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.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Language We Use

I just finished attending a two day seminar on Woman in the Church and in the World, sponsored by the Siena Symposium for Women, Family, and Culture.  The seminar included some wonderful sessions on the problems confronting women, the Marian Dimension of the Church, the family as "domestic Church," the mission of the laity, among others.  Among the other participant attendants were MOJ'er Lisa Schiltz and MOJ friend Teresa Collett. 

While are many substantive issues I could write about (and perhaps Lisa will blog on one or more of those), one of the things that came up for me is something we also touched on (albeit in a different context) at the recent Law and Religion Roundtable that several of us have written about here on MOJ - the need for care in the language that we employ. 

One of the symposium participants leveled the criticism that secular feminists buy into a mindset of male normativity (not her term).  That is, they accept a male hierarchy of values and seek to have women embody those values as well or better than do men.  (In fact, I don't think that is an accurate characterization of most secular feminist thought, but that is beside the point of my thrust here.)  The suggestion is that Catholic thought brings a better approach to the table in its notion of complementarity, which does not demand of women that they try to “be men.”

My concern is not with the notion of complementarity but in how it is discussed.  As I listened to a number of comments, rather than promoting a notion that women’s talents and gifts were as important as men’s, some of the language seemed to replace one hierarchy of values with another.  Thus, for example, one person spoke of having a child as involving a total lifegiving sacrifice that is fuller than any other possible sacrifice of self humans are capable of.  (What does that say, not only to males, but to women without children?)  Another made a comment suggesting that there is a preference for the contemplative over the active, suggesting that female receptivity was of a higher value than male action.  Complementarity, it seems to me, ought to be about dumping the idea of ranking of male and female gifts/talents, not about replacing one ranking of values with another.

It may be that neither of the comments I gave as examples (nor several others of a similar ilk) were intended to suggest this, but that is how it sounded.  Hence my admonition that we all need to be careful in how we discuss these issues if we want to persuade that they offer a better way of thinking about issues. 

July 1, 2011 in Stabile, Susan | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 27, 2011

What's Love Got to Do With It

Along with several other MOJ'ers, I attended the Annual Law & Religion Roundtable at Northwestern Law School this past Thursday and Friday.  As Steve Shiffrin and Marc DeGirolami's posts (here and here) have already suggested, it was a wonderful conference.  The biggest reason for my delay in posting about the gathering was that there is so much one could write about.

Among the presentations was one by Alan Brownstein (UC Davis), who advances an alternative ground for religious liberty, one grounded in love.  Arguing that the conventional religious justification for religious freedom, which describes the relationship between the person and God as that of sovereign subject, is unconvincing to unbelievers, he suggests that the theological argument in support of religious liberty be cast in terms of our duty to God being a manifestation of a relationship grounded on love.  Brownstein argues that claims for religious liberty based on the relationship  between the believer and God being one based on love may be more persuasive and less threatening to nonbelievers than claims based on a relationship of sovereignty.

This argument generated a lot of discussion by the roundtable participants - both regarding the extent to which is mattered to Brownstein's claim whether the love between a human and God and is the same or different as the love between two human beings, and whether a claim based on love make it less easy to distinguish religion as deserving of special protection in the law.

I loved the love argument for two reasons.  First, it grounds religious liberty in that which I believe to be most foundational from a spiritual perspective - the love relationship between us and God.  Second, love is a much more powerful force for our action than is obedience to a sovereign.  Obedience to the law makes us think of doing what we need to do to satisfy the letter of the law.  Love as a grounding motivates us to fully actualize the command of hte law.

Hopefully some of the other MOJ'ers in attendance will post some other thoughts.


June 27, 2011 in Stabile, Susan | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Jurisprudential Legacy of John Paul II

As we prepare for the the beatification and celebration of the life of John Paul II, I thought I'd remind everyone of the fine symposium held several years ago at St. John's University School of Law on The Jurisprudential Legacy of Pope John Paul II.  A number of MOJ authors participated in that symposium, including Michael Scaperlanda, Greg Sisk, Lisa Schiltz and Fr. Araujo.  You can find the issue, including links to all of the articles, here.

April 30, 2011 in Stabile, Susan | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Secularism and Self-Identity

Greg had a post the other day titled "The Pro-Life Generation", in which he expressed hope for the future based on the activities of Students for Life.

There is another story about young people that is far less hopeful.  Psychology Today reports that, whereas in the past the secular identiy of atheism/agnosciticm was incidental to their identity, today college students increasingly "consider their secularism to be an important, primary aspect of self-identity."  The article continues:

Nothing demonstrates this point more clearly than the rapid growth of the Secular Student Alliance, the umbrella group for organized atheism and humanism on college campuses (and now high schools as well). SSA chapters have grown from less than 50 in 2007 to over 250 today, and there is no sign of slowing down....

In recent years, however, that has changed, as nonreligious identity has become increasingly important to many.

"After the September 11 attacks, I began thinking that perhaps I should speak out against what I felt was a mindset that is not only wrong but dangerous," says Ian, who was a student at the University of Wisconsin in 2001 when the religiously motivated 9-11 terrorists took the lives of 3000 innocent victims.

Ian expresses the sentiments of many young adults who increasingly have come to see traditional religion as having little value in the modern world. A secular lifestance, to many of these students, is not secondary or incidental, but a primary aspect of their self-identity.

It seems to me religion is not doing a very good job if we can't convey to young people how it is meaningful to them in today's world.

March 28, 2011 in Stabile, Susan | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Remembering Oscar Romero

Today is the anniversary of the murder of Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero.  On March 24, 1980, Romeo presided at a special evening mass.  That evening he proclaimed from the Gospel of John that “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains only a grain.  But if it dies, it bears much fruit.”  As he concluded his sermon, which preached the need to give one’s life for others as Christ did, he was shot in the heart and died almost immediately.

Romero was tireless in his call for solidarity with the poor and oppressed, a voice for those who had no voice.  He was strident in his denunciation of violence and called for a culture of peace and an end to the killings that were destroying his country.

He was criticized by many for being too political in his sermons.  But that was a criticism he would not hear, believing that it was the mission of the Church to “save the world in its totality and to save it in history, here and now.”  He exhorted that “We cannot segregate God's word from the historical reality in which it is proclaimed.  That would not be God's word… It is God's word because it enlightens, contrasts with, repudiates, or praises what is going on today in this society."  His duty, he believed, was to help people to apply the Gospel to their own lives and to the reality of the world in which he lived.  “We turn the gospel's light onto the political scene, but the main thing for us is to light the lamp of the gospel in our communities.”

 Today we remember Oscar Romero, martyr, friend to the poor and prophet of justice.  May we remember him by heeding his call.

P.S.  Over the course of the last year, I posted sevearl reflections on my own blog, Creo en Dios!, drawn from Romero's homilies.  You can find two of them here and here.

March 24, 2011 in Stabile, Susan | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


There is a drive for a ballot initiative in San Francisco that would make the performance of a circumcision on a minor illegal "except where "the operation is necessary to the physical health of the person on whom it is performed because of a clear, compelling, and immediate medical need with no less-destructive alternative treatment available."  There is no religious exemption in the proposed language.

Paul Horowitz expresses the view that the initiative would likely pass constitutional muster despite its disproporationate effect on those who seek circumcision for religious reasons.  He also raises the question, I think an important one, of whether this is wise policy. 

November 24, 2010 in Stabile, Susan | Permalink | Comments (25) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 15, 2010

What Role for Theologians

Given the recent posts on issues relating to the Church position on homosexuality, an NCR commentary written by Regina Schulte, a theologian and the wife of the late James Schulte, coauthor of Human Sexuality: New Directions in American Catholic Thought, the 1977 study commissioned by the Catholic Theological Society of America, might be of interest to some.  Schlute argues that "[t]he roles of theologian and bishop in their complementary relationship are badly in need of re-examination and carefully nuanced distinctions."  She writes:

It is apparent that the hierarchy has usurped the entire teaching office -- the “magisterium” -- for themselves; yet they are only one of three components endowed with this charism. Theologians and the wisdom born of experience in the “sense of the faithful” comprise the other two. It would seem, then, that appropriate exercise of their distinctive roles requires that bishops collaborate rather than compete.

The full commentary is here.

October 15, 2010 in Stabile, Susan | Permalink | Comments (19) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

What's the Argument Against the Mosque Location, A Reader Asks

In the comments to my "at" or "near" post of yesterday, a reader asks the following question.  Since it is an important question, I thought I'd pull it from the comments where it might go unnoticed and ask for thoughts in reponse. 

"Both Rick Garnett and John Breen have now claimed that there are arguments against the location of Park51 which have nothing to do with Islamophobia or the--implicit or explicit--questioning of American Muslims' patriotism. I still have not heard what these arguments are. They certaintly are nowhere to be found on major media outlets or political blogs. From the excerpt of Robby George's not-yet-published op-ed, I anticipate one such argument, which is grounded in "considerations of the sensitivies of families of victims of the 9/11 attacks". But I submit that as soon as you begin to explain *why* a certain sensitivity is enjoined upon the builders of Park51 and no one else, you end up in the position of Islamophobia, or at least in the position of imputing collective guilt on all Muslims (who must be more sensitive than everybody else) for the actions of a few religo-political maniacs."

[Upated to open comments, which I inadvertently neglected to do when I first posted.]

August 19, 2010 in Stabile, Susan | Permalink | Comments (43) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Mosque "At" or "Near"

I appreciate the title of Rob's last post, which speaks of a mosque "near" Ground Zero.  People keep speaking of a mosque "at" Ground Zero or refer to it as a "Ground Zero Mosque."  Whether or not one is generally a fan of Huffington Post,this piece nicely conveys the difference between "at" and "near." 

I am not insensitive to the feelings of those who lost loved ones on 9/11.  I lost an uncle only five years my senior, who was more like a brother to me growing up than an uncle, and I have seen the devastating effects of that day on other of my family members who were in the WTC or nearby when the planes hit.  I still grieve for all of them.  But talking about a mosque "at" Ground Zero is inaccurate and inflammatory.  If anything, incorrectly talking about a mosque "at" the site adds to the pain and opposition of the familes who mourn those who died (many of whom, I'm guessing, have not focused on the fact that one is unlikely even to be able to see the mosque from Ground Zero given the size of surrounding buildings). 

August 18, 2010 in Stabile, Susan | Permalink | Comments (25) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Kinship of Faiths

About ten days ago, I had an exchange with Rick (in this post and its comments, stemming from Rick's earlier post here) about the Dalai Lama's views about the relationship among religions.  For those interested in the subject, I highly recommend the Dalai Lama's most recent book, Toward A True Kinship of Faiths, which I just finished reading.  I wrote about it in a Cren en Dios! blog post this morning, which you can find here.

July 20, 2010 in Stabile, Susan | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)