Kaveny, “Law’s Virtues: Fostering Autonomy and Solidarity in American Society”

This October, Georgetown University Press will publish Law’s Virtues: Fostering Autonomy and Solidarity in American Society by Cathleen Kaveny (University of Notre Dame). Kaveny will present her book on September 20 at a lunchtime seminar at the Berkley Center. The publisher’s description follows.

Can the law promote moral values even in pluralistic societies such as the United States? Drawing upon important federal legislation such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, legal scholar and moral theologian Cathleen Kaveny argues that it can. In conversation with thinkers as diverse as Thomas Aquinas, Pope John Paul II, and Joseph Raz, she argues that the law rightly promotes the values of autonomy and solidarity. At the same time, she cautions that wise lawmakers will not enact mandates that are too far out of step with the lived moral values of the actual community.

According to Kaveny, the law is best understood as a moral teacher encouraging people to act virtuously, rather than a police officer requiring them to do so. In Law’s Virtues Kaveny expertly applies this theoretical framework to the controversial moral-legal issues of abortion, genetics, and euthanasia. In addition, she proposes a moral analysis of the act of voting, in dialogue with the election guides issued by the US bishops. Moving beyond the culture wars, this bold and provocative volume proposes a vision of the relationship of law and morality that is realistic without being relativistic and optimistic without being utopian.

Conference: Catholic Perspectives on Religious Liberty at Georgetown

I’ll be participating in a conference next Thursday, September 13 —  “Catholic Perspectives on Religious Liberty” — organized by Tom Farr and hosted by the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University Law Center.  The keynote speaker is Cardinal Donald Wuerl and the balance of the conference is organized in 3 fairly conversational panels, each of which is devoted to a separate topic.  If you are able to come, please stop by and say hi.  More details here.

Rocher, “Studies in Hindu Law and Dharmaśāstra”

This month, Anthem Press will publish Studies in Hindu Law and Dharmaśāstra by Ludo Rocher (University of Pennsylvania) and edited by Donald R. Davis, Jr. (University of Wisconsin – Madison). The publisher’s description follows.

The main sources for an understanding of classical Hindu law are the Sanskrit treatises on religious and legal duties, known as the Dharmaśāstras. In this collection of his major studies in the field, Ludo Rocher presents analytical and interpretive essays on a wide range of topics, from general themes such as the nature of Hindu law and Anglo-Hindu law to technical matters including word studies and text criticism. Rocher’s deep engagement with the language and worldview of the authors in the Dharmaśāstra tradition yields distinctive and corrective contributions to the field, which are informed by knowledge both of the Indian grammatical tradition and of Roman and civil law.

Read more

Event: “The Manhattan Declaration Crosses the River”

The Diocese of Brooklyn will host a panel discussion, “The Manhattan Declaration Crosses the River: Support the Preservation of Religious Liberty,” at the St. John’s Queens campus on Thursday, September 20. Speakers include Marjorie Dannenfelser (Susan B. Anthony List), Robert George (Princeton), Alan Sears (ADF), and Eric Teetsel (Manhattan Declaration). Details are here.


The redoubtable Peter Berger has a winning column on them.  A few years back I had one, but despite Berger’s plausible claim that “the power of the beard as a profane symbol of adult masculinity should not be underestimated,” my wife for some reason did not hold my beard in very high esteem. 

Berger’s post is prompted in part by the legal controversies involving the Amish beard cutting incident in Cleveland, now being tried as a federal “hate crime,” and the trial of alleged murderer Major Nidal Hasan in Fort Hood, Texas, who was ordered to shave his beard for trial.  Here is Berger’s beards and religion angle (but you really should not miss the rest):

Needless to say, religion is a particularly rich field for the beard as sacramental symbol. There are significant differences between Latin and Greek Christianity. Bearded priests have become the norm in Eastern Orthodox churches; in the Roman Catholic Church, while there are some monastic orders whose monks wear beards, secular priests are normally clean-shaven. I don’t know whether there are “grooming regulations” in either case, nor do I know of any in Protestant churches. Mormons stand out: Young men going out on their two-year missionary stints must be clean-shaven, as must students at Brigham Young University. Beards have become the trademark of Orthodox Judaism, though the Torah does not command them directly (Leviticus only has rules for shaping the beard). I would imagine that there are different deductions from these rules in the Talmud. Jews in mourning, while “sitting shive”, don’t shave and let the stubbles sit during this period. Sikhs are very intent on their luxurious beards. Many Hindu ascetics have beards, but that is not so much a symbol as the result of their having no possessions, not even a razor (they do beg—is there no pious barber who can donate a free shave?). I have no knowledge of Buddhist attitudes to facial hair. But of course we are most aware of the role of beards in contemporary Islam.  Beards are the male equivalents of female headgear. If young men in Turkey come out of the closet as Islamists and consequently drive their Kemalist parents crazy, their young sisters achieve the same result by covering their hair with the scarves that signify Islamic modesty. As far as I know, there is no commandment to wear beards in the Koran, though there is an authoritative tradition (hadith) according to which the Prophet Muhammad did issue such a commandment.

I promised that there would be no theoretical or practical conclusions. Let me just say this: There are very few “natural” symbols. (Though the lion may be a “natural symbol” of might, as against the mouse.) Beyond such clear cases, anything can symbolize anything. Symbols change over time. As to beards, often they symbolize nothing beyond themselves—as Freud did not say, but might have said: Sometimes a beard is just a beard. Beards have carried all sorts of symbolic freight. In the area of religion, it would be nice if beards symbolized moderation and tolerance.

Upcoming Lectures on Catholic Jurisprudence

For East Coast CLR Forum readers interested in Catholic jurisprudence, here are a couple of events to put on your fall calendar. Next Friday, September 14, Villanova Law School will host the seventh annual Scarpa Conference on Law, Politics, and Culture. This year’s theme is “Living the Catholic Faith in Public Life.” Speakers include Helen Alvaré (George Mason), Gerard Bradley (Notre Dame), Patrick Brennan (Villanova), and Peter Steinfels (Fordham). The following Friday, September 21, the Thomistic Institute NYC will kick off a series at NYU’s Catholic Center, “A Public Right to the Truth: A Series on the Natural Right to Religious Freedom,” with a lecture by Russell Hittinger (Tulsa) on “The Catholic Magisterium and Religious Freedom.” The series will continue throughout the fall. Details are here.