Link Roundup: Feb. 22, 2016

Note: This Link Roundup, in addition to coming a day late, is devoted to a single topic. 

The Holy Father’s recent statements about contraception in the light of South America’s Zika virus crisis have thrown everyone into a frenzy. Secular news outlets have leapt to proclaim papal endorsement of contraception, noting that some Catholics have argued that the Holy Father’s statements are largely in keeping with the Church’s traditional teaching.

Catholics of a certain stripe are especially happy to hear that the Holy Father has, allegedly, opened a crack in the Church’s doctrine, since, we are unfailingly reminded, most American Catholics don’t buy the Church’s position on contraception.

One point of controversy that has emerged is the Holy Father’s anecdote about Paul VI giving women religious in the Congo dispensation to use birth control, since they were in danger of being outraged. In Catholic News Service’s translation of the Holy Father’s interview, the Holy Father said:

Abortion is not the lesser of two evils. It is a crime. It is to throw someone out in order to save another. That’s what the Mafia does. It is a crime, an absolute evil. On the ‘lesser evil,’ avoiding pregnancy, we are speaking in terms of the conflict between the fifth and sixth commandment. Paul VI, a great man, in a difficult situation in Africa, permitted nuns to use contraceptives in cases of rape.

Don’t confuse the evil of avoiding pregnancy by itself, with abortion. Abortion is not a theological problem, it is a human problem, it is a medical problem. You kill one person to save another, in the best case scenario. Or to live comfortably, no?  It’s against the Hippocratic oaths doctors must take. It is an evil in and of itself, but it is not a religious evil in the beginning, no, it’s a human evil. Then obviously, as with every human evil, each killing is condemned.

On the other hand, avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil. In certain cases, as in this one, or in the one I mentioned of Blessed Paul VI, it was clear. I would also urge doctors to do their utmost to find vaccines against these two mosquitoes that carry this disease. This needs to be worked on.

(Emphasis supplied.) Some writers have, understandably, focused on this bit about Paul VI.

John Allen has a piece at Crux about the origins of the Holy Father’s anecdote. However, Allen concludes that no such juridical act occurred. What happened was, in 1961, an academic article about birth control was published in a magazine close, according to Allen, to then-Cardinal Montini. That article concluded that, under the circumstances alleged to exist in the Congo, birth control would be acceptable. Fr. John Zuhlsdorf has a longer version of the story at his blog, which includes some detail about the article and its post-publication history.

We note, as a parenthesis, that the question of “the pill,” which involves natural hormones, was very much debated before Humanae vitae, when it was still essentially a scientific breakthrough. For example, Charles de Koninck and Msgr. Maurice Dionne, two of the titans of Laval Thomism, wrote a lengthy brief in 1965 for Maurice Cardinal Roy, then the archbishop of Quebec, arguing that, under certain circumstances, “the pill” might be permissible. We mention this not to show that “the pill” is or is not permissible, but to add some context for those of us who have grown up, essentially, in the wake of Humanae vitae and the pontificate of its primary author, Karol Wojtyła. At one time, the question was not so settled. (Though, for our part, we note also that Casti connubii, another one of Papa Ratti’s prophetic encyclicals, was published in 1930, and it expressed a dim view on contraceptives.)

Edward Pentin has a very lengthy piece at the National Catholic Register analyzing the Holy Father’s statements, including interviews with Fr. Robert Gahl and Prof. Melissa Moschella, two philosophers who argue that the Holy Father’s statements were in line with traditional Church teaching on contraception, properly understood.

Blink and you’ll miss it: Pope says post-Synodal exhortation may be released before Easter

Catholics are abuzz with the suggestion that the Holy Father approved in some manner contraceptive use in the context of South America’s Zika virus crisis during his in-flight press conference on the trip back to Rome. As you might imagine, the interpretations of his less-than-clear statements have broken down on predictable fault lines. Likewise, there has been much discussion of his statements about Donald Trump’s proposal to build a wall. And the interpretations of these statements have broken down on predictable fault lines. (For our part, we recommend that traditionally minded Catholics take a minute and read Pius XII’s Exsul Familia and La solennità della Pentecoste before posting or retweeting pictures of the Vatican’s walls.) But this press conference is interesting for other reasons.

Catholic News Service has prepared and released a full-text English version of the Pope’s airplane interview. In that interview there were several exchanges that touch, we think, upon the bigger question—the Holy Father’s forthcoming post-Synodal exhortation. The first exchange, with American reporter Anne Thompson, gives some tentative papal confirmation to the suggestion that the Holy Father’s post-Synodal exhortation will be handed down before Easter. (We had heard March 19, which is the feast of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is also Saturday before Palm Sunday in the Ordinary Form this year.) The entire exchange is very interesting and worth reading carefully:

Anne Thompson, NBC (USA): Some wonder how a Church that claims to be merciful, how can the Church forgive a murderer easier than someone who has divorced and remarried?

Pope Francis: I like this question! On the family, two synods have spoken. The Pope has spoken on this all year in the Wednesday Catechisms. The question is true, you posed it very well. In the post-synod document that will be published, perhaps before Easter – it picks up on everything the synod – in one of the chapters, because it has many – it spoke about the conflicts, wounded families and the pastoral (care) of wounded families. It is one of the concerns. As another is the preparation for marriage. Imagine, to become a priest there are eight years of study and preparation, and then if after a while you can’t do it, you can ask for a dispensation, you leave, and everything is OK. On the other hand, to make a sacrament (marriage), which is for your whole life, three to four conferences…Preparation for marriage is very important. It’s very, very important because I believe it is something that in the Church, in common pastoral ministry, at least in my country, in South America, the Church has not valued much.


Another interesting thing from the meeting with families in Tuxtla. There was a couple, married again in second union integrated in the pastoral ministry of the Church. The key phrase used by the synod, which I’ll take up again, is ‘integrate’ in the life of the Church the wounded families, remarried families, etcetera. But of this one mustn’t forget the children in the middle. They are the first victims, both in the wounds, and in the conditions of poverty, of work, etcetera.

Thompson: Does that mean they can receive Communion?

Pope Francis: This is the last thing. Integrating in the Church doesn’t mean receiving communion. I know married Catholics in a second union who go to church, who go to church once or twice a year and say I want communion, as if joining in Communion were an award. It’s a work towards integration, all doors are open, but we cannot say, ‘from here on they can have communion.’ This would be an injury also to marriage, to the couple, because it wouldn’t allow them to proceed on this path of integration. And those two were happy. They used a very beautiful expression: we don’t receive Eucharistic communion, but we receive communion when we visit hospitals and in this and this and this. Their integration is that. If there is something more, the Lord will tell them, but it’s a path, a road.

(Some emphasis supplied and text omitted.)

The second exchange was with Italian reporter Franca Giansoldati and dealt most directly with Italy’s upcoming parliamentary vote on same-sex unions:

Franca Giansoldati, Il Messaggero (Italy): Holiness, good evening. I return back to the topic of the law that is being voted on in the Italian parliament. It is a law that in some ways is about other countries, because other countries have laws about unions among people of the same sex. There is a document from the Congregation for the Doctrine for the Faith from 2003 that dedicates a lot of attention to this, and even more, dedicates a chapter to the position of Catholic parliamentarians in parliament before this question. It says expressly that Catholic parliamentarians must not vote for these laws. Considering that there is much confusion on this, I wanted to ask, first of all, is this document of 2003 still in effect? And what is the position a Catholic parliamentarian must take? And then another thing, after Moscow, Cairo. Is there another thawing out on the horizon? I’m referring to the audience that you wish for with the Pope and the Sunnis, let’s call them that way, the Imam of Al Azhar.

Pope Francis: For this, Msgr. Ayuso went to Cairo last week to meet the second to the Imam and to greet the Imam. Msgr. Ayuso, secretary to Cardinal Tauran of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. I want to meet him. I know that he would like it. We are looking for the way, always through Cardinal Tauran because it is the path, but we will achieve it.

About the other, I do not remember that 2003 document from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith well but every Catholic parliamentarian must vote according their well-formed conscience. I would say just this. I believe it is sufficient because – I say well-formed because it is not the conscience of ‘what seems to me.’ I remember when matrimony for persons of the same sex was voted on in Buenos Aires and the votes were tied. And at the end, one said to advise the other: ‘But is it clear to you? No, me neither, but we’re going to lose like this. But if we don’t go there won’t be a quorum.’ The other said: ‘If we have a quorum we will give the vote to Kirchner.’ And, the other said: ‘I prefer to give it to Kirchner and not Bergoglio.’ And they went ahead. This is not a well formed conscience.

On people of the same sex, I repeat what I said on the trip to Rio di Janeiro. It’s in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

(Emphasis supplied.) The question of conscience—and what constitutes a well-formed conscience—has been bubbling around the edges of the Synod debate, particularly through the statements of Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich. We find it interesting to see the Holy Father drawing a clear line through the concept that a well-formed conscience is the conscience of “what seems to me.” While this is not necessarily related to the question of the Synod and his exhortation, it seems to us that it is a window into how the Holy Father approaches these issues.

All the battles you’ve fought (and lost)

Rod Dreher sets forth a social conservative’s case for Donald Trump at The American Conservative. In itself, that’s an interesting argument. Dreher argues that the “real” fight is over religious liberty, and Trump has promised to protect religious liberty. Dreher also asserts that Trump is no more untrustworthy on issues like this than establishment Republicans, who have sold out social conservatives time and time again on a whole range of issues to appease their donors. Like we said, an interesting argument. However, it seems to be an argument that concedes defeat on a couple of important points.

We hasten to say, at the outset, that, while we have made made up our mind on the likely Republican and Democratic candidates this year, we do not intend with these reflections to urge you, dear reader, to vote for or against any candidate. (Just as we did not intend to urge you to vote for or against Bernie Sanders with our comments about whether Catholics can vote for a self-described socialist.) Our point, which we shall elaborate here in a second, is that Dreher, in making this case for Donald Trump, makes some assumptions that are, well, troubling. It is not clear to us, furthermore, that Dreher intended to urge his readers to vote one way or the other. (He said as much in a comment thread, in fact.)

We note, first, that Dreher’s argument seems to call upon Christians to formally cooperate in the error of religious liberty. After all, that is exactly what voting for a candidate because he supports religious liberty is. This is, perhaps, not a huge deal to many Catholics. However, to traditionally minded Catholics, especially Catholics connected with the Society of St. Pius X, religious liberty remains a live topic. Dreher argues, as we noted above, that,

Religious liberty is where the real fight is, specifically the degree to which religious institutions and individuals will have the freedom to practice their beliefs without running afoul of civil liberties for gay men and women. This is where having a friendly administration matters most to religious and social conservatives. And this is an area where religious and social conservatives are in the most danger of being bamboozled by the GOP Establishment.

(Emphasis supplied.) But the question of religious liberty is a tricky one for the Christian. While the Church and individual Catholics ought to be free to profess the Apostolic faith and to live in accordance with the commands of Christ, religious liberty itself is a proposition that has been condemned and condemned and condemned by good and holy popes.

By religious liberty we refer to the opinion that it is a fundamental right of man to worship, or not worship, according to the dictates of one’s conscience. Gregory XVI condemned this opinion’s close corollary, indifferentism, in 1832 in Mirari vos (DH 2731–32). Likewise, Pius IX condemned indifferentism in Qui pluribus in 1851 (DH 2785). And he definitively proscribed indifferentism and religious liberty in Syllabus Errorum, in propositions 15–18, 77, and 79 (DH 2915–18, 2977, 2979).  Leo XIII condemned so-called liberty of conscience in stringent terms in his 1888 encyclical Libertas praestantissimum (DH 3250–51). Indeed, that great Pope held that the civil authority can tolerate false sects only in furtherance of the common good, always taking care not to approve the false sect itself (ibid., 3251). In other words, the teaching of the Church is clear: religious liberty is an error. Finally, we note that Dignitatis humanae left “untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ.” Thus, to some extent, it is unclear whether or not the Council changed the Church’s venerable teaching on indifferentism and religious liberty in Dignitatis humanae. For our purposes, we will assume that the Council did not.

And this leads us to an interesting question: can one support a candidate because he supports religious liberty? As shown above, religious liberty is an error, condemned by the Church; therefore, one would be supporting a candidate because the candidate supports an error, condemned by the Church. At some level, such support would be formal cooperation in error. (Whether it is subjectively culpable as a sin is another question, though heresy is a grave sin.) Now, one might say that the Church would benefit from this error, as indeed it might, but that does not redeem the erroneous proposition itself. Furthermore, such cooperation is not as grave as, say, supporting a candidate because she supports abortion, which is strictly impermissible. But it is not clear to us that the gravity is nonexistent, either. Thus, we have some doubts that it would be appropriate to support a candidate because of his stance on religious liberty, though one could support a candidate despite his stance on religious liberty if there were proportionately serious reasons to support him.

That’s one issue we have with Dreher’s column. It’s not the only one.

The bigger issue is Dreher’s willingness to concede defeat on abortion. While the question of religious liberty is perhaps a little obscure to many Catholics, there is not a Catholic in the United States today who does not understand the issue of abortion and the stakes involved. In order to make the case that religious liberty is where the real action is these days, Dreher asserts:

On abortion, unless the Supreme Court were to revisit Roe v. Wade — something nobody foresees happening — the right to legal abortion is here to stay. Even if the Court overturned Roe, all that would mean is that the right to regulate abortion would return to the states. Most states would unhesitatingly protect abortion rights. Some would impose restrictions. In no state would it likely be banned outright. The possibility of there being an end to abortion achieved through judicial and legislative means is remote. That does not mean that having a pro-life president is unimportant, but it does mean that its importance has to be judged relative to other factors.

Anybody who thinks Obergefell is going to be overturned is dreaming. It won’t happenRoe was less popular in 1973 than Obergefell is today, and we all know by now that the generation most opposed to same-sex marriage is passing away. Gay marriage is here to stay. Our side lost that battle, and we waste time and resources trying to re-fight it. The candidates who say they’re going to work to overturn Obergefell are either pandering or deluded. And socially conservative voters who are in touch with reality know that what’s done is done. Fighting same-sex marriage in the courts is the most lost of lost causes.

(Enumeration and hyperlink omitted, emphasis supplied, and italics in original.) This is, frankly, astounding. Dreher’s argument appears to be that Christians have lost, irretrievably, the battles over abortion and same-sex “marriage.”

If this is the case, then what’s the point fighting any more battles? It is not as though abortion in particular has been some trivial issue in the life of the Church, a defeat over which Catholics can laugh off lightly. Far from it! For forty years, the political choices of serious Christians have been driven, for the most part, by the questions of abortion and same-sex “marriage.” (Perhaps longer, since Griswold v. Connecticut was the real beginning of the movement toward widespread abortion.) During that time, for American Catholics, abortion has been, quite rightly, the number-one question. Indeed, there are not a few Catholics who have written off, not unjustifiably, a major political party solely on the issue of abortion. Moreover, prelates have threatened to deny communion to politicians who support abortion. And, in his 2004 memorandum, which we have cited here previously, Cardinal Ratzinger stated (or strongly implied or whatever) that abortion was perhaps the most important moral issue facing Catholics. Same-sex “marriage” has been, in recent years, a major battleground, especially in state elections and referenda. But, according to Dreher, they’ve lost. Why would anyone think that they’re more likely to win on religious liberty or any other fight after they lost their number-one fight?

Dreher’s point also raises an interesting issue as far as voting goes. If no politician can make a difference on the questions of abortion or same-sex “marriage,” and that is precisely what Dreher implies when he says that those fights are over, then is it appropriate to consider those points when casting one’s vote? That is to say, does it really matter if, in the race for president, John Johnson is ardently pro-abortion and Jane Jones is ardently pro-life? If “[t]he possibility of there being an end to abortion achieved through judicial and legislative means is remote,” then does it really matter who you vote for? And when Dreher says that the importance of a pro-life candidate “has to be judged relative to other factors,” what other factors are there? Aside from the question of life and the question of marriage, the two major American political parties are not hugely different.

That said, is there any principled reason for a serious Christian to engage politically after the defeat on abortion and same-sex “marriage”? If the two most important battles in living memory have ended in irretrievable defeat, as Dreher says, then why should a Christian continue to fight the fight with weapons that manifestly do not work? In the context of another discussion, we were politely corrected by an acquaintance of ours for excluding the possibility of divine intervention in a particular situation. (We cannot remember just now what it was, though.) If the political battle is truly lost, then perhaps it is time to set aside political weapons. So what if the ballot box cannot stem the tide of this world and the ruler of this world? The Mass and the Rosary can. So what if politicians fail to keep their promises? Our Lord keeps his promises. It would perhaps make more sense to devote one’s energies where they can do some good: in imploring the Lord to intervene and put things right.  One may argue that such an approach is resignation (or fatalism or worse), but it seems to us that Dreher’s approach is the approach of resignation, insofar as he urges us to accept that the battles over abortion and same-sex “marriage” are lost. Dreher says “what’s done is done.”

And, of course, we are reminded of the Holy Father’s recent homily to the clergy of Mexico just this past Tuesday:

What temptation can come to us from places often dominated by violence, corruption, drug trafficking, disregard for human dignity, and indifference in the face of suffering and vulnerability? What temptation might we suffer over and over again – we who are called to the consecrated life, to the presbyterate, to the episcopate – what temptation could might we endure in the face of all this, in the face of this reality which seems to have become a permanent system? 

I think that we could sum it up in a single word: “resignation”. And faced with this reality, the devil can overcome us with one of his favourite weapons: resignation. “And what are you going to do about it? Life is like that”. A resignation which paralyzes us and prevents us not only from walking, but also from making the journey; a resignation which not only terrifies us, but which also entrenches us in our “sacristies” and false securities; a resignation which not only prevents us from proclaiming, but also inhibits our giving praise and takes away the joy, the joy of giving praise. A resignation which not only hinders our looking to the future, but also stifles our desire to take risks and to change. And so, “Our Father, lead us not into temptation”.

(Emphasis supplied.)

More on the Joint Declaration from Patriarch Sviatoslav

We recently quoted a statement by Patriarch Sviatoslav Shevchuk, leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, on the Joint Declaration of the Holy Father and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow. It seems that the full interview—or at least more of the interview—has been translated into English and made available. Of particular note, Patriarch Sviatoslav notes that:

It was officially reported that this document was the joint effort of Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) from the Orthodox side and Cardinal Koch with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity from the Catholic side. For a document that was intended to be not theological, but essentially socio-political, it is hard to imagine a weaker team than the one that drafted this text. The mentioned Pontifical Council is competent in theological matters in relations with various Christian Churches and communities, but is no expert in matters of international politics, especially in delicate matters such as Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. Thus, the intended character of the document was beyond their capabilities. This was exploited by the Department of External Affairs of the Russian Orthodox Church, which is, first of all, the instrument of diplomacy and external politics of the Moscow Patriarchate. I would note that, as the Head of our Church, I am an official member of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, nominated already by Pope Benedict. However, no one invited me to express my thoughts and so, essentially, as had already happened previously, they spoke about us without us, without giving us a voice.

(Emphasis supplied.) This is all hugely interesting and very important business, and, for our part, that Patriarch Sviatoslav is so clear and precise the situation.

Link Roundup: Feb. 14, 2016

Starting off with a classic from the archives, when Seamus Heaney died a few years back, Jesuit Fr. Joseph Koczera posted a lengthy, lovely piece about religious aspects in Heaney’s work. Given the slide away from Christ and Christ’s Church in Ireland even in recent years, we wonder ourselves what Heaney would have made of it.

In case you missed it, Elliot Milco had a lovely reflection on Antonin Scalia’s death at First Things.

A few weeks ago, Mark Shea had a really interesting piece about Bernie Sanders and the abortion question. (Which reminds us, we meant to write our own comment about the topic, but, as Mattie Ross might say, time just gets away from us.)

The Holy Father gave a very interesting speech to the Mexican bishops. Not as interesting from a tea-leaves standpoint (if some reports are to be believed, there’s only a month or so of tea leaves left), but interesting all the same as a window into how the Holy Father thinks more generally.

At New Liturgical Movement, Fr. Augustine Thompson, O.P., has made available a PDF of a Latin-English Dominican Rite hand missal, which apparently represents the Dominican Rite as of 1962. Interesting for study, at the very least, and if you’re lucky to live within driving distance of a Dominican Rite Mass, it might be helpful to print out bits to take with you.

Fr. John Hunwicke follows up on the Joint Declaration of the Holy Father and Patriarch Kirill with a piece from last fall about historical examples of communion between particular Orthodox churches and the Church of Rome. (Maybe we mentioned it at the time. We can’t recall.) An interesting piece which ought to be read carefully.

Scalia’s Death

It is hard to imagine America without Antonin Scalia. Hero to conservatives, bête noire to the left, Scalia was a judge unlike any other judge in the history of the Republic. And his death seems momentous in a way that other events in the life of the Republic in recent years have not. There will be more politicians, more elections, more crises, domestic and international, and more wars. (At least until the Lord returns and this world passes away.) But there will not be another Scalia. And we have lost something with his passing that we will not likely get back.

We recall, on June 26 last year, when the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, scrolling quickly past the majority opinion and Chief Justice John Roberts’s dissent to get to Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissent. We assumed, given the indications of Justice Kennedy, that the majority decision would say that marriage extended to same-sex couples. We assumed that Chief Justice Roberts would deplore the way in which the decision was reached. And we didn’t really care. What we wanted to see was what Scalia had to say. And his dissent in Obergefell was a barn-burning attack on the reasoning (or lack thereof) of the majority opinion.

It was not the first time that we wanted to see what Scalia had to say first. And we were not alone in skipping the boring parts to see the fireworks. (Unfortunately, like the professor he was at heart, Scalia punished those of us who didn’t read the majority opinion by referring to it and quoting from it at length, requiring us to scroll back up repeatedly to see what he was talking about.)

It is unlikely that any other justice on the Supreme Court occupied the imagination of the public—lawyers and laymen alike—quite the way Scalia did. His public persona—blunt, witty, and brilliant—was balanced by stories of his devotion to Christ and Christ’s Church, his unlikely friendship with Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and his role as patriarch of a large family. Some of our acquaintances in the Washington area reported seeing Scalia regularly at the traditional Latin Mass offered at Mary Mother of God. But above all of this was his reputation as a writer: usually incisive, often witty, occasionally caustic, but always clear and always tightly reasoned. And we imagine that judges across the land, at every level, took a cue from Scalia and started expressing themselves and their views clearly and directly, too. (And some state courts we could name have, we think, very mightily struggled to avoid Scalia-style opinions. But even this is a testament to his influence.)

Even people who did not especially like Scalia were impressed by his incisive intellect. We had a very slight connection to him—to outline it would be a little gauche, so we’ll say it was on the order of a friend of a friend or something like that—and the impression we got was that he was blunt, witty, and brilliant, even as a young man. But the impressive thing is how many people, even his ideological adversaries, liked Scalia tremendously. There was something about his “Italian from Queens” style that was charming and disarming, even to his opponents.

And for all these reasons, as we noted above, Scalia’s death seems momentous in a way that other events in the recent life of the Republic have not. Perhaps coming very near the reason why, at First Things, Elliot Milco has a brief appreciation of Scalia. He writes,

Antonin Scalia was a hero to me, as he was to thousands, perhaps millions of conservative Americans. He was brilliant. He was morally engaged. His prose sparkled. He was the great champion of the Right, and he could not be silenced or voted out, no matter how much the press despised him. While his enemies pushed relentlessly to have their views enshrined as fundamental principles of free society, Scalia fought to keep the moral question open for debate, to maintain the possibility of reasonable dissent, because he believed that in a fair fight, we could still prevail. He was the mighty rearguard in our long and slow defeat.

The passing of Antonin Scalia is the passing of a great figure in American political life—a true jurist of the sort rarely seen in recent decades. For those of us on the Right, the death of this great man is devastating. In the past forty years the Supreme Court has been the site of so many crucial revisions of the fundamental law of our government. Who can say how his successor will affect the balance of power in this country, or for how long? Without him, or someone like him, we can guess what’s to come. More revision, more exclusion, more decay.

(Emphasis supplied.) This seems correct to us. It is unclear to us that anyone else could step into the breach and mount the thunderous defense of reason and justice that Scalia did for so long. Even when the forces of this world and the lord of this world won great victories—and they did win great victories, though only for a little while—Scalia could always drive them to paroxysms of fury with a turn of phrase or a careful dissection of a non-argument. They might have won, but they undoubtedly didn’t like how hard they had to work to do so when Scalia was watching. And, as we say, it is far from clear that anyone can fill that role quite like he did.

And, in all the memorials and remembrances, we think it is especially important to remember that Scalia was a champion of civil liberties, especially liberties that are important for criminal defendants. Scalia did much to save the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment from the constitutional dustheap, and he routinely voted in favor of robust Fourth Amendment protections. For him, these provisions were not impediments to effective police work, but necessary guarantees that protect citizens from police overreach. And he formed a remarkably durable coalition with liberal justices to provide much needed majorities to protect these rights. (We suspect that, very soon, the people thrilled today that their old nemesis is gone will miss him.)

Of your charity, pray for the repose of his soul.

The Joint Declaration

The Holy Father and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow have, in the wake of their historic meeting in Cuba, released a joint declaration, which is, to a great extent, in the words of Fr. John Hunwicke, is “better than good.” We confess, however, that we are simply not sufficiently versed in matters touching upon the eastern churches in communion with Rome to judge these paragraphs:

24. Orthodox and Catholics are united not only by the shared Tradition of the Church of the first millennium, but also by the mission to preach the Gospel of Christ in the world today. This mission entails mutual respect for members of the Christian communities and excludes any form of proselytism.

We are not competitors but brothers, and this concept must guide all our mutual actions as well as those directed to the outside world. We urge Catholics and Orthodox in all countries to learn to live together in peace and love, and to be “in harmony with one another” (Rm 15:5). Consequently, it cannot be accepted that disloyal means be used to incite believers to pass from one Church to another, denying them their religious freedom and their traditions. We are called upon to put into practice the precept of the apostle Paul: “Thus I aspire to proclaim the gospel not where Christ has already been named, so that I do not build on another’s foundation” (Rm 15:20).

25. It is our hope that our meeting may also contribute to reconciliation wherever tensions exist between Greek Catholics and Orthodox. It is today clear that the past method of “uniatism”, understood as the union of one community to the other, separating it from its Church, is not the way to re–establish unity. Nonetheless, the ecclesial communities which emerged in these historical circumstances have the right to exist and to undertake all that is necessary to meet the spiritual needs of their faithful, while seeking to live in peace with their neighbours. Orthodox and Greek Catholics are in need of reconciliation and of mutually acceptable forms of co–existence.

26. We deplore the hostility in Ukraine that has already caused many victims, inflicted innumerable wounds on peaceful inhabitants and thrown society into a deep economic and humanitarian crisis. We invite all the parts involved in the conflict to prudence, to social solidarity and to action aimed at constructing peace. We invite our Churches in Ukraine to work towards social harmony, to refrain from taking part in the confrontation, and to not support any further development of the conflict.

27. It is our hope that the schism between the Orthodox faithful in Ukraine may be overcome through existing canonical norms, that all the Orthodox Christians of Ukraine may live in peace and harmony, and that the Catholic communities in the country may contribute to this, in such a way that our Christian brotherhood may become increasingly evident.

(Emphasis supplied.)

Our background is, as you may have guessed, Latin rite all the way down. Thus, we lack the framework to weigh this declaration appropriately. However, we imagine that some of these formulations will be puzzling to a Latin-rite Catholic, since it sure looks like the Pope of Rome has essentially said “hands off” as far as Orthodox Christians are concerned. We are sure that there are good and important reasons for such statements, but given the Roman Church’s historic articulation of its primacy (and 1870 isn’t all that long ago, really), it seems strange to a Latin-rite Catholic to see statements like this subscribed to by the Supreme Pontiff.

And, for all we know, it may be strange to an Eastern-rite Catholic to read these statements. For example, Gabriel Sanchez, of Opus Publicum, who knows quite a bit more about eastern matters than we do, posted at his blog a translation of a statement by Sviatoslav, patriarch of Kyiv-Halych and All Rus. (Sviatoslav is the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.) Because it appears that Sanchez obtained special permission to reproduce the translation, we will not quote it here, but we will urge you to read the whole thing there. While nice, ecumenical statements are pleasant business in Rome and Moscow and elsewhere, we dare say that this is deadly business for Patriarch Sviatoslav, and his words ought to be weighed carefully.