New issue, now live

Our June 13 issue is now live on the website. In addition to our trio of pieces on Catholicism and same-sex marriage, here are some highlights.

Mollie Wilson O’Reilly writes on U.S. nuns and the Holy See, and why the awkward conversation between the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and the CDF may turn out to be just the kind of encounter the church needs. But:

The question is whether the parties can have a respectful, collaborative relationship, given that the paternalism that rankles the sisters and their many supporters is, in Rome, the proper order of things. In the view of the CDF, bishops are always presumed to be acting correctly and in good faith, and the sisters are expected to take their cues entirely from them. Women’s religious communities have a more expansive view of their vocations. Moreover, they know bishops do not always act wisely or in good faith. Recall that in 2011, the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Doctrine issued a critique of Elizabeth Johnson’s book Quest for the Living God. The tone was hostile and hyperbolic—Johnson’s work, the bishops claimed, “completely undermines the Gospel and the faith of those who believe in that Gospel”—and the arguments grossly distorted what she had written.

Also, Derek S. Jeffreys on the scandal of solitary confinement [subscription]:

The damage solitary confinement does to prisoners is no accident. The dehumanizing conditions in which inmates are held—the lack of sensory stimulation and human contact; the petty control over inmates’ daily lives; the disorientation with regard to time; and the threat of indefinite isolation—are, in the minds of prison officials, essential to solitary’s power as a disciplinary tool. Contemporary solitary confinement is a policy designed to do harm to the men and women subjected to it.

This would seem like an obvious case of cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution. But courts have been reluctant to draw that conclusion, and current law makes it difficult for inmates in solitary even to bring cases to court. The 1996 Prison Litigation Reform Act erected a host of barriers to those who mount legal challenges to prison conditions. In cases where inmates and their lawyers have succeeded in doing so, courts have intervened to halt physical brutality against solitary inmates. But they generally refuse to go beyond such judicial actions by declaring solitary confinement itself to be cruel and unusual punishment. 

And, in books: Charles M. A. Clark reviews Samuel Gregg’s Tea Party Catholics, while Patrick Jordan writes on two new biographies of California’s “founding father,” Padre Junipero Serra. See all of our book reviews here, and see the full table of contents for our June 13 issue here

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