Freedom from the Human Rights Perspective

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

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