Saturday, September 22, 2018
I enjoyed this piece in The Atlantic, on the importance and vulnerability of America's "social infrastructure." Here's a taste:
Social infrastructure is not “social capital”— the concept commonly used to measure people’s relationships and networks—but the physical places that allow bonds to develop. When social infrastructure is robust, it fosters contact, mutual support, and collaboration among friends and neighbors; when degraded, it inhibits social activity, leaving families and individuals to fend for themselves. People forge ties in places that have healthy social infrastructures—not necessarily because they set out to build community, but because when people engage in sustained, recurrent interaction, particularly while doing things they enjoy, relationships—even across ethnic or political lines—inevitably grow.
The author's focus is on "physical places." So, when he talks about churches, it is in terms of their being places where people (physically) gather, etc.: "Nonprofit organizations, including churches and civic associations, act as social infrastructure when they have an established physical space where people can assemble, as do regularly scheduled markets for food, clothing, and other consumer goods." This is fine, so far as it goes, but in some of my own work, I've tried to explore the "infrastructural" role that churches play as (quoting Paul Horwitz) "First Amendment Institutions." Take a look, here, here, and here.
For a different "take" than the one by Adrian Vermeule and Gladden Pappin, which I posted the other day ("China and the Vatican: Principles for the Rationally Ignorant Catholic"), see this piece, by George Weigel. Weigel contends, among other things, that the "deal" being discussed would represent a deeply regrettable failure to learn lessons from the failure of the 1933 Reichskonkordat and would violate the Church's law which states that "no rights or privileges of election, appointment, presentation, or designation of bishops are conceded to civil authorities."
Thursday, September 20, 2018
I have an essay (available here) in the new Cato Supreme Court Review (the issue reviewing the 2017-18 term), entitled "Masterpiece Cakeshop: A Romer for Religious Objectors?" It explores the idea that Masterpiece was written--for the moment--as a narrow decision, based on official decision-makers' hostility in the particular case rather than on a broad assertion of religious objectors' free exercise or free speech rights, and in that sense is similar to Romer v. Evans (1996), the first gay-rights ruling. Romer struck down Colorado's Amendment 2 on the ground that it reflected animus toward gays and lesbians; the Court thus avoided (and did for almost 20 years) saying anything about heightened scrutiny for gay-rights claims.
From the abstract:
This essay examines Masterpiece and the unresolved religious-liberty questions through the lens of the similarities with Romer (and potentially with the later, more-expansive gay-rights rulings). Part I describes the resemblances between the two rulings, among other things that in both, animus or hostility serves as a “minimalist” holding that avoided committing to broad implications for future cases. But that modesty comes with a cost: To find animus, the Court must denounce the decision-makers in the immediate case as especially unjustified, even malicious, and that conclusion can cause equal or greater anger compared with broader holdings, such as declaring a suspect classification or fundamental right. In the final parallel with Romer, I sketch how the finding of unequal, hostile treatment in Masterpiece might provide the basis for further protection of religious traditionalists’ right to decline to facilitate same-sex marriages, at least in an appropriately limited set of circumstances. [E.g. solidifying Masterpiece's holding that when the state allows social liberals to refuse to provide goods or services with messages that offend against their conscience, it must also allow religious conservatives to refuse in analogous circumstances. And perhaps future rulings adopting more religion-protective readings of Employment Division v. Smith--TB]
I then turn to general parallels between gay-rights and religious-freedom claims—parallels that call for sympathizing with and protecting both sides. Those parallels depend less on the improper motives or attitudes (animus/hostility) of the regulators, and more on the seriousness of the interests and predicaments of those harmed by government action (same-sex couples denied marriage rights, religious objectors penalized for following their beliefs). Developing sympathy for their respective predicaments, I argue, is more likely to calm our society’s serious problem of negative polarization—while condemning others for animus is more likely to aggravate such polarization. That in turn, I suggest, makes an argument for relying on heightened-scrutiny rationales in these cases, rather than findings of animus or hostility.
The following post was co-authored by our own Adrian Vermeule and Prof. Gladden Pappin (Univ. of Dallas):
China and the Vatican: Principles for the Rationally Ignorant Catholic
Gladden J. Pappin and Adrian Vermeule
There is news that the Vatican is on the verge of finalizing an agreement with the government of the People’s Republic of China, restoring official relations that were severed in 1951. The terms are as yet unclear, but the reports indicate that, in broad outline: the PRC government will recognize the Holy Father as the head of all Chinese Catholics; bishops will be chosen through a joint approval process, in which the Chinese government will propose nominees and the Vatican will have, at a minimum, veto power and possibly some exercise of choice; the so-called underground churches will be recognized; and a group of seven excommunicated bishops, validly consecrated though without papal mandate, yet who have requested regularization, will be legitimated and restored to their sees. (Again, these provisions are as yet not finally settled, but the precise details are not critical for our analysis.)
What is the busy, ill-informed Catholic to make of this? Denunciations have been swift from the neoconservative Right of American Catholicism, who speak of Pope Francis’s surrender to Communism and abandonment of the underground churches, and who seethe about the failures of Ostpolitik. Yet these denunciations have an odd time-capsule quality to them, as though it is always 1989, even though the Chinese regime has clearly evolved away from “Communism” per se to a kind of neo-Confucian authoritarianism. They are also oddly selective, overlooking the long, complicated, varied history of concordats between the Vatican and various regimes. One suspects at a minimum that matters are more complex than the neoconservative view suggests. In particular, there seem to be real trade-offs or even dilemmas, in this space, among competing aims, goals and principles—political, ethical and diplomatic. How to think about all this, without any real expertise?
We are not China hands. Indeed, the fact that we lack the competence or information to evaluate the first-order merits of the arrangement, relative to the feasible alternatives, is (for us) fully rational, in the sense that it is too costly (at least in an opportunity-cost sense) to acquire the relevant expertise. We are rationally ignorant Catholics. But we can at least suggest some principles of low-information rationality—heuristics or rules of thumb—that are useful in such situations.
Who decides? A simple idea is that rather than attempting to evaluate the difficult trade-offs that afflict all first-order policy choices in this area, one should attempt to identify who is best positioned to evaluate those trade-offs. Here is a simple schema, merely for purposes of illustration. One might defend the Vatican’s decision by observing that “one should not allow the perfect to become the enemy of the good.” One might oppose it with the rejoinder “the good must not become the enemy of the still better.” Life teaches that sometimes one of these maxims is apt, sometimes another, depending upon circumstances. Which is most relevant here? It is highly plausible that the Vatican, which has a worldwide perspective on these matters, is better positioned to decide.
Dueling experts. Another strategy of low-information rationality is to rely on expert opinions. In principle, this is extremely helpful in such situations. The problem for the rationally ignorant Catholic, however, is that there are dueling experts in this space, and it is difficult to perform a meta-evaluation of their knowledge. In administrative law, the typical response to this is to say that where credible experts disagree, a decision-maker may rationally rely on any one of the competing views. In this sense, it is hardly unreasonable for the Vatican to listen to those of its experts who counsel some form of compromise with the regime.
Rationality review. A related point is best explained by analogy to rational-basis review in law, which is a typical approach to situations in which the decision-maker has information or competence that the evaluator lacks. The Supreme Court recently invoked a form of rationality review in Trump v. Hawaii to evaluate executive action bearing on foreign policy and security, as the Vatican’s diplomatic decision here surely does. The bedrock principle of rationality review is that the decision-maker should uphold the relevant action if any rational grounds for it can be identified or even conjectured.
Here there is a mistake that Western observers may easily commit. The circumstances of churches under liberalism easily lead to a confusion of appropriate standards for evaluating the relations of sovereign powers. Religious agents in liberal regimes can, within narrowing limits, take actions (e.g., establishing churches, distributing propaganda) immediately on the basis of sincerely held beliefs—behavior explained by thick or belief-driven models of rational behavior. Sovereign powers engaged in treaty-making negotiations act with considerable external constraints not captured by the thick-rationality models instinctively used by commentators in countries with liberal policies toward sects. Viewing bargaining with suspicion may itself result from a liberal model of interaction among sects.
To make matters more complicated, negotiations between the Holy See and civil governments also do not fit the two-level-games model often used to analyze international agreements with reference to both international and domestic concerns. Instead a polycentric model of China-Holy See negotiations would be needed to describe the multiple levels at which games occur in dealings between an “ecclesiastical polity” and a state, as well as the different arenas of choice affected by any final concordat. Negotiation over concordats and similar ecclesiastical-political conventions adds several levels of action (each with interaction effects) beyond, say, the recent U.S.-Mexico trade agreement.
An account of the distinct, intersecting levels of negotiation would require a much longer treatment. “Citizenship” or membership in the Church functions differently from citizenship in a civil regime. But while ecclesiastical and civil citizenship are easily distinguished in liberal political contexts (in which the liberal polity takes no official cognizance of ecclesiastical status), nonliberal regimes frequently give rise to questions of overlap and exclusion: Who are members of the Catholic Church in China? What civil status is accorded to such members? What is the jurisdictional structure of the Church in China, and how does it relate to existing quasi-ecclesiastical bodies established by the state but frequently in the context of valid sacramental order? On top of this, any negotiation between China and the Vatican is implicitly triangular given the disputed status of the Republic of China.
In this extraordinarily complicated context, we can imagine a number of rational grounds for a concordat between the Holy See and China. Rational does not mean there are no trade-offs or even tragic dilemmas, nor does it necessarily entail a maximization of some welfare function. We use it in a relaxed sense, meaning just that a roughly reasonable authority could think that, on balance, prudence weighs in favor of an agreement. Consider the following possibilities:
— Circumstances of evangelization. One might think that Christianity is exploding in China, that Protestantism is ahead in this race, that the main obstacle to Catholic evangelization is the problem of the Church’s status, and that it is best to regularize that status—even in a distinctly nonideal way—in order to allow the pace of Catholic evangelization to quicken. By the same token, if Catholic evangelization is bound to quicken in any event, the Church may perceive an increasing urgency to seize the means of clerical formation for the sake of that continued evangelization.
— Departure from prior conditions. During the initial, post-1951 period of the intense persecution of Chinese Catholics, practice of the Catholic faith went underground. In the long period following the establishment of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, however, there is not a one-to-one mapping of “members of the Catholic Church” onto either unregistered Catholic churches or to the CPCA exclusively. Here the complexity of negotiations turns on the Church’s claim of jurisdiction over the baptized, with the added fact that it has not presumed ordinary faithful in the CPCA to be schismatic. The Church has thus continued to claim, by virtue of their baptism, jurisdiction over Catholics in the CPCA, yet lacks the ordinary exercise of that jurisdiction—an incoherent and intolerable situation requiring resolution.
— Resolution of original errors. Relations between the Holy See and China were severed in 1951 by China and not by the Holy See. The Holy See had established relations with the Nationalist government on Taiwan, and so it was rebuffed (for this reason among others) by the Communist Chinese government and its internuncio was expelled. Given that the Chinese government has sought the restoration of relations, in various ways, from the early 1980s onward, the possibility of resolving an original error may suggest to ecclesiastical negotiators the prudence of reaching an agreement. Further, failure to seek resolution of the original error for which it disclaimed responsibility could be perceived by Vatican negotiators as taking ownership of the original condition.
— Divergent evaluation of trade-offs. Perduring political institutions, of which the Church is a salient example, evaluate trade-offs differently than civilian religious actors. Even in ancien régime France, for example, the Church consented to royal prerogative in episcopal appointments governed by the Concordat of Bologna and signed in 1516 by King Francis I and Pope Leo X. The concordat, however, specified certain preconditions likely to lead to benign selections, and also reserved a veto power to the pope. (Ironically, the Church did not enjoy noninterference in episcopal appointments till after the Loi de séparation of 1905.) What citizens of liberal democracies view as a departure from the norm may be viewed by negotiators as a departure from a recent norm or even the revival of an older arrangement, with which the Church as an institution has centuries of experience. Accordingly, from the Church’s uniquely long-term perspective, any potential concordat with China may be more easily understood with reference to preliberal European concordats.
— “It is more important that the applicable law be settled than that it be settled right”—so that it can be unsettled later. Even on a more contemporary view, the Church currently tolerates and has recently tolerated a civil role in the selection of bishops. In 1966, the Vatican agreed to a concordat with François “Papa Doc” Duvalier of Haiti concerning the civil government’s role in the nomination of bishops. It was precisely this first agreement that, after the death of “Papa Doc,” eventually led to the Church’s liberty in selecting its own bishops. At present the Church already acknowledges a role for the government of Vietnam in the selection of bishops, an arrangement which may be seen by negotiators as sufficient precedent for reaching such an accord. Combining the two examples, Vatican negotiators may consider the value of recent examples (with unsavory regimes) not well known to a Western audience, as well as the value of establishing some agreement which would, in turn, be open to future modification.
— Ideal and nonideal decision-making. Although some commentators have cast the resolution of relations between China and the Holy See in terms pejorative to the current pontificate, negotiators may eventually conclude that the necessity outlined by previous popes (e.g., the Letter of Benedict XVI to the Catholic Church in China, Pentecost 2007) has come due. Since the reopening of negotiations between China and the Holy See in 1987, the apparent direction of civil liberties in China, and consequently also of the libertas ecclesiae, has changed. The consolidation of CPC rule under Xi Jinping suggests that unrealistic hopes of unilateral Chinese state liberalization may at least be rationally discounted against the urgency of resolving jurisdictional problems for Chinese Catholics. Diplomatic actors may rely on multiple criteria in evaluating potential consequences, whereas strident critics pick out a single dimension and absolutize it to preclude the possibility of negotiation. Put differently, the neoconservative critics often seem to assume that the alternative to the Vatican policy is some ideal of Chinese capitulation. Given that there is no evidence whatsoever that such an ideal can be attained, however, the Vatican faces a choice between distinctly nonideal futures.
— Recognition regimes. A question often neglected by American writers concerns the role of the Church in sovereignty recognition as well as the Church’s needs in the same sphere. China’s desires for sovereignty recognition are well known; by the same token, the Holy See’s diplomatic mission in Taipei is, at least in part, an accident of events belonging to a different political context. While the Holy See’s ability to offer sovereignty recognition may appear to be a minor aspect of ecclesiastical function within a liberal religious context (in which liberal principles have obviated the need for and the effects of recognition regimes), negotiators may view it as essential for operation in nonliberal regimes, and nonliberal regimes may value political recognition by the Church. In the context of disputed sovereignty, diplomatic recognition may have high exchange value and low cost for multiple diplomatic actors, particularly in the case of negotiations modeled as polycentric games.
— Foresight. Rather than being a relic of a Cold War past, it is possible that the nonliberal “political theology” of the Chinese regime is a harbinger of a more frequent tension between the Church and newly religiously assertive civil powers. While a future exchange of agreements between sovereign powers may no longer be between the Church and Catholic political agents, earlier historical examples of diplomacy between the Church and civil powers may hold the key for understanding an agreement between the Vatican and China. By the same token, such an agreement may reflect a calculation about the growing tendency toward religiously assertive civil powers (for example, the Philippine government under Duterte). Paradoxically, concessions regarding episcopal appointments may reflect a return to jurisprudence from before the secular abandonment of episcopal appointments to ecclesiastical interest.
Our aims in advancing these conjectures are limited. We don’t know, or even assert, that the foregoing claims about the Vatican’s posture vis-à-vis China are true. Certianly, none of this is to claim that the Vatican’s emergent China policy is just clearly correct, in a first-order sense. Our point is that there are ample grounds to believe that the policy is entirely rational, given nonideal circumstances. We don’t know whether it is ultimately right, but we also doubt that the neoconservative critics know either, and its rightness or wrongness will ultimately be determined by unpredictable circumstances. In this sort of uncertain environment, reliance on strategies of low-information rationality suggests that, for Catholics, a broad measure of deference to Vatican decisions is sensible.
St. Francis Xavier, pray for us. 圣方济各 沙忽略, 请为我们祈祷。
Public Discourse has published my colleague Prof. Vincent Phillip Munoz's recent remarks at the U.S. Department of Justice Forum on Free Speech in Higher Education. Well worth a read. Here's a bit:
I am sometimes asked whether academic freedom exists at a Catholic university such as Notre Dame. I have never been at a university that offers more academic freedom, and I have been a faculty member at a large state research university and a small private elite liberal arts college. As a Catholic university, Notre Dame is committed to the unity of faith and reason. Indeed, because God is understood to be the author of all that is true, the university is confident in and can offer reasons for its commitment to seeking the truth.
Universities are either committed to truth-seeking through reasoned inquiry, or they are committed to something else. If they are committed to truth-seeking, free inquiry and free speech will be safeguarded. If they are committed to something else—be it social change or overcoming historical oppression or job training or whatever—that something else will inevitably trump free inquiry and free speech if and when it requires it. It’s not that complicated.
Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Here, at Public Discourse. A bit:
[T]he Constitution is at the center of American political and legal life, so properly interpreting the Constitution is of crucial importance. Americans of all stripes invoke the Constitution to support their differing legal and political positions. Originalism’s capacity to provide a coherent method to answer these fundamental constitutional questions depends, as I described in my article, on whether it has successfully navigated its intellectual transformation.
Monday, September 17, 2018
On Friday, I had the privilege of participating in a conference at Fordham Law School commemorating the 20th anniversary of two conferences held there that, in retrospect, initiated the religious lawyering movement 2.0 (i.e., beyond the work of Tom Shaffer and Joe Allegretti). MoJ's own Amy Uelmen did a wonderful job as a co-organizer of the event. A few highlights:
- Strong participation from representatives of the National Association of Muslim Lawyers, an organization that was birthed at those Fordham conferences and is now a flourishing presence in communities across the country. Listening to UW-Madison law prof Asifa Quraishi-Landes describe the group's history, it was a blessing that Muslim lawyers came together to build infrastructure for fellowship and support before 9/11, anti-Sharia legislation, and travel bans inescapably pulled the organization in the direction of civil rights advocacy. NAML brings a formidable litigation presence today, but it's important to recognize that the group was formed by lawyers who wanted to support one another on their faith journeys within the profession.
- Howard Lesnick's work was honored by several speakers, including Emory Christian Ethics prof Darryl Trimiew, who noted that, like Jacob, Lesnick wrestles with God. For Lesnick - a deeply engaged skeptic - the wrestling is the point; the wrestling has not stopped; in the wrestling, there is beauty.
- David Opderbeck called for a new generation of law and religion scholarship, with a redoubled effort to engage the latest in Christian ethical thought and theology, and Russ Pearce noted the importance of identity questions to the religious lawyering movement, both past and future.
Lucia Silecchia and I offered remarks about what insights lawyers might take from Pope Francis's apostolic exhortation, Rejoice and Be Glad. I focused on his lament that some Christians "become incapable of touching Christ's suffering flesh in others, locked up as they are in an encyclopedia of abstractions," and his pointing to Jesus as clearing "a way to seeing two faces, that of the father and that of our brother. He does not give us two more formulas or two more commands. He gives us two faces, or better yet, one alone: the face of God reflected in so many other faces."
This reminded me of John Noonan's Persons and Masks of the Law. Noonan showed how lawyers use abstract principles and legal rules as masks to cover the real people affected by our work (e.g., "foreseeability" in the case of Helen Palsgraf).
How do we train our students to utilize abstract principles wisely without obscuring the faces of those affected by their work? How can we discard the masks without jeopardizing the healthy degree of detachment that is a key component of the rule of law? These are not just insights for lawyers, obviously: to what extent have the bishops employed their own set of abstractions in ways that serve to obscure the faces of abuse victims?
We have not had as many conferences dedicated to such conversations since the Great Recession and ensuing Law School Troubles - ten years ago, we gathered regularly at conferences for, e.g., religiously affiliated law schools, Catholic legal theory, Catholic social thought and law. Understandably, law schools have been focused on more pressing fiscal issues. As the market stabilizes, reconvening with friends and fellow travelers at Fordham reminded me just how important these questions - and our persistent, institutional engagement with them - are to the well-being of our students and the broader society.
Sunday, September 16, 2018
We are delighted to host Professor Robert Louis Wilken (the author of one of my favorite books on the history of the early Church) tomorrow to discuss his forthcoming book, "Liberty in the Things of God."
Professor Wilken's presentation is the first at our Colloquium in Law and Religion this fall, a seminar at St. John's Law School that my colleague, Mark Movsesian, and I co-teach. More soon on the substance of Professor Wilken's very interesting new book concerning the intellectual origins of the idea of religious freedom.
Thursday, September 13, 2018
This year CUA's Law School Dean, Dan Attridge, announced he would be stepping down. After this very successful Deanship, the University has begun its national search. Below is the announcement as well as contact information. Of course, MOJ'ers can also feel free to contact me directly with any questions as well as a more lengthy description of the position.
As the national university of the Catholic Church in the United States, the Catholic University of America is committed to being a comprehensive Catholic and American institution of higher learning, faithful to the teachings of Jesus Christ as handed on by the Church. Dedicated to advancing the dialogue between faith and reason, the Catholic University of America seeks to discover and impart the truth through excellence in teaching and research, all in service to the Church, the nation, and the world.
Established in 1897, the Columbus School of Law is a national leader in preparing students of all faiths for the practice of law. The Law School has outstanding programs, institutes, externships, study-abroad opportunities, and nationally recognized clinics. Located in the nation’s capital, the Law School is housed in a beautiful modern building specifically designed for contemporary legal education, with state-of-the-art technology throughout its classrooms and library. The Law School offers three degrees: the Juris Doctor (J.D.), including a full-time day program and a part-time evening program; the Master of Laws (LL.M.); and the Master of Legal Studies (M.L.S.)
The School’s approach to legal education can be summarized with three words: practical, focused, and connected, also referred to as the CUA Law Advantage. The School shines as a gem within legal education in Washington, comprising collegial and compassionate students, a supportive and academically distinguished faculty, and an accomplished and well-connected alumni base that is actively involved in assisting current students to reach their goals.
The Law School seeks a distinguished legal scholar or member of the legal profession to serve as its next Dean. Reporting to the Provost, the Dean is the School of Law’s chief academic, advancement, financial, and administrative officer, with overall responsibility for its academic programs, operating budget, personnel management, strategic planning, public relations, and fundraising. The Dean is also the Law School’s primary representative to the University, alumni, and legal communities.
The next Dean will be presented with the opportunity not only to propel CUA Law to higher levels of prominence and distinction, but also to serve among the senior leaders of an international, Catholic research university.
CUA seeks a Dean who will make a significant contribution to advancing the University’s mission and goals, continue to advance the national academic and professional standing of the Law School, and provide strategic vision at an important time in its history. Candidates should have demonstrated leadership, administrative, and fundraising abilities and offer a long-term vision for the continued growth of CUA Law. Because the Law School seeks a vibrant intellectual leader, all candidates are expected to meet the qualifications for appointment at the rank of full professor with continuous tenure by their scholarly publications and/or distinguished contributions to the profession.
Nominations, inquires, and applications should be sent in confidence to: [email protected]
The Catholic University of America is an Affirmative Action, Equal Opportunity Employer.
Thanks to Richard Reinsch, at Law & Liberty, for including this short piece of mine in today's symposium on "the Catholic Church's crisis." A bit:
. . . [I] is clear, and it is crucial, that – in accord with due process, of course, and in keeping with important safeguards like statutes of limitations – alleged crimes be investigated, that criminal offenses be punished, that victims are compensated. This is true for bishops and clergy no less than it is for politicians and police or for laymen and citizens. It seems no less clear and crucial that not only repentance and penance but also reform and a reckoning are needed in the Church leadership, structures, and processes.
At the same time, calls for “accountability” should reflect careful thinking about the questions “accountable to whom?” There are matters over which secular political authorities and public officials have no power or say. . . .
Tuesday, September 11, 2018
Longtime MOJ readers know that a number of us are big fans of Shusaku Endo's (complicated, haunting, fascinating) novel, "Silence." I was glad to see it featured the other day on one of my favorite podcasts, John Miller's "Great Books." Check it out. (I was intrigued by Miller's guest's "take" on the novel, which was clearly a product of her Protestant lenses. I wonder if other Catholic readers will have a similar impression.)
Here's the press release. Nutshell:
Dismissal of a Catholic doctor from a managerial position by a Catholic hospital due
to his remarriage after a divorce may constitute unlawful discrimination on grounds
The requirement that a Catholic doctor in a managerial position respect the Catholic Church’s
notion of marriage as sacred and indissoluble does not appear to be a genuine, legitimate and
justified occupational requirement, which is nevertheless a matter for the German Federal Labour
Court to determine in the present case.
However, it is for the Bundesarbeitsgericht to determine whether IR has established that, in the light of the
circumstances of the case, there is a probable and substantial risk that its ethos or its right
of autonomy will be undermined.
As I try to steady myself amidst the earthquake of the crisis in the Church, I frequently return in my mind’s eye to living and working in New York City during the tragic event that we mark today, 9/11. I remember going to a liturgy for the victims in a large and packed church in the heart of Manhattan. It was only when two very large candles were lit that I began to sob: “Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.” In the intense days that followed, I frequently touched that mercy in the atmosphere on the streets, and especially riding the subway. We were strangers, but our best hope was to be human together and attentive to each other’s pain and each other’s needs.
And so now too, I am drawn to the foot of the cross: “Lamb of God.” What a horrible, violent, shameful, ugly, fearful, repulsive scene. What must it have been for Mary, who sang of the greatness of God’s work when Jesus was in her womb, to witness the body of her Son so reduced—to the point that he even seemed drained of his divinity: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34)
And yet in the Gospel of John, Mary is called to focus her attention on the person who is standing beside her: “Woman, behold your son.” And John is called to turn to Mary: “Behold your mother.” And so John took Mary into his own home. (John 19:26-27). This is the powerful DNA of the newly born Church that emerges from Jesus’s radical identification with all forms of human weakness and suffering.
It is true that this moment of intense purification calls for a creative brainstorm on how to start or strengthen structures and practices of transparency, accountability, and shared decision-making. But perhaps in the midst of these conversations, we can also work together to identify some of the spiritual wounds that have led to unhealthy and even vicious practices within Church structures and institutions. For example, many who work within the Church—priests and laity alike—do not experience the warmth of an intimate and human space that nurtures their spiritual, personal and emotional integrity, and also keeps them connected and accountable to the larger community. Who is paying attention when inevitable personal crises emerge? Who has time to listen and walk together through those questions and doubts? What practices can sustain our focus and reinforce our efforts to be in the world, all together, a people of the Beatitudes: poor, meek, pure, just, close to those who suffer?
I think it may be here that Jesus’s words from the cross cry out to each of us: “Behold your son.” In his Commentary on the Gospel of John, the Church Father Origen explained that Mary had just one Son. The injunction was not to behold another son, but to behold her one Son, the Christ, in John: “Lo, this is Jesus, whom you bore.” (Book 1:6) When we behold the wounded body of today’s Church, we behold the wounded body of Christ.
“Behold your mother.” What might it mean for us to “take Mary home” in the wake of this crisis? There would be many ways to invoke her presence and her closeness to us in this moment. As our blog recalls, Mary is Mirror of justice, and she is also Refuge of sinners. Both dimensions of her love can accompany us in the important work of truth-telling and healing in the wake of the unspeakable crimes and abuse that have been revealed.
Perhaps one of the most powerful ways to bring Mary home is to focus on how her open adherence to God’s great love generates the presence of the living Christ in our world. This presence can then in turn be our guide in the difficult work of in-depth cultural change. Within the great mosaic of the Church we may have different roles and ways to respond to the crisis. For some of us, our contribution might simply consist in helping to create a space of community and love where people are welcomed and accompanied in the ups and downs of our lives, so that many can experience the Church as the home and school of communion. (Novo millennio n.43).
All of this work can be an expression of Mary’s own love and care for the Church, through which, in that stabat, she beholds her own Son. Mary, Seat of wisdom, Vessel of honor, Help of Christians, pray for us. Amy Uelmen
Monday, September 10, 2018
Kevin Walsh and I have this year's Supreme Court roundup at First Things: Kennedy's Last Term. In the piece we cover some of the major decisions of the last term, including First Amendment cases (Masterpiece, NIFLA, Janus), cases concerning what we call "the influence of social, technological, and moral change on Supreme Court doctrine" (Wayfair, Carpenter, Murphy v. NCAA), and political gerrymandering/judicial limits cases (Gill, Benisek), as well as a short comment on Trump v. Hawaii.
Something from the conclusion:
What, then, should we expect from the post-Kennedy Court? Perhaps more of the same. There was not a single 5–4 decision this term in which Justice Kennedy joined with the more liberal wing of the Court. That has never before happened on the Roberts Court. And there were fourteen 5–4 cases in which Kennedy joined with the four more conservative justices to form a majority, including First Amendment cases such as Janus and NIFLA, separation of powers cases like Trump v.Hawaii, political process cases involving political and racial gerrymandering, and a range of statutory interpretation and business cases. This record suggests that, should Judge Brett Kavanaugh be confirmed, we ought to expect a fair amount of continuity rather than radical change.
But in other major areas—areas that happen not to have been addressed this term—the change may be more substantial. Consider, for example, the constitutional law of abortion. Here, Kennedy’s replacement might make a difference, particularly if there is a possibility that a Justice Kavanaugh might join with four colleagues in ending the regime of constitutional abortion law initiated by Roe v. Wade.
Social conservatives have been disappointed before. The Court’s first major abortion case after Justice Kennedy joined the Court was the 1989 decision Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, where it seemed there might be five votes to overrule Roe. Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote an opinion for four justices that purported to “modify and narrow” Roe, but Reagan-nominated Justice Sandra Day O’Connor went her own way, introducing the “undue burden” standard that has remained the law until today. Scalia, meanwhile, lamented that this missed opportunity to reverse Roe meant that “the mansion of constitutional abortion law, constructed overnight in Roe, must be disassembled doorjamb by doorjamb, and never entirely brought down, no matter how wrong it may be.” Scalia was farseeing. Four years later, in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, Kennedy joined with O’Connor and Justice David Souter to preserve what they called “the central holding” of Roe.
We are guardedly optimistic that Kavanaugh’s confirmation will eventually result in the rejection of Roe v. Wade. But nobody should expect a quick or complete demolition of constitutional abortion rights. Caution is in order because of both internal Court dynamics and external pressure on the institution.
The shift on the new Court should be measured not by the distance between Kennedy and Kavanaugh, but between Kennedy and Roberts. On a multi-member Court, the views of the median justice matter most in the close cases implicating the culture wars. And Roberts cares deeply about public perceptions of the Court’s legitimacy. The same concerns that motivate Roberts to embrace minimalism more broadly, as in the cases this term about partisan gerrymandering and sales taxes, will likely mean even greater caution in these hotter and angrier areas of constitutional law.
Neither should we forget that the result of overruling the Roe/Casey regime is no panacea. It would simply lift restrictions on state legislation. But that is hardly always desirable. We can surely expect some, perhaps many, states to follow the lead of Massachusetts, where legislators passed a NASTY (Negating Archaic Stereotypes Targeting Young) Women Act that repealed abortion restrictions that might in theory have come back into force if Roe/Casey were overturned. New York’s governor has made extensive abortion rights a rallying cry of his campaign for reelection.
Just as the damage done by Roe/Casey is not exclusively legal, neither will it be undone by legal means alone. The Court and dominant cultural opinion shape each other, and the arrow of influence runs in both directions. However much “the mansion of constitutional abortion law” may be dismantled, the constitutional rot at its foundation is the result of powerful cultural forces. Let us not put our trust in judges any more than princes, not only because they are fallible, but also because judges are meant to judge, not to save us from ourselves.
Over at Distinctly Catholic, Michael Sean Winters links to a funny bit at The Onion and then tosses a bit of off-color snark at MOJ, and a post of mine, regarding my view (expressed zillions of time here) that "it is not the case that the Church's social teachings -- including her teachings on the dignity of work and the rights of workers -- require, or even recommend, support for public-sector unionism (as it exists today, in today's legal and regulatory context)."
Contrary to what Winters says, I have never said that "the church's teaching that workers have a right to organize does not extend to public sector workers because the church never specifically said it so extends." What comes before and after "because" in Winters's sentence is wrong. I think that all workers have a right to "organize" (and, as it happens, the Church has long so taught). I do believe that it is a distortion of the Church's social teachings to think that those teachings "require, or even recommend, support for public-sector unionism (as it exists today, in today's legal and regulatory context)." And, I think this "because" not because public-sector unionism wasn't mentioned in Rerum Novarum, but because public-sector unionism (as it exists today, in today's legal and regulatory context) is, all things considered, contrary to the common good.
Winters ends his little jab with what I suppose is intended to be a funny comparison but it seemed more than a little inappropriate (not to mention inapt) to me. Readers should, of course, decide for themselves.
Thursday, September 6, 2018
Forgiveness is the demand of the Gospel that can be the hardest to meet, at least when forgiveness is undertaken with the seriousness of purpose the Gospel and most of the Christian tradition understand it to require. But what constitutes the act we call "forgiveness?" I attempt to answer this question in a paper I have just posted, Forgiveness No Matter What: Justice and Love among Equals, the abstract of which appears below.
My argument for forgiveness "no matter what" does not imply, let alone entail, that those who forgive as they should should also reconcile with those they forgive. Current events make it timely to be clear on where forgiveness ends and the distinct question of reconciliation can begin. With Pope Francis and a growing chorus of Catholic bishops asking now for forgiveness for the acts and omissions of so very many bishops and priests having to do with the sexual abuse of children, vile and sometimes criminal acts and cover-ups, it bears emphasis that, on my account of forgiveness, forgiveness, although it is to be given no matter what, does not entail reconciliation. A victim who has managed truly to forgive his or her offender may nonetheless have good and sufficient reason to avoid anything like reconciliation with the offender, no matter how contrite or eager for reconciliation the offender may be. Even victims who can bring themselves to forgive bishops who concealed sexual crimes may surely have the best reasons for insisting that the offending bishops be removed, by the Pope, from office and duly punished. Forgiveness is a moral act of love among equals, and as such it is agnostic concerning the strictly prudential judgments that should determine how to interact, if at all, with forgiven offenders.
FORGIVENESS NO MATTER WHAT: JUSTICE AND LOVE AMONG EQUALS
Abstract: This paper argues that, given an understanding of human persons as having good reasons to act for the natural happiness of which they are capable, forgiveness is properly defined as the extension of the due love of self of a person who has been offended to his or her offender, upon realizing that he or she has been offended.
Every account of forgiveness presupposes some moral anthropology, and the teleological account of the human person made explicit here, with the help of the work of Thomas Aquinas and Alasdair MacIntyre, postulates a human function that in turn provides the person who would qualify himself as a rational agent good reasons for choice and action. Those reasons include, when the rational agent has suffered an injustice in the form of an offense, choosing, on the one hand, to hate the injustice per se but, on the other, to love first himself and, by an extension of that love between persons who are by nature equals, his offender. The basic idea, pursued in conversation with a wide range of contemporary accounts of forgiveness, is that the obligation to forgive one’s offenders is unconditional exactly because it follows from the indefeasible good reasons a human person has to love himself or herself, even in the face of offense and any consequent misdirected desire to hate his offender.
Forgiveness “no matter what” does not entail reconciliation with one’s offender; the self-loving forgiver may have good and sufficient reasons that in fact bar reconciliation with his offender, even the repentant and contrite offender. But an offended person never lacks good and sufficient reason to love himself with (here in Aquinas’s terms) amor amicitiae and amor concupiscentiae, nor, upon reaching the correct judgment that he and his offender are moral equals, his offender with those same two forms of love. Forgiveness involves willing the goods for one’s offender that escaped him when he chose to perpetrate the offense.
The analysis stresses the importance to forgiveness of what Harry Frankfurt called “second-order desires” because of the central place of forgiveness in preventing lives from going wrong because of misdirected desires, e.g., the desire to hate one’s enemy. The analysis grapples with the implications of the inequality of persons’ capacities to form second-order desires and, further, to reach the judgment that we are essentially one another’s equals. I also consider the place of grace, the divine gift by which the human person with a natural end is given also a supernatural end, in a complete economy of forgiveness. Finally, the paper suggests why modern nation states lack the important capacity to show offenders anything approximating the loving forgiveness by which those who have suffered injustice are bound back together with those who have done the injustice.
Thanks to the merry band of happy religious-freedom warriors at the Becket Fund! Full story here. (I was honored to co-file an amicus brief with our own Tom Berg and others . . .).
Recent news and events have many religious-freedom defenders reeling and angry (understandably). But the "freedom of the Church" proposal has never rested on a premise or claim that the Church's leaders, ministers, and members do not sometimes do awful things.
Charlie Camosy has a nice interview up at Crux with our own Amy Uelmen, regarding (inter alia) celibacy (As MOJ readers probably know, Amy has taken vows in the Focolare movement), its practice, and its point. Amy's reflections are, as always, thoughtful and inspiring.
Monday, September 3, 2018
It never hurts -- and on Labor Day, it makes particular sense -- to re-read Laborem Exercens. Here it is.
Also, just your friendly, regular MOJ Labor Day reminder that, despite what some opportunistic commentators contend, it is not the case that the Church's social teachings -- including her teachings on the dignity of work and the rights of workers -- require, or even recommend, support for public-sector unionism (as it exists today, in today's legal and regulatory context).
Sunday, September 2, 2018
It is not the teaching of the Catholic Church that our faith is in priests or even popes. They have their roles and their authority, but they are imperfect human beings and, in any particular case--or even in many cases--may be corrupt. It is the teaching of the Church that our faith is in Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ alone.
We go to Mass to hear his Gospel proclaimed. Holy Communion is communion with him. If we are fortunate, we are ministered to by a faithful, even holy, priest. (There are many such men, thank God.) But the priest is Christ's minister. Yes, it is the task and role of the priest to emulate Jesus, to be in persona Christi capitis, to serve Christ by serving us; but it is not the priest (or bishop or pope) who is the subject and object of our faith: it is Jesus Christ--and him alone. It is Christ and him alone who saves. It is him--Son of the living God, sent by the Father to atone for sins and be our redeemer--whom we worship; it is in him, and in no one else, that we place our hope and trust.
Considered in its human dimensions, the Church and its clergy--and laity--sometimes flourish and sometimes descend into corruption. The "institutional church" has had, and will, as long as Jesus tarries, have moments of glory and moments of shame. Like God's original chosen people in the Scriptures, faith will sometimes burn bright and other times fade--and be sustained only by a remnant. When the people and their leaders are faithful, the Church (again like the people of Israel in the Bible) will have glorious achievements, visible to the human eye. When they are unfaithful, when they fall into immorality and go "whoring after" the false gods of the day, the beauty of the Church as a divine institution--the bride of Christ--will be obscured and what will be most visible is ugliness and shame.
And yet, Christ, the faithful bridegroom, will remain with the Church, making reform and renewal possible, and ensuring that the gates of hell, whatever inroads they may make, do not prevail against her.
September 2, 2018 | Permalink
Friday, August 31, 2018
On Monday, August 27, 2018, Blase Cupich, the Cardinal-Archbishop of Chicago, gave an interview with Mary Ann Ahern of NBC Channel 5 in Chicago. During the interview Cardinal Cupich responded to a number of questions related to the McCarrick scandal and the Vigano testimony that are at the center of the profound crisis now confronting the Church. (The full transcript of the interview is available here. The video of the interview is available here). In response to the question “Is there a Catholic civil war underway?” Cardinal Cupich said the following:
Well, I would say, I would say not a civil war. There’s a small group of insurgents who have not liked Pope Francis from the very beginning. They don’t like the fact that he’s calling for more lay involvement. They don’t like the fact that he is calling for a synodal church where we get the advice of people. They don’t like that he’s talking about the environment, or the poor, or the migrants, or that the death penalty is something we should outlaw. They don’t like the fact that he is saying that economies kill. There are people who don’t like that message. And so there is an insurgency of people who don’t like that. And quite frankly, they also don’t like him because he’s a Latino, and that he is bringing Latino culture into the life of the church, which we have been enriched by. And I think that that is part of all of this too.
There are many things in the Cardinal’s remarks with which one could take issue, including both how he defines Pope Francis’ agenda and how he characterizes the criticisms to that agenda. (For my own part, I know many people who are glad to hear Pope Francis’ concern for immigrants, the poor, and the environment, as well as his opposition to capital punishment, and his desire for lay involvement, but who, as loyal sons and daughters of the Church, still question his proposed innovations with respect to sacramental discipline). But from this litany of charges, one thing stands out: Cardinal Cupich’s claim that people oppose the Pope because he is “a Latino.” In doing so, the Cardinal labels as a racist anyone who questions Pope Francis’ agenda.
With respect, this statement is outrageous. It is utterly shameful and wholly unbecoming of one of the successors to the apostles. It is a sad day in the life of the Church when a Cardinal-Archbishop plays the race card. In doing so he has disregarded not only the dignity owed to his office but the dignity of the faithful who, in lending their critical intelligence to this pontificate, have sought to realize the very kind of lay involvement that Cupich says is part of Francis’ vision for the Church. Chicagoans are accustomed to such tactics, of course, and although not a native son of Chicago, Cardinal Cupich appears to have mimicked this aspect of the local political culture. Indeed, he seems to have made use of this tactic for the most crass of political reasons – to garner sympathy and support for his position.
Cardinal Cupich’s scurrilous charge has no foundation. Indeed, the Cardinal appears to have fabricated the supposed racial opposition to Papa Bergoglio out of whole cloth. One cannot find any evidence of prejudice against the Pope’s ethnic or cultural background anywhere on the Catholic Internet, even on the websites of the so-called “insurgency.” The Pope is of course an Argentine, the son of Italian immigrants. But, according to Cardinal Cupich, anyone who isn’t wholly on board with the "Francis project” as Cupich defines it must be against the Pope because he or she is bigoted against Latinos.
A true shepherd doesn’t slander the flock when he disagrees with them. He seeks to understand their perspective and tends to their needs, drawing them to the nourishing truth of the Gospel.
Instead, Cardinal Cupich has engaged in a brazen ad hominem attack. He has here leveled what is essentially the worst accusation that can be brought against a person in American civil society -- that he or she is a racist. That is not the care of a shepherd but the tactic of a bully. Sad as it is, one expects to see these sorts of tactics employed in the realm of secular politics. The people of God expect something more from their pastors.
Cardinal Cupich’s accusation of racism is not only false and irresponsible, it is also a distraction that diverts attention away from the real conversation that must take place. Going forward, the Church, the people of God—both lay and ordained—must, with honesty and integrity, confront the sexual depravity, clericalism, abuse of power, and deep corruption that the McCarrick scandal has partially brought to light.
August 31, 2018 | Permalink
August 30, 2018
His Holiness, Pope Francis
You have said that you seek “a more incisive female presence in the Church,” and that “women are capable of seeing things with a different angle from [men], with a different eye. Women are able to pose questions that we men are not able to understand.”
We write to you, Holy Father, to pose questions that need answers.
........ read the rest and add your name here.
I'm proud to be one of the original signatories. Last time I checked, the count was over 12,000 (in less than one day!)
Wednesday, August 29, 2018
See this story, from The Atlantic ("China Is Treating Islam like a Mental Illness"). I have to confess, it is impossible for me to take seriously -- and, in fact, I find it increasingly maddening -- when China's corporate and other enablers and apologists hold themselves out as arbiters of virtue. And, the willingness of too many elite academic institutions to collaborate and excuse is very disappointing. That said, China is really simply following the logic of statism, so I suppose news like this should not be surprising.
Tuesday, August 28, 2018
A friend asked me what I thought about the Catholic Church's "current crisis." I thought, and I said, "what, exactly, do you mean?" It seems to me that (at least) the following issues/problems/trials/"crises" are happening and also that it's important to distinguish among them, even as we recognize that at least some of them are connected with others:
First, there is the awful, scandalous fact that some Catholic clergy (and lay Church employees) exploited and sexually abused children. My own sense -- I'm not an expert, and I'd welcome correction if I'm wrong -- is that this abuse (the "causes" of which I'm not addressing) has been very, very rare in the last, say, thirty years, in part because of policies and practices implemented in response to revelations. That is, my sense is that Catholic schools, parishes, etc., are, today, very "safe environments" for children - safer than, among other things, public-school environments.
Second, there is the awful, scandalous fact that some Catholic bishops and dioceses, with the help of some lawyers, covered up this abuse and helped to perpetuate it precisely by covering it up and failing to remove abusers from ministry. We were confronted with this fact after "Boston" and are being confronted with it again because of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report. Again, my sense is that this happened more in the past than in recent years -- in part because, again, most of the abuse cases took place many years ago. I am not aware -- but, again, I'd welcome correction -- of substantiated claims that current bishops have covered up or facilitated or otherwise badly handled recent (say, post "Boston") cases of the sexual abuse of children, although it continues to be the case that some past cases are not being appropriately acknowledged.
Third, there is the widely shared impression among Catholics and others that the bishops are generally out of touch, over-concerned with careerism and advancement, prioritize collegiality and gladhanding and fundraising over the faithful exercise of their office (which Patrick Brennan described nicely here), are ideologically divided, and are jaw-droppingly tone-deaf about how it looks when, say, a diocese that serves many poor people buys a multi-million dollar Silicon Valley home for a retired bishop. This impression is unfair to some bishops, but it seems to me to be warranted in too many cases, and that's depressing (even if, looking back over the Church's long history, not unprecedented).
Fourth, there are the allegations that Ted McCarrick sexually exploited, for years, seminarians and other young men, that this exploitation was known to (inter alia) other bishops, and that he nonetheless advanced and exercised a great deal of power and influence in the Church.
Fifth, there is the concern that exploitation like McCarrick's has been, and perhaps still is, a not-rare feature of the culture of and life in Catholic seminaries and that this feature of the seminary experience has been covered up or "looked away from" by Catholic generally and, more particularly, by bishops who were and are responsible for the wellbeing and formation of seminarians.
Sixth, there is the worry of some that "networks" of clergy, including bishops use secrecy, influence, and pressure to (among other things) prevent responses to various problems, including those described above and below. (This worry pre-existed, of course, the recent testimony of Bishop Vigano and this worry, as I've encountered it, is related to but is also more specific than the impression set out above, after "Third".)
Seventh, there is the concern that, in fact, many -- not just a few -- Catholic clergy are sexually active, notwithstanding their vows and the moral teachings they profess to embrace and are charged with proposing and defending, and that this fact is widely known among clergy (including bishops) but "winked at" or ignored.
I'm sure there's more. And, of course, these are not simply (and never have been) problems or issues for the Church in the United States; nor are they problems that only emerged after the Second Vatican Council or after the retirement of Pope Benedict XVI.
My own concern is that much of the press coverage I'm seeing, and a lot of the online (and other) reactions I'm reading, talk about "the crisis" -- or the "sex-abuse crisis" -- without distinguishing and disentangling these and other matters, each of which (it seems to me) needs to appropriately addressed.