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 10, 2009

Horizontal Catholicism & the Economy of Communion

Thanks, Michael P., for the link to John Allen’s latest, in which he discusses, among other things, John Coleman’s analysis of the “paradox” that “Roman Catholicism should be the religious actor best positioned to engage the issues raised by globalization, but aside from debt relief, its impact so far has been marginal” and set out the theory that official Church structures "may lack the inner organizational flexibility for rapid and networked response to global issues as they arise," and surmises that "semi-autonomous and more local Catholic sub-groups will be the major actors in activist global networks."

Allen wonders about the role of what he calls "horizontal Catholicism" – “a host of movements, associations, ad-hoc networks, and religious communities, engaged in the issues raised by globalization in a staggering variety of ways. These malleable, rapid-response forms of Catholicism will exercise a steadily more important role in framing Catholic social activism as the century unfolds.”

I think that Allen is on to something.  Having followed the developments in the Focolare Movement’s “Economy of Communion” project since its inception in 1991, I sense that one of the reasons its framework is so solid it that it is able to combine a flexible and responsive local presence with a unified international vision and cultural approach, as I have discussed here, here and here.

Development needs within local communities are assessed within a framework of a broader commitment on the part of everyone – both those who share and those who receive material resources – to live a “culture of giving.”  The sharing of material resources is always linked to the commitment to build a true sense of family within the community, a place to share stories about how God’s loving intervention has come to meet material needs, and inspired further efforts to be a “gift” for others in a variety of ways.  These stories, in turn, foster continued commitment in the part of those who operate the Economy of Communion businesses throughout the world.  The structure is flexible and responsive not only in a practical sense, but also in its capacity to build authentic human relationships, which then serve as a foundation for social and economic development.

Based on this somewhat anecdotal experience, I think there’s much for us to mine in Allen’s statement, “The experience and insight of this horizontal Catholicism might also become a fertile locus teologicus, meaning a valuable foundation for new trajectories in Catholic social doctrine.”

July 10, 2009 in Uelmen, Amy | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Caritas in Veritate & the Trinity as a Social Model

Over at the America magazine blog, Austen Ivereigh takes issue with George Weigel's system for parsing Caritas in Veritate, and surmises that there might have been at least one other major influence in the drafting: Chiara Lubich, the founder of the Focolare Movement.  He points out three parallels in the discussion of fraternity and gift, in the "economy of communion," and in the link between poverty and isolation.  I'd like to suggest a fourth, which might contain all the rest, and which might even help us push beyond our liberal-conservative debate: the Trinity as a social model.  

54.  The theme of development can be identified with the inclusion-in-relation of all individuals and peoples within the one community of the human family, built in solidarity on the basis of the fundamental values of justice and peace. This perspective is illuminated in a striking way by the relationship between the Persons of the Trinity within the one divine Substance. The Trinity is absolute unity insofar as the three divine Persons are pure relationality. The reciprocal transparency among the divine Persons is total and the bond between each of them complete, since they constitute a unique and absolute unity. God desires to incorporate us into this reality of communion as well: “that they may be one even as we are one” (Jn 17:22). The Church is a sign and instrument of this unity. Relationships between human beings throughout history cannot but be enriched by reference to this divine model. In particular, in the light of the revealed mystery of the Trinity, we understand that true openness does not mean loss of individual identity but profound interpenetration.

Or as Lubich put it: “Jesus shows us that I am myself, not when I close myself off from the other, but rather when I give myself, when out of love I lose myself in the other. . . . In the relationship of the three divine Persons, each one is love, each on is completely, by not being: because each one is, perichoretically, in the other Person, in eternal self giving.”  (Lubich, Essential Writings, 211-212).


The Trinity as a “social model” has been common parlance in the circles of Focolare scholars for several years now, and these conversations have served as the foundation for much of my own work and scholarship (eg, Toward a Trinitarian Theory of Products Liability). 


Much of the work so far has been published in Italian, but there’s a new book just out in English by Thomas J. Norris (an Irish priest and professor of systematic theology), The Trinity: Life of God, Hope for Humanity—Towards a Theology of Communion(2009), which also includes a chapter on the connection between the Trinitarian model and the Economy of Communion.


It might be interesting to explore further whether the life of the Trinity as set out in number 54 might be something of a literary key for the entire encyclical—for example, it might be the paradigm which helps us to make sense of the discussion of the need for “gratuitousness” in economic life; and of the importance of safeguarding individual and cultural identities while at the same time helping people and peoples to forge bonds of communion with each other and across borders.


July 8, 2009 in Uelmen, Amy | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Michael S & Michael P: Categories

Seems like there are two things going on in your exchange: first, the need to acknowledge that much of our political, social and legal landscape is working with these categories (liberal-conservative, right-left), and so we do need to watch for how they are at work in the discourse, and in particular in the conversation about and critique of CST; and second, the desire especially as we engage each other to enter into the complexity of each other's thought, and the complexity of the broader discourse, both as part of the effort to not box each other in, but also make sure we genuinely understand the nuance in each others' thinking.  So can we all agree that the categories are simultaneously real and reductive?   

July 7, 2009 in Uelmen, Amy | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Caritas in Veritate & The Economy of Communion

It's rare for a specific project to get a shout-out in a papal enclyclical, but here's an exception:  As John Allen connects the dots here and here, this paragraph of Caritas in Veritate: 

46. When we consider the issues involved in the relationship between business and ethics, as well as the evolution currently taking place in methods of production, it would appear that the traditionally valid distinction between profit-based companies and non-profit organizations can no longer do full justice to reality, or offer practical direction for the future. In recent decades a broad intermediate area has emerged between the two types of enterprise. It is made up of traditional companies which nonetheless subscribe to social aid agreements in support of underdeveloped countries, charitable foundations associated with individual companies, groups of companies oriented towards social welfare, and the diversified world of the so-called “civil economy” and the “economy of communion”. This is not merely a matter of a “third sector”, but of a broad new composite reality embracing the private and public spheres, one which does not exclude profit, but instead considers it a means for achieving human and social ends. Whether such companies distribute dividends or not, whether their juridical structure corresponds to one or other of the established forms, becomes secondary in relation to their willingness to view profit as a means of achieving the goal of a more humane market and society. It is to be hoped that these new kinds of enterprise will succeed in finding a suitable juridical and fiscal structure in every country. Without prejudice to the importance and the economic and social benefits of the more traditional forms of business, they steer the system towards a clearer and more complete assumption of duties on the part of economic subjects. And not only that. The very plurality of institutional forms of business gives rise to a market which is not only more civilized but also more competitive. 

is referring specifically to the Focolare Movement’s “Economy of Communion” project.  For more information about the Economy of Communion project, here is a link for an overview essay I co-authored with Italian economist Luigino Bruni, who has written extensively about the project, and here is the Economy of Communion's international website.  The July 2009 issue of the Focolare's monthly magazine, Living City includes a series of articles about the project. 


July 7, 2009 in Uelmen, Amy | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, July 3, 2009

A Literary Key to the New Encyclical

John Allen's latest, A Key to Reading Benedict's Social Encyclical looks like a super-helpful guide and warmup for the release of Caritas in Veritate, due out this Tuesday.

July 3, 2009 in Uelmen, Amy | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Thoughts about the Catholic Legal Theory Project on the Feast of the Sacred Heart

When I went to mass this morning, and heard the readings to celebrate the Feast of the Sacred Heart, I was taken by the beauty of the selection from the letter to Ephesians 3:8-12.14-19.  Here’s a snippet: “…that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” 


The Gospel (John 19:31-37) then drove home just how fleshy is the whole endeavor: “But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs, but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out.”


What I like about the questions of our thoughtful practicing-lawyer friend is that they seem to be a call for a deeper sense of the connectedness of the whole project.  I wonder if the idea of a “root” and a “ground” – specifically in love – might be an interesting starting point in answering the question of what is the point of spending time working out a theoretical framework, but in a way that does not become disconnected from the lived experience, and in particular, the lived struggles and sufferings of humanity (including lawyers) around us – so as to ultimately surpass knowledge, and in some way touch the fullness of the experience of God. 


I also thought it was interesting that so many of our practicing-lawyer-friend’s questions rang true for me, but I would have framed them not as a tension between practice and theory, but as a more feminine critique of the inaccessibility of theoretical abstractions; or in some contexts, as came up in our discussion of the documents, as a North-American critique of European tendencies to high (for me inaccessible) levels of abstraction. 


I am a big believer in the importance of taking time to spin out a theoretical ground and framework for our scholarship.  For me the highlight of the Conference on Catholic Legal Thought last week was the help that I received in working out what could be a fairly abstract argument about the relationship between law and morality as a grounding for my summer work in progress on duty to rescue.  We wrestled quite a bit with the question of whether the underlying story we tell about rescue makes a difference, regardless of the legal outcome.  But I do think that our practicing lawyer friend is right, that in the work of theory, we do need to keep in mind the “questions and needs of real people” – and perhaps having this as a focal point (or to put it another way, being “rooted and grounded in love”) might be the ultimate key to comprehension in any meaningful sense.


Finally, over the past week I have spent some time thinking about the journey of the CCLT since the initial 2006 brainstorm.  At that initial gathering we faced a fork in the road: whether to focus more intensively and purposefully on projects to form the next generation of legal scholars in the Catholic intellectual tradition; or more on building an intentional community of mutual encouragement and support among those who are working in the field, with the secondary goal of initial and continued formation in the tradition.  While the first remains a vitally important project and piece of unfinished work, we chose to take the second path. 


As Susan and Rob already mentioned, the group includes a very diverse span of perspectives and approaches to the tradition.  My Fordham colleague and others who were there for the first time were impressed to find in an academic environment such an encouraging, accepting atmosphere where one finds what I think is a rather extraordinary capacity to listen to and welcome each other across and within differences.  As our culture, the blog world, and the church itself face the risks of increasing polarization, perhaps one of the real beauties of the CCLT project is the priority that it gives to building these kind of relationships, the space it fosters to be “grounded and rooted in love,” and in this way, to nourish an exchange which is all the richer because of the real differences in our theoretical, practical and experiential perspectives, perhaps even giving us a taste of the “breadth and length and height and depth” of God’s love.

June 19, 2009 in Uelmen, Amy | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Lawyers and Vacations

      Check out this brief ABA Journal piece, “Vacation or Not, Lawyers Should Be Available via E-mail, Cleary Partner Says.”  “An ‘out of office’ auto-reply saying that an attorney is unavailable is acceptable only in rare circumstances, such as when a lawyer is on an international flight in a different time zone and a colleague, for some reason, is unable to cover...”  This is followed by a survey with three possible responses to the question of whether lawyers should be reachable by email while on vacation: 1) I can always be reached; 2) I’ll check a couple times a day; 3) no, cutting myself off from work is the whole point.

    What strikes me about the clip and the survey is that there is zero attention to context: the attorney’s level of responsibility, the type of cases one is working on and the extent to which they are time sensitive (eg, contrast work on a preliminary injunction with work on fairly slow-paced and predictable appellate briefs or document review); not to mention the particularities of one’s family situation.  Absent context, it’s very difficult to tell whether this sense of 24/7 availability has anything to do with client service at all.

     My first summer in practice at a large firm I stupidly giving up the chance to be present at a three-day retreat which had always been important to me because I assumed that as the most junior on the totem pole I should make myself available to “cover” the case while a large chunk team was out in August.  Later I realized that I was responding not to realistic client needs (the litigation was fairly slow paced), but my own fears about firm expectations, which in that case were ungrounded.  I probably should have been reading a little more Laborem Exercens or Dies Domini for a better sense of perspective. 

June 4, 2009 in Uelmen, Amy | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

"Matters of Conscience" Event

Here's a link to the National Catholic Reporter's article which gives of nice snapshot of the Fordham Center for Religion and Culture "Matters of Conscience: When Moral Precepts Collide With Public Policy" discussion last week, featuring MOJ's own Rob Vischer, together with Marc Stern, Doug Kmiec, and Nadine Strossen, and moderated by Russ Pearce. 

Rob's contribution to the discussion was also a great sneak preview of his forthcoming book on Conscience and the Common Good.  As he was quoted in this NCR piece, "where values clash, the default position for a society that takes conscience seriously" should be to "resist temptation to use state power to close down the conversation," rather than "see which side can harness state power to its chosen value."

It was indeed a "lively debate"! 

May 6, 2009 in Uelmen, Amy | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Religious Mission Conversations at CUA

Last Friday, together with fellow MOJers Rick and Patrick, as well as MOJ friend Fr. Reggie Whitt, I participated in a panel discussion at The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law on “Realizing Religious Mission in Legal Education.”  (Forgive the length of this, but I promised Rick that I would post this, and it might tie into our ongoing discussions about “distinctiveness” and mission). 


The discussion as a whole took as a springboard Judge John Noonan’s 1992 essay, “What is a Catholic Law School?" (67 Notre Dame L. Rev. 1037).  I picked up on two of the principles that he identified as part of the distinctive character of a Catholic law school: 1) Recognition of the “unchallenged importance” of philosophy, and in particular recognition of how the metaphysical dimensions of the person should inform legal categories and frameworks; and 2) Ample room for the expressly theological: even for scholarship that invokes scripture, the example of Jesus, prayer, in short, the “fusion of the responsibilities of the lawyer and the love of Christ.”


Giving a couple of examples of how in our work at Fordham, particularly in our “Love of Neighbor and the Law” project, I emphasized how we have benefited greatly from the work of our non-Catholic faculty, not only in terms of collaboration, but also in leadership, and while Noonan would find any of this problematic, I argued that it did nonetheless suggest a slight shift in the framework for discussions about “realizing religious mission.” 


For example, Noonan asked who are the participants in fulfilling the distinctive mission of a Catholic law school.  “Must the students and the faculty be Catholics, too?” His answer is: “not all, but enough to give substance to the claim of the school to be a Catholic law school . . . I see no point in pretending that it does not make a difference what religion the faculty professes.”  This seems to suggest two things: one, that it is in some way a question of numbers; and two, that there is a correlation between the religion that one professes and one’s capacity to draw out the connections between one’s Catholic identity and one’s law teaching and law scholarship. 


My experience at Fordham indicates that it is definitely more complex.  As a member of “generation X,” I ask myself, what difference does “professed religion” make when most Catholics of my generation—including Catholic law faculty—lack the formation in the driving ideas of their religious traditions that might make a difference for their legal scholarship and teaching?  And it is not just a generational problem, because the generations ahead of me often carry a largely private (or at time ethnic) conception of religion which tends to focus, for the most part, on liturgy and individual expressions of spirituality, in ways that may not connect directly with the law school curriculum and community.  So it’s not just post-Vatican II ignorance, but also pre-Vatican II tendencies to privatize the impact and implications of faith perspectives.


Now Noonan is certainly open to pluralism.  As he himself states, he is neither a proponent of trials for heresy, nor of excluding or discounting the contributions of faculty from other religious traditions who are attracted to the distinctive dimensions of Catholic legal education.  But I would push further.  I think it is a mistake to frame the interaction as a matter of allowing people of other faith traditions to enter and participate in a Catholic environment.  Instead, we need to emphasize that mission also means appreciating how we can all learn and grow from mutually enriching relationships.  Dialogue needs to be fostered not as a concession, not as an afterthought, but as the very fabric of our life together, and as an essential dynamic in the life of the Church itself. 


As you all know, I am not saying that we should not pay attention to the task of finding faculty who have or who might develop both the capacity and the interest in drawing out what the Catholic intellectual tradition offers to legal scholarship and law school teaching.  But even as I think about these projects, I find myself asking what kind of resources might help us to both appreciate all that the tradition has to offer, and at the same time embrace the rich contributions that faculty and students from other religious traditions might bring to the endeavor.


Some ideas, grounded in Jesus’s own capacity to “empty” himself; and in a model based on the life of the Trinity, in which, as Chiara Lubich put it, “I am myself not when I close myself off from the other, but when I give myself, when out of love I am lost in the other”—are outlined more fully in a piece recently published in the ACCU’s Journal, Current Issues in Catholic Higher Education, “Sparks and Bridges: Catalysts of a Catholic Higher Education That Works” on the sidebar under my name.      


However the project is framed, I think the key to realizing religious mission is to place our trust in the content of love, a love that fosters the deepest sense of personal integration and identity, and at the same time, a celebration of the gifts that others, with all of their differences, might bring.  As Pope Benedict put it in his encyclical Deus caritas: love is “a journey, an ongoing exodus out of the closed inward-looking self towards its liberation through self-giving, and thus towards authentic self-discovery and indeed the discovery of God.”  This presence of God, can then become a guide to discover the manifold ways in which God is already at work in our students, our colleagues, and our institutions as a whole.

April 29, 2009 in Uelmen, Amy | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Fordham Symposium on Poverty & The Common Good

If anyone is in the NY-Westchester area this evening, Fordham's Beck Institute on Religion and Poverty and our Office on Mission and Ministry are hosting an evening symposium on Poverty & the Common Good at Fordham's Westchester (West Harrison) Campus.  More info here.  The panel, moderated by Peter Steinfels, includes Christine Hinze (Fordham Theology), George Horton (Archdiocese NY Catholic Charities), Kevin Jackson (Fordham Business), and I'll be giving a snapshot of how the Focolare's Economy of Communion project illuminates the value of reciprocity as a key to social development, with a few implications for legal theory.

April 2, 2009 in Uelmen, Amy | Permalink | TrackBack (0)