Tuesday, June 7, 2016
Thanks to the generosity of Notre Dame's Center for Ethics and Culture and the Jacques Maritain Center, and their inimitable leaders, Carter Snead and John O'Callaghan, I am spending the week in Rome, talking, learning, and thinking about all manner of issues related to Disability and Misericordia. We just finished a two-day conference, really more of a study seminar, on "Disability and the Face of Mercy", co-hosted by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, and physically hosted in the offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
We heard from scholars from a host of perspectives on the topic: John O'Callaghan tracing problematic misconceptions of the Imago Dei back to St. Augustine's finding the image of God solely in the activities of the human mind; Carter Snead on how our public bioethics frustrates the application of law as an instrument of mercy; Mary O'Callaghan arguing for a return to mercy in the medical practices of prenatal diagnosis by reviving the original motivations of the people who developed the tools now being used solely for purposes of eugenic abortions; Thomas Williams on how radically Jesus overturned the notion of weakness and vulnerability; Elizabeth Lev graphically illustrating Thomas' arguments, exploring the differences in depictions of disability between classical and Christian art, and Fr. Terry Ehrman speculating beautifully about disabilities in the resurrected body. I spoke about sacramental access for persons with cognitive disabilities, reflecting on the great gift to the Church of witnessing how the truths of the sacraments can be understood and shared by people whose religious experiences are not expressed in conventional rational speech.
We also heard and saw first-hand how the many gifts of faith and truths of mercy are shared in communities fully embracing persons with disabilities, from a wide array of persons with disabilities and their partners in an extraordinary factory in Milan, L'Arche communities in both Portland, Oregon, and in Rome, and the community of Saint Egidio here in Rome. The conference officially ended with a fantastic dinner at the Trattoria degli Amici, the fantastic restaurant run by the community of Saint Egidio, staffed by people with disabilities.
That was the 'official' end of the conference, but much the delegation (including me) is sticking around to participate in this week's Jubilee for the Sick and Persons with Disabilities . I will post more about that experience, but in the meantime, I am just grateful to have been part of an extraordinary couple of days.
Monday, March 21, 2016
Wednesday, March 16, 2016
Minnesota's assisted suicide proposal was withdrawn by its sponsor during its hearing today, which apparently drew impassioned testimony from both supporters and opponents, according to this report from our local paper. Apparently the sponsor (Sen. Chris Eaton, DFL-Brooklyn Center) understood the opposition as resulting from "misunderstandings" about the legislation, rather than a very clear understanding and rejection of the proposal. She's planning on re-introducing it next year, because "it would be easier to pass if DFLers [Minnesota-speak for Democrats] regained control of the House in November."
Tuesday, March 15, 2016
Since my last post on this issue, assisted suicide legalization proposals in both Nebraska and Maryland has been defeated in committees. Great news!
Let us hope for the same result in Minnesota, where the Senate’s Health, Human Services and Housing Committee is holding a hearing on the "Minnesota Compassionate Care Act" (SF 1880). Charles Camosy published a great essay in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, presenting the "liberal" case in opposition to legalizing assisted suicide. Among other great things, he writes:
Against the individualist approach, liberals focus on how policies impact vulnerable people who are pushed to the margins. In a youth-worshiping and capitalist culture, older people are understood as a drain or burden on their families and society. Hardly surprising, then, that older people would feel “tired of life” and seek a way out. But it is diabolical to make it easier for vulnerable people on the margins to kill themselves. Good liberals must absolutely affirm the goodness of their existence — especially when the surrounding culture can make them feel unwanted and burdensome.
Friday, February 26, 2016
After California's legalization of assisted suicide legislation this past October, there was fear that similar legislative efforts might gain ground in other states. But there's been some good news on that front. Despite vigorous lobbying by Compassion in Choices, this week saw legislation in both Utah and Colorado being pulled for lack of support.
On the other hand, hearings on legalization are being held in Maryland and Nebraska, among other states. And there's this sort of news from abroad:
From the Netherlands: "Thus did a man in his 30s whose only diagnosis was autism become one of 110 people to be euthanized for mental disorders in the Netherlands between 2011 and 2014. That’s the rough equivalent of 2,000 people in the United States."
From Canada: "The leader of Canada’s bishops today released a pastoral statement in regard to the remarkable conclusions of the Special Joint Committee of the Government of Canada on “Physician-Assisted Dying.” Among the committee’s conclusions are recommendations for making assisted suicide available to adolescents and children who might be considered “mature minors.” As well, the committee recommends that psychological suffering be included in criteria for eligibility and that all health-care practitioners must at minimum provide “effective referrals” to those who want to kill themselves.
Bishop Douglas Crosby’s response noted the high rates of suicide among the First Nations and Inuit youth of Canada.
“Suicide is not part of health care,” he declared. “Killing the mentally and physically ill, whether young or aged, is contrary to caring for and loving one’s brother and sister.”
Saturday, February 20, 2016
I am not a Con Law scholar, and have not spent as much time as my colleagues analyzing Justice Scalia's writing. I knew him only as the spouse of one of his clerks. In that vein, here are the memories I shared with our student newspaper, and a picture of my husband and me paying our respects at the Supreme Court yesterday.
I first met Justice Scalia in 1986. My husband, Patrick, was clerking for then-Judge Scalia on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. The week that we had our first date was the week that Justice Scalia was nominated to the Supreme Court. I first met Justice Scalia that summer when Patrick and I drove down to his summer cottage on the Virginia shore, to deliver some papers related to his nomination hearings. He was wearing shorts, relaxing with his (many) kids and his wife; we played some board games before heading back into Washington. My husband, who had already been hired by Justice O’Connor for the next year, was released from that obligation to go with Justice Scalia for his first year on the Supreme Court. Of course I encountered Justice Scalia in many more formal settings over the years, and came to admire the brilliance of his opinions. But most of my personal memories of him were ones like that first meeting at the beach, and later meetings at which we would swap stories with him and his wife, Maureen, about what our children were all up to.
It goes without saying that Justice Scalia was a brilliant man with a sharp wit. But he was also a man who reveled in his family, and was generous and loyal to his friends. Over the years, he was unfailingly gracious in responding to my husband’s invitations to speak at Notre Dame Law School, where we taught before coming to help re-open the Law School at the University of St. Thomas, and then to speak at UST Law – from the very beginning of our existence to more recently, including this past Fall. One of Justice Scalia’s most striking characteristics was his openness and curiosity about the parade of people who came across his path. The fact that his friendships crossed all typical lines of politics, faith, age, and background is a testament to his generosity of spirit. He was a wonderful man.
My husband and I are currently in Washington to attend his funeral. The funeral card distributed at his wake on Friday included the prayer of St. Ignatius, a fitting reflection as we say goodbye to this great man:
Take, O Lord and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and whole will.
You have given to me all that I am and all that I possess.
I surrender it all to You, that You may dispose of it according to Your will.
Give me only Your love and Your grace.
With these I possess all and seek naught else.
Tuesday, January 19, 2016
Because it's been as cold as 30 below (with wind chill) in Minnesota this past week, and because beautiful pictures of people with Down Syndrome always cheer me up, I offer you this lovely article from The Telegraph, by Tim Stanley. The topic is sobering, (how people with Down Syndrome "risk 'extinction' at the hands of science, fear and ignorance"), but the message is positive, and the pictures are beautiful, including a 16th Century Flemish painting of the Nativity, in which a shepherd and an angel appear to have Down Syndrome, and the actress Jamie Brewer walking the runway at Fashion Week in New York.
ADDITION: Thanks to Susan Stabile, check out this most beautiful reading of my favorite psalm, 139, here.
Sunday, January 10, 2016
There's a fascinating op ed in today's NYT by Judith Shulevitz, misleadingly (I think) titled "It's Payback Time for Women." She presents a number of arguments for the "U.B.I." proposals being considered in countries like Finland, Switzerland, and Holland. She does begin with the "feminist" argument, and succinctly describing the politics of the feminist arguments for and against proposals for offering wages for care work. She describes how "mainstream feminism" (at least in the U.S.) rejected this idea, buying into the prevalent assumption about motherhood:
It’s a lifestyle choice, not a wage-worthy job, and no one other than parents should pay for it. Wages for child rearing and housework? When one feminist collective took up that cry in the 1970s, it was more or less drummed out of the second-wave feminist movement, which aimed to get women into the work force, not pay them to stay out of it.
If mothers are glorified hobbyists who produce less value than nonmothers, it follows that they’re getting a free ride on everyone else’s labor. This can lead to tensions between colleagues, and also colors relations between breadwinning husbands and stay-at-home wives, who notoriously have less bargaining power in their households.
She argues, though, that
this view of motherhood gets it exactly backward. Actually, it’s society that’s getting a free ride on women’s unrewarded contributions to the perpetuation of the human race. As Marx might have said had he deemed women’s work worth including in his labor theory of value (he didn’t), “reproductive labor” (as feminists call the creation and upkeep of families and homes) is the basis of the accumulation of human capital. I say it’s time for something like reparations.
But Shulevitz then goes on to address many other arguments for a U.B.I., coming from many different directions: that's it's increasingly becoming a necessary condition for a just society, in light of the growing gap between the rich and the poor in America, and the likelihood of more jobs being lost to computers in in the near future, including many skilled service jobs typically associated with women. She offers data to counter arguments that U.B.I. represents a moral hazard, that it actually permits people to manage their careers more prudently, rather than disincentivizes them from working at all. She discusses experiments and research suggesting that basic income policies have been effective in mitigating poverty, particularly specifically female kinds of poverty.
Shulevitz suggests that U.B.I. proposals are springing up from the right as well as the left. Honestly, I do not know much about these arguments, but I would love to hear what some of the other MOJ'ers think.
For one thing, I do wonder if some of the "just wage" and "family wage" arguments might, if re-examined from a more feminist perspective, support these proposals as well. As Schulevitz argues,
The U.B.I. would also edge us toward a more gender-equal world. The extra cash would make it easier for a dad to become the primary caregiver if he wanted to. A mom with a job could write checks for child care and keep her earnings, too. Stay-at-home parents would have money in the bank, more clout in the family, and the respect that comes from undertaking an enterprise with measurable value. And we’d have established the principle that the work of love is not priceless at all, but worth paying for.
Friday, December 25, 2015
There are two principal lessons which we are taught on the great Festival which we this day celebrate, lowliness and joy. This surely is a day, of all others, in which is set before us the heavenly excellence and the acceptableness in God’s sight of that state which most men have, or may have, allotted to them, humble or private life, and cheerfulness in it. If we consult the writings of historians, philosophers, and poets of this world, we shall be led to think great men happy; we shall be led to fix our minds and hearts upon high or conspicuous stations, strange adventures, powerful talents to cope with them, memorable struggles, and great destinies. We shall consider that the highest course of life is the mere pursuit, not the enjoyment of good.
But when we think of this day’s Festival, and what we commemorate upon it, a new and very different scene opens upon us. First, we are reminded that though this life must ever be a life of toil and effort, yet that, properly speaking, we have not to seek our highest good. It is found, it is brought near us, in the descent of the Son of God from His Father’s bosom to this world. It is stored up among us on earth. No longer need men of ardent minds weary themselves in the pursuit of what they fancy may be chief goods; no longer have they to wander about and encounter peril in quest of that unknown blessedness to which their hearts naturally aspire, as they did in heathen times. The text speaks to them and to all, “Unto you,” it says, “is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”
(You can read the rest here, courtesy of our friends at Crisis.)
Monday, December 7, 2015
I've been in Geneva the past few days, visiting a Sarah Lippert, a UST graduate currently interning at the Caritas in Veritate Foundation in Geneva, supporting the work of the Permanent Mission of the Holy See to the UN in Geneva, through UST's Post Graduate UN Internship program. Yesterday, Sarah and I went to the 7 pm Mass at this lovely Basilica of Notre Dame in downtown Geneva:
This was the third English language mass of the day at the Basilica, and it was packed. English speakers from all over the globe, from the mostly Phillipino choir, to the first reader who appeared to be from southeast Asia, to the second reader who was clearly American, to the priest with the thickest, most charming Scottish accent I have ever heard. Sarah told me that the young professionals group is large and active. I couldn't help but take some small pleasure at being in the middle of Geneva, listening to this Scottish priest, asking myself "Reformation? What Reformation?"