Archive for the ‘Law’ Category

Hard Cases, Small Steps

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

The political world has been abuzz lately over comments made by a candidate for the U.S. Senate in Missouri.  When asked about whether pro-lifers would accept a ban on abortion that permitted an exception for rape or incest, the candidate made some ill-conceived remarks that seemed to minimize the horror of rape.  This incident has now been used by the forces of the Culture of Death (including their allies in the media) to flog pro-lifers as being radical or anti-woman.

Some clarification and explanation is in order.

The unquestioned goal of the pro-life movement is a conversion of the hearts of individuals, and thus of our culture, so that every innocent life is protected from conception until natural death.  This protection will involve changes in the law so that the practice — and even the concept — of abortion would be completely eradicated from our land.  Given our presumption that every human life has inestimable value, and that innocent life cannot be taken, we work towards the ultimate goal of enacting laws to prohibit abortion with no exceptions.  One vehicle for this would be a Human Life Amendment.

In short, we aim to build a Culture of Life, in which all lives are valued.  To get a glimpse of this goal, and how we can get there, I suggest that people read the great statement by the United States Bishops, Living the Gospel of Life.

Unfortunately, our culture is not yet ready to accept the changes in attitude and in law that we are seeking.  While there have been shifts in public opinion over the years in favor of the pro-life position, there are still a large number of individuals who either approve of abortion, or who are willing to tolerate it for a perceived “greater good”.  We must redouble our efforts to reach out to our brothers and sisters who believe this, to convert their hearts.

One way that we seek to achieve this conversion of heart is by taking  incremental steps towards our ultimate goal — in short, building a Culture of Life, brick by brick.  This is why we support measures that limit and restrict abortion in various ways, such as parental notification laws, bans on late-term abortions, and such.  By supporting these initiatives, we are not accepting the morality of abortion — we are seeking to mitigate the damage, and to use these bills as a vehicle to educate people about abortion, as a way of calling them to conversion.  This approach to legislation was specifically approved by Pope John Paul II in his encyclical The Gospel of Life (see paragraph 73).

This is where the “rape exception” comes into play.  Pro-lifers hold steadfastly to the fundamental truth that a baby conceived in a rape is an innocent human being whose life may never be directly terminated.  We see rape as a horrific act, an inexcusable violation of the dignity of a woman, a depraved crime that should be severely punished by law.  We believe that a woman victimized by rape must receive our support as she strives for healing.  But we do not accept that the path to healing passes through the abortion clinic.  We firmly believe that one cannot heal a victim of violence, by taking the life of another innocent person.

Unfortunately, many people disagree with us — people who either consider themselves pro-life, or who are willing to support some of our goals.  These people are potential allies as we try to pass common-sense laws to restrict abortion.  We wish to build alliances and coalitions with these potential supporters, not alienate them.  So, many pro-lifers in the political and policy arena are willing to tolerate a “rape exception” to a ban on abortion.   That is not to say that we consider such an exception as a final goal — but we take what we can get, when we can get it, and press on from there, always moving forwards.

There’s an old adage that “hard cases make bad law”.  They also make unsatisfactory compromises, and disappointment.  But they sometimes can produce small steps towards our ultimate goal.

 

The Catholic Lawyers’ Moment

Friday, October 7th, 2011

Last night, I was honored to receive a very nice award — the Charles Carroll Award from the New York Guild of Catholic Lawyers.  Many of my friends and colleagues were able to attend the Red Mass and the reception afterwards, and it was a very humbling experience.  Here is the talk I gave at the award ceremony:

All Glory and Honor to God, and thanks to Him for the opportunity He has given me to serve Him.  “I can do all things in Him who strengthens me.”

I don’t like speaking about myself, but fortunately I don’t have to, because this award is really not about me.  It’s about a cause.

I have been involved in public policy work for the Archdiocese for many years.  It’s a tough job, especially here in New York. Back in June, the Legislature voted to re-define marriage, a bill we worked very, very hard to hold off.  Afterwards, I was asked how I can keep doing this, how I avoid getting discouraged.  Part of it is because I’m Irish, and I love a cause that’s worth fighting for, even if it is against all odds.

But it’s also because I see a big picture, one that — by the grace of God — gives me great hope  and determination.

In 1987, Pastor (later Father)  Richard John Neuhaus wrote a book called “The Catholic Moment”.  He argued that a unique opportunity had arisen for the Church to offer moral guidance for the development of public policy, particularly in promoting a culture of life.

I believe that we are still in that Catholic Moment, and what’s more, I think there is a particularly important role for Catholic lawyers.  I believe that we are in a “Catholic Lawyer’s Moment”.

We all know the challenges.  Our world is deeply in the grips of a culture of death.  Attacks on human life from conception to natural death.  Genetic manipulation that threatens the integrity of humanity itself.  Hostility to fertility that is becoming more and more a hallmark of health care policy and practice.  A redefinition of marriage, overturning the foundation of society.  And increasing threats to the religious freedom of churches and individuals, threats that come from a secularist mindset that would exclude religion entirely from the public square.

In our profession, this secularism finds a partner in a soul-free legal positivism.  I recall my first year of law school, where we were taught from the beginning that there are no objective or transcendent values in the law.  Natural law was derided as outdated and sectarian.  Instead, we were told over and over that law is whatever the legislator or judge decides it is, based on their own values.  It is entirely an act of political will.  As one of my law professors liked to say, “It’s all up for grabs”.  I once gave a talk to a group of lawyers and when I mentioned natural law one of them said to me “I thought we got rid of that years ago.”  Really?  I’d like to see the bill that did that.

We see this alliance of secularism and legal positivism in many places.  Just yesterday, it was before the United States Supreme Court, in the most important religious liberty case in decades.  At stake is the ability of churches to operate without interference and control by the government in the selection of clergy and other staff members who have religious functions.  A key question for the Court is the nature of religious freedom — is it something inherent that requires special protection in the law, or is it something that the government can grant or withdraw, as it pleases?   The Administration filed a brief that took such a narrow view of religious freedom that both Justice Scalia and Justice Kagan expressed their surprise during oral argument.

It is ironic that, even as the secularists try to push religious belief out of public affairs and the positivists deny objective moral truth, there is a strong desire for guidance from the Church and from Catholics.  In debate after debate over tough moral issues, the media and public officials and regular people want to know where the Church stands.  They expect us to play a major role, and they look to Catholics for direction, even when they are sure to disagree.

In 2008, when the Holy See issued a major statement on bioethics, it was a major news story.  The media gave it extensive coverage — even in the New York Times.  Leading secular bioethicists and policy makers paid very close attention.  The same thing has happened in many other major debates — over the health care bill, the redefinition of marriage, cloning, assisted suicide and so on.

Why?  Because there is a hunger for truth and clarity, and Catholics can provide it.  We have a rigorously reasoned approach to difficult topics that is the result of careful analysis and has been developing for centuries.

We also have an understanding of the human person that is attractive and compelling — because it is true.  The secularist and positivist view of human nature is materialistic, morally relative, and utilitarian.  It is pessimistic and hopeless and dehumanizing — and false.  And people know that in their hearts.

Our view of the human person is Incarnational.  We believe that every human person is made in the image and likeness of God, and we believe that Jesus Christ, true God, became a true man.  We know that people aren’t just objects to be discarded when they are no longer useful or have become a burden.  We recognize that we are meant to be a gift to others, and not exploit them for our own benefit. We understand that our spirituality is central to who we are, and it can’t be ignored or relegated to the sidelines.  I cannot be a religious person in private, and a secularist in the public square — I am not two people, but one.  We are realistic about humanity, with all our flaws and problems, but in the end we are positive and hopeful.

We also know that there is objective truth, and there is a law of good and evil that has been written by God into the human heart — the natural law.    It appeals to people because it is true, because it speaks to the truth in their hearts.   And it gives us a common language for debate with others in the public square.

Two weeks ago, Pope Benedict spoke to the German Parliament about the foundations of law.  The Holy Father stressed that politics and law cannot be based solely on a drive for success or power — but that is the inevitable tendency of legal positivism.  Instead, he said that all law must be rooted in reason and natural law — only then will it respect the dignity of every human person.

This understanding of law is the antidote to the pessimism and nihilism of the secularists and positivists.  It gives us the foundation to uphold what is right and good and most human — polices that embody justice, charity, and the common good, and laws that protect the most vulnerable, and defend freedom and human rights.

We are called to do this in the public square, in our work, in our law practices, and in our everyday lives.  I look around the room and see people who are doing this, and I am in awe of them.  Supporting  organizations and political candidates who defend human life.  Filing briefs to defend crisis pregnancy centers or to oppose exploiting women by buying their eggs for cloning.  Giving practical assistance to mothers in crisis.  Representing doctors and nurses who are facing enormous pressure to sacrifice their religious values and participate in abortions.

And getting into the arena as advocates for justice and truth — that is what we are trained to do, and nobody does it better.

At the end of the fight over marriage in Albany this Spring, the day before the final vote, it was crazy in the Legislature.  A key Senator was called off the floor to meet with some constituents.  He walked through the corridors — filled with shouting protestors with their anti-religious signs and slogans.  There in the hallway, he met with a Catholic family — a husband and wife and their small children.  And there, amidst all the chaos and madness, they spoke quietly to him about the nature of marriage, family, and conjugal love.  It was a powerful and beautiful moment.

Our society is yearning for that kind of moral leadership.  We as Catholics and especially those of us who are Catholic lawyers can respond to that need.

It is very humbling to receive this award, named after Charles Carroll.  Two hundred and thirty five years ago, in 1776, he recognized that a special moment had come, and he responded — and signed the Declaration of Independence.  That document appealed to the natural law, and proclaimed the inalienable rights given to us by God, including the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Charles Carroll and the other signers pledged to defend those rights with their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.

I hope that none of us will have to risk our lives or fortunes, as Charles Carroll did.  But I believe that we now stand at another special time in history, and we too have a cause.  We have an opportunity to build a culture of life, to defend the dignity of every human person, to protect families and the vulnerable, to stand up for the liberty of religious people, and to safeguard the freedom of our beloved Church.

We are Catholics, we are Catholic lawyers, and this is our moment.  This is a cause for which we can pledge our sacred honor.  This is a cause worth fighting for.

Secularism in Action — In the Supreme Court

Friday, September 30th, 2011

On October 5, the most important religious liberty case in decades will be argued before the United States Supreme Court.  It is yet another instance of the influence of secularism in America, and it may result in a substantial reduction in religious liberty.  At stake here is the ability of churches to operate without interference and control by the government, or whether churches will be treated as if they were mere secular organizations.

The case is entitled Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School vs. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  To understand why it is so important, I have to take a step back and explain a bit of constitutional law on religious freedom.

The phrase “separation of church and state” does not appear in the United States Constitution, but the basic concept is embodied in two clauses of the First Amendment, as interpreted by the Supreme Court.  In a nutshell, the Free Exercise Clause guarantees that the government cannot intervene in the internal affairs of religous organizations, and the Establishment Clause prohibits the government from any “excessive entanglement” in religious matters.

These principles are essential to the guarantee of religious liberty — they protect churches from becoming mere creations of the state, subject to interference by the government.  So, for example, under current law it would clearly violate both the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause if the government were to interfere in a church’s selection of clergy, over how doctrine is taught, or how a church resolves internal ecclesiastical disputes.  The First Amendment thus requires that religious organizations enjoy a considerable amount of freedom — a zone of privacy, if you will.

These basic principles have a direct impact on the ability of religous organizations to select their key staff members.  The courts have long understood that religious organizations must have considerable autonomy in the selection of clergy and other staff members who have religious missions.  They have also recognized that this autonomy occasionally conflicts with the provisions of anti-discrimination laws.

To address this tension, the courts long ago recognized what is called “the ministerial exception” to the anti-discrimination laws.  This exception permits churches to select their spiritual leaders — even if that decision would have violated anti-dicrimination statutes had it been done by a business.  So, for example, the Catholic Church’s cannot  be sued for sex discrimintion based on her all-male clergy.  The courts also recognize that this should not be limited to formally-ordained clergy, since many lay staff members play crucial roles in the religious mission of churches — just think of the central role of parochial school teachers, directors of religious education, pastoral associates in parishes, etc. in spiritual life of the Church.  Of course, not all employees of a religious organization are “ministers” .  For instance, one could not justify classifying a school janitor as a “minister”, since his job is clearly not spiritual in nature.

This brings us to the case before the Supreme Court.  The facts of the case are fairly straight-forward.  It involves a dispute between the Hosanna-Tabor School and one of their former teachers.  The teacher alleged that she was fired in retaliation for threatening to file a disability claim, in violation of federal anti-discrimination laws.  The school responded that she was a ministerial employee, whose job entailed a specifically religous mission for which she was commissioned by the church, and that as a result, the school’s decision to terminate her was an internal matter and was not subject to the anti-discrimination laws.

The Supreme Court will be wrestling with those facts, and also with larger questions — whether to recognize the ministerial exception, determining what part of the Constitution it rests upon, and giving guidance on how it is to be defined.  The biggest challenge is how to do all this without infringing upon the religious liberty of churches, and without getting the government entangled in internal religious matters.

Virtually every major religious organization — including the U.S. Bishops — has filed a brief in support of the Lutheran school, arguing for a broad definition for the ministerial exception rooted in the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.

The Administration, however, has filed a brief that advocates for the virtual elimination of the ministerial exception.  In the Administration’s view, the exception — if it exists at all — is so narrow that it would only apply to clergy and disputes about doctrine.  Moreover, the brief denies that the exception is rooted in the Establishment or Free Exercise clauses, but is instead supported only by a much weaker constitutional principle that is subject to being overridden by any neutral, generally-applicable law.

In short, the Administration is advancing a position that would treat religious organizations as if they were merely secular groups, subject to virtually any government oversight and control — no different from banks, oil companies, or airlines.   If the Administration’s position prevails, churches will be subject to endless litigation and regulation, aimed at influencing and changing their internal doctrines and practices. This is a radical and dangerous argument.

Religious liberty is one of the founding principles of our Republic.  It is the reason that many of our ancestors came here, and the reason that many immigrants still long for our shores.  We must all pray for wisdom on the Supreme Court — and await with trepidation the decision in this momentous case.

Contempt for the Law

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

We already knew that they had no regard for the natural or divine law.  Now we have even more evidence that they have contempt for human law too.

New York City’s government is spending a great deal of time and energy (and taxpayer money) to hold same-sex “weddings” on Sunday, the same day that the new law takes effect.  To allow “weddings” to take place that day, a number of New York State Supreme Court justices have agreed to come to work and grant waivers from the ordinary 24-hour waiting period that our state law requires between the issuance of a marriage license and the solemnization of the marriage.

On what grounds will they grant those waivers?

Therein lies the story of the utter contempt with which our public officials hold the law.

The Speaker of the New York City Council, who takes an oath of office to uphold the laws of our state, was reported to have said this about the waivers:

The only reason a judge would deny a waiver…  would be if one of the grooms or brides was intoxicated.

Actually not.

According to Domestic Relations Law Section 13-b, the following circumstances must exist in order to grant a valid waiver of the 24-hour period (I’ve inserted numbering to make better sense of the long run-on sentence in the law):

It shall appear from an examination of the license and any other proofs submitted by the parties that one of the parties is (a) in danger of imminent death, or (b) by reason of other emergency public interest will be promoted thereby, or (c) that such delay will work irreparable injury or great hardship upon the contracting parties, or one of them.

It is absurd to suggest that any of these criteria are present in the carnival-like atmosphere surrounding the “wedding lottery” being conducted to determine who will be allowed to get “married” on Sunday.  One can only wonder what “proofs” — if any — are being submitted.  Remember, petitions for judicial relief are usually made under oath.  Will any judge deny a petition, for an insufficient factual basis?

It would be nice if some intrepid District Attorney were to warn people not to make any false statements in these petitions, which would be a crime under state law.  The perfect candidate would be the Nassau Count District Attorney, who recently threatened county clerks with criminal charges if they refused to sign same-sex marriage licenses (a threat that itself shows ignorance or contempt of a state law that requires employers to reasonably accommodate the religious beliefs of their employees). It would also be nice if the board that oversees judicial conduct were to examine the orders granted by these eager weekend justices, to see if they were faithful to their own oath of office to uphold the law — especially since Domestic Relations Law Section 13-b makes it a crime to solemnize a marriage without complying with its requirements.

I’m not holding my breath for any of this to happen. I realize that the law will be ignored, that waivers will be granted on an absurdly pro-forma basis, and that nobody will ever do anything about it. I also understand that this instance of running rough-shod over the law bodes very ill for the coming persecution of religious people and organizations who dissent from the new brand of “marriage”.

Our public officials hold the law in contempt. Is it any wonder why many people feel the same way about them?

A Major Victory for Life and for Free Speech

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

I have blogged a number of times about Intro 371, the New York City bill that targeted pregnancy centers for unfair and discriminatory regulations, with an aim towards silencing them and putting them out of business.

Pro-lifers from our city, and leaders of national pro-life groups all lobbied very hard to prevent the passage of that bill.  At a public hearing, and in repeated communications with the Council, we warned them that the bill was unconstitutional.  But they didn’t care.  Even when two courts in Maryland struck down similar bills as being unconstitutional, they were undeterred.  Spurred on by the abortion industry and the anti-life ideologues of NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and the New York Civil Liberties Union, the Council heedlessly went forward with the bill, and the mayor imprudently signed it into law.

A lawsuit was filed by several pregnancy centers, challenging the law.  And today, just days before the law was to go into effect, the court issued its ruling — a preliminary injunction, barring the implementation of the law.

The case isn’t over — it still has to be fully litigated.  But in the meantime, this iniquitous law will not go into effect.  This is a great victory for the pro-life cause, and for free speech.

The court accepted all the same constitutional arguments that the pro-lifers presented at the public hearing last fall.  It found that the law was an infringement upon the free speech rights of the centers and their staffs, and that it was also so vague that it created a grave risk of being arbitrarily enforced.

Most importantly, the court utterly rejected the City’s arguments that the speech of the pregnancy centers could be regulated as if it was “commercial speech”, a category of speech that can be subjected to fairly broad regulation by the government.  Instead, the court held that the speech of the centers was to be given the highest degree of protection under the Constitution, and that laws infringing upon their speech could only be valid if they pass muster under the extremely stringent “strict scrutiny” standard — which few laws can survive.

In fact, the court rebuked the City for its position, saying:

Defendant’s second argument — that Plaintiffs engage in commercial speech because they are provided an audience to whom they can espouse their beliefs — is particularly offense to free speech principles… that proposition would permit the Government to inject its own message into virtually all speech designed to advocate a message to more than a single individual and thereby eviscerate the First Amendment’s protections.

Even better, the court called out the New York Civil Liberties Union for their failure to defend the free speech rights of the centers. The court said,

Given the New York Civil Liberties Union’s (“NYCLU’s) usual concern for First Amendment rights, its amicus brief supporting Defendants’ expansive view of the commercial speech doctrine is puzzling.

True, one might expect the NYCLU to be unyielding in the defense of anyone’s First Amendment rights.  But they are in the grips of such an uncompromising pro-abortion ideology that they cannot conceive that the speech of pro-lifers deserves protection.  This is not the first time that their hypocrisy has been put on display, but it may be one of the first times a court took the trouble to note it.

Pro-lifers espouse a counter-cultural message that is sternly disapproved by the elites who deign to govern and advise us (e.g, the editorial board of the New York Times).  Legislatures and courts across the nation have expressed this disapproval by restricting the rights of pro-lifers to speak to women outside of abortion clinics, to give prayerful witness outside those clinics, and to offer alternatives to abortion.  It is a constant battle to defend our rights against these forces.

For once at least — and in New York City of all places! — a court got it right, and has recognized that pro-lifers have the same constitutional rights as any other citizen.

Congratulations to those who fought this bill before the Council, to the fine attorneys at the Alliance Defense Fund and the American Center for Law and Justice who pursued the lawsuit so ably, and to the pregnancy centers that kept up the fight.

I have a friend who likes to recall the story of Gideon from the Book of Judges.  Hopelessly outnumbered by a mighty foe, he trusted the Lord and was victorious.   Yes, indeed, all praise and glory to Him who never fails to comes to the aid of his people in need.

A Glimpse Into the Future

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

As the push for same-sex “marriage” builds in New York, recent news events have allowed us to see into the future, to get an idea of what the world will be like if the definition of marriage is changed.

First, a little background.  In 1996, Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) by virtually unanimous majorities, and the bill was signed into law by President Clinton.  It defines marriage, for the purposes of federal law, as the union of one man and one woman, and it provides that states will not be required to recognize any other kind of “marriage”, just because other states have changed their definition.

DOMA has been challenged several times in the courts.  Three separate federal courts have upheld it as a proper and reasonable exercise of Congressional authority.  One court has found that it is unconstitutional and lacks a rational foundation.  (That decision, by the way, contains the single most absurd statement ever made by a federal judge — that the difference between same-sex couples and different-sex couples was a “distinction without meaning.”  Some things are so silly that only a federal judge could believe them).  Several state supreme courts — including New York’s — have also upheld the same definition of marriage as is contained in DOMA, holding that the definition has a “rational basis” and is not discriminatory.

That wasn’t good enough for the President, who announced earlier this year that the Justice Department would no longer defend the constitutionality of DOMA.  This,  even though the Justice Department has long held that they have a duty to defend statutes with which they disagree, if there is a reasonable argument to support it.  Apparently, the decisions of multiple federal and state courts are not reasonable enough for this ideologically blinded Administration.

Faced with this dereliction of duty, the leadership of the House of Representatives engaged the services of Paul Clement, a former Solicitor General and a very accomplished Supreme Court advocate, to represent the people of the United States in defending DOMA.

What happened next provides us a clear glimpse into where we are going on this issue.  “Gay rights” groups, seeking to force all opposition to same-sex “marriage” out of the mainstream, began a campaign of intimidation aimed at forcing Mr. Clement’s law firm to withdraw from the case out of fear of negative press, restriction of access to top law schools for recruiting, and loss of clients. Instead of fulfilling their professional responsibilities to their client, the firm buckled — and didn’t even have the guts to admit why they were doing it.  In response, Mr. Clement resigned from the firm and will carry on his defense of DOMA with a new firm.

Interestingly, Mr. Clement’s old firm has given pro bono representation to suspected terrorists incarcerated in Guantanamo, but can’t get up the nerve to defend a duly-enacted statute defending the definition of marriage that has always been understood by our society, and that has been repeatedly upheld against constitutional challenge.

This is a glimpse into the future.  We will be seeing more and more of this kind of “soft persecution” of those who oppose same-sex “marriage” — we will be marginalized, stigmatized, and frozen out of public life and even professional work.  It will be a test of moral courage to see how people respond.

Why “Make Abortion Rare”?

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

On March 8, Catholics from around the state traveled to Albany for the annual “Catholics at the Capitol” day, sponsored by the State Bishops’ Conference.  The purpose of the day is to offer Catholics an opportunity to stand together on the broad range of issues of concern to us — protecting life, strengthening our schools, caring for the poor and sick — and to speak to our state legislators.

One of the issue papers distributed by the Conference was entitled “Making Abortion Rare”.  This document explained our Church’s opposition to the radical Reproductive Health Act, a bill that would lead to an increase in abortion, by placing it beyond any reasonable regulation.  A second issue was our opposition to the Governor’s elimination of all funding for the Maternity and Early Childhood Foundation.  That foundation supports local initiatives and organizations that offer alternatives to abortions, and have helped thousands of women have their babies.

These positions are a practical response to the challenge issued by Archbishop Dolan at his press conference in January about the appalling abortion rate in New York City: “I invite all to come together to make abortion rare, a goal even those who work to expand the abortion license tell us they share.”

Some of our pro-life supporters have expressed discomfort with saying that we wish to “make abortion rare”.  They are worried that this might imply that we are conceding the legality of abortion, and that we have given up our ultimate goal of defending every human life.

This concern is understandable, because people rightly can’t be satisfied with anything short of full protection for the unborn.  I understand this concern, but I believe it is unfounded.

Our ultimate goals in this struggle have never changed.  Nobody has any doubt about the position of the Catholic Church on abortion.  We are absolutely, unalterably, irrevocably opposed to legal abortion, and will never accept the legitimacy of laws that permit it.  We hold steadfastly to building a culture of life in which every life is valued in our society and its laws.

But while we pursue those ultimate goals, we have to take into account the political and cultural situation in which we find ourselves.  Then, relying on the virtue of prudence, we have to mitigate the harm that is being done by legalized abortion, and try to achieve realistically attainable results to advance the culture of life.

This approach was outlined in Pope John Paul II’s encyclical, The Gospel of Life:

The Church well knows that it is difficult to mount an effective legal defense of life in pluralistic democracies, because of the presence of strong cultural currents with differing outlooks. At the same time, certain that moral truth cannot fail to make its presence deeply felt in every conscience, the Church encourages political leaders, starting with those who are Christians, not to give in, but to make those choices which, taking into account what is realistically attainable, will lead to the re- establishment of a just order in the defense and promotion of the value of life. (90)

The challenge to “make abortion rare” is just such an initiative.  It takes into account the political and cultural fact that a complete abrogation of abortion laws is not attainable in our current cultural and legal climate.  It is directed not to people who are already committed to the cause of life.  Instead, it is an appeal to those who consider themselves “pro-choice”, but are uncomfortable with abortion and may be open to work with us on practical measures to reduce it.

In other words, it is an effort to change hearts, to rebuild the foundation for a true culture of life.  As hearts change, laws will follow.

Our vision and our goals will always remain the same.   As the United States Bishops said in their statement, Living the Gospel of Life:

The Gospel of Life must be proclaimed, and human life defended, in all places and all times. The arena for moral responsibility includes not only the halls of government, but the voting booth as well. Laws that permit abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide are profoundly unjust, and we should work peacefully and tirelessly to oppose and change them. Because they are unjust they cannot bind citizens in conscience, be supported, acquiesced in, or recognized as valid. Our nation cannot countenance the continued existence in our society of such fundamental violations of human rights. (33)

Not a Joke — A Tragedy

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

Earlier this week, there was a televised debate for the candidates for New York’s governorship. Most of the news coverage of the debate centered on the various eccentricities of the minor party candidates.  This was par for the course for a media that scrupulously avoids real issues, and prefers to present politics as a puppet show to entertainment and anesthetize us.

What struck me hard, though, was that one of the minor party candidates, was a woman who used to be a “madam” (i.e., a female pimp), who advocated, among other things, legalizing prostitution.  Now, in some ways it’s a perfect testimony to the debased state of New York politics that an unrepentant pimp can be treated as a semi-serious candidate for governor.  And it would be easy to dismiss her as a joke.

But to me, this is not a joke, and it’s not funny at all.  It’s a disgrace.  There is a movement in the United States and elsewhere to decriminalize prostitution, and a Canadian judge just struck down that entire nation’s anti-prostitution laws.  It seems that the “sex industry” has become a new darling for the politics of sexual “liberation”.

What all this fails to take into account are the horrors of the life of prostitution and human sexual slavery.  A recent article by a psychologist who has worked with prostitutes for fifteen years makes this clear.  (Warning: this article is only for the strong of heart, and there’s some explicit language).

Some of the salient facts:

  • In one study from Holland, where prostitution is legal, 60% of women prostitutes were physically assaulted, 70% were threatened with physical assault, 40% experienced some kind of sexual violence, and 40% had been coerced into prostitution.
  • After legalization in New Zealand, 35% of prostitutes reported having been coerced into the work.
  • 80% of prostitutes in Holland had been trafficked — forced into sexual slavery.  This number had gone up after legalization.
  • In a multi-national study, 68% of prostitutes suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the way they are treated.
  • 90% of women in prostitution report that they want to escape.
  • The dehumanizing impact on the prostitutes is matched by the degrading effect on men who use these children of God for their momentary sexual pleasure.  Studies show that men who frequently use prostitutes are more likely to be aggressive towards other women in their lives.  Virtually every time a man has sex with a prostitute, he is perpetuating a nightmare of rape and trauma.  Obviously, many become infected with sexually transmitted diseases and give them to their unsuspecting spouses.

    Prostitution is a crime that cries out to heaven for protection.  Rather than de-criminalizing it, or treating it as a “choice” or “profession”, we should be calling for rigorous enforcement of law against human sexual slavery and trafficking, and help the prostitutes escape from that life.  Moreover, we should support aggressively prosecuting those who exploit these victims of virtually institutionalized sexual violence — yes, I’m saying that society should arrest and prosecute the men who patronize prostitutes.  Maybe by shaming them and treating them as sexual abusers, we can help to liberate the prostitutes from their life of misery.

    This situation is far from a joke.  Please pray for all those caught in this terrible life.

    Astonishing — A Judge Who Does the Right Thing

    Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

    I have frequently written some strong criticisms of judges who take matters in their own hands, inventing new law out of the penumbras, emanations and miasmas of their own imaginations.  Judges like Justice Blackmun of Roe v. Wade infamy, or the most recent example, Judge Walker, who struck down Proposition 8.

    I like to call them, derisively, our “Black-Robed Platonic Guardian Rulers on the Courts”, to highlight their high-handed disregard of the rule of law, their replacement of their own political views for the plain meaning of statutes or the Constitution, and their establishment of a virtual judicial oligarchy in place of our constitutional republic.  I’m a bit cynical when it comes to judges.

    But all is not hopeless, because occasionally, a judge will actually come along and do what judges are supposed to do.

    Namely, read the law, and interpret its plain meaning.

    And so, we come to a decision handed down today by Judge Royce Lambert of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.  A case was brought before him, challenging the Obama Administration’s much-heralded relaxation of restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.  The basis for the challenge was a law called the Dickey-Wicker Amdendment, after its original sponsors.  This law is passed annually by Congress as part of the budget process, and it bans federal funding for any “research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death.”

    The wily lawyers representing the Administration claimed that their new regulations didn’t violate that law, because they only paid for research after the embryos were destroyed.  In another context, it would be like arguing that the stolen property received by a fence was legitimately his own property, because somebody else had stolen it.

    Now, many creative judges would undoubtedly have bought into the “logic” of that argument, and upheld the Administration’s position.  But not Judge Lambert.  He actually read the law, saw what it meant in its plain language, and discerned the undeniable scientific fact that any research on stem cell lines derived from human embryos necessarily and always relies upon the destruction of a human embryo.  As a result, Judge Lambert logically and sensibly concluded that the Administration’s policy violates the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, and had to be put on hold for further review.

    I would expect that, in the next few days, we will hear and read all the usual denunciations of opponents of embryonic stem cell research as being “anti-science”, even though we all support research with adult stem cells, which is producing cures and therapies virtually every week.  We will also likely read criticisms of the judge for alleged ideological bias — from those who never find a voice to say anything about courts that routinely substitute their opinions for the duly-enacted laws of our land.  No matter what, the struggle to defend the value of human life at its earliest stages — the embryonic stage — will go on.

    But for one day we can take some satisfaction that there is at least one judge who does not hold himself out to be one of our unelected rulers, and who did the right thing.

    Judge Humpty Dumpty Has Ruled

    Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

    In his classic novel, Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll describes a surreal argument between Alice and Humpty Dumpty over the meaning of words.  The dispute culminates in this exchange:

    “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”
    “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
    “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master — that’s all.”

    Mr. Dumpty, meet Judge Vaughn Walker of the federal district court in California.

    Judge Walker has just issued his much-anticipated ruling in the legal challenge to California’s Proposition 8.  That ballot initiative, which was passed by a majority of California’s voters in 2008, overturned an earlier judicial decision requiring the recognition of same-sex “marriages”, and amended the state constitution to ensure that only a man-woman marriage would be recognized by law.

    Earlier this year, Judge Walker held a circus-like trial that was widely condemned for his obvious bias, and for the failure of the State of California to defend it’s own constitution.  It hardly comes as a surprise that the judge has now used his Tom Mix Decoder Ring (or is it his Rose-Colored Glasses) to find a right to same-sex “marriage” hidden deeply within the penumbras, umbras, emanations, exhalations and miasmas of the United States Constitution.  Marriage has been re-defined and constitutionalized to mean nothing that it has ever meant before, nothing that it ever could mean.

    To get a sense of the so-called “merits” of the judge’s ruling, only one quote is necessary to ponder:

    “Gender no longer forms an essential part of marriage.”

    As George Orwell once said, “There are some ideas so preposterous that only an intellectual could believe them.” Or, it seems, a federal judge.

    From such a premise, Judge Humpty Dumpty, our Black-Robed Platonic Guardian Ruler on the Court, has blithely repudiated democracy, the rule of law, history, tradition, and common sense.