Monday, October 7, 2019
Thursday, October 3, 2019
A very public story of tragedy and violence set on a stage of racial injustice that ends with expressions of mercy and faith.
If you have not taken the time to watch the two videos following the sentencing of Amber Guyger and the response of Brandt Jean, the brother of the homicide victim Boothan Jean, and that of Judge Tammy Kemp, you should do so. As one of the reporters described it, this was a scene of "extraordinary grace." No person of faith can fail to be inspired and brought to tears.
In a troubling period of our history in which people of Christian faith too often are seen by the public as apparently advocates for cruel policies and agents of division rather than as witnesses for the Gospel, this episode reminds us that Christ still walks among us through his disciples.
As Alexandra DeSanctis and others have reported, there was at Notre Dame recently an unfortunate series of connected incidents -- involving an outdoor poster display, then a poem of sorts in the student newspaper, and also a performance-art video posted online -- of what I think can fairly be called anti-Catholic hate speech. You can read DeSanctis's article for the details, but -- in a nutshell -- in addition to contending that various writers, publications, and organizations have "blood on their hands" by virtue of writings and activities that support and defend Catholic theology, morality, and anthropology, the performers/authors of the attacks engaged in what can reasonably be regarded as a kind of fantasy about inflicting violence (using a crowbar) against the offending writers, some of whom are their fellow students.
These incidents are particularly upsetting, not only because the attacks aim at the University's animating and foundational Catholic mission and commitments, but also because Notre Dame has been (thankfully) relatively untouched by the fever-swamp excesses of our overly politicized and excessively polarized academic culture.
Although Notre Dame is a private institution, and not subject to the First Amendment's constraints, it's my view that, as a general matter, "Chicago statement"-type rules and norms should be observed by students, faculty, and administrators. As important as civility and charity are, I am inclined to agree with the Chicago Statement that "[a]lthough the University greatly values civility, and although all members of the University community share in the responsibility for maintaining a climate of mutual respect, concerns about civility and mutual respect can never be used as a justification for closing off discussion of ideas, however offensive or disagreeable those ideas may be to some members of our community." At the same time -- and while I reject the tendency to equate "discourse" with "violence" and the claim that criticism and disagreement make one "unsafe" -- it seems clear that actual threats of or incitements to violence are not only legally unprotected (while "hate speech" is), they are also morally excludable, and punishable, even in a university setting.
It's too bad (or, perhaps, it is fitting?) that this week is also Respect Life Week at Notre Dame (and at many other places). Even as the spirit of community and care -- the Week's theme is "authentic love, authentic freedom" -- was attacked by the series of hate-speech incidents, this beautiful student-led week of prayer, speakers, celebration, and conversation reminds us of the radical Christian call to solidarity and of the radical Christian claims regarding human dignity and equality. Here's hoping hearts and minds -- including those of the people who engaged in the expressive attacks -- will be touched and healed.
Wednesday, October 2, 2019
Tuesday, October 1, 2019
Monday, September 30, 2019
Three cert petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court recently on the issue whether teachers with religious teaching functions in religiously grounded schools are "ministers" for purposes of the First Amendment's "ministerial exception," affirmed unanimously in the Hosanna-Tabor decision. Two are from the Ninth Circuit (Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru, St. James Parish School v. Biel); one is from the California appellate courts (Stephen Wise Temple v. Su). In all three cases, the lower courts held that the teachers' religious functions were outweighed by the fact that they lacked a minister-like "credential, training," or title and/or were not "held out" as ministers by themselves or the school.
In the first-filed of these cert cases, Our Lady, the Ninth Circuit found the teacher to be a non-minister even though it admitted that she had "significant religious responsibilities": she “committed to incorporate Catholic values and teachings into her curriculum,” including a religion/Catholicism class she taught, and also “led her students in daily prayer, was in charge of liturgy planning for a monthly Mass, and directed and produced a performance by her students during the School’s Easter celebration every year.” The court objected to her lack of "credential, training, or ministerial background." The petitions in Our Lady and the other cases argue--to simplify a bit--that one who performs significant religious functions (leadership, teaching, liturgy/worship, etc.) in a religious organization should be considered a "minister" and should not be excluded because of "credentials" like title or training.
With the students in my religious liberty clinic and with the Christian Legal Society, I've filed an amicus brief arguing that a focus on "minister-like" title, training, or credential will discriminate against unfamiliar religions and will invite courts to second-guess an organization's understanding of how people qualify to be its leaders.
We've also presented what I think is a valuable originalist argument: that "narrow definitions of 'Minister,' especially through requirements of ministerial education or credentials, were a chief evil that helped spur adoption of the First Amendment," and that the founding generation would have regarded as violations of free exercise and incidents of establishment. Here's a bit:
The Constitution’s religious freedom guarantees arose in significant part from disputes between established colonial churches and Pietist dissenters, including “New Light” Congregationalists in Connecticut and Baptists in Massachusetts and Virginia....
The New Lights opposed the formally trained “legal preacher,” preferring a “layman who had experienced conversion” personally.... They believed that “the learned ['Old Light' establishment] clergy had lost touch with the spiritual needs of the common man and no longer really served as ministers of God to them.”
New England colonial legislatures, which reflected the views of the “Old Lights,” responded by taking steps to restrict or disfavor informally trained ministers. [McLoughlin, 1 New England Disssent] at 363. In 1742, Connecticut passed a law prohibiting “itinerants” from preaching without approval of an established parish. That same year, it also passed legislation “preventing any church or parish from choosing a minister who lacked a college degree.”
Likewise, Massachusetts passed a law in 1760 preventing legal recognition of parish ministers unless they had “academy or college training, or had obtained testimonials from the majority of the ministers already settled in the county.” Jacob C. Meyer, Church and State in Massachusetts 51 (1930). The law disqualified uncredentialed ministers, primarily Baptists, from receiving funds that were collected by each town’s authorities for support of worship.
... Like the[se] founding-era laws, the Ninth Circuit requires that a minister must have some sort of “credential, training, or ministerial background” [in this case, to fall within the ministerial exception]/
St. Thomas students Erik Money contributed excellent research and drafting to the brief.
A very helpful essay, by Paul Marshall (Baylor), at the Religious Freedom Institute's Cornerstone Forum:
One reason that institutional religious freedom has become so controversial in the United States in recent years relates to the American people’s historical understanding of rights as applying only to individuals. Contentious U.S. Supreme Court decisions such as Citizens United and Hobby Lobby have also contributed to widespread suspicion about the general idea of institutional rights, especially in the form of recognizing the legal personhood of corporations.
To begin to grasp the meaning and scope of institutional religious freedom requires outlining its main aspects and considering how they fit together. Growing uncertainty over the very nature of rights presents a key challenge in this regard so we will address that first. . . .
Read the whole thing!
And then -- why not? -- read this.
David Cloutier (CUA, Theology) has a helpful piece in a recent issue of Commonweal called "The Paid Family Leave Impasse: How Catholic Social Teaching Can Help." Among other things, he explores the issue, and some policy proposals, using the principles of Subsidiarity and Solidarity. Here's a bit:
Catholic social teaching can help us understand, and perhaps correct, the failure of both parties to address this issue. The problem is not that each party fails to balance solidarity and subsidiarity—as if some fifty-fifty compromise could be worked out. Rather, neither party understands the way solidarity and subsidiarity ought to be related to each other. That relation is one of means to ends. Solidarity is meant to govern the end of social action, while subsidiarity is the principle that determines the best means to that end. As John Paul II puts it in Centesimus annus, subsidiarity means that “a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it…always with a view to the common good.” Understood in this way, subsidiarity is not just another name for libertarian individualism; rather, it is about the importance of genuine participatory structures for achieving solidarity.
It's entirely true, of course, that "subsidiarity is not just another name for libertarian individualism" or, as Cloutier says later, "atomistic individualism." (It's also not simply about devolution or federalism, as others have pointed out.) That said, I'm not sure that it's quite right to say that the subsidiarity principle is (only?) about identifying the "best means to [the] end" (i.e., "Solidarity"). I take the subsidiarity principle to (also?) be about pluralism, social ontology, the reality of group personhood, and the moral and legal rights and duties of non-state societies.
I found this essay by Russell Hittinger, "The Coherence of the Four Basic Principles of Catholic Social Doctrine," really helpful on this (and many other!) point(s).
Friday, September 27, 2019
The 2018 Sino-Vatican Provisional Agreement on nominating and ordaining bishops must be assessed in the harsh light of Xi’s policy. Bishops are critical to the well-being of Catholics and the Church. They are simultaneously shepherds and public witnesses to the truths taught by the Church. If they are deceivers, history and contemporary events make abundantly clear that everyone suffers except opponents of the Church. If they are holy and courageous men, willing to witness the truth as taught by the Church, Catholics and non-Catholics benefit. This is as true in China as it is in any other country.
Full article by Thomas Farr here.
September 27, 2019 | Permalink