St. Thomas More Society

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This blog is an opportunity for us to start discussions that we may not have time for at our lunch meetings. All members are welcome to post links and commentary on current events of interest to Catholic legal professionals.  Login to website to post or comment.
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  • 03 Jan 2014 9:15 AM | Bennett Rawicki (Administrator)

    Give me the grace, Good Lord:
    To set the world at naught.
    To set the mind firmly on You and not to hang upon the words of men's mouths.
    To be content to be solitary.
    Not to long for worldly pleasures.
    Little by little utterly to cast off the world and rid my mind of all its business.
    Not to long to hear of earthly things, but that the hearing of worldly fancies may be displeasing to me.
    Gladly to be thinking of God, piteously to call for His help.
    To lean into the comfort of God.
    Busily to labor to love Him.
    To know my own vileness and wretchedness.
    To humble myself under the mighty hand of God.
    To bewail my sins and, for the purging of them, patiently to suffer adversity.
    Gladly to bear my purgatory here.
    To be joyful in tribulations.
    To walk the narrow way that leads to life.
    .... To foresee and consider the everlasting fire of Hell.
    To pray for pardon before the judge comes.
    To have continually in mind the passion that Christ suffered for me.
    For His benefits unceasingly to give Him thanks.
    To buy the time again that I have lost.
    .... Of worldly substance, friends, liberty, life and all, to set the loss at naught, for the winning of Christ.
    To think my worst enemies my best friends, for the brethren of Joseph could never have done him so much good with their love and favor as they did him with their malice and hatred.
    These minds are more to be desired of every man than all the treasures of all the princes and kings, Christian and heathen, were it gathered and laid together all in one heap.

    Amen

  • 31 Dec 2013 9:11 AM | Bennett Rawicki (Administrator)
    "The things, good Lord, that I pray for, give me the grace to labor for."
  • 18 Nov 2013 11:28 PM | Bennett Rawicki (Administrator)
    Prayer written by St. Thomas More:
    "Almighty Jesus Christ, who would for our example observe the law that you came to change, and being maker of the whole earth, would have yet no dwelling-house therein, give us your grace so to keep your holy law and so reckon to ourselves for no dwellers but for pilgrims upon earth that we may long and make haste, walking with faith in the way of virtuous works, to come to the glorious country wherein you have bought us inheritance forever with your own precious blood."

    -quoted with permission from A Thomas More Source Book (Gerard Wegemer & Stephen Smith, eds.)
  • 05 Nov 2013 3:53 PM | Bennett Rawicki (Administrator)
    Last week the pro-life movement earned a small victory and a foreshadowing of a greater victory.  District Court Judge Yeakel had struck down two aspects of Texas’ recently enacted law regulating abortions, H.B. 2, but a Fifth Circuit panel granted a stay pending appeal on the merits.  The panel granted the stay (in part) because it held that there was a substantially likelihood that the challenged parts of the law were constitutional.

    Notably, the panel accepted that Texas had a rational basis for requiring abortionists to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital: it serves as an extra form of credentialing, so as better to protect the mother’s health during an abortion. This rational basis highlights the importance of this requirement, which hopefully will weed out negligent abortionists like Kermit Gosnell, who not only abort the baby but also threaten the mother. Also regarding the admitting-privileges requirement, the panel held that Texas had shown a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of its argument that, although this requirement will reduce the number of abortionists, the resulting burden on women seeking abortions does not render the law facially unconstitutional (Planned Parenthood does not bring an as-applied challenge).

    The Fifth Circuit’s opinion also correctly acknowledged an often publicly misunderstood aspect of abortion law in general: the extremely wide breadth of a “health of the mother” exception to an abortion restriction, which includes inherently subjective “emotional” health. In addressing H.B. 2’s requirement that abortionists must follow the FDA’s approved use of abortion-inducing drugs (which effectively shortens the window in which abortionists can do medical abortions), the panel criticized the overbreadth of the “health of the mother” exception that the district court judge grafted onto the law as necessary to avoid an undue burden on the “right” to an abortion.

    The Fifth Circuit’s opinion sounds hopeful notes regarding the constitutionality (even under the Supreme Court’s current “undue burden” jurisprudence) of these two aspects of Texas’ abortion law. The upcoming steps in the litigation are Planned Parenthood’s appeal of this stay to Justice Scalia (the presiding justice for the Fifth Circuit), and then the actual appeal of Judge Yeakel’s decision before the Fifth Circuit. It seemed from the language of this panel’s opinion that these three judges (Owen, Haynes, and Elrod) may not be the panel that addresses the merits of the appeal.

    The Fifth Circuit’s opinion can be read here.
  • 08 Oct 2013 2:03 PM | Bennett Rawicki (Administrator)
    Bishop Kevin Farrell of the Diocese of Dallas had the opportunity to give the homily at the annual Red Mass in Washington, D.C.  In attendance were five U.S. Supreme Court Justices and many other government officials.

    Bishop Farrell's full homily is available on his blog.  He introduced his main theme of unity by stating:
    I am not the first person to comment that we seem to live at a time of highly polarized and polarizing rhetoric. In that sense, today, we are more like Babel than Pentecost, we are more about confusion than wisdom, more separated in and by rhetoric than united. Among the things that we celebrate at this Mass today is the countercultural reality of God’s very spirit hovering over us as it did at the beginning of Genesis to create clarity out of chaos, (Gen. 1:1-2) and, as the Holy Spirit did at that first Pentecost, he now bestows wisdom, clarity, insight and, yes, unity.
    Please notice that I did not say uniformity. I deliberately said unity because the Holy Spirit is the source of unity on all that matters and the source of variety in and among the differences we have that make us who we are.
    It also means that we can and should debate, refine positions, truly listen to each other and seek consensus on essentials and respect details that may well be different.
  • 20 Sep 2013 11:07 PM | Bennett Rawicki (Administrator)
    Pope Francis has caused a stir with his comments in a recent interview. Overall he was making the point that “the proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives.” In explaining this he made statements including the following:
    • “The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you."
    • “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.”
    • “The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. . . . We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.”
    Full interview available here.

    What do you think of Pope Francis’ statements? Does the Church, in particular the Church in America, focus too narrowly on moral issues instead of proclaiming God’s saving power? Please share your comments, that is the purpose of this blog. And please show respect to the Pope, who has given his life to serve God and us.

    To kick off the discussion: I agree with Pope Francis’ message of preach salvation first, then catechize about moral imperatives, but I disagree that the Church should speak less about moral issues.
    First, many Catholics in America do not know the reasons behind the Church’s position on same-sex marriage and contraception. And already it is extremely rare to hear a homily about a particular moral issue. There needs to be more catechesis, not less.
    Second, by stating that the Church should not be “obsessed” with teaching moral doctrines, the Pope seems to be downplaying the reasons behind the rules. The Commandments are not requirements we follow merely to prove allegiance to God, but a guide on how to live happier by being unencumbered by sin. Although difficult to do effectively, teaching morality in the right way should attract people to God---like preaching about mercy and salvation also does.
  • 20 Sep 2013 9:38 AM | Gregory Lensing (Administrator)

    A New Mexican statute forbids public accommodations from discriminating against customers on account of their sexual orientation.  On August 22, 2013, the New Mexico Supreme Court upheld the application of that statute to a photography studio whose owners refused to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony.

     

    The case is Elane Photography, LLC v, Willock, No. 33,687, and the facts appear to have been undisputed.  Two women, Vanessa Willock and Misti Collinsworth, contacted Elane Photography about hiring Elane Photography to photograph their “commitment ceremony,” which all parties agreed was essentially a wedding.  Elane Photography’s co-owner and lead photographer, Elaine Huguenin, is personally opposed to same-sex marriage and declined to photograph the ceremony.  Willock filed a complaint against Elane Photography with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission for violating New Mexico’s anti-discrimination statute.  The Commission ruled in favor of Willock and awarded Willock her attorneys’ fees.  (At some point in the proceedings, for reasons unexplained, Willock eventually waived her recovery of fees.)  Elane Photography appealed to a trial court for trial de novo, and the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Willock.  The New Mexico Court of Appeals affirmed, as did the New Mexico Supreme Court.

     

    These are the key holdings of the New Mexico Supreme Court:

     

    1.  Violation of the anti-discrimination statute.  Elane Photography did not dispute its status as a public accommodation under the anti-discrimination statute, but it argued that it did not discriminate against Willock on the basis of her sexual orientation.   It argued that it discriminated against Willock because the message that would be sent by Elane Photography’s involvement in the ceremony was one of endorsement of same-sex marriage.  The court rejected the attempt to separate status from conduct, holding that the statute prohibits not only discrimination based on sexual orientation but also discrimination based on “conduct that is inextricably tied to sexual orientation.”  Elane Photography’s violation of the anti-discrimination statute was established as a matter of law.

     

    2.  Free speech.  Elane Photography argued that the application of the anti-discrimination statute violated Elane Photography’s free-speech rights, particularly its right to be free from being compelled to speak a message it does not endorse.  The court held that there was no free-speech violation.  First, the state is not compelling Elane Photography to promote a state-sanctioned message; it is forbidding Elane Photography from discriminating against potential clients based on sexual orientation.  Second, the state is not unconstitutionally requiring Elane Photography to “host or accommodate another speaker’s message.”  The court concluded that the conduct compelled by the anti-discrimination law did not amount to compelled speech, and that observers are unlikely to believe that Elane Photography’s involvement in the ceremony constitutes endorsement by Elane Photography’s owners or employees.  The court added that the Free Speech Clause does not give creative and expressive professions an exemption from anti-discrimination laws.

     

    3.  Free exercise.  The court assumed without deciding that Elane Photography possesses rights under the Free Exercise Clause.  Under U.S. Supreme court precedent, valid and neutral laws of general application do not violate an individual’s rights under the Free Exercise Clause, even if the law forbids or requires conduct contrary to his religious beliefs.  The court held that the anti-discrimination statute is a neutral law of general application.  Thus, Elane Photography’s Free Exercise challenge failed.

     

    4.  The New Mexico Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  Elane Photography mounted an argument based on the NMRFRA, which provides that no government agency may restrict a person’s free exercise of religion unless (1) the restriction is a rule of general applicability that does not directly discriminate against religion or among religions, and (2) the application of the restriction to the person is essential to further a compelling government interest and is the least restrictive means of furthering that interest.  Reviewing the NMRFRA as a whole, the court held that the Act is simply inapplicable in suits in which a government agency is not a party.  There being no government-agency litigant in this lawsuit, the NMRFRA did not apply.
  • 28 Aug 2013 9:19 AM | Bennett Rawicki (Administrator)
    You can read Bishop Paprocki's homily here.

    He preached about St. Thomas More's famous last words - "I am the King's good servant, but God's first" - being a model of how we should act. We should be engaged in the world while keeping our eyes fixed on heaven. Bishop Paprocki voiced that the three core issues needing the faithful's continued engagement are life, marriage, and religious liberty. He warned that the sin of acedia (a form of spiritual apathy) is the biggest obstacle to our engaging society on these issues. Friendship with God overcomes acedia, which is the absence or rejection of that friendship.
  • 16 Jul 2013 2:22 PM | Bennett Rawicki (Administrator)
    Showing the difficulty in drafting an abortion ban narrow enough to get passed and to stand, but broad enough to do the most good, here's a thoughtful critique of the text of Texas' new ban on abortion after 20 weeks, from a pro-life perspective.

    The First Things online article is available here.

      
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The St. Thomas More Society of the Diocese of Dallas is open to Catholic attorneys and others interested in the intersection of faith and law.  Its purpose is to encourage Catholic lawyers within the diocese of Dallas to live a Christian vocation by sanctifying their daily work.  The St. Thomas More Society of the Diocese of Dallas is a Non-Profit Corporation and tax exempt under IRS 501(c)(3).

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