Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Mary Rice Hasson on Washington Journal

EPPC Fellow Mary Rice Hasson spoke beautifully and knowledgeably of the Catholic faith, Pope Francis' visit to the US (including the President's "unseemly" welcome committee), and contentious issues such as homosexuality, capitalism and climate change on Washington Journal this morning. If each of us had Mary's poise, elegance, and warmth in our conversations with those who are troubled by different teachings of the Church (or comments of the Pope), I bet we'd have far more Americans flocking to the pews.  

Mary spearheaded and now directs a new initiative at EPPC called the Catholic Women's Forum. Fellow MoJer, Lisa Schiltz and I are on the Forum's Advisory Board and have participated in its conferences (the first of which inspired this book). Mary hopes the group will be a "voice to the culture, a resource for the Church."  

From the website: 

Pope Francis has invited Catholic women to think with the Church in addressing the problems of today. The Catholic Women’s Forum, directed by EPPC Fellow Mary Hasson, responds to this call, amplifying the voice of Catholic women—leading female Catholic professionals, scholars, and other experts—on crucial issues of today.


The Catholic Women’s Forum helps shape conversations in the Church and in the culture—about marriage and family, gender and sexuality, the role of women, religious liberty, and the dignity of human life—through expert commentary, presentations, scholarly articles, and in national and international conferences.

We have a gracious, able and courageous leader in Mary Rice Hasson. 

September 21, 2015 | Permalink

Garnett on Pope Francis, politics, and feeling (un)comfortable

From this news item:

Rick Garnett, a professor of law and political science at the University of Notre Dame, said the pope is not likely to hand out report cards. Any American politician, regardless of party, who feels affirmed by Francis is not paying attention, he said.

"He is not interested in making politicians -- whether 'liberal' or 'conservative' -- feel comfortable or smug," Garnett said. "Pope Francis's message -- like Catholic social teaching generally -- is not captured by any American political party or platform, and this should not be surprising, because the church's social teachings are grounded in claims about who we are, what we are for, and why we -- all of us -- matter that are very different from typical American views."

Indeed, Democrats such as Sen. Bob Casey, Jr., also a Catholic, has been aligned hispolicy views on climate change with that of the popes. But the liberal Pennsylvanian, who describes himself as a "pro-life" lawmaker, has incurred criticism from anti-abortion groups for opposing the move to defund Planned Parenthood. The National Right to Life group says Casey has only a 20 percent  "pro-life' voting record.

"Clearly, a politician who supports abortion rights is not hearing Pope Francis's call to "go to the margins" and care for the vulnerable," Garnett said. "Clearly, a politician who engages in anti-immigrant demagoguery is not hearing Pope Francis's challenge to be welcoming and merciful to those who are suffering."

Garnett warned any politician or candidate from using the pope's visit as a photo-op to exploit at election-time or solicit a pat on the back.  

"A Catholic politician -- like all Catholic citizens -- should be willing to be confronted and challenged," he said. "Pope Francis does not have, and does not claim to have, clear answers to all American policy questions.  What he is urging us all to do, though, is to think through these questions in a spirit that is always mindful of the vulnerable and thankful for our many gifts."

September 21, 2015 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Public-sector unions, solidarity, and Chicago's Catholic schools

In this post, over at Distinctly Catholic, Michael Sean Winters discusses a recent lecture given by Archbishop Cupich to the members of the Chicago Federation of Labor regarding, among other things, "right to work" proposals.  Michael Sean writes:

Archbishop Cupich also made clear that the Church has drawn no distinction between the rights of private and public sector employees: All have the right to organize. Some libertarian opponents of organized labor have argued that because the Church does not specifically address public sector unions, those workers do not have the right to organize. This is foolishness. Imagine how that principle would work in other areas. The Church has not made a list of all illicit sexual acts, it has merely stated that non-procreative sexual acts are illicit. Are we to think that perhaps some of them are actually okay because they were not explicitly named? +Cupich was clear: “Similarly, the Church has consistently taught that workers have a right to have a voice in the workplace, to form and join unions, to bargain collectively and protect their rights. And the Church has never made a distinction between private and public sectors of the work.” Whatever issues any of us has with public sector unions, and I have my own with the teachers’ unions especially, their right to organize is not at issue in the eyes of the Church.

I have said, many times here at Mirror of Justice, that it is a mistake to claim that Catholic Social Teaching requires, or even weighs in favor of, endorsing all the particulars of public-sector unionism as it exists in the United States today.  I do not say this because I'm a libertarian (I'm not), or because I think that invocations of "prudence" excuse one from the task of taking seriously the clear implications of principles like solidarity and the preferential option for the poor (I don't), or because I am somehow being funded by the Koch Brothers (I'm not).  I say this because the context for public-sector unionism differs in relevant respects -- not in all respects, but in some relevant respects -- from unionism in the private, for-profit sector.  These differences are relevant to incentives, bargaining power, accountability, and transparency, and they permit us to conclude (I think we do well to conclude) that, sometimes, it makes sense to treat public-sector unions and their claims differently than we might treat private-sector unions and their claims.

I am not, obviously, making the claim that Michael Sean calls "foolishness," i.e., that public-sector workers do not have the right to associate.  The right to associate is a human right.  I am saying (and, again, it is sensible, not foolish, to say this) that the labor relationship between a public employee and the political community differs in some ways that matter from the relationship between, say, a factory worker and the factory-owning corporation, its CEO, its Board, its shareholders, etc., and that these differences are relevant, not to the question of a right to associate or organize but to some policy questions.

So, again, I agree with Michael Sean that, whatever the issues he and I have with teachers unions (and I, like him, have many with teachers unions!), their right to "organize" is not at issue.  But this fact does not mean that, for example, that we must (or even should) support laws imposing closed-shop-type arrangements on public schools and public-school teachers.  

The question -- "Should we support unions and the right to associate, or not?" -- is not the one, it seems to me, that very often presents itself in politics.  Instead, we're presented with, for example, the fact that the largest labor unions (some public and some private) have been donating lots and lots of money -- members' dues, presumably -- to Planned Parenthood and the fact that Richard Trumka has issued a statement defending Planned Parenthood, even after the recent horrible videos.  It seems relevant to the question "should a Catholic support this particular union and laws that increase its power?" that that particular union is using its power to advocate for Planned Parenthood and the public funding of its operations.  (Again, it's not that workers somehow lose their human right to associate because some labor unions behave badly; its that labor unions and their actions are not immune from criticism, and opposition, simply by virtue of the fact that Catholic Social Teaching supports the right of workers to organize.) 

Back to Archbishop Cupich's talk:  I hope the union members listened to him closely, because he issued a respectful, charitable, but unmistakable message to them, i.e., that they should support (and not oppose, as the teachers unions almost always do) policies that are designed to enhance the freedom and effective ability of parents to choose Catholic schools for their children.

One of the things I am most impressed with since I have come to Chicago is the outstanding work of our Catholic schools in some of the poorest and toughest parts of our city. I am also impressed by the service they give to the children of workers and the children of the unemployed. I admire the good work of all those, in public and non-public education alike, who offer their skills, knowledge and dedication in our inner city schools. But I am haunted and challenged by the powerful economic forces, social pressures and demographic trends that put inner city Catholic education at risk. I know that many of you share my view that the diminishment of inner city Catholic education would be a loss for lots of kids, for their families, their neighborhoods and the larger Chicago family. I am encouraged that many labor leaders are supporting the Illinois Kids Campaign’s education tax credit initiative.

Many in the labor movement found in Catholic schools a way forward to a better future for their families and many of you send your children to our schools today. I don’t want or expect anyone to turn away from the struggles to support and improve public education. Most kids, most Catholic kids, are in our public schools just as many kids in Catholic schools are not Catholic. But the way I look at it, we should come to an agreement that whether they are in public or private or parochial schools, they’re all our kids and deserve the best education this country has to offer.

So, what I am offering is a hand of friendship, inviting all to work together to improve the education of all our kids and as a part of that, to work to keep alive the remarkable service of inner city Catholic schools that are beacons of hope in some of the poorest neighborhoods of Chicago. You can count on me to work with others to support public education, its funding and improvement. But, I also invite and need your help in avoiding the loss of valuable Catholic schools that provide help, hope and are an essential contribution to a better Chicago.

It sounds to me like the Archbishop has been reading Nicole Stelle Garnett's and Margaret Brinig's Lost Classrooms, Lost Community (which Michael Sean generously reviewed here)!


September 21, 2015 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

Cavadini on the challenges of Pope Francis

In this piece ("Challenge us, Pope Francis!", my friend and colleague, theologian John Cavadini offers an insightful and moving reflection on the Pope's upcoming visit.  Check it out.  Here's just a bit:

Everything is interrelated, Pope Francis never tires of repeating. "How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties?"

The papal rhetoric, then, is equal opportunity when it comes to discomfort. What if we were all to listen?

What if, even just for the period of his U.S. visit, we were to allow ourselves, each in our own way, to follow his rhetoric into a zone of discomfort? Would we, oddly, find ourselves meeting there?

One of the official names for the Pope is "pontifex maximus." "Pontifex" means "bridge maker," or "bridge builder" as we might say, and "maximus" indicates the "biggest" bridge builder of all. By inviting us out of our comfort zones and into the realm of discomfort, is Francis inviting us to find a bond we hadn't seen before, a stake in the "comfort zone" of the other that we had not expected to find? In a culture that is so divided as ours, could this be a way of building, or at least rebuilding, some bridges to each other?

September 21, 2015 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

The Jim Gaffigan Show: "There's Nothing Normal About Being Catholic" (said affectionately)

Does anyone else watch The Jim Gaffigan Show, on TV Land? It's a situation comedy based on Gaffigan's real life as a stand-up comic with five kids; he's also a practicing Catholic, although sometimes sheepish about it in ways that make for funny situations. In the episode we just saw, "My Friend the Priest," Jim is booked on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon; his wife invites their priest, Father Nicholas (who is Zimbabwean) to join them, and Jim worries that having him in the audience will make everyone uptight and kill the laughs. The plot twists around from there. In a more recent episode, "Bible Story," a video of Jim carrying a Bible in public (which he's doing because he's running an errand for his wife) goes viral and "outs" him as a Catholic. As the real Jim Gaffigan tells the story, this episode captures much of the show's point:

Our show is just inspired by the life that Jeannie and I lead. This is one episode; this is not the pilot episode. Our show is not just about that [fictional Jim] is paranoid about being outed as a Catholic, as a Christian. One of the the things that Jeannie and I touched on is that I’m a stand-up comedian. I live in New York City, downtown Manhattan, on the bluest island in the country, and 90 percent of my friends are devout atheists.

There’s nothing normal in our society about having five kids; there’s nothing normal about being Catholic; there’s nothing normal about going onstage and making strangers laugh. That’s one of the conceits of it.

The Jim Gaffigan Show is near the end of its first season but was just renewed for a second. It's worth checking out.

September 21, 2015 in Berg, Thomas | Permalink

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Scaffolding in Preparation for Pope Francis


As the photo demonstrates, CUA and the Basilica are hard at work preparing to welcome Pope Francis to our campus. Depicted here are the early stages of the altar from which Pope Francis will canonize Fr. Junipero Serra on Wednesday.

Throughout this process, I have been impressed, not only with the physical scaffolding preparing us for the visit, but the spiritual and intellectual scaffolding as well. The city, nation and world, have been invited to "pray,serve,and act" in the WalkWithFrancis program. This outreach invites us not not simply treat Francis's arrival as the 2015 version of the 1964 appearance of the Beatles - i.e. as an event that occurs to "say we were there." Rather, it calls us to a deeper participation in this visit that is meaningful and one that will stay with us far beyond the time Francis departs for Rome.

A unique location of intellectual and insightful scaffolding includes CUA bloggers page, which contains reflection from academics, students, and others selected throughout our community. Of particular interest to MOJ readers may be those of MOJ alumna Lucia Silecchia (Professor of Law and University Vice Provost for Policy).

September 20, 2015 in Leary, Mary G. | Permalink

Friday, September 18, 2015

Religious Freedom Summit

Catholic University is going to be the hub of activity next week as we host the Pope. Timed perfectly before his visit is an important conference regarding religious freedom.

The Religious Freedom Summit occurs today and is co-sponsored by The Catholic University of America, Baylor University, the Georgetown-Baylor Religious Freedom Project, and the Knights of Columbus. Speakers include our own Mark Rienzi, as well as former congressman Frank Wolf, Sarah Liu, and Judge Ken Starr. Details and follow up information can be found here.

September 18, 2015 in Leary, Mary G. | Permalink

Glendon's Tocquevillian Approach

I recently delighted in watching Mary Ann Glendon deliver the 2011 Harold Berman Lecture at Emory University on YouTube. The full text of the lecture, "Religious Freedom: A Second Class Right?" is also downloadable from Emory Law journal. It is of course now just as relevant as then, if not more so in light of Obergefell. Glendon's  ever optimistic Tocquevillian approach is an able response, or better, extension of Ross Douthat's ND lecture, posted by Rick  yesterday.  Here's Glendon: 

The point I wish to emphasize is that to ignore the associational and institutional dimensions of religious freedom not only harms the religious groups and the individuals to whom those groups are important; it also has implications for our democratic experiment. A society that aspires to be both free and compassionate cannot afford to neglect the health of the families, religious groups, and other communities of memory and mutual aid that are our principal seedbeds of character and competence.  As Emory’s John Witte and Christian Green point out in the introduction to their latest book, the religious institutions and other mediating structures that stand between the state and the individual not only help to create the conditions for the realization of civil and political rights but also provide many important social goods including education, health care, child care, and employment, among others.  And they often can do so far more efficiently, effectively, and humanely than agencies of the state. 


I believe that is why Harold Berman wrote twenty years ago that he hoped for a reinterpretation of the First Amendment’s religion language that “would permit not only ‘religion’ to cooperate with ‘government’ but ‘government’ openly to cooperate with ‘religion’—without discrimination for or against any belief system (and hence without establishment) and without coercion (and hence without restriction upon free exercise).” 


Having dwelt thus far on disquieting legal and cultural developments, I am glad to be able to report that some of the news the Pontifical Academy heard from social scientists last spring was quite encouraging—especially the new research that bears on the relation of religion and religious freedom to what one might call a country’s moral ecology. Allen Hertzke, for example, reported on pathbreaking studies that challenge the oft-repeated claim that religion is a particular source of social division and strife. That claim—almost a mantra in secular circles—implies that religion is practically a suspect category. 


Yet an important and growing body of empirical evidence reveals that the political influence of religion is in fact quite diverse, sometimes contributing to strife, but often fostering democracy, reconciliation, and peace. Some studies indicate that violence actually tends to be greater in societies where religious practice is suppressed and that promotion of religious freedom actually advances the cause of peace by reducing interreligious conflict.  Further research will be needed to discover the mechanisms that link religious freedom to religiously motivated violence or to its reduction in diverse societies. But the results thus far should give pause to those who claim that religion is inherently divisive.


For one thing, those who automatically associate religion with strife may be confusing religious conflicts with identity politics. It is often “the sacralization of identity”—rather than religion as such—that lies at the heart of conflicts to which religious labels have been attached.  The religious rhetoric and symbolism associated with such conflicts may have more to do with issues of individual and group identity than with theological differences.


A second important set of findings suggests a positive correlation between religious freedom and other important human goods.  The Pew Forum’s Brian Grim has found that “[t]he presence of religious freedom in a country mathematically correlates with . . . the longevity of democracy” and with the presence of civil and political liberty, women’s advancement, press freedom, literacy, lower infant mortality, and economic freedom.  Correspondingly, there is a significant correlation between the denial of religious freedom and the absence of these economic, social, and political goods. While more research is needed on these linkages, they provide encouraging empirical support for Pope John Paul II’s intuition that the state of religious freedom is a kind of litmus test for the state of human rights generally.


Now, if we put the news from the social scientists on changing religious attitudes together with the recent findings on the positive role of religion in society, we arrive at what Professor Hertzke calls “a profound paradox”—that just when pathbreaking work has begun to document the societal benefits of religious freedom, the longstanding social “consensus behind it is weakening, assaulted by authoritarian regimes, attacked by theocratic movements, violated by aggressive secular policies, and undermined by growing elite hostility or ignorance.” 


To this I would add a second paradox—that just when longstanding, elite attitudes toward religion are allegedly spreading through the population in general, several prominent secular thinkers have had second thoughts. Philosophers Jürgen Habermas and Marcello Pera have called attention to the importance of the Judeo–Christian heritage in sustaining liberal democracy, while Bernard-Henri Lévy has expressed concern about the spread of bias against Christianity. 


No serious thinker, of course, disputes that the preservation of a free society depends on citizens and statespersons with particular skills, knowledge, and qualities of mind and character. But many secular theorists have simply assumed that a free society can get along fine without religion and that the more closely religion is confined to the private sphere, the freer everyone will be. Some have maintained that the experience of living in a free society is sufficient in itself to foster the civic virtues of moderation and self-restraint, respect for others, and so on. 


That complacent opinion is becoming harder to sustain, however, with so many of the country’s families, schools, religious groups, and other seedbeds of civic virtue currently in distress.  It is hard to resist the conclusion that our liberal societies have been living for quite a while on inherited social capital—and that, like profligate heirs, we’ve been consuming our inheritance without bothering to replenish it.

That is why thinkers like Habermas and the Italian philosopher–statesman Marcello Pera have begun to speak out about the political costs of neglecting a cultural inheritance in which religion, liberty, and law are inextricably intertwined, and to question whether liberal states can afford to be indifferent or hostile to religion. They have begun to ask questions like: Where will citizens learn to view others with respect and concern, rather than to regard them as objects, means, or obstacles? What will cause most men and women to keep their promises, to limit consumption, to answer their country’s call for service, and to lend a hand to the unfortunate? Where will a state based on the rule of law find citizens and statesmen capable of devising just laws and then abiding by them? What is the role of religion in supporting the commitment to common values—the minimal social cohesion—that every free society requires?


Habermas has gone so far as to concede that the good effects that some philosophers have attributed to life in free societies may well have had their source in the legacy of the “Judaic ethic of justice and the Christian ethic of love.”  In his case, it was concern about biological engineering and the instrumentalization of human life that led him to conclude that the West cannot abandon its religious heritage without endangering the great social and political advances that are grounded in that heritage. “The liberal state,” he has written, “depends in the long run on mentalities that it cannot produce from its own resources.”  A professed atheist and political leftist, he stunned many of his followers when he announced he had come to think that "[t]his legacy [of the Judaic ethic of justice and the Christian ethic of love], substantially unchanged, has been the object of continual critical appropriation and reinterpretation. To this day, there is no alternative to it. And in light of the current challenges of a postnational constellation, we continue to draw on the substance of this heritage. Everything else is just idle postmodern talk."


In a similar vein, Pera writes, “Without the Christian vision of the human person, our political life is doomed to become the mere exercise of power and our science to divorce itself from moral wisdom; our technology to become indifferent to ethics and our material well-being blind to our exploitation of others and our environment.” 


And so, the wheel of elite opinion may—just possibly—be coming back full circle to the views of those who, like George Washington and Alexis de Tocqueville, held that the free society was profoundly dependent on a healthy moral culture nourished by religion (by which they understood Judeo–Christianity).  In Democracy in America, Tocqueville—himself a religious skeptic—urged his fellow intellectuals to lay aside their bias against religion. Lovers of liberty, he said, should “hasten to call religion to their aid, for they must know that the reign of freedom cannot be established without that of mores, nor mores founded without beliefs.” Religion, he continued, is “the safeguard of mores; and mores as the guarantee of laws and the pledge” for the maintenance of freedom itself. 


September 18, 2015 | Permalink

Two Items from the Center for Law and Religion

Just a note about two items from the Center I direct with my colleague, Mark Movsesian.

First, the indefatigable Gerald Russello, who edits The University Bookman and is a frequent and insightful commenter about all manner of interesting issue (in addition to being a partner at a large law firm in New York), will be blogging with us for the next month. Here's his first post, Scribes and Holidays.

Second, our first event of the season, a conversation with Judge Richard Sullivan (SDNY) about religious freedom and the Supreme Court, will occur on October 27 and will be hosted by our excellent alumna, Mary Kay Vyskocil, at the offices of Simpson, Thacher & Bartlett in New York. Here's an announcement with further details. If you are interested in attending, please let me or Mark know, as space is limited.

September 18, 2015 in DeGirolami, Marc | Permalink

Thursday, September 17, 2015

John Inazu on churches' tax exemptions and a vibrant civil society

Here's John Inazu's contribution to a Washington Post discussion on churches' tax exemptions.  His piece is called "Want a vibrant public square?  Support religious tax exemptions."  Great stuff, as usual.  Here's a bit:  

When it comes to federal taxes, there is a fundamental reason we should protect religious organizations — even those we disagree with. Functionally, the federal tax exemption is akin to a public forum: a government-provided resource that welcomes and encourages a diversity of viewpoints. Tax exemptions for religious organizations and other nonprofits exist in part to allow different groups to make their voices heard. Past the preexisting baseline, groups and ideas wither or thrive not by government decree but by the choices of individual donors. In this setting, government has no business policing which groups are “in” and which ones are “out” based on their ideological beliefs. And there is no plausible risk that granting tax-exempt status to groups such as the Nation of Islam, the Catholic Church or even the American Cheese Education Foundation means that the government embraces or endorses those organizations’ views. ./ . .

September 17, 2015 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink