Random Ruminations

On double standards, denial, mores & mercy

Arizona Governor Undermines Law Enforcement 

The New York Times reports that Arizona Democrat Governor Katie Hobbs apparently doesn’t feel any obligation to abide by her constitutional oath faithfully to execute Arizona’s laws. In the wake of Dobbs, Arizona’s legislature enacted protective pro-life legislation that mirrors the Mississippi law upheld in Dobbs, i.e., a ban on abortion after 15 weeks. But pro-abortion Hobbs does not want to enforce that law nor allow anybody else to do so. So, she signed an executive order that bars local district attorneys from enforcement, reserving all enforcement of that law (just that law) to the state’s Democrat Attorney General, who’s already said he has no intention of enforcing it.

As “illiberal” regimes have come to power in other countries and in the wake of January 6, blue state executives incessantly demanded respect for “rule of law” and “protection of democratic institutions.” A basic institution of democratic societies is that attorneys-general enforce all the laws of their jurisdiction, not just those they happen to like. But the folks that brought us the theory of “nullification” during the pre-Civil War period (Southern states that didn’t like federal slavery restrictions could “nullify” them) are back with nullification on the part of governmental officials ostensibly pledged to and whose job it is to faithfully execute the law. Most interpreters of democratic theory insist that prosecutorial functions, because of their potentially destructive nature, must be scrupulously impartial, hewing to the law and the law alone. Does anybody detect the whiff of a double standard?

 

They Might Be into Climate Change, But They Can’t Tell the Weather

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Germany acknowledged that, in 2022, 522,000 Catholics deregistered themselves from the Church in the land of the Synodal Way. By deregistering, a German Catholic frees himself from the duty to pay the Church Tax (Kirchensteuer), a tax assessment by which one’s denomination supports itself. Deregistration in Germany has been treated by the local Church as tantamount to excommunication: don’t pay and you are denied the sacraments and Christian burial. No “accompaniment” for you! Not contributing to the support of the bishops, after all, is really serious stuff, practically “intrinsically disordered,” not like living in adultery in an invalid marriage.

Of course, we don’t know how many deregistrants did so because they’re tired of those episcopal paths and don’t want to pay for the Synodal Way. Most normal people would say that hemorrhaging a half million communicants in one year is a serious sign about your course. It’s the equivalent of a bad Nor’easter dumping five feet of snow on New York, followed by a sub-zero deep freeze. Not according to chairman Bishop Batzing, for whom it’s full speed ahead. See, according to our climate-fixated German bishops, it’s really a bright springtime, practically swimsuit weather, time to catch some of those synodal rays! Pass the sunscreen!

 

Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

Liberal lather (reflecting both rabidity and the effort to pour soap suds in other people’s eyes) has been frothing since the Supreme Court killed “affirmative action.” A particularly invidious instance was a glitzy piece in the July 3 New York Times by two California sociologists, complete with pretty pictures and lots of statistics. The gist of their argument is that “affirmative action mattered a great deal for very few and very little for most.” Why? Because it opened but “a tiny window of access to America’s most elite institutions.” In the best logical positivist and contemporary social science approach, drown your claim with numbers.

Apart from the fact that most colleges were ardent practitioners of affirmative action, the last time I checked the Fourteenth Amendment did not say “most people shall not be deprived of equal protection of the law.” It said “no person” shall, which means discriminating at Harvard is not okay as long as its less prevalent at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.

And let’s admit the dirty little secret: South Dakota School of Mines and Technology produces the worker bees that supervise the workers who do the dirty work that keeps the power on for those Harvard geniuses filling policy jobs in Washington shutting down coal mines. Even Supreme Court law clerks come from Harvard, not Seton Hall Law School (a perfectly quality institution). Because the “elite institutions” are gatekeepers to policy making, it’s particularly invidious to pretend Constitutional guarantees of colorblindness are less relevant there. It’s more so, both for the Ivies and the rest of Americans living in flyover country that must cope with their alumni’s ideas.

Catholic fundamental moral theology — thanks to its analysis of the parts of a moral act — can illumine the affirmative action problem. Acts have intrinsic meanings (which is why we can speak of “intrinsic evil”) as well as being affected by their doer’s intentions. So, is apportioning public benefits on the basis of race wrong because (a) race itself is an illegitimate category by which to dole out benefits or (b) because of the motives behind race-based doling? In other words, is racism wrong in itself, or can there be “good” and “bad” racial motivations? Inquiring minds want to know.

 

Meanwhile, the U.S. Bishops on Affirmative Action

The American bishops issued a brief statement July 7 on the “Supreme Court’s Affirmative Action Decision.” (See it here.) Their statement was interesting. It said nothing about “diversity” or “racism” but, instead, focused on the value of higher education and financial access to it. Positively, the statement shifts the focus from racial “equity” to class issues: how economic class affects access to higher education. The bishops say they hope “Catholic institutions of higher learning will continue to find ways to make education possible and affordable for everyone, regardless of their background.” One hopes bishops might do the same to keep Catholic schools open and affordable, especially in those dioceses ordinaries are “renewing” through urban flight. Is the absence of a racial nexus in the bishops’ statement tactical deflection or a change of mindset? (Compare the race-focused statement from the American Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities here). Hopefully, the bishops’ shift helps foster a more useful conversation on “diversity” in higher education not tied to racial consciousness.

 

Don’t We All Need Mercy?

A priest friend, Fr. Philip Majka, recently died. I posted his picture and an announcement of his death on social media, concluding with “may God have mercy on his soul.” A correspondent wrote back to ask why I had written that and not “may he rest in peace,” the insinuation being that perhaps some hidden fault was suggested. It was not: Fr. Majka was a devoted priest who labored 58 years in the Lord’s vineyard. But it struck me that our quasi-universalism seems to take “resting in peace” as a given and the universal need for mercy as not our default. Considering Our Lord commended the publican for his prayer, “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Lk 18: 13-14) and especially recommended praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy in the presence of the dying, we might rekindle awareness of our universal need for mercy at that dread hour.

 

John M. Grondelski (Ph.D., Fordham) was former associate dean of the School of Theology, Seton Hall University, South Orange, New Jersey. All views expressed herein are exclusively his.

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