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, February 1, 2024

"Freedom, Moral Purpose, and Self-Limitation: The Enduring Wisdom of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn"

The Center for Law and the Human Person is delighted to host Professor Daniel Mahoney this coming Wednesday, February 7, from 5:15-6:15 in the Slowinski Courtroom of the Columbus School of Law. Professor Mahoney is the author most recently of "The Statesman as Thinker" and "The Idol of Our Age," as well as other insightful work in the history of political ideas. He is one of the world's foremost experts on the thought of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and what it has to tell us today. 

Please join us for his lecture, Freedom, Moral Purpose, and Self-Limitation: The Enduring Wisdom of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

Solzhenitsyn Lecture v. 1.5

February 1, 2024 in DeGirolami, Marc | Permalink

Sunday, January 28, 2024

"The Servant Lawyer"

One of the legal academy's true treasures, Bob Cochran, has a new book out, called The Servant Lawyer:  Facing the Challenges of Christian Faith in Everyday Law Practice.  Cochran draws not only on his own crucial body of work on religious lawyering, but also on the thought and legacy of our mutual friend and mentor, Tom Shaffer. 

Here's the blurb from that huge Bezos website:

Most lawyers, from Wall Street to the county seat, spend their days drafting documents, negotiating with other attorneys, trying cases, researching the law, and counseling clients. How does this everyday law practice relate to Jesus' call to follow him in servanthood?

With decades of experience in the law office, courtroom, and classroom, Robert F. Cochran Jr. explores Jesus' call on lawyers to serve both individual clients and the common good. Cochran pulls back the curtain with stories from his own career and from the legal community to address a wide range of challenges posed by law practice, including counseling clients, planning trial tactics, navigating tensions with coworkers, and handling temptations toward cynicism and greed. This honest and accessible book

  • shares wisdom from an experienced practitioner and master teacher
  • addresses real-world situations and relationships experienced by most lawyers
  • charts the way toward a truly Christian practice of everyday law

For students considering a career in law as well as for seasoned attorneys, The Servant Lawyer casts an encouraging vision for how lawyers can love and serve their neighbor in every facet of their work.

Check it out!

January 28, 2024 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Friday, January 26, 2024

Preziosi on Biden (and Trump) on the Federal Death Penalty

Dominic Preziosi has a piece in Commonweal called "Executioner in Chief" in which, inter alia, he criticizes the decision by the Biden Administration's Department of Justice to seek the death penalty for Payton Gendron, shot and killed ten black people at a Buffalo supermarket. As Preziosi observes, this decision seems inconsistent with Biden's stated (although not always consistent) opposition to capital punishment and his promises to do what is within his power to abolish the federal death penalty (or, at least, to restore the effective moratorium that had been in place on federal executions until 2020.

Like Preziosi, I would welcome legislation that repealed the death penalty at the federal level. (I would be less enthusiastic about a judicial decision that purported to invalidate the federal death penalty, because I am confident that the Constitution, correctly understood, permits the use of capital punishment for at least some federal crimes. And, while prosecutorial discretion is, appropriately, a fact of life, I am not entirely comfortable with executively-annouced moratoria that amount to non-enforcement of duly enacted federal law. But, put these reservations aside.)

There was a time, during the early years of the Obama administration, when abolition of the federal death penalty was politically possible, and that administration failed to take advantage of that opportunity.  At present, abolition is probably not politically feasible. And, in any event, it seems that -- given all the political givens -- the administration has decided (perhaps, for reasons like those that motivated then-Governor Bill Clinton in the Rector case) to shelve, at least for now, its earlier professed abolitionism.

January 26, 2024 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

USCCB releases report on threats to religious freedom

Thanks to my local bishop, Kevin Rhoades, for his leadership on this new report from the USCCB.  As he said, "Catholics have a vital role to play in defending religious freedom and promoting the common good”. 

Here is a bit from "The State of Religious Liberty in the United States":

This report identifies the top five threats to religious liberty in 2024 as follows:  

  • attacks against houses of worship, especially in relation to the Israel-Hamas conflict  
  • the Section 1557 regulation from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which will likely impose a mandate on doctors to perform gender transition procedures and possibly abortions  
  • threats to religious charities serving newcomers, which will likely increase as the issue of immigration gains prominence in the election  
  • suppression of religious speech on marriage and sexual difference 
  • the EEOC’s Pregnant Workers Fairness Act regulations, which aim to require religious employers to be complicit in abortion in an unprecedented way 


January 17, 2024 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

"Tolle et Lege": Our Reading Group at the CLHP at Catholic

I'm delighted to announce "Tolle et Lege," an initiative of the Center for Law and the Human Person at Catholic University. This is a reading group that invites (gently urges?) students to "pick up and read" classic literature in the Catholic intellectual tradition. We'll meet on selected evenings for discussion and fellowship. We have an edifying slate of reading this semester. 

First, on January 29, and in preparation for Professor Daniel Mahoney's lecture on Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, we'll be discussing two of Solzhenitsyn's essays, "Live Not By Lies" (1974) and his Harvard University address, rather timely again, "A World Split Apart" (1978).

Second, on March 25, we'll consider C.S. Lewis's wonderful tale of heaven and hell, The Great Divorce (1945).

All readings not otherwise available on the web are provided for free to students. Join us!


January 16, 2024 in DeGirolami, Marc | Permalink

Monday, January 15, 2024

Title IX and the Assault on Hillsdale College

In the Wall Street Journal, Tunku Varadarajan has a piece called "Title IX and the Assault on Hillsdale College."  It's important.  Here's a bit:

The lawsuit seeks to impose Title IX’s strictures on Hillsdale, arguing that the college’s tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(3) of the Tax Code “operates as a subsidy, which is a form of federal financial assistance.”

Mr. Arnn sees a darker ideological intent in this claim. “This is about the kind of society some people want us to have,” he says. “The principle that because you have a tax deduction you’re spending government money can’t mean anything other than that all money, in principle, belongs to the government.” This “tax-deduction thing,” as he calls the argument, “would be a massive expansion of government authority in one go. And of course, there are many people who seek that in America.”

Arnn is correct.  The notion that a tax exemption -- that is, a decision by the government not to impose a tax -- "counts" as a subsidy is a dangerous one, in a community that attaches any importance to civil society.

January 15, 2024 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Rob Vischer on "Martin Luther King Jr. and the Morality of Legal Practice: Lessons in Love and Justice"

Our own Rob Vischer ("el presidente" now, I guess!) published, a few years ago, a book called Martin Luther King Jr. and the Morality of Legal Practice:  Lessons in Love and Justice.  Here is the Amaz-n blurb:

This book seeks to reframe our understanding of the lawyer's work by exploring how Martin Luther King Jr. built his advocacy on a coherent set of moral claims regarding the demands of love and justice in light of human nature. King never shirked from staking out challenging claims of moral truth, even while remaining open to working with those who rejected those truths. His example should inspire the legal profession as a reminder that truth-telling, even in a society that often appears morally balkanized, has the capacity to move hearts and minds. At the same time, his example should give the profession pause, for King's success would have been impossible absent his substantive views about human nature and the ends of justice. This book is an effort to reframe our conception of morality's relevance to professionalism through the lens provided by the public and prophetic advocacy of Dr. King.

January 15, 2024 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Saturday, January 13, 2024

On Freedom: The Center for Law and the Human Person's Spring Theme

One of the great joys of my new position at The Catholic University of America is to co-direct the Center for Law and the Human Person with the excellent Elizabeth Kirk. We have very big plans for the Center in the coming months and years. 

Those plans begin with our program for the spring. We have chosen to explore the theme of freedom. We will do that in a series of lectures and conferences. Here is the schedule, which I will be writing about and detailing here in the future. Join us!

  • February 7, 2024: 5:00 p.m. • Columbus School of Law
    “Freedom, Moral Purpose, and Self-Limitation: The Enduring Wisdom of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn” Download
    Plenary Lecture by Prof. Daniel Mahoney, Assumption University, and Senior Fellow, Claremont Institute
    Reception to follow

  • February 13, 2024: 12:30 p.m. • Columbus School of Law
    Faith in Action Lecture: “The Truth Shall Set You Free: Seeking Truth and Finding Your Calling”
    Fr. Dominic Legge, O.P., Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception, and Director, Thomistic Institute

  • March 19, 2024: 12:30 p.m. • Columbus School of Law
    Faith in Action Lecture: "Top Ten Tips for Living and Lawyering Authentically"
    Jennie Bradley Lichter,  Deputy General Counsel, The Catholic University of America

  • April 4, 2024: All day • Columbus School of Law
    “Freedom & Truth”: Second Annual Spring Symposium
    Speakers include: Prof. Carl Trueman, Grove City College; Prof. Catherine Pakaluk, The Catholic University of America; Prof. Gerard Bradley, Notre Dame Law School.

January 13, 2024 in DeGirolami, Marc | Permalink

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Steve Smith on "Was Thomas More a Hypocrite?"

The title of this essay, by Steve Smith, in the latest issue of The Lamp, might seem designed to jar, even to scandalize, Mirror of Justice readers.  But, press on!  First, it's by Steve Smith so . . . 'nuff said.  Smith reminds us that many of More's friends thought him -- at the time -- less a heroic martyr than one wallowing in (his words) “stubbornness and obstinacy.”  Later, some would sniff at the talk of More, the champion of "conscience", given that he had, well, punished heretics.  Hypocrisy?

Smith explores the possibility that More meant something by "conscience" very different than what we mean today (i.e., "I gotta be me."):

But if we understand conscience more substantively as acting on beliefs based on the collective understanding of Christendom, as More did, then it seems that he was not being inconsistent after all. That is because, sincere or not, the Protestants were not acting on conscience—not as he understood it. Rather, they were acting against conscience. Indeed, they were openly and unapologetically acting against conscience by setting up their own personal judgement in opposition to and in defiance of the doctrines held by the Church and by Christians generally. Martin Luther had been proudly explicit at Worms on exactly this point (“Here I stand, I can do no other”). For More, this course was not only hubristic and reckless and self-contradictory; it was precisely the opposite of what it meant to act on conscience.

But in More’s view the Protestants were acting against conscience in an even more basic and threatening way. They were not merely acting against conscience themselves; they were working to make it impossible for Christians generally to act on conscience.

Check it out.

January 10, 2024 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Friday, December 29, 2023

Happy Feast of St. Thomas Becket

I'm re-printing a Becket-Day post from our own Michael Moreland:

Today is the Feast of St. Thomas Becket, murdered on this date in 1170. I've reposted below a post from 2012 with an excerpt from John Guy's fine biography of Becket.

And for those looking to learn more about medieval English law and its legacy, I commend the exhibit on Magna Carta now on display at the Library of Congress in Washington, including a rare viewing of the Lincoln Cathedral original of Magna Carta. It was Henry II's feckless youngest son John, of course, who was forced to issue Magna Carta in 1215. And the (likely) principal author of Magna Carta was Becket's successor as Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton, who, like Becket, was forced into exile in France by the King but returned to England to lead the struggle against an overweening monarch. Recall that the first clause of Magna Carta is: "That We have granted to God, and by this present charter have confirmed for us and our heirs in perpetuity, that the English Church shall be free, and shall have its rights undiminished, and its liberties unimpaired." ("In primis concessisse Deo et hac presenti carta nostra confirmasse, pro nobis et heredibus nostris in perpetuum quod Anglicana ecclesia libera sit, et habeat jura sua integra, et libertates suas illesas.")

From December 29, 2012:

A blog devoted to Catholic legal theory can hardly let pass today's Feast of St. Thomas Becket (c.1181-1170). Peter Glenville's 1964 film with Richard Burton as Becket and Peter O'Toole as Henry II is a classic. More recently, the eminent Tudor historian John Guy (author of a number of fine books on Thomas More) has written a splendid biography of Becket--a taste here:

For his attack on the church's claim of immunity from secular jurisdiction, Anglo-American lawyers and constitutional historians in the nineteenth century would put on rose-colored spectacles and reinvent Henry as a legal reformer avant la lettre, a pioneer of fair trials and equality before the law who paved the way for some of the most important clauses later incorporated into Magna Carta and the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. In reality, however, his actions showed that the rights of the accused could always be overridden by political considerations and the king's will. Far from remodeling the legal system and the courts in the interests of justice and the common good, Henry sought to strengthen his own power. And far from being a pioneer of "equitable" or "impartial" justice, he happily presided over his own court in the Battle Abbey case and at Becket's trial for embezzlement and false accounting at Northampton, acting simultaneously as chief counsel for the prosecution, judge, and jury. In response, Thomas would prove that a middle-class Londoner could transcend his social origins and challenge a ruler who he believed was degenerating into a tyrant, but it would cost him his life. Thomas More would take a similar path in Henry VIII's reign, and it may be no coincidence that More's working library contained many of the same books as Becket's.

John Guy, Thomas Becket: Warrior, Priest, Rebel (Random House, 2012), p. 338.

December 29, 2023 in Garnett, Rick , Moreland, Michael | Permalink