Legal Spirits Episode 002: SCOTUS Grants Cert in the Peace Cross Case

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The Peace Cross, a World War I Memorial, in Bladensburg, Maryland

 

In this “Legal Spirits” podcast, Center Director Mark Movsesian and Associate Director Marc DeGirolami talk about the Supreme Court’s grant earlier this month in The American Legion v. American Humanist Association, the Peace Cross case. The Court will decide whether a 90-year old war memorial in Maryland, pictured above, violates the Establishment Clause. Mark and Marc discuss the ins-and-outs of the case and speculate whether the Court will finally clear up some of the confusion surrounding religious displays on public property.

 

Legal Spirits Episode 001: A British Version of Masterpiece Cakeshop?

For the first Legal Spirits podcast, Center Director Mark Movsesian and Associate Director Marc DeGirolami discuss the UK Supreme Court’s decision last month in Lee v. Ashers Baking Company. The court ruled that Christian bakers did not violate British anti-discrimination laws when they declined to create a cake with a pro-gay marriage inscription. Mark and Marc explain the British decision and compare it with the American Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop, and speculate what influence the British decision might have in future American cases.

The Proper Response to the Crisis in the Catholic Church: Give the Laity a Role in the Appointment and Removal of Diocesan Bishops

 

consecration of st ambrose as archbishop (1)

The Consecration of Ambrose as Bishop of Milan (Juan Valdes-Leal, 1673)

 

By Robert Delahunty* & Andrew Ratelle**

The past few weeks in the life of the Catholic Church in America are proof of a twelfth century English proverb that “often the end fails to equal the beginning.”

What began some fifteen or more years ago as a series of promised reforms, compounded with yet more promises, has made a full circle return to the point of origin. A prince of the Church has been caught yet again in deeply hypocritical, sinful, and, if not for statutes of limitation, tortious and even criminal behavior. But this time, a coterie of fellow bishops and peers is gathered about him, unable or unwilling to see where the line between charitable forbearance and public condemnation must be drawn. According to the New York Times:

Between 1994 and 2008, multiple reports about the cardinal’s transgressions with adult seminary students were made to American bishops, the pope’s representative in Washington and, finally, Pope Benedict XVI. Two New Jersey dioceses secretly paid settlements, in 2005 and 2007, to two men … for allegations against the archbishop.

And now comes the news of a Pennsylvania grand jury’s findings that in six of the State’s eight dioceses, bishops and other clerical leaders concealed at least one thousand identified cases of child sexual abuse for a period of over seventy years. The grand jury wrote:

“Despite some institutional reform, individual leaders of the church have largely escaped public accountability.” …  “Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing; they hid it all. For decades.”

This is indeed “a spiritual crisis” that cuts deeper with every revelation. It is a “crisis” that goes much deeper than the episcopate seems competent or willing to handle.

The Catholic laity must assume far greater responsibility for the conduct of their bishops and priests, and the hierarchy must give them the tools to do so. Below, we outline a series of lay-led initiatives, ranging from least to most radical, for a project of reform. Most importantly, we recommend that the laity have a greater role in the appointment and removal of diocesan bishops.

The Failure of the Hierarchy

The unfolding story of Cardinal McCarrick’s decades of sexual predation is both dismal and familiar. But those disclosures are not the most dismaying part of the current crisis. What makes the McCarrick matter different is the unbelievable lameness of his fellow bishops’ excuses for their repeated failure to challenge him. Loyal Catholics have been driven to the conclusion that their Church’s hierarchy is utterly compromised. It has proven itself unfit to perform the urgent task of dealing with the rot that it has allowed to fester in its own ranks. The bishops— “good” and “bad” alike—have betrayed the faithful.

In addition to sexual abuse, there are two problems here. One problem is the continuing influence of “bad” bishops, willing to use their power to protect abusers, to promote them, and to marginalize those who would denounce them. The other problem is the silence (or at least the shrugging of the shoulders) of “good” bishops, unwilling to condemn the corrupt practices of their peers. This silence is not always intentional complicity, but it is close enough—a distinction with no real difference.

The American Church, it seems, has its own version of the Deep State, committed to obstructing genuine reform and to punishing those who question its authority.

For the Church to respond to this threat, the laity must now do what the bishops ought to have done years—decades—ago.

We are not talking only about the investigation and correction of priests and bishops who are guilty of sexual abuse. The Church has always had such priests, and canon law structures—though under-enforced—have long been in place to correct them. Clerical sexual abuse is the primary problem, but it is not the only one.

The real task ahead is instead to devise and implement processes, in which lay participation is extensive, that will police the bishops as they ought to have policed themselves. Investigation and punishment of abuses are not enough. It is essential to develop institution-wide remedies. The crisis in the Church is a structural or Continue reading

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Silinsky, “Jihad and the West”

New from Indiana University Press, Jihad and the West: Black Flag over Babylon, by Mark Silinsky (US Department of Defense). The publisher’s description follows:

9780253027016_medU.S. Department of Defense analyst Mark Silinsky reveals the origins of the Islamic State’s sinister obsession with the Western world. Once considered a minor irritant in the international system, the Caliphate is now a dynamic and significant actor on the world’s stage, boasting more than 30,000 foreign fighters from 86 countries. Recruits consist not only of Middle-Eastern-born citizens, but also a staggering number of “Blue-Eyed Jihadists,” Westerners who leave their country to join the radical sect. Silinsky provides a detailed and chilling explanation of the appeal of the Islamic State and how those abroad become radicalized, while also analyzing the historical origins, inner workings, and horrific toll of the Caliphate. By documenting the true stories of men, women, and children whose lives have been destroyed by the radical group, Jihad and the West presents the human face of the thousands who have been kidnapped, raped, tortured, and murdered by the Islamic State, including Kayla Mueller, who was kidnapped, given to the Caliphate’s leader as a sex slave, and ultimately killed.

Winterer, “American Enlightenments”

From Yale University Press, a new intellectual history of America after the Revolution, American Enlightenments: Pursuing Happiness in the Age of Reason, by Caroline Winterer (Stanford). The publisher’s description follows:

d55b12cf44c33ef5c1c02428f6c1dd26A provocative reassessment of the concept of an American golden age of European-born reason and intellectual curiosity in the years following the Revolutionary War:

The accepted myth of the “American Enlightenment” suggests that the rejection of monarchy and establishment of a new republic in the United States in the eighteenth century was the realization of utopian philosophies born in the intellectual salons of Europe and radiating outward to the New World. In this revelatory work, Stanford historian Caroline Winterer argues that a national mythology of a unitary, patriotic era of enlightenment in America was created during the Cold War to act as a shield against the threat of totalitarianism, and that Americans followed many paths toward political, religious, scientific, and artistic enlightenment in the 1700s that were influenced by European models in more complex ways than commonly thought. Winterer’s book strips away our modern inventions of the American national past, exploring which of our ideas and ideals are truly rooted in the eighteenth century and which are inventions and mystifications of more recent times.

“Christianity, Democracy, and the Shadow of Constantine” (Demacopoulos & Papanikolaou, eds.)

From Fordham University Press, a new collection on Orthodox perspectives on the relationship between Christianity and liberal democracy: Christianity, Democracy, and the Shadow of Constantine, edited by Fordham professors George Demacopoulos and Aristotle Papanikolaou. The publisher’s description follows:

9780823274208_10The collapse of communism in eastern Europe has forced traditionally Eastern Orthodox countries to consider the relationship between Christianity and liberal democracy. Contributors examine the influence of Constantinianism in both the post-communist Orthodox world and in Western political theology. Constructive theological essays feature Catholic and Protestant theologians reflecting on the relationship between Christianity and democracy, as well as Orthodox theologians reflecting on their tradition’s relationship to liberal democracy. The essays explore prospects of a distinctively Christian politics in a post-communist, post-Constantinian age.

Oakes, “Conservative Revolutionaries”

New from Wipf and Stock Publishers: Conservative Revolutionaries: Transformation and Tradition in the Religious and Political Thought of Charles Chauncy and Jonathan Mayhew, by John Oakes (Simon Fraser University). The publisher’s description follows:

PICKWICK_TemplateBoston Congregationalist ministers Charles Chauncy (1705-87) and Jonathan Mayhew (1720-66) were significant political as well as religious leaders in colonial and revolutionary New England. Scholars have often stressed their influence on major shifts in New England theology, from traditional Calvinism to Arminianism and, ultimately, to universalism and Unitarianism. They have also portrayed Mayhew as an influential preacher, whose works helped shape American revolutionary ideology, and Chauncy as an active leader of the patriot cause.

Through a deeply contextualized re-examination of the two ministers as “men of their times,” John S. Oakes offers a fresh, comparative interpretation of how their religious and political views changed and interacted over decades. The result is a thoroughly revised reading of Chauncy’s and Mayhew’s most innovative ideas. Conservative Revolutionaries also unearths strongly traditionalist elements in their belief systems, centering on their shared commitment to a dissenting worldview based on the ideals of their Protestant New England and British heritage.

Oakes concludes with a provocative exploration of how the shifting theological and political positions of these two “conservative revolutionaries” may have helped redefine prevailing notions of human identity, capability, and destiny.

 

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