The Becket Fund has an update on an important trio of religious liberty cases pending before the Supreme Court:
Advocate Healthcare Newtork v. Stapleton
St. Peter’s Healthcare v. Kaplan
Dignity Health v. Rollins
Status: U.S. Supreme Court granted review, to hear case Spring 2017
Faith-based hospitals draw inspiration from their religious heritage. Driven by their faith to provide compassionate care, these hospitals treat people of all faiths and backgrounds, and their wellness services go beyond just providing medical care. For example, Saint Peter’s Family Health Center also serves juvenile victims of abuse, economically disadvantaged families and mentally disabled or violence-prone youth. And Catholic Health Initiatives provides millions annually to benefit programs and services for the poor, such as free clinics.
These faith-driven hospitals also provide generous benefits to their employees, including pensions through the hospitals’ comprehensive church pension plans. Yet their beliefs and the charitable work they do are being threatened for no reason: a group of plaintiffs’ lawyers are targeting these hospitals for a payoff, dragging them to court and demanding that they pay their attorney fees. Their argument? That hospital ministries are not religious enough to have a tax-exempt church pension plan under The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). However, it is not the job of lawyers to decide that hospitals can’t be part of a church, and the IRS has rightly viewed these ministries as part of a larger church for over 30 years.
The legal campaign against faith-based hospitals began in 2013. In 2016 three of the cases were appealed to the Supreme Court, while almost a hundred more are waiting in lower courts across the country. On August 15, 2016, Becket filed a friend-of-the-court brief at the Supreme Court supporting the hospitals and their right to freely exercise their religious-based mission to provide compassionate and excellent healthcare according to their faith.
These cases aren't just about pension plans. It could have serious implications for issues like hiring, which is precisely why a set of virulently anti-Catholic lawyers around the country have been pursuing them.
I was pleased to go out to Pepperdine today to give a talk based on my essay on The Parable of the Talents at their annual Nootbaar Conference on Law and Religion.
Here's the slide deck:
Here's the abstract and link:
On its surface, Jesus’ Parable of the Talents is a simple story with four key plot elements: (1) A master is leaving on a long trip and entrusts substantial assets to three servants to manage during his absence. (2) Two of the servants invested the assets profitably, earning substantial returns, but a third servant — frightened of his master’s reputation as a hard taskmaster — put the money away for safekeeping and failed even to earn interest on it. (3) The master returns and demands an accounting from the servants. (4) The two servants who invested wisely were rewarded, but the servant who failed to do so is punished.
Neither the master nor any of the servants make any appeal to legal standards, but it seems improbable that there was no background set of rules against which the story plays out. To the legal mind, the Parable thus raises some interesting questions: What was the relationship between the master and the servant? What were the servants’ duties? How do the likely answers to those questions map to modern relations, such as those of principal and agent? Curiously, however, there are almost no detailed analyses of these questions in Anglo-American legal scholarship.
This project seeks to fill that gap.
Bainbridge, Stephen M., The Parable of the Talents (August 15, 2016). UCLA School of Law, Law-Econ Research Paper No. 16-10. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2787452
This week STEP class is about church teachings on morality. As Catholics, we distinguish between mortal and venial sin. The readings inform that:
There are three conditions for a sin to be a mortal sin: grave matter, full knowledge, and deliberate consent (freedom). Mortal sin destroys the loving relationship with God that we need for eternal happiness. If not repented, it results in a loss of love and God’s grace and merits eternal punishment in hell, that is, exclusion from the Kingdom of God and thus eternal death.
Is becoming intoxicated a grave matter especially when one knows the consequences from past experience? But can one deliberately consent if one's judgment is impaired as one gradually becomes intoxicated? Is it the ex ante consent to the first drink that matters?
Relatedly, suppose one commits what would ordinarily be a mortal sin when one is intoxicated. Does being intoxicated negate deliberate consent? But what if you got intoxicated on purpose?
Frankly, I often get confused when one digs down into the weeds of Catholic theology on (among other things) sin. The best advice a priest ever gave me on this issue was to make frequent use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, tell the priest everything on your conscience and let God sort it out.
As previously noted, I'm enrolled in Notre Dame's STEP program and currently taking the Core Course: Introduction to the Catholic Faith. This week's class focused on Morality.
One of the discussion questions asked "What are the Theological Virtues," which sent me to the Catechism (para, 1803 ff):
Human virtues are firm attitudes, stable dispositions, habitual perfections of intellect and will that govern our actions, order our passions, and guide our conduct according to reason and faith. They make possible ease, self-mastery, and joy in leading a morally good life. The virtuous man is he who freely practices the good.
Four virtues play a pivotal role and accordingly are called "cardinal"; all the others are grouped around them. They are: prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. "If anyone loves righteousness, [Wisdom's] labors are virtues; for she teaches temperance and prudence, justice, and courage."
The human virtues are rooted in the theological virtues, which adapt man's faculties for participation in the divine nature: for the theological virtues relate directly to God. They dispose Christians to live in a relationship with the Holy Trinity. They have the One and Triune God for their origin, motive, and object.
The theological virtues are the foundation of Christian moral activity; they animate it and give it its special character. They inform and give life to all the moral virtues. They are infused by God into the souls of the faithful to make them capable of acting as his children and of meriting eternal life. They are the pledge of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in the faculties of the human being. There are three theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity.
I was unaware of that distinction. So, yet again, I've learned something new and, at least to me, interesting from this course. It's been a great experience. I'm sad that this is the last week, but a new course starts next week.
I am saddened to learn that Michael Novak has passed away. The American Enterprise Institute, where he was a resident scholar for many years, reports that:
Michael was an AEI scholar for three decades until his retirement in 2010, and remained a close friend of the Institute.
Michael arrived at AEI in 1978. ... And once here, he built a hugely distinguished career as our George Frederick Jewett Scholar in Religion, Philosophy, and Public Policy.
The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism (1982), likely Michael’s most important book, advanced a bold and important thesis: America’s system of democratic capitalism represents a fusion of our political, economic, and moral-cultural systems. No facet can exist apart from the others. This thread ran through Michael’s whole career, including his most recent book, a co-authored work entitled Social JusticeIsn’t What You Think It Is (2015).
George Weigel writes that:
Michael Novak loved the Catholic Church and the United States passionately. And with his death at 83, both Church and nation have lost one of their most imaginative and accomplished sons: a groundbreaking theorist in philosophy, social ethics, religious studies, ethnic studies, and economics; a brilliant teacher; a winsome journalist and apologist; a great defender of freedom, as both ambassador and polemicist; a man of striking energy and creativity, some of whose books will be read for a very long time to come, and in multiple languages.
And from the Wall Street Journal:
Over a long life Michael Novak traveled from writing speeches for George McGovern to serving as Ronald Reagan’s ambassador to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, reflecting an intellectual journey from socialism to capitalism. He died Friday at age 83, but in many ways he remained the boy forged in Johnstown, Pennsylvania: a working-class town of steel mills, coal mines and immigrant Slovak families trying to find their way in this new land called America.
Raised as a Roman Catholic, Novak believed as a young man that socialism was the ideal economic arrangement. But he began to notice a flaw: While socialism sounded good in theory, in practice it didn’t work—and non-elites fared the worst.
Capitalism had little high-minded theory, but in practice it literally provided the goods. If ordinary folks did so much better under capitalism, maybe the caricatures—e.g., that it is all based on greed—were wrong. Maybe free markets had their own virtues and were defensible, and even superior to other economic systems on moral grounds.
From this recognition sprang his most important work, “The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism,” which changed America’s public debate when it was published in 1982. “Democratic capitalism,” he wrote, is “neither the Kingdom of God nor without sin. Yet all other known systems of political economy are worse. Such hope as we have for alleviating poverty and for removing oppressive tyranny—perhaps our last, best hope—lies in this much despised system.”
I only had the privilege of meeting Novak on one occasion, but he had a huge impact on my life. It was reading his work on Catholic social thought as it relates to the corporation that provided the normative foundation for my own work but also provided the impetus and interest in Catholicism that eventually led to my conversion. Indeed, if one had to single out one person who pushed me across the Tiber, it was Novak.
Michael Novak, Toward a Theology of the Corporation https://t.co/70RnJTeb97— Professor Bainbridge (@ProfBainbridge) February 19, 2017
Rest in peace, Michael Novak. “As human lungs need air, so does liberty need virtue.”https://t.co/qiqpOFGSB4— First Things (@firstthingsmag) February 18, 2017
As previously noted, I'm enrolled in Notre Dame's STEP program and currently taking the Core Course: Introduction to the Catholic Faith. This week's class focused on the Liturgy. This week's assignment question is:
What is meant by the term, "Real Presence," with respect to the Eucharist?
As always I am limited to the stated maximum of 200 words.
The doctrine of the Real Presence asserts that in the Eucharist, while the bread and wine appear to be bread and wine, Jesus is literally and wholly present—body and blood, soul and divinity—in them. This is a stumbling block for many non-Catholics, who look at the bread and wine and see a rather tasteless cracker and a (usually) bad tasting glass of wine.
But Jesus himself (Luke 22) declared that “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.” And, again, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you."
That Jesus was not merely speaking of the Last Supper as a unique event is confirmed in 1 Corinthians 11, where Paul wrote: "Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord."
If Jesus were not truly present in the bread and wine, why should it matter whether we are free of grave sin when we partake of it? It would be a mere symbol. But because it is not just a symbol, but rather the literal body and blood of Christ, those who are unworthy take him into themselves at grave risk.
Dolan is unquestionably what most people would regard as a “conservative.” His closest friends and advisers are conservatives, he’s by-the-book when it comes to faith and morals, and he’s unabashedly proud of being a “John Paul II bishop.”
In other words, Dolan has strong personal views which some would see as fairly partisan.
However, another defining quality of Dolan is a relentless determination to keep lines of communication open, never to demonize or alienate anyone, and to demonstrate that one can have strong convictions without forever going to war against people who don’t share them. ...
Dolan suggests another America, one in which people who disagree can still be friends, still talk to one another, still recognize one another’s fundamental decency, and where disputes don’t have to end in shoving matches and handcuffs.
Among many reasons I crossed the Tiber back in 2001 was the prevalence of praise music in Protestant churches here in Los Angeles. I had an instinctive reaction against worship services that seemed more like rock concerts (not, of course, that I'm against rock concerts, but there is a time and a place). I was thus struck by this passage from John O'Malley's wonderful history of the Council of Trent, Trent: What Happened at the Council:
Embedded in the decree, however, was a sentence exhorting the bishops to “keep out of their churches the kind of music in which a base and suggestive [lascivum et impurum] element is introduced into the organ playing or singing, and similarly all worldly activities, empty and secular conversation, walking about, noises and cries, so that the house of God may truly be called and be seen to be a house of prayer.”
I'm not saying all Protestant churches are like that, of course, but it was in large part a desire for traditional High Church liturgy that sent me to Rome.
As previously noted, I'm enrolled in Notre Dame's STEP program and currently taking the Core Course: Introduction to the Catholic Faith. This week's class focused on the Church. This week's assignment question is:
Explain the link between the Holy Spirit and the Church.
As always I am limited to the stated maximum of 200 words.
I believe that, prior to Pentecost, the Church was merely inchoate. Acts 1-2 tells us that they were gathered together in the upper room (it just occurred to me to wonder of that was the same room as where they held the last Supper?), but they had not really launched on the tasks set out in the Great Commission. Apparently, it was only when the Holy Spirt came upon them at Pentecost that they began preaching to the public rather than praying amongst themselves.
Today, the Holy Spirit sustains, guides, and empowers the Church. As the Catechism explains (para. 736), "By this power of the Spirit, God's children can bear much fruit. He who has grafted us onto the true vine will make us bear 'the fruit of the Spirit: . . . love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control..'"
We encounter the Holy Spirit in the sacraments. The baptism seals us with the Holy Spirit. In the Eucharist, it is the Holy Spirit who effects the transubstantiation of the bread and wine. The Holy Spirt convinces us of sin and prompts us to seek Reconciliation.
As previously noted, I'm enrolled in Notre Dame's STEP program and currently taking the Core Course: Introduction to the Catholic Faith. This week's assignment focused on the Church.
There were some discussion questions this week that I found quite interesting. Bear in mind that I'm space constrained in my answers, so some of these deserve longer treatment at some point.
What Biblical image or metaphor do you think best fits the Church?
The Bride of Christ, which will be united with Him for eternity. "The Bridegroom’s love, or rather the love which is the Bridegroom, asks in return nothing but faithful love. Let the beloved, then, love in return. Should not a bride love, and above all, Love’s bride? Could it be that Love not be loved?" -- Bernard of Clairvaux
Explain why the image of the Church as "People of God" is important.
To me this is a really interesting and timely question. My personal politics tend towards the Tory version of classical liberalism, in which there is great emphasis on the autonomy of the individual. I was brought up as a Baptist, so my religious formation also emphasized individuality. Indeed, one definition of the very word Baptist says that a "Baptist is an individual who has experienced salvation through personal faith in Jesus Christ." Each believer is said to be a priest, which in turn leads to an emphasis on individual interpretation of Scripture. Granted, they do not deny the communal aspects of faith, but the emphasis is on the individual.
In contrast, I understand Catholicism to be emphasize the communal aspects as against the believer as autonomous individual. We are one people, one body. We come together with communion at the center of every Mass. This was long a barrier for me, but I have come to understand that Catholicism rarely presents us with 'either/or" choices. We remain individuals in community.
This is such a timely issue, with people like Speaker of the House Paul Ryan suggesting that it is possible to adhere to the radical individualism of libertarian thinkers like Ayn Rand at the same time as adhering to traditional Catholic beliefs. I just don't think that is possible, but getting into that issue would extend an already far too long comment many more pages. [NB: I want tor effect some more on this and then write at greater length.]
Why is the hierarchy (ordained ministers) essential to the Church?
What does essential mean in this context? There are successful churches that are independent of any larger church body, which last a long time and do good works. Likewise, there are large church bodies that are functionally democratic without an established hierarchy. If essential means that the hierarchy is an existential requirement, I think experience teaches that it is not.
Instead, I would understand essential here to mean "of the essence." Even Protestant churches that deny the sacrament of Holy Orders typically ordain their ministers. This idea that the physical church here on earth has a head thus replicates the spiritual body of the church of which Christ is the head. We see evidence that this was an early tenet of the church in Acts, for example, where Paul and Barnabas are ordained.
What makes the Catholic Church unique, of course, is that our essence include episcopal ordination and the episcopal hierarchy headed by the Bishop of Rome. If you say you are a Catholic but you deny the headship of the Pope, you might as well pack it in and become an Anglican or Orthodox.
How would you respond to critics who claim "Catholics worship Mary"?
Wow. This was the big one.
I must confess (and I mean that literally, I intend to take it up the next time I go for confession) that Mary was/is an obstacle for me. As someone whose education and professional life has been heavily influenced by economics and rational choice, and who tends towards a certain cynicism, the Church's embrace of Mary struck me as a tactic the Church used in early times to help ease the transition of pagans who believed in an earth mother goddess into Christianity, just as setting Christmas at the time of the winter solstice was a way to ease pagans who celebrated winter festivals into faith.
In coming to Catholicism, I came to acknowledge that there doubtless was something special about the woman chosen to be the Mother of God.
But I still worry that the Church walks a very fine line in encouraging Marian devotions that easily can step over that line into idolatry especially when practiced by illiterate or poorly formed Catholics. Excessive Marian devotions seem to distract people's attention from Jesus.
This is and remains an issue for study and reflection.
As previously noted, I'm enrolled in Notre Dame's STEP program and currently taking the Core Course: Introduction to the Catholic Faith. This week's assignment focused on the dual nature of Jesus Christ. We were tasked with answering the question, "Why is it important to proclaim that Jesus is fully divine and fully human?" As usual, the 200 word limit drove me nuts, but here was my answer:
There is a classic formulation in Christian apologetics of a "trilemma." Christ claimed to be divine. As CS Lewis therefore put it, “Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse.” You thus cannot say “Christ was a human who was a great moral teacher,” for if he is not divine, he was either a liar or insane, neither of which are characteristics of great moral thinkers.
Conversely, if Christ also were not fully human, he could not have suffered and died for our sins. It is precisely because Jesus was human that his death atoned the sins of all humanity. “For if the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of a heifer’s ashes can sanctify those who are defiled so that their flesh is cleansed, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God?” Hebrews 9:13-14.
Which loops us back to Christ’s divinity. After all, if Christ were not divine, Christianity would be saying that suffering of a human provided atonement for sin. Why then would not our own suffering do so?
What should I give up for Lent? I've narrowed it down to 3:— Professor Bainbridge (@ProfBainbridge) February 2, 2017
As previously noted, I'm enrolled in Notre Dame's STEP program and currently taking the Core Course: Introduction to the Catholic Faith. This week's assignment contained a number of readings on catholic understanding of Scripture and Tradition and then tasked us to answer the question "What is meant by the term, 'Inspiration'? Would you say that everything in the Bible is true?" in 150-200 words. I managed to stop myself at 197.
As I understand the term, “inspired” does not even remotely mean “dictated.” Instead, it means that the Holy Spirit brought concepts and ideas to the minds of the authors (illuminating revelation), prodded the author to write, and helped call to mind felicitous phrasing.
As Catholics, we believe that inerrancy follows inevitably from inspiration. The Catechism says “The inspired books teach the truth.” (¶ 107)
But there are many kinds of truth. In the parable of the mustard seed, Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to a “mustard seed,” which He said was “the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants.” (Matt. 13:31-32) A botanist would tell us that there are smaller seeds and larger plants, so the statement is not literally true in the scientific sense.
But the mustard seed was the smallest seed of which 1st century Jews in Israel knew, so the analogy aided them in understanding that the Kingdom of God starts very small and becomes very large. In that sense, the parable is morally true.
Discerning the genre of the specific passage is thus the first step in discerning the way in which it is true.
This week's online class discussion raised some interesting issues: