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, February 5, 2014

A Tenth Anniversary Reflection on our Project

I started blogging at MOJ a month of so before the 2004 election, and so many of my early posts had to do with voting and conscience, a subject that will always continue to be part of our discussions.  Although I have been an infrequent MOJ blogger of late, I remain convinced of the importance of the enterprise in which we have been engaged for the last ten years.

 In his recent Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium Pope Francis, speaking about the inclusion of the poor in society, said that Jesus’ command to his disciples “You yourselves give them something to eat” (citing Mark) “means working to eliminate the structural causes of poverty and to promote the integral development of the poor, as well as small daily acts of solidarity in meeting the real needs which we encounter.  The word ‘solidarity’ is a little worn and at times poorly understood, but it refers to something more than a few sporadic acts of generosity.  It presumes the creation of a new mindset which thinks in terms of community and the priority of the life of all over the appropriation of goods by a few.” 

The thrust of the Pope’s point is not limited solely to the problem of poverty.  He expresses clearly in the document that because Christian conversion “demands reviewing especially those areas and aspects of life related to the social order and the pursuit of the common good,…no one can demand that religion should be relegated to the inner sanctum of personal life, without influence on societal and national life, without concern for the soundness of civil institutions, without a right to offer an opinion on events affecting society.”

 Those of us involved in the MOJ project will doubtless continue to disagree about all sorts of issues -  whether particular laws and policy positions are consistent with principles of Catholic Social Thought, whether a good Catholic can vote for a particular candidate, and so on.  But we all proceed from the premise that we have a duty to help to create “a new mindset which thinks in terms of community and the priority of life of all” and that  we cannot make decisions about law and public policy divorced from the teachings of our faith.   

February 5, 2014 in Stabile, Susan | Permalink

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Way of St. James

I will fly to Paris this afternoon, and from there travel to St. Jean Pied de Port, where on Friday (feast day of one of my great heroes, St. Vincent de Paul) I will begin walking the Camino Francais.  It is my hope to arrive in Santiago de Compostela on All Saints Day.

As Michael Scaperlanda did when he walked this same route four years ago, I will try to share something of my experience from time to time as I walk.

I ask for your prayers that I be open to whatever it is God wishes to share with me during this pilgrimage. Be assured of my prayers as well for the contributors and readers of Mirror of Justice.


September 24, 2013 in Stabile, Susan | Permalink | Comments (2)

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Picking Blueberries

Yesterday morning Dave and I drove to a farm a bit north of the Twin Cities to pick blueberries. Mind you, Dave had no enthusiasm for this venture, but I had gotten it in my head that it would be a fun outing and this is the perfect time to be picking blueberries, so off we went.

It was a fun morning and I'm glad we went, but: Picking blueberries is not all that easy. The sun was hot and the bushes are low to the ground, requiring kneeling or squatting, except when you have to stand and bend to get at them. We picked for a little over an hour, with me frequently shifting positions to relieve a cramp in my leg or a strain in my back. And, as I discovered, it takes a lot of picking to get a tray full of blueberries. (It takes a lot less time to fill a bag with apples when you are apple picking.)

"U-pick-em" farms are a fun outing for people like me who sit at a computer for large chunks of the day. Couple of hours outside and come home with a big load of delicious berries.

But as I was picking I started thinking of people who have to do work like this day after day all day long. When I was in my early teens, I used to think it would be fun to be a migrant farm worker. Traveling around picking fruit and vegetables seemed like it would be a cool thing to do. Of course I had no idea of the labor involved and what it would mean to have to work hard enough day after day to barely have enough money to scrape by.

Yesterday was a good reminder of the difficult lives of those in the farming industry. Migrant and seasonal farmworkers are some of the most economically disadvantaged people in this country, almost a quarter having a family income below the national poverty guidelines. In addition to low wages, thay generally lack access to worker’s compensation, or other benefits.

Something to think about as we eat the wonderful produce of this season.

Update: See the comment posted by Ellen Wertheimer that points out that I have understated the plight of these workers.

[Cross-posted from Creo en Dios.]


August 10, 2013 in Stabile, Susan | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, August 8, 2013


Following the lead of Rick and Michael in announcing their Twitter contacts: I'm @SusanStabile on Twitter.

August 8, 2013 in Stabile, Susan | Permalink

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Feminism, Law and Religion

Ashgate Publications has just published Feminism, Law and Religion as part of its series on Gender in Law, Culture and Society, edited by  Marie Failinger (Hamline), Lisa Schiltz and me.  (Each of the three of us also has a chapter in the book.)
Here is Ashgate's description:
With contributions from some of the most prominent voices writing on gender, law and religion today, this book illuminates some of the conflicts at the intersection of feminism, theology and law. It examines a range of themes from the viewpoint of identifiable traditions such as Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Buddhism, from a theoretical and practical perspective. Among the themes discussed are the cross-over between religious and secular values and assumptions in the search for a just jurisprudence for women, the application of theological insights from religious traditions to legal issues at the core of feminist work, feminist legal readings of scriptural texts on women’s rights and the place that religious law has assigned to women in ecclesiastic life.
Feminists of faith face challenges from many sides: patriarchal remnants in their own tradition, dismissal of their faith commitments by secular feminists and balancing the conflicting loyalties of their lives. The book will be essential reading for legal and religious academics and students working in the area of gender and law or law and religion.

June 18, 2013 in Stabile, Susan | Permalink | Comments (4)

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Depends on How it Changes the Game

Patrick's post about the AID's involvement in a partnership to address LGBT issues around the world laments that  "U.S. taxpayers' dollars are being spent to advocate internationally for laws and policies that most Americans still oppose and that, what is more, violate the moral law."  

I think he overstates the objection tremendously.  The specific things listed as being of concern in the AID's announcement of the partnership are the fact that LGBT behavior is criminalized in 85 countries, seven of which impose a death penalty for same-sex sexual activity and that a large number of countries do not punish anti-gay discrimination.  I think one would be hard put to claim that most Americans think same-sex behavior should be criminatlized or subject to the death penality and I see no violation of moral law in fighting against such laws.  And (appreciating that people can have different views as to what constitutes discrimination, even the Catholic Church believes that people should not be discriminated against) because of their sexual orientation.

The United States is not representative of the rest ofthe world.  The big fight here is about gay marriage.  In other parts of the world homosexuals risk harm from third parties and their own governments because of their orientation.  

I'd like to know a little more about the specific plans of the partnership of which the AID is a part before coming to the conclusions Patrick does.


June 6, 2013 in Stabile, Susan | Permalink | Comments (3)

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Pro-Life Group at Johns Hopkind Denied Official Club Status

The opening line of an article with the above headline reads, "The Student Government Association at Johns Hopkins University has denied a pro-life group official club status at the Baltimore school for fear the group will make students feel uncomfortable."  Yes, you read that correctly. One of the SGA members explained, “We have the right to protect our students from things that are uncomfortable. Why should people have to defend their beliefs on their way to class?”  

My first thought was that Johns Hopkins must have very few official student organizations if the test is whether a group will make any students feel uncomfortable.  But I see they have quite a few.  So it must be OK to make students uncomfortable on some subjects, but not others.

April 3, 2013 in Stabile, Susan | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 11, 2013

Announcement of Pope Benedict's Retirement

As reported this morning, Pope Benedict has indicated his intent to retire from the papacy at the end of this month.

The full statement from Pope Benedict XVI:

Dear Brothers,

I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church.

After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.

I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering.

However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfil the ministry entrusted to me.

For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.

Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects.

And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer. 

From the Vatican, 10 February 2013 


February 11, 2013 in Stabile, Susan | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Hope and the Best of Ourselves

Further to Rob's and Greg's posts, these are the thoughts I posted on Creo en Dios! this morning: 

Yesterday was the day some people thought the world might end. It didn't. Instead, the big news of the day was the NRA suggesting that the response to the deaths of our children in Connecticut last week should be to have armed guards in all of our schools and create a national database of the mentally ill in the country.

The paranoia and demagoguery reflected in the NRA's comments are deeply upsetting. Because if one is convinced we need guns at schools, why not guns in every day care center, every hospital, every heavily trafficked street corner?

Why not churches? Then we can sit and pray to the Incarnate God who met violence with love, with guns in our laps ready to protect ourselves from anyone we perceive to be a threat.

Is that the society we believe we've become? Is that a society we want to be?

If that is our vision of our future - a vision without hope, the world might as well have ended yesterday.

I've watched the post Newtown commentary with deep (and growing) sadness, shaking my head as people say, "It's not about guns, it' about mental illness." Or "It's not about mental illness, it's about guns." Or "it's not about guns or mental illness, it is that we've locked God out of schools."

The problem with "it's not A, but B" analyses, is that they seek simple solutions to complicated issues, and that they tend to promote the simple solutions that happen to be consistent with the promoters' already-existing views. We do need some meaningful regulation of guns in this country. And we desperately need a sounder approach to mental illness. We also need to, as my friend Mark Osler wrote earlier this week, to be more effective evangelists. We need to do more to help those without one to develop a personal relationship with God.

And we need hope. Hope in God. Hope that we can do better. Hope that we can be better. And responding to gun violence by promoting more guns is not a reflection of hope.

I ended the last session of our Advent Retreat in Daily Living on Monday by reading Daniel Berrigan's Advent Credo. It is worth sharing again in this context.

It is not true that creation and the human family are doomed to destruction and loss— This is true: For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life;
It is not true that we must accept inhumanity and discrimination, hunger and poverty, death and destruction— This is true: I have come that they may have life, and that abundantly.
It is not true that violence and hatred should have the last word, and that war and destruction rule forever— This is true: Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, his name shall be called wonderful councilor, mighty God, the Everlasting, the Prince of peace.
It is not true that we are simply victims of the powers of evil who seek to rule the world— This is true: To me is given authority in heaven and on earth, and lo I am with you, even until the end of the world. It is not true that we have to wait for those who are specially gifted, who are the prophets of the Church before we can be peacemakers— This is true: I will pour out my spirit on all flesh and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions and your old men shall have dreams.
It is not true that our hopes for liberation of humankind, of justice, of human dignity of peace are not meant for this earth and for this history— This is true: The hour comes, and it is now, that the true worshipers shall worship God in spirit and in truth.
So let us enter Advent in hope, even hope against hope. Let us see visions of love and peace and justice. Let us affirm with humility, with joy, with faith, with courage: Jesus Christ—the life of the world.
I choose hope.

December 22, 2012 in Stabile, Susan | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Further Thoughts on the Health Care Decision: Commerce Clause

As suggested by Michael’s earlier brief post, today’s Supreme Court decision may be construed as a blow to Congress’ authority under the Commerce Clause.   Justice Roberts’ opinion for the Court held that the individual mandate is not a valid exercise of Congress’ power under the Commerce Clause and Necessary and Proper Clause.  In his view, the power to regulate presupposes the existence of commercial activity to be regulated and to allow regulation in the absence of activity would grant too much power to Congress.  

Although I accept that reasonable people can differ on this, I find Roberts' analysis unpersuasive here, particularly his narrow view of the Necessary and Proper Clause.  (I always thought the individual mandate was a valid exercise of Congress’ power under the N&P clause - as an essential component of a comprehensive scheme Congress clearly has the authority to enact.)  I also agree with Justice Ginsburg’s view that there was no reason for Roberts to rule on the Commerce Clause issue given his conclusion that that Affordable Care Act was a valid exercise of Congress’ taxing authority.  He reason for doing so seems strained at best.

Nonetheless, the decision on the Commerce Clause is out there.  It remains to be seen how much of a limit that analysis will impose on Congress’ authority to enact social welfare laws, but it assuredly will have some.

One unrelated observation: The dissent in the case (Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas and Alito) reads very strangely in several respects: (1) Until the last two pages, it only refers to the opinion of the Court once (unless I missed anothter reference); most of the time it refers to the briefs and arguments of the Government.  (2) It numerous times refers to Justice Ginsburg's decision as the dissent. (3) It goes through an awfully extensive analysis of severability, which seems completely unncessary given the opinion of the Court.  In other words, the dissent reads to me like it expected that it would be the opinion of the Court.

June 28, 2012 in Stabile, Susan | Permalink | TrackBack (0)