Regular readers will know that I consider Notre Dame law professor Rick Garnett to be one of the most thoughtful conservative scholars in America. And, I can think of few scholars of any ideological stripe who take their Catholicism more seriously, and more intelligently. If there is, as Lionel Trilling once said, a moral obligation to be intelligent, Garnett's is a profoundly moral voice. He had a very important and interesting article about Elena Kagan and her views on religious freedom at USAToday Monday that is well worth reading. I apologize for the delay in linking to it, but it has lost none of its cogency or interest.
This week, Q & A is asking a variety of people what they made of the Shirley Sherrod episode. Today, we turn to Father Anthony Chandler, an African-American pastor in rural Kentucky. Father Chandler is the pastor of both St. Martin of Tours in Flaherty and St. John the Apostle in Brandenburg.
The question: What does the Shirley Sherrod episode tell us about race and politics in the age of Obama?
As an African American, and a Roman Catholic priest presently serving as a pastor in rural central Kentucky, this event became more important to me. Many of my parishioners are farmers and all of them are white people. I would want the best for them just as I would for anyone in the United States. Racism is an evil which still has a very prominent place in our society and culture, but it usually hides until it can be used as a political "firecracker". How many wonderful strides have been made by so many Americans in reducing prejudice, but something like this event comes to light, and well here we go again! The whole event true or not true allows a wonderful stage for the ignorant.
The horror on the border is not, as some nativists complain, that crime is spilling over from Mexico into America. The actual crime rate has declined in recent years. The true horror is the number of people who needlessly die crossing through the desert because they are unable to cross legally over at a border crossing, This morning’s New York Times has a heartbreaking article on the over-crowded morgues in Arizona. This, too, is the culture of death, putting bad law before human life.
Last night, I met with a couple planning their wedding. They are both Catholics and wish to be married in the Catholic Church. They visited and called several parishes in Florida where they grew up and where their families live. They met with nothing but obstruction. They could only have the wedding at certain inconvenient times they were told. No one suggested that, while the pastor might not be available after 2 p.m. on a Saturday, if they provided their own priest, they could have a later service as they desire. They considered turning to a local Methodist church where they were welcomed and encouraged.
This is shameful. We all complain about people leaving the Church, but then when we have a couple who wants to get married in the Church, we make it difficult for them. And, where was the catechesis for these young Catholics to instruct them in the fact that having a nuptial Mass in the Catholic Church is not simply a canonical requirement, it is a guarantee of the presence of the Holy Spirit through the administration of the sacrament. I have a Mass to mark my birthday every year because Mass is not something we Catholics do, it is who we are.
Nick Cafardi, dean emeritus of the Duquesne Law School, is the person who knows more about the canonical context of the sex abuse crisis than any member of the Church Militant or Triumphant. He has written a smart essay at Commonweal that provides the kind of context missing from so much of the reportage in the mainstream secular press. It is a must-read. So, too, is Mark Silk’s analysis of Cafardi’s article.
The decision by U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton to block key sections of the new anti-immigrant law in Arizona is good news, but it is not great news. This is the first step in a long legal struggle that will likely end at the U.S. Supreme Court. In the war between human dignity and nativism that is currently engulfing our nation, yesterday’s court ruling had more the flavor of Dunkirk than of D-Day. It was a deliverance, nothing more.
Judge Bolton ruled that the provision of the new law requiring law enforcement officers to check on a person’s immigration status when detaining them for other reasons, as well as the provision giving those same officers permission to arrest those they suspect of being in the country illegally, without any warrant, were both unconstitutional. She also ruled against the provision that required legal immigrants to carry their papers. She allowed other less objectionable parts of the new law to take effect as planned.
Reading Tom Roberts’ post about Canon 515, and the accompanying news article, I am reminded that in the nineteenth century, it was Rome that was pushing for limitations on the authority of bishops within their own diocese, calling for cathedral chapters whose consent was required for many diocesan decisions. Back then, the U.S. Church was considered mission territory which explains the mention of Propaganda Fide in the text below. This excerpt from Gerald Fogarty’s “The Vatican and the American Hierarchy from 1870 to 1965” highlights the way the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore in 1884 dealt with issues of episcopal control:
Few politicians are as hateful – and as comprehensively hateful – as Tom Tancredo, the former Congressman who recently announced his candidacy for the governorship of Colorado. Our friends at Talking Points Memo have usefully compiled a list of the twelve most evil things the man has said. I had almost forgotten his attack on Pope Benedict XVI.
All this week, we are looking at the controversy that surrounded Shirley Sherrod last week. Today, we heard from Professor Matthew Green of Catholic University's Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies.
The question: What does the Shirley Sherrod congtroversy tell us about race and politics in the age of Obama?
Two things come to mind. First, not only is there still a lot of suspicion (if not prejudice) towards African-Americans, but arguments about race haven't changed much since the end of the civil rights movement. Before the 1960's, those who opposed civil rights for blacks argued that blacks were either incapable (e.g. biologically "inferior") or ideologically suspect (i.e. communists). Afterwards, the rhetoric shifted to complaints about "special" benefits (e.g. affirmative action) and reverse racism. In this case, the Obama administration seemed worried about the second issue (Sherrod wouldn't help a white farmer) but also about the first (failure to fire Sherrod would mean Obama "protects his own").
If anyone at the Post’s op-ed page can be counted on to be fair, it is Ruth Marcus. So, her article today on the ridiculous way Republicans support lower taxes no matter what the economic circumstances is a must-read. The takeaway line: “The economic and fiscal circumstances may change, but the prescription remains the same. And the patient is too ill to tolerate another dose of this quack medicine.” I will be opining on the topic tomorrow.