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Please come to Boston. . .

in the springtime. . . .for a panel discussion on religious liberty, moderated by John Allen, with Bryan Hehir, Vince Rougeau, and myself.It should be interesting, given the recent statement by the Bishops on religious liberty, and the recent decision out of the district court in Massachusetts.

About the Author

Cathleen Kaveny is the Darald and Juliet Libby Professor in the Theology Department and Law School at Boston College.



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While I am going to Boston tomnorrow, I will not be there for this intersting panel. I hope it may somehow be podcast at some point.Given the announcement about the bishops proposed "Fortnight for Relgious Freedom" your thoughts will be most welcome.

I hope the posting of prpfs. Kroncke and holohan (noted recently at America's "In All Things" might be noted.)ISRM that we are at a stage of "battle" on this issue

Cardinal Burke is reported to say on EWTN that a Catholic cannot provide health insurance covering contraception because it is "formal cooperation" in evil. Thomas McKenna: So a Catholic employer, really getting down to it, he does not, or she does not provide this because that way they would be, in a sense, cooperating with the sinthe sin of contraception or the sin of providing a contraceptive that would abort a child, is this correct?Cardinal Burke: This is correct. It is not only a matter of what we call material cooperation in the sense that the employer by giving this insurance benefit is materially providing for the contraception but it is also formal cooperation because he is knowingly and deliberately doing this, making this available to people. There is no way to justify it. It is simply wrong.

Found the video of the interview with Cardinal Burke: quoted statement starts at about 6:45 minutes from teh beginning.

Well, of course, very few of us will make the conference, sadly. Why do the big cities have all the best stuff? Will it be taped and laid out on the web?

I may go --- though I can abide John Allen only with Prof. Kaveny as an offset. (BC makes webcasts of such talks, so it may be available online afterwards; edits may delete some interesting parts though, like Q&A)When I heard Allen at BC in 2004 as one of his books came out, I was disquieted at the tenor of his comments and wrote him to that effect. His talk was about "How Rome Views the American Church" with references to different cultures and how we need to learn the Vatican's language. The video is at I referred in my email to "the somewhat benign presentation I heard tonight about different cultural milieus...Ratzinger, Re, Sodano, Castrillon Hoyos, et al may be urbane, intelligent, delightful dinner companions and such but their institutional focus causes real flesh and blood pain..."As I was waiting to ask my question tonight, you suggested CTSA invite curial officials like Ratzinger to speak, and a woman to my left said bitterly, we already have and they always decline...I must say, though, that the Vaticans honeyed speech couched in spiritual language is so offensive precisely because their actions betray the Word they profess."Allen's retort came in his next column: Here's a tip for anyone invited to speak in Boston: Begin by acknowledging the legitimacy of popular anger and disillusionment with church authorities. At Boston College, where I had been asked to talk about "Rome's View of the American Church," I neglected to follow my own advice, and I heard about it from some in the audience.Minor memories of earlier days...

Will there be a guest internet connection in the room so I may write a comment as the panel discussion is happening?

I am attending the panel session right now. It's sponsored by the "church in the 21st century center", that looks like a great program at BC. I am counting 170 people in the lower part of the room, and there are at least as many in the upper part. Compared to the people I'm used to, the public is significantly older, and they have more books: many have brought books to read while they wait. The man two seats in front of me is reading a cartoon book, and I can just make out the text on the page he's currently reading: "Revolt". On the other hand there are amazingly few laptops: I am the only one using one in the lower half, and I counted four in the upper half (all Apple computers). The first speaker is Rev. Brian Hehir, a pleasant looking man with dark bushy eyebrows, then Pr. Rougeau, then Pr Kaveny. They start by telling one another that one should not use the "war" metaphor. I recognize with pleasure Cathleen Kaveny's clear voice from Jon Stewart's show. Allen, the moderator, is busily taking notes, not on a laptop but with a pen on paper! What's with that?Allen: What do you make of the controversy on the HHS mandate? Hehir: talks about "incursion". He says there's a problem, and I like him less already. He also has a pen in his hand, but only uses it to play with as he speaks, not to write. The other two are listening carefully as he speaks.Kaveny: talks about "for the first time, trying to have a basic set of benefits". Talks about the tension between the people, including Catholics, who don't think contraception is immoral, and the Magisterium. Talks about "hope" for a "compromise". Her question is: "Is this something we can all live with?"Rougeau: First talks about the contribution of the Catholic church to health care, historically. The community depends on those Catholic institutions, hospitals etc., and they're in an awkward position. Uses the word "anathema" for their perspective. Wishes benefits had been provided through the state (single payer system). Is there a threat to religious liberty? He says, it's possible, and talks about the "cow's nose under the tent", a pretty funny expression, and also ends with the word "integrity".Hehir: is not as optimistic as Kaveny about common ground and what if one cannot find common ground. Trusts the majority vote plus an exemption. Talks about the "Blunt amendment". That's the first half hour.

Fr Imbelli is also in the audience, and he also has a pen in his hand.Kaveny: talks about religious pluralism. Tension between institutional and individual religious freedoms. It's the second time she's using the word "tension". Hehir: how to deal with Islam? How to accommodate them? Advocates religious exemptions Allen: what constitutes religious activity? Which religious groups deserve exemptions?Hehir: presumption is on the side of liberty. Start with broad base view of religion. Allen: In other words, you know a religion when you see it.Hehir: The IRS knows.Rougeau: we're not completely coherent in this country. Core value: the state should have equal regard for all religions. The French model: the secular space of the state is supreme. Religions are subordinate to the state. But that's not the US.Allen: Of course you're tailing about pre-Sarkozy France.Rougeau: Catholicism is actually somewhat preferred in France The church of England gets special privileges in the UK our situation is different (although this country was based Protestant.) Talks about a place at the religious table as something relatively recent in reality. Kaveny: Talks about the line between religion and action. You can believe whatever you want, but when you act based on those beliefs, there are limits. What is necessary for public order? Mentions the Amish, the Mormons, suppression of polygamy and the state's argument that it's about morality. Brings back contraception. What is our public morality and if you move into the minority position, what rights do you have in society?Hehir: freedom of institutions. Religious communities have the right to establish institutions to carry out their work in society. Auditing as a condition for taking government funding. Allen: Cathleen, the Romney campaign, I'm sure, thanks you for your defense of their tradition. Hehir: I don't think "religious freedom" is limited to freedom of worship. The Soviet had that viewpoint, but I don't think that's the viewpoint in this country. Count right of that community to establish schools, social services, health care. (He wants exemptions, but seems to be in favor of Catholic institutions to remain committed and be ready to not receive government funding any more, if that's how it has to be.)Kaveny: starts criticizing the US constitution which she finds to be a bit "iffy". Mentions peyote. She says she keeps thinking about employees who might not really have much choice of employment - protecting their individual rights. No federal funding for institutions that discriminate based on race, irrespective of whether the motivation is religious. How do you distinguish between things such as discrimination and others?Hehir: protect the dignity and rights of everyone. Religious communities will often disagree with the American public, and he doesn't think that it means that religious communities should cave in (my words). How do you decide where to draw the line? Mentions "the bishops" for the first time. Rougeau: Heavy reliance, increasingly in courts, to decide those issues. But the right place should be the legislation, in an environment that reflects our pluralistic society. How to negotiate relationship between religious institutions and the state? We don't really understand it in this country. Our tradition is focused on individuals but does not deal well with groups. The American environment is kind of "weird" for Catholics.I thought that that was an interesting comment.That was the second half hour.

Cathleen Kaveny chose a purple outfit, which I think is not the best choice since the background right behind her is bright red. Rougeau: if Obama is reelected, it will give further weight to HHS, and it would be awkward for the Catholic church to fight it; an exemption would still be the question.Allen: talks about "war" again. 150K Christians are killed every year on this planet. This hour that we've been talking, roughly 17 Christians have been killed. If we become excessively concerned about the domestic problems, do we risk losing sight of that?Hehir: that's part of the problem. Budget, welfare of the US citizen, compare to Africa, recognize who we are in the world - largest military power, central economic role, thus have some responsibility when things happen in the world. Let's not be too absorbed by our domestic problems and let's not forget the rest of the world. We belong to a universal church.Rougeau. This is a remarkable opp for US Christians to break out of a vision preoccupied with ourselves. We're so rich! Think of what we could be doing in the world! Demonstrate that pluralism can work, and offer the rest of the world a model. (That's a very American remark).Kaveny: one of the great things about the Catholic church is our universalism. We think beyond our borders. Recently my students did not know who Oscar Romero was! Think about what martyrdom is. We want to die for "it", but we don't want to kill for "it". (I missed what "it" was, but we can guess)Allen: Just got back from Asia. Most harrowing example of threats to liberty for Christians: Iraq. Apostolic origins. 1991: there were 1.5 to 2 millions christians in Iraq. Today: 200000 to 400000. The ones missing: exiled and killed. Churches in Bagdad have been bombed. Bombing: priests killed, hundreds wounded, etc. Interviewed a woman who survived an attack by playing sea for 6 hours. The American policy in Iraq has created this situation. Christians are wearing a bull's eye on their back. The fact that the fate of the church in Iraq is not the number one priority of US Catholics is immoral. Incomparable to arguing "and also with you" versus "and with your spirit" -- draws applause.Question from audience. If the Catholic church were to forfeit its tax-exemption, would that resolve problems?Hehir: we don't have an absolute right to tax exemption, although I think it's good policy. Lifting the tax exemption would make the church more political. To involve the church more deeply politically I think would be a mistake.Kaveny: charitable organizations are tax exempt. They're not for profit. They emphasize human value. That's the reason to be tax exempt.Rougeau: yup. (my words)Question from audience: civil disobedience. Assume those mandates stand. What would appropriate civil disobedience look like?Hehir: I'm trying to stay away from the edge of the cliff on that question. First look at how individual states have worked things out. They've been creative. If institutions thought they were in absolute conflict, they would withdraw. That would happen before civil disobedience. "Withdraw" means stopping to offer health care.Rougeau: civil disobedience is extremely serious. Has to be done with much prior thought. Has effect on innocent people. Personal perspective. Civil rights movement. (Note: he's African American). For the issues we are discussing today, we are nowhere near that point.Kaveny: cooperation with evil. It makes the tax code look simple. There is wisdom to draw on before you get to civil disobedience.Question from audience: antagonism between religion and secularism? But in some other countries, minority Catholics insist that secularism is the best solution to their problems. So ?Hehir: secular is not the same as secularism. "Secular" is about space, appropriate boundaries. Secularism says that religious truth is either nonsense or only valuable for people's private lives but has no value in the public arena. That I think has to be opposed. (Obviously he's not French.)Kaveny: It's a mistake to see this debate as between the religious and the secular. There's a plurality of views, even among the Catholic church leaders. Positions deserve respect. Portraying people who disagree as "anti-religious" is not good. (That got some applause.) Rougeau: Paul VI on Evangelization in the modern world. Evangelize through the lives that we live. The secular space is one place for us to do that. The power of living our lives as Christians. Can be extraordinary empowering. But should fear an environment in which religion becomes perceived as an evil, or as nonsense. We fight that by providing service that the state does not provide. Secular vs religious debate: important, but can be a simplistic dichotomy.

Allen: do you have a final point?Hehir: I'm not surprised we struggle. The constitution is set up in such a way as to guarantee that we argue. Draw the lines wisely. Our deeper unity beyond the lines.Kaveny: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Rougeau: let's not lose sight of our global responsibility. Allen's concluding remarks: 1. Let's thank the speakers. (Applause) 2. We need a lively sense of humor.Tomorrow is the 7th anniversary of Pope Benedict's election. I wrote a book, and following the tradition, gave a copy to the Holy Father. One day my cell phone rings, with a message on behalf of the Pope who had been reading my book: "please thank Dr Allen for having written this book, particularly the part about the future, because it saves me the trouble of having to think about it myself. " Let's follow the example of the pope and keep a sense of humor.

There was one more exchange that I remembered on the way back.Kaveny: Smith.Hehir: I don't like Smith.Kaveny: Smith is what we have.The questions from the audience were not live but taken from little slips of paper that had been quietly passed to the moderator during the panel discussion, so we never actually heard the voice of anyone from the audience. That was a novelty for me. I should note that my auto-correct feature played tricks on me a couple of times ("sea" = "dead"), but the reader can easily reconstruct. I don't know if Allen's questions had been given to the panelists in advance or were on the spot. Although Allen said it was supposed to be like a "conversation", overall it seemed fairly formal. All the quotes are not word-for-word quotes but my jotting down what I thought I heard, and I may well have been confused occasionally, so if a panelist said something unbelievable, the fault probably lies with me. Boston College looks pretty nice. When I first entered the campus with my car, I saw a clearly marked sign that said: "Religious liberty, this way". I wish I had taken a picture!

"Allen: what constitutes religious activity? Which religious groups deserve exemptions?Hehir: presumption is on the side of liberty. Start with broad base view of religion."The presumption is on the side of whose liberty? The employers', to never have even an indirect connection to a practice they consider immoral; or the employees', to use the benefits they earn as they see fit? I'm disturbed at the way that so many discussions are framed as though the only liberty and conscience interests that matter are those of the employer. I don't think it's a coincidence that the employer is virtually always more economically powerful than the employee.

Claire,amazing on the spot reporting. By the way, pens are back. Initially, the students saw them as a curiosity, a talisman from the sixties; but now they're coming to understand that they are easier to carry than computers in the backpack and leave more room for water bottles.

Jen: my impression was that Fr Hehir's focus was almost exclusively on the liberty of religious groups; Cathleen Kaveny several times drew the discussion back to the liberty of individuals (but I don't remember Fr Hehir ever following her on that terrain); and Rougeau, whose interventions I several times found refreshing, somehow sidestepped the issue.

Claire-- Thank you for such a presumably excellent summary. It still seems that the perspectives are so different on what is "religious freedom" that have such different starting points and presumptions and that the attempts to acknowledge the myriad strands and of religious beliefs in this country (what are there? 3000 "Christian" groups alone? from 10 to 70 miliion memebers?) would make us lean against exceptionalism in public policies except for aspects of worship and practices/policies/programs that are strictly for co-religionists... and then we have Islam with its own complexities and the various earth-centered faiths...the pluralism continues...

Thanks, Fr Imbelli and David. It was fun to do. I am a bit bummed to have only now learned of the existence of that "21st century" center - I'm moving away from New England in a couple of weeks. David, they said the video would be up around mid-May.Coming from France originally, I don't have any thoughts about religious freedom that would be appropriate for the US. There's a cultural barrier.

Claire, many thanks for your notes and IMO your analysis which I thought spot on as well!

Thanks for the extra info, Claire. And for your reporting on this.

Quick last thought - they should have handed piut pocket protectors to all with pens.

"Cathleen Kaveny chose a purple outfit, which I think is not the best choice since the background right behind her is bright red."Spoken like a true daughter of France :-)

Jen --You've focused on the basic problem: there is a *conflict* of rights in this case, the rights of the bishops and the rights of those who disagree with them. Too often this fact -- that there are two sides to this story -- is being ignored in the discussions.How does one resolve a dilemma? Sheer logic cannot do it. There has to be a weighing of possible compromises which recognizes the value in both sides.

Claire --I'd still like to hear your own thoughts about the American problem of religious freedom I'm sure your perspective is very valuable.

Anne: I fully subscribe to the view, which apparently is particular to the French, that religion has no place in public space. Our religion forms our moral sense, and our moral sense informs our political decisions, but the link is indirect. I see absolutely is no reason to have any direct connection between beliefs and politics. Exemptions can be based on moral reasoning but not on religious arguments. As to what is or is not moral and why, it's up to us citizens to figure it out without bringing up religion. Isn't that what natural law purports to be about anyway?That being said, I can't resist alluding to Catholicism in class sometimes. When teaching codes, I have used "consusbstantial" versus "one in being" as an example of obfuscation of meaning. I have pointed out the difference between "many" and "all" when discussing logical quantifiers. When explaining the rationale behind my assignments, I have mentioned "the common good". I'm always over-eager to make special arrangements for students who want to go home for Easter. I don't give cookies to my TAs during Lent. I have quietly planned group travels in such a way that I, the only practicing Catholic in the group, would be able to go to Mass on Sunday. I used to have posters of Raphael paintings in my office (until I decided they might make some of my non-Christian students uncomfortable and removed them). When my colleagues, who know how to push my buttons, say: "Since God does not exist", instead of ignoring them I am always quick to correct them: "IF God does not exist"... And I can't keep from humming Christmas carols in the hallways around Christmas time. So I can't say that I'm doing a very god job applying that separation in my own life!

Ann: as to dealing with those whose moral view is in the minority, I think of French military service and conscience objectors. Men used to have a mandatory 1-year military service. They were allowed to be conscience objectors and do some public service instead, but in that case their service was 2 years instead of 1. Since society held the view that military service was a good thing, that made a certain amount of sense: those who were committed conscience objectors were able to opt out of the army, but, to avoid having people take advantage of that in an uncontrolled manner, there was a cost to conscience objectors (2 years instead of 1), significant enough to keep their numbers small and to preserve the system. On balance, it seemed to work, more or less.

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