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A Shameful Supreme Court Decision

June 26, 2008

The US Supreme Court has declared the District of Columbia’s ban on handguns to be unconstitutional as it violates the so called individual “right to bear arms”. We need to unpack this. The Catholic perspective is to start with Aquinas, who viewed law as “an ordinance of reason for the common good, made by him who has care of the community”. The Enlightenment era gave us another view of the law, predicated on the notion of individual liberty as the foundation of society. In other words, the person has to right to do as they wish in search of personal fulfilment, as long as it does not impinge upon the rights of another. Law is then all about the enforcement of social contracts.

It would be erroneous not to credit the Enlightenment with its achievements. Too often, rulers abused the notion of “common good” (if they even bothered to seek a rationale) to trample upon human rights and human dignity. In re-discovering and liberating this essential Catholic teaching, we must be grateful to “Enlightenment values”. But we cannot go too far, for the underlying anthropology is false. It is used to support laissez-faire liberalism, based on the notion that market exchange is a “free” exchange that reflects natural differences in the various actors. This approach as been condemned vociferously by the Church from Pope Leo XIII onwards, for the Church looks at these issues through the lens of the common good, the way Aquinas viewed the law. The ethic of private liberty has led directly to gay marriage, where the goal is simply the satisfaction of personal desires as opposed to the common good which would emphasize the bearing and rearing of children. And of course abortion is justified in this manner: the “right to privacy” is paramount, and the unborn simply cannot be active participants in a social contract.

This is a rather lengthy introduction, but, I believe, an essential one. For the right to bear arms that the Supreme Court upheld today comes directly from this notion of personal liberty trumping the common good. For the authorities charged with the common good in DC, an area suffering from extremely high gun-related violence, felt that a ban on handguns was appropriate. Of course, this ban can have limited effect absent border controls at the Potomac river. But is this a valid argument for inaction? To use that logic, the ability to travel means that no laws restricting abortion should be enacted either.

At this stage, it is useful to see what the Church teaches on this matter. Here are some statements from the USCCB:

“Since such a significant number of violent offenses are committed with handguns and within families, we believe that handguns need to be effectively controlled and eventually eliminated from our society. We acknowledge that controlling the possession of handguns will not eliminate gun violence, but we believe it is an indispensable element of any serious or rational approach to the problem….

We believe that only prohibition of the importation, manufacture, sale, possession and use of handguns (with reasonable exceptions made for the police military, security guards and pistol clubs where guns would be kept on the premises under secure conditions) will provide a comprehensive response to handgun violence.”

That is quite clear. We need a national ban on handguns. I would like the many Catholics who are cheering this ruling to explain why they so gleefully go against the bishops on this one. For this ruling really pits the two alternative approaches to law against each other. Do we go with personal liberty, which includes the right to own handguns for self-defense? Or do we go with the common good, in an atmosphere of out-of-control gun death? I stand with the Church on this one, and deem the Supreme Court decision quite shameful, rooted as it is in the kind of reasoning that gave us Roe v. Wade and gay marriage.

Scalia’s history lesson is also misplaced. First, he appeals very much to the Enlightenment-era philosophy that was prevalent when the constitution was written. Just because the “founders” believed it does not believe it is right. And anyway, as I noted, you can draw a direct line from this position to Roe v. Wade. Second, he forgets that public policy geared to the common good differs by age. A simple example: it would not be possible to achieve universal health care during this middle ages, so there is no duty to try. You know where I am going with this. Scalia’s attempts to freeze-frame jurisprudence in the late-18th century is quite at odds with the notion of law promoting the common good. Then again, his is a sola-scriptura approach to textual analysis.

FInally, the empirical question. Let me point out for a start that the rest of the developed world views the United States as extreme and insane in its approach to guns. When gun homicide and suicide rates are off the charts, the American defenders to the pseudo-right shrug their shoulders and claim that banning guns would not solve anything. It’s just that, well, the United States is just more violent than elsewhere. Nonsense on stilts.

According to the extensive research of David Hemenway from Harvard’s School of Public Health, the US is actually not that exceptionally violent, at least among other high-income, industrialized nations. Crimes like assault, car theft, burglary, robbery, and sexual incidents are not particularly high by OECD standards. What differs about the US is “lethal violence”. So while guns don’t induce people to commit crimes, they make crimes lethal.  The international evidence is beyond dispute: the availability of guns leads to greater rates of homicide and suicide, and no offset in terms of lower non-gun murders. We are talking here about a primary component of the culture of death.

I’ve even tried to do a simple empirical study on this blog, looking at cross-country gun ownership and homicide rates. I found that gun ownership rate are positively and significantly related to homicide and suicide rates across 19 advanced economies, and that a bevy of other factors — GDP per capita, demographics, ethnic divisions, urbanization and inequality– did not seem to matter on their own. It’s the guns, stupid! What causes gun deaths is the availability of guns. Score one for Occam’s razor. I did a little further analysis, to see if the availability of guns enhanced the underlying factors that might cause violence. It does. Introducing a non-linear element in the regression suggests that gun ownership is especially detrimental when ethnic divisions and inequality are elevated. Does that sound like any country you know?

The other argument often touted in that many gun-owning communities are inherently peaceful, and that the problems are localized to a few inner-city areas. Even if that were true, what happened to the notion of solidarity? What happened to the common good? Ah, I forgot, individual liberty matters more. Silly me.

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224 Comments
  1. June 26, 2008 2:27 pm

    We go with the original meaning of the Second Amendment, MM.

    It’s called the rule of law. You might want to look into it some time. It’s worked pretty well for us the last 200 or so years.

  2. June 26, 2008 2:33 pm

    BTW, did you even read the opinion?

    I doubt it.

    If you had, you would see that the Second Amendment does advance the common good (i.e., protection against tyranny and means of self-defense and defense of family/home), and is entirely consistent with the Catholic teaching you outline in your post.

    Just because you or the bishops declare something to be for the common good doesn’t make it so.

  3. Mark DeFrancisis permalink*
    June 26, 2008 2:35 pm

    “Original meaning?” And how do you get to that so precisely and certainly..?

    Seems like a convenient cover often used for one’s ideological preferences…

  4. June 26, 2008 2:40 pm

    Great post. MM could have added that the opinion is a fairly stark example of judicial activism–a new and dramatic intervention into a contested policy area by unelected judges who set aside the long-standing and traditional judicial approach to the second amendment to do so. Now rather than elected legislatures answerable to voters, Justice Kennedy, as the 5th vote, will make gun control policy in the United States, much as he already does with abortion policy.

  5. June 26, 2008 2:42 pm

    Mark-

    This is obviously a subject that you’re unfamiliar with. Do a simple google search if you want to learn the basics of constitutional law/interpretation.

    Here’s a preview: The Constittuion doesn’t mean what the bishops or MM would like for it to mean. The Constitution must be interpreted as it was originally understood by those who wrote and ratified same. If you and others wish to ban individual gun ownership. Fine. Make your case to the American people. But I don’t think you’ll find a very receptive audience.

  6. June 26, 2008 2:43 pm

    Feddie,

    So Scalia’s interpretation of the common good determined by authors of the SEcond Ammendment is more authoritative than the USCCB?

  7. June 26, 2008 2:49 pm

    JB-

    The Supreme Court is charged with interpreting the United States Constitution, not the bishops. My point is that the founders believed that the Second Amendment advanced the common good by recognizing the natural law right of the people to defend themselves against a tyrannical state and against those who would seek to harm them or their family members. This isn’t Scalia’s opinion. He is merely noting the original purpose and scope of the Second Amendment.

    MM, on the other hand, would have the Court ignore the original meaning of the Second Amendment, and replace it with the public policy desires of our bishops’ conference. That is beyond radical IMHO.

  8. June 26, 2008 2:53 pm

    Whenever I read MM’s constitutional “musings,” it reminds me that it is really the left and not the right that seeks to establish a theocracy in the United States. The Constitution should just be thrown out, according to his theory, and replaced by the rule of the USCCB. So not only is he pushing theocracy – he’s pushing bad theocracy.

  9. June 26, 2008 2:55 pm

    Cranky Con-

    I could not agree more. This post is breathtaking. And not in a good way.

  10. June 26, 2008 2:57 pm

    Wow Shameful?

    OH and this has nothing to do with ROE V Wade for Gay Marraige for goodness sake. It fges to the text of the 2nd Amendment

    I think mosts Bishops in the United States would say one could be a Good Catholic and agree with the Majority Opinion

  11. blackadderiv permalink
    June 26, 2008 2:57 pm

    I would concur with Feddie on the strictly constitutional aspect of the case (I wrote a post earlier this week along similar lines). On the merits of the D.C. ban itself, my question would be this: Doesn’t the fact that D.C. is “suffering from extremely high gun-related violence” despite having a total ban on firearms kind of suggest that maybe, just possibly, the D.C. gun ban isn’t very effective? Matt Yglesias is no rabid right winger, yet even he concedes that the only practical effect of the gun ban has been to keep guns out of the hands of law abiding folks, while having little to no effect on criminals.

    No doubt the response to this will be to say that we need a national gun ban. Well, okay. But the point is that we didn’t have a national gun ban prior to Heller, nor was such a ban even on the horizon. And if a ban on guns only makes since if done nationally (since otherwise only the law abiding will abide by it, leaving them more at the mercy of criminals), then, logically speaking, wouldn’t you have to conclude that in the absence of a national ban having a local ban doesn’t make much sense?

  12. Mark DeFrancisis permalink*
    June 26, 2008 2:57 pm

    Feddie,

    First: There is no such thing as an interpretation free, orginal meaning, that could be gotten to as pristinely as your method purports.

    Second: how do you KNOW–as your method purports- how the founders meant their words as potentially applying to our current situation? Again, originalist rhetoric is just that…rhetoric

  13. June 26, 2008 2:59 pm

    By the way MM

    Does the fact that this Opinion is actually sort of narrow and does not touch common sense regulations as Scalia points out have any bearing?

  14. June 26, 2008 3:00 pm

    Great post. Thanks.

  15. June 26, 2008 3:02 pm

    Mark-

    Have you actually read the opinion?

  16. June 26, 2008 3:02 pm

    Feddie,

    So Scalia’s interpretation of the common good determined by authors of the SEcond Ammendment is more authoritative than the USCCB?

    I have the same exact question. The burden of proof lies on Catholics who are commenting here and support this decision.

  17. June 26, 2008 3:05 pm

    The Supreme Court is charged with interpreting the United States Constitution, not the bishops.

    Our job as Catholics, whether we are bishops or laypeople, is to judge the actions of the state.

    This isn’t Scalia’s opinion. He is merely noting the original purpose and scope of the Second Amendment.

    If a Catholic supreme court justice’s job is merely to uphold a sinful tradition, then it’s not a job for Catholics.

  18. TeutonicTim permalink
    June 26, 2008 3:06 pm

    And this all from the poster who most often says that the ability of the President to affect constitutional law is astounding, ironic, and kid of disappointing all at the same time.

    MM – remember this day when you question the President’s ability to influence the Judiciary, and the consequences it can have on reversing “long standing” “bad law” – Abortion being what I have in mind.

    With that said – COMPLETELY AGREE with with the reversal of bad law pushed by incorrect flawed interpretations of this amendment in the 20th century. I was literally jumping up and down when the decision came out.

    I only hope that all the people that plan on voting for Obama keep this in mind and that the bad law in Roe is reversed some day as well.

  19. TeutonicTim permalink
    June 26, 2008 3:07 pm

    If a Catholic supreme court justice’s job is merely to uphold a sinful tradition

    Now you’ve crossed a line. WHAT IS SINFUL ABOUT OWNING A FIREARM?

    Provide proof.

  20. June 26, 2008 3:07 pm

    To put it as politely as possible, this post is blustering ignorance. It takes a remarkably collectivist world view to argue that the Bill of Rights does not protect the common good. Moreover, the Second Amendment is not grounded in some Enlightenment paradigm run amuck. Sheesh. Read the opinion before fulminating further, thank you.

  21. TeutonicTim permalink
    June 26, 2008 3:11 pm

    So Scalia’s interpretation of the common good determined by authors of the SEcond Ammendment is more authoritative than the USCCB?

    When the USCCB is intentionally duped and provided bad information, yes it is. Their documents sound like a media page from the Brady Bunch, and it’s not an accident.

  22. June 26, 2008 3:11 pm

    Mark

    Just like a Protestant trying to read a desired, a priori position, into the Bible, and then when they can find a lens which allows them to do it, they declare “that’s the original belief of the early Church,” so you find so-called originalists mistaking their a priori positions as the “original interpretation of the Constitution.” Amazingly bad hermeneutical assumptions.

    Since the original Constitution allowed for slavery, and allowed the slaves to be treated as property to be used at the whim of the owner, and not as people in their own right, I am not convinced that an original interpretation of the Constitution, even if it could be found, is morally justified. After all, such slavers were free to destroy their property — including kill pregnant women — meaning, of course, that forced abortion must be allowable in the “original form” of the Constitution.

    Certainly people will point out, “Slavery was excluded from America by a later Ammendment.” Obviously that is true. But that also makes the original intent of the Constitution null and void. It’s already evolved. The problem is they don’t have the philosophical skill to see the kind of effects such an evolution should have on the whole.

    What we have is sophistry. It’s why they use different arguments if the question is about abortion then if the question is about the death penalty, torture, or guns. They are so blinded by their ideology they can’t even see the internal contradictions.

  23. June 26, 2008 3:12 pm

    Katerina-

    I don’t judge the merits of a Supreme Court decision based on whether it falls within the ambit of the USCCB’s public-policy agenda. I draw my conclusions about the merits of a SCOTUS decision based on whether it comports with the original/plain meaning of the constitutional text in question.

    Supreme Court cases are not, or should not be, public-policy debates. That is not the function or purpose of the Supreme Court or the federal judiciary. The fact that the original meaning of the Constitution dictates a result that is not to our bishops’ liking is irrelevant to me. If the bishops want to change the law, then they can do their best to make that happen. But don’t pretend, as MM does, that a SCOTUS decision is improper merely because it purportedly goes against Catholic teaching.

  24. June 26, 2008 3:14 pm

    Feddie

    ” don’t judge the merits of a Supreme Court decision based on whether it falls within the ambit of the USCCB’s public-policy agenda” until the next abortion ruling, that is.

  25. June 26, 2008 3:15 pm

    But don’t pretend, as MM does, that a SCOTUS decision is improper merely because it purportedly goes against Catholic teaching.

    Same thing Michael I. said above:

    Our job as Catholics, whether we are bishops or laypeople, is to judge the actions of the state.

  26. June 26, 2008 3:16 pm

    As to the Common good, many African Americans found the right to have an firearm pretty handy when the KLAN and other terror groups were running amuck down here.

    We should recall that the State sometimes in our history has turned a blind eye to the common good of some of it citizens when they were terrorized

    Our Current Sec of State Mrs Rice said:

    Rice says gun rights are as important as right to free speech and religion

    http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/nation/20050511-1803-rice-guns.html

    Scalia’s Opinion actually focuses on some of this

  27. June 26, 2008 3:17 pm

    Henry-

    There is not right to abortion in the Constitution. And I have never used the USCCB policy statements on abortion as an argument against Roe and its progeny, so I don’t know what you’re talking about.

  28. June 26, 2008 3:17 pm

    ” don’t judge the merits of a Supreme Court decision based on whether it falls within the ambit of the USCCB’s public-policy agenda” until the next abortion ruling, that is.

    Henry, I thought the same thing. Inconsistency is quite apparent in how some Catholics interpret different Court’s decisions.

  29. Mark DeFrancisis permalink*
    June 26, 2008 3:18 pm

    It’s fun to see lawyers operating with such philosophical naivete whenever they are dogmatic originalists.

    How law school must equip some to avoid questions of what they do/do not understand about hermeneutics generally.

  30. June 26, 2008 3:22 pm

    Kat-

    I think that’s fine. But the law is the law is the law. If you as a Catholic believe that the common good will be advanced by seeking a constitutional amendment that will amount to a national ban on individual ownership of firearms, then by all means act accordingly. But don’t pretend that there isn’t a right until then. Without the rule of law, all of the rights we cherish are in jeopardy.

    Fwiw, I think the notion that the common good would be advacned by imposing a national ban on gn ownership is beyond ridiculous. And last time I checked, the Catholic Church doesn’t prohibit its members from owning guns or using those guns in self-defense or just causes.

  31. M.Z. Forrest permalink
    June 26, 2008 3:22 pm

    Given it is 150 pages, I hope few people have read it all. I can just imagine the drop in productivity across the nation.

    From my reading, which is non-technical, I found it interesting that the debate wasn’t really over a constitutional right per se but a common law right protected by the constitution. In the coming days, I would expect more reflection on the fact that most every regulation in place is unaffected and for the most part affirmed by this decision.

  32. June 26, 2008 3:22 pm

    Mark-

    I take it that you haven’t read the opinion.

  33. Mike Petrik permalink
    June 26, 2008 3:23 pm

    I admit that I have not followed the USCCB’s statements on this. Am I to understand that it has suggested that gun ownership is sinful?

  34. June 26, 2008 3:24 pm

    Re: the USCCB statement. Yes, it deserves consideration. It also deserves some questions.

    Were any of the bishops who wrote it gun owners? (The current bishop of Saginaw is engages in the sinful practice, BTW).

    Did they talk to any gun owners, especially members of their own flock? Did they consult with any firearm experts? Did they have any understanding of such concepts as muzzle velocity, caliber, etc. as applied to all personal firearms, including handguns, rifles and shotguns? Did they speak to any Catholics who hunted with handguns? Defended themselves or others with them? If the USCCB could engage in a listening process over “Always Our Children” (which was quite proper), then it could do the same over these kinds of issues.

  35. June 26, 2008 3:26 pm

    Feddie

    Since the original Constitution allowed FORCED abortions, one can’t say abortion is against the Constitution.

    You do argue against politicians because they don’t hold to a Catholic view on abortion. Often, especially if they are a Catholic, they will say they are personally opposed to it, but have no authority to go against what the SC has declared to be the law of the land, and they have been sworn, as citizens, to uphold what the United States declares to be the interpretation of the Constitution even if it goes against their personal religious beliefs. Yet, if they make such a position, the response many gives to them is that “they are for abortion” before they are treated with all kinds of ad hominems. They could be wrong in their interpretation, but they are following what they believe is the secular, positive law. Like many in here, they are not for a “theocracy.” Which is precisely how you argue the SC Justices must act. You really don’t see the contradiction yet?

  36. June 26, 2008 3:26 pm

    I think the problem here is that many of you under the impression that constitutional law is nothing more than a sophisticated public-policy debate. That may be the view of a current majrity of the Supreme Court justices, and the vast majority of law professors, but it isn’t correct.

    Just because you want X to be the law, or think X will advance the common good, does not make X the law.

  37. Phillip permalink
    June 26, 2008 3:27 pm

    MM,

    It looks like Obama disagrees with you.

    http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalradar/2008/06/obama-camp-disa.html

  38. June 26, 2008 3:27 pm

    Mike

    No the USCCB is not saying Gun Ownershop is sinful

  39. June 26, 2008 3:28 pm

    Kat-

    I think that’s fine. But the law is the law is the law. If you as a Catholic believe that the common good will be advanced by seeking a constitutional amendment that will amount to a national ban on individual ownership of firearms, then by all means act accordingly. But don’t pretend that there isn’t a right until then. Without the rule of law, all of the rights we cherish are in jeopardy.

    The second amendment does not say explicitly that “individuals” have a right to bear arms. This Court has interpreted it that way and tha tis why you say “the law is the law”. The constitution does not say explicitly that women have the right to “choose”, but the Court has interpreted it that way and I don’t see you saying “the law is the law” in that regard.

    You would think that after what happened in Columbine, Virginia Tech, numerous incidents in churches, schools, malls, post offices, etc. people would’ve been more conscious about the grave problem that this country has. The common good has, without a doubt, been subordinated to the “individual” right to bear arms that is not even explicit in the Constitution as such.

  40. June 26, 2008 3:29 pm

    Left-wing theocracy is a perfectly apt point. The job of Supreme Court Justices in the American system of government is to enforce the Constitution that created their authority and position in the first place, not to enforce the position papers of any particular religious organization.

    I stand with the Church on this one, and deem the Supreme Court decision quite shameful, rooted as it is in the kind of reasoning that gave us Roe v. Wade and gay marriage.

    Nonsense. Sheer projection. Nothing could be more opposite to the truth. YOU are the one pushing for a judicial role that inevitably ended up with Catholic Justices like William Brennan voting for Roe v. Wade.

    To put it in very elementary terms:

    1) Enforcing the Second Amendment is good for the exact same reason that Roe is wrong: In today’s case, the Justices were enforcing what the Constitution says rather than letting left-wing ideals take precedence over the Constitution’s text and history. Likewise, Roe is wrong precisely because there (unlike today’s case), the Supreme Court ignored the Constitution’s text and history and instead enforced left-wing ideals.

    2) By the same token, the very jurisprudential approach you recommend — ignore the Constitution and allow the Supreme Court to issue commands based on their view of the “common good — is precisely what led to Roe. After all, you are familiar with the routine view (as expressed by Gerald Campbell on this very blog quite regularly) that protecting abortion is in the common good, given all of the harms that would supposedly flow from criminalization. Thus, by your own jurisprudential theory (such as it is), Supreme Court Justices would be empowered to ignore the Constitution, and set aside state abortion restrictions based on their personal opinion that doing so is in the “common good.”

  41. June 26, 2008 3:30 pm

    I think the problem here is that many of you under the impression that constitutional law is nothing more than a sophisticated public-policy debate.

    Just because you want X to be the law, or think X will advance the common good, does not make X the law.

    Apparently, that is what the Bush administration also thinks in regard to its disagreement with the detainees decision. Obama and McCain would also seem to be on that train, so if “my” president thinks that way as well as the two main presidential candidates, I will also join them in my disagreement with different court decisions.

  42. Mike Petrik permalink
    June 26, 2008 3:31 pm

    Ah, I see. The bishops’ statement is nothing more than their prudential view. Nothing to do with sin in any direct sense.
    Also, Michael your notion of civil jurisprudence would render our constitution void and unnecessary. We apparently should just have judges decide cases by reference to their understandings of natural law. The problem is that that is not our system of justice. While a society has a moral duty to conform its laws with and to natural justice, that obligation rests with those who make the laws — i.e., the legislators elected by the people. Judges are not arrogated this right. In any case there is nothing in natural law — and I mean nothing — that would even suggest that owning a hand gun is a violation. To suggest otherwise is rank sophistry.
    The Court got this one right, even if it got the death penalty case wrong.

  43. blackadderiv permalink
    June 26, 2008 3:31 pm

    There is no such thing as an interpretation free, orginal meaning

    Perhaps not, but there is such a thing as honest interpretation and dishonest interpretation, reasonable and unreasonable, faithful to the text, unfaithful to the text, etc. Recognizing the necessity of interpretation doesn’t mean anything goes.

  44. June 26, 2008 3:31 pm

    It is funny that one of the biggest arguments against outlawing abortion by many pro-choice advocates is “we don’t want a theocracy.”

  45. June 26, 2008 3:33 pm

    . The job of Supreme Court Justices in the American system of government is to enforce the Constitution that created their authority and position in the first place, not to enforce the position papers of any particular religious organization.

    So why are we even “hoping” that Roe v. Wade will ever be overturned? Abortion has definitely divided us between the religious and secular camps.

  46. June 26, 2008 3:35 pm

    Ah Forgot Katerina

    COngrats on your big day

  47. June 26, 2008 3:36 pm

    Henry-

    The Constitution does not address the issue of abortion. There are some novel arguments one can make under the 14th Amendment that abortion is prohibited by the Constitution without “due process,” but I’ll save those for another day. I would note, however, that the Constitution’s meaning can and does change vis-a-vis amendments. You know this already though.

    As to your second point. A politician is not requirted to acknowledge that Roe was correctly decided, and she can do every thing in her power to see that it is eventually overruled. Not all interpretations are equal, henry. You of all people should know this.

    Also, a judge’s role is different than that of a legislator. It is not up to a judge to say what the law should be, only what it is.

  48. June 26, 2008 3:38 pm

    Kat-

    I really think you need to read the opinion in Heller. This was not a close call, notwithstanding the four dissenters.

    There is simply no comparison between Heller and Roe.

  49. Heston's Ghost permalink
    June 26, 2008 3:44 pm

    Great news. They’re taking care of the high priority stuff now so they can go about striking down Roe in the near future.

    (sarcasm off)

  50. June 26, 2008 3:45 pm

    Since the original Constitution allowed FORCED abortions, one can’t say abortion is against the Constitution.

    1) Nothing in the Constitution allows “forced” abortions. The Constitution doesn’t expressly ban forced abortions, of course, but the slightest familiarity with the Founding generation would reveal that they all thought they were creating a federal government with limited and enumerated powers. Because the federal government wasn’t empowered to force anyone to have an abortion, no such power exists. QED.
    2) No one is saying that abortion as a practice is itself “against” the Constitution. The point is that the Constitution doesn’t protect abortion, such that no state is allowed to pass certain restrictions or bans.


    You do argue against politicians because they don’t hold to a Catholic view on abortion. Often, especially if they are a Catholic, they will say they are personally opposed to it, but have no authority to go against what the SC has declared to be the law of the land, and they have been sworn, as citizens, to uphold what the United States declares to be the interpretation of the Constitution even if it goes against their personal religious beliefs.

    Silly. There is absolutely nothing in the Constitution or anywhere else that forces legislators to treat Supreme Court pronouncements as written in stone, such that they can never try to nominate different Supreme Court Justices who would take a more correct interpretation.

    They could be wrong in their interpretation, but they are following what they believe is the secular, positive law. Like many in here, they are not for a “theocracy.” Which is precisely how you argue the SC Justices must act. You really don’t see the contradiction yet?

    No, because there is no contradiction. If you could recall your middle school civics lessons, there are three branches of government in the United States: executive, legislative, and judicial. The legislative branch is generally charged with writing the law and considering judicial nominations, while the judicial branch is generally charged with enforcing a pre-existing law or Constitutional text. Because of this difference in roles, legislators and judges have different obligations. Legislators can properly be expected to legislate, which means to write a new law that had not previously existed. They can also rightfully be expected to change the course of the law by their treatment of judicial nominations. It is not appropriate, however, to expect judges or Supreme Court Justices to change the law or the Constitution — that is not what they were empowered to do in the first place.

  51. June 26, 2008 3:47 pm

    An analogy might help the many people who are struggling with this concept. Suppose you go to get a driver’s license, and you pass the test created by the legislature. But then suppose the guy behind the counter says, “Due to my view of the common good, I’m going to refuse to grant you a driver’s license. I think there are too many people driving in our society, polluting the air and killing each other in accidents. Therefore I refuse to allow you to have a license. Go away and be thankful that I am serving the common good here.”

    What would your reaction be? Would you say, “Gee, well, I never thought of it that way. All in the common good!” Or would you say, “Hey, whatever you think of the common good, no one ever gave you the right or the role of deciding to deny people driver’s licenses. If society comes to agree with your view of the common good, then we’ll all vote accordingly. Until that time, you have a specific job that you have been empowered to do, and that job does not include changing the law according to your idiosyncratic views. Legislators can do that, but not you.”

    The analogy isn’t perfect, of course, but it should help illuminate the concept that some government officials are supposed to enforce existing law, not change it according to their view of the “common good.”

  52. June 26, 2008 3:49 pm

    Thanks JH! You were right, the ceremony was indeed very nice.

  53. June 26, 2008 3:50 pm

    Kat-

    Once again, congrats!

  54. June 26, 2008 3:51 pm

    I don’t think people and this will be for the great masses on the right and the left that will just scream talking points again realize how narrow this Opinion is.

    In fact after those that read the Opinion , on both sides of the political spectrum on this issue , they will realize that a lot there is a lot still to be decided. That is why even if one was to agree with a more Gun Control Position this Opinion is far from Shameful.

    Scalia and the Majority for whater reason did not press this anywhere the fullest extent. I can not read their minds but it appears they are open for the process to work. TO listen and indeed have the jurisprudence worked out as to ton of issues

    What is the Standard of Review? IS it rational(it appears not) intermediate, or Strict as to Guns Laws. One could read Scalia to almost go into a Fundamental Right but he did not go there

    It is a signifcant vicotry for those of us that have viewed (and I think the Scholarship was growing on this) of an Individual right that is found in the text.

    However not all rights are absolute and that will be the phase we go into next. The Body Politic is also involved in that.

  55. June 26, 2008 3:57 pm

    I go away for an hour and 52 comments…

    I provoked a reaction, and that was intended. I am quite sick and tired of this sophistry that passes for constitutional purity. As I noted in the post, there are two ways to to view law, and these two ways shine through quite overtly in the current case. First, the absolute personal liberty. Second, the common good. The justices in this case are choosing a judicial activism just as clearly as those who drafted Roe, as they project their own constitutional views on a contemporary matter of public policy– and yes, it is the “personal liberty” argument in both cases. Face facts: the philosophy that led to Roe is the philosophy that reared its ugly head today.

    Here’s why it is pellucid: it was perfectly legimate for a justice to declare the right to be a collective, not an individual right. But they did not do that. And the reason they did not do that was no more and no less than their own preconceptions. And please, don’t give me the nonsense on stilts about what was in the minds of the people who drafted the document at the end of the 18th century– that is not only a ludicrous exercise in deification of a positive legal document, but is also utterly bankrupt given the changing norms and circumstances that must be addressed by law, morality, and Catholic social teaching.

  56. June 26, 2008 3:59 pm

    And Fedddie: please explain why you are so gleefully rejoicing in a decision that flies in the face of what the US bishops have said. And don’t start with the legal purity argument: your level of enthusiasm for handgun ownership suggests a personal afinity for something the Church opposes and is arguably a core aspect of the culture of death in the US. For shame.

  57. June 26, 2008 3:59 pm

    MM-

    So I take is that you did not read the opinion, right?

  58. Adam Greenwood permalink
    June 26, 2008 4:00 pm

    What we have is sophistry

    Agreed. For example, its sophistry to claim that because interpretation of language isn’t an automatic process, the United States Supreme Court should ignore the Constitution and do whatever Catholic liberals think is a good idea.

  59. June 26, 2008 4:02 pm

    Feddie: scanned, not read in detail. But am I missing something? Did they or did they not say that there is a personal right to ownership of handguns that invalidates the DC ban?

  60. June 26, 2008 4:03 pm

    MM —

    If you think the Supreme Court relied on “absolutely personal liberty,” that merely shows that you haven’t read the opinion. It did no such thing. To the contrary, the Supreme Court went out of its way to say that its ruling didn’t affect a wide range of other gun laws; all it is doing here is striking down a complete ban.

  61. June 26, 2008 4:03 pm

    MM-

    I favor the Second Amendment on both constitutional and policy grounds. I do so because I believe that individual gun ownership is a check on tyranny and allows me to defend myself and my family. If the AMERICAN bishops don’t believe that gun ownership advances the common good, then that’s there problem.

    Thankfully, they don’t speak for the Church on this issue.

    Oh, and please do provide authority for your contention that “the Church” is in favor of a national gun ban in the United States, or that it is sinful for Catholics to own firearms.

  62. June 26, 2008 4:04 pm

    correction: “that’s their problem”

  63. c matt permalink
    June 26, 2008 4:04 pm

    Katerina, no offense, but to say the opinion is wrong because the amendment does not say “individual” is extremey weak. The amendment reads:

    A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

    Please note: the right of the people – not the state, the city or other governmental unit.

    Under your analysis, individuals would also lack First Amendment rights because the first amendment does not say individuals have the right of free speech or religion – it only says the right of the people to peaceably assemble and petition the government.

    If “people” does not equal individuals in the Second Amendment, “people” does not equal individuals in the First Amendment either, which is absurd.

  64. June 26, 2008 4:07 pm

    MM-

    Yes, you missed the part where Scalia shoved Stevens’s “collective right” nonsense down his throat. Breyer did not fare much better

  65. June 26, 2008 4:09 pm

    I’ve never even understood what a “collective” right is supposed to mean in the first place. It’s obviously a bogus theory cooked up to deny that the Second Amendment means what it says. But people who refer to a “collective” right should, if they were thinking clearly, admit that the Supreme Court was correct to strike down the DC gun law. After all, the collective body of people in DC weren’t able to own firearms, and they collectively have a right not to be subject to such a law. Right? What else do you purport to think that a “collective right” would mean? A right enforceable by no one and against nothing? That’s not much of a “right.”

  66. June 26, 2008 4:10 pm

    Katerina, no offense, but to say the opinion is wrong because the amendment does not say “individual” is extremey weak.

    I didn’t say that was my main reason for disagreeing with the decision. If for over 70 years, the Supreme Court has never come out and said that the second amendment applied to individuals, then it wasn’t as clear cut as you put it here, which is also a weak argument:

    If “people” does not equal individuals in the Second Amendment, “people” does not equal individuals in the First Amendment either, which is absurd.

  67. June 26, 2008 4:12 pm

    Kat-

    You need to read the opinion.

  68. Mike Petrik permalink
    June 26, 2008 4:12 pm

    MM,
    So why have a constitution at all? Wouldn’t it be more honest just to do away with the fiction and identify 9 really smart people to promulgate laws and interpret them based on their best understanding(s) of natural law? To ensure maximum efficiency we should not bother electing these folks, but instead appoint them for life; and now that I think about it, why bother with 9 when 1 would do! See, I always viewed it to be the responsibility of the people to elect legislators who, responsible to their electors, were assigned the task of enacting laws consonant with natural law. Judges — the so-called least important branch — were arrogated the limited task of interpreting the meaning of the laws made by the legislators. But silly me! Screw all that democracy crap. Self government is for heretics!
    And how surprising to learn that owning a gun is a violation of natural law, such that our silly ol’ written constitution must just give way. But wait, it’s not, but it still must give way. Because, well, studies show that it would be a good idea. Well, there you go. Who knew constitutional law was so easy?

  69. c matt permalink
    June 26, 2008 4:13 pm

    Whatever it is, it is not judicial avtivism – it is judicial textualism. MM, it seems your problem is not with the justices, but with the Constitution (Second Amendment in particular). Which is fine. Heck, maybe the Bishops are right as to the social good – but then their problem, like yours, is with the Constitution itself, not the opinion. Lead the fight to repeal the second amendment (good luck with that).

    But to say this is activism the same way Roe was activism demonstrates a deep lack of understanding of our Consitutional order.

  70. June 26, 2008 4:15 pm

    If the US bishops don’t speak for the Church on this matter, then who does? You? And this is the US bishops. Can you imagine what the global Church thinks of this so-called right?

    And please do not distort what I wrote: I did not say it is sinful to own firearms. I said that the common good in the United States is best served by a total ban on handguns and more rigorous retrictions on gun ownership in general. This reflects the obscene levels of gun-related homicide and suicide rates and a culture that has a tendency to glorify violence. Maybe you should think of these matters instead of a fantasy-land conspiratorial scenario of some tyrant coming after you and your family. That may or may not have been a valid circumstance in the 1800s; it most certinainly is not today. And that fact exposes the limitations of the way you think on this matter.

  71. June 26, 2008 4:15 pm

    Kat-

    You need to read the opinion.

    When I quit grad school and my job, perhaps :-P I will eventually though.

  72. June 26, 2008 4:16 pm

    I think MM (and perhaps Henry) would be happier in a monarchy — as long as the king was a Catholic in agreement with their own political feelings — rather than living in a constitutional democracy, the principles of which they obviously disagree with.

  73. June 26, 2008 4:17 pm

    “Here’s why it is pellucid: it was perfectly legimate for a justice to declare the right to be a collective, not an individual right.”

    Only if “the people” means one thing in the First, Fourth and Ninth and Tenth Amendments, but magically transforms into the opposite for the Second–and only the Second–Amendment.

  74. June 26, 2008 4:18 pm

    Mike: I actually prefer custom-based law to a written constitution– but that’s my personal preference and an argument for another day! Suffice it to say that having a written constitution does not abrogate a judge’s moral responsibilities, nor should he read the document in a “sola scriptural fashion”.

  75. June 26, 2008 4:18 pm

    This reflects the obscene levels of gun-related homicide and suicide rates and a culture that has a tendency to glorify violence. Maybe you should think of these matters instead of a fantasy-land conspiratorial scenario of some tyrant coming after you and your family. That may or may not have been a valid circumstance in the 1800s

    Good point. I mean, let’s talk about Columbine, Virginia Tech, tragedies that happen in this country every year for which most of the cases the conclusion is the same: guns are given to people who shouldn’t be owning them.

  76. blackadderiv permalink
    June 26, 2008 4:20 pm

    There is, I think, a fair degree of chutzpah in trying to tie the Heller decision to Roe v. Wade when every single anti-Roe was in the Heller majority, and every single dissenter in Heller is pro-Roe. If it really were the case that there are two ways to view the law, and these two ways represent the difference between the Heller majority and dissent, then one would expect the anti-Roe justices to vote to uphold the ban, and visa versa. The truth is that the approach Morning’s Minion is advocating (court decisions should be decided according to Catholic teaching) had not five votes against it in Heller but nine. And, to paraphrase Chief Justice Roberts, the reason there were nine justices against that view is that there are only nine justices on the court.

  77. June 26, 2008 4:26 pm

    The analogy to Roe v. Wade is based on the inconsistent hermeneutical approach to different Court’s decisions by some Catholics.

  78. June 26, 2008 4:27 pm

    If the AMERICAN bishops don’t believe that gun ownership advances the common good, then that’s there problem.

    Thankfully, they don’t speak for the Church on this issue.

    Oh, and please do provide authority for your contention that “the Church” is in favor of a national gun ban in the United States, or that it is sinful for Catholics to own firearms.

    The U.S. bishops DO speak for the Church. In Roman Catholic ecclesiology, local churches are not simply parts of the Church universal, but the Church in its fullness. Your dismissal of the authority of your bishops reveals your true allegiance.

  79. c matt permalink
    June 26, 2008 4:30 pm

    Well, the Supreme Court (much like our Magesterium) has not pronounced on any number of things that may come up over long periods of time.

    The way the Constitution uses the terms State and People is very specific. The basic concept is that the Con is the social contract between the government (State) and its citizens (the People). The Con then gives only explicit certain powers to the State, and gaurantees certain rights to the people. If “the people” could only exercise those rights collectively, it is no different from calling them the State, because, in essence, the State is the People collectively (note how some states even prosecute criminals as the “collective people” – that is, they bring the case as “The People vs. John Doe”). Thus, this “collective people” reading would essentially rewrite the Constitution to read “the State” everywhere you see “the people”, rendering it completely superfluous to even have a social contract between the state and people (as it would merely be a contract between the state and itself). It would not only render meaningless the First and Second Amendments, but the Fourth (unreasonable search and seizures), Ninth (bill of rights is not exhaustive) and Tenth (rights reserved to the people) as well because each of these amendments referes to the “right of the people”.

    Of all the amendments, the Second is pretty much the most straightforward. Hence, it requires the most convoluted arguments to get around it.

  80. June 26, 2008 4:31 pm

    The analogy to Roe v. Wade is based on the inconsistent hermeneutical approach to different Court’s decisions by some Catholics.

    As I already explained above — in a post that no one could refute — your allegation betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the arguments made by Feddie, Blackadder, and other conservatives.

  81. June 26, 2008 4:31 pm

    MOrning to say the least the Justives were not conducting a Sola Scriptoria analysis of the law or the amendment.

    To use another term the “Holy Tradition” as to gun rights in our jurisprudence and legislation was examined right with it. That is one reason why the Opinion is so interesting One can pick upo quite a bit of History just by reading the Majority and Dissent

  82. jonathanjones02 permalink
    June 26, 2008 4:31 pm

    I am glad for this decision.

    John Lott is right: when it comes to guns and crime, this is an empirical question because we keep pretty good crime statistics. More guns in the hands of those not criminally-inclined, less crime. More criminals, more crime, regardless of gun law (as we see in DC, where the restrictions existed and the crime rate was through the roof). It really is that simple.

    More guns, less crime. Perhaps there is the service of the common good, no?

  83. June 26, 2008 4:32 pm

    Michael-

    So, in your view, I am bound to follow the prudential judgment of the USCCB on gun control.

    Gotcha.

    Must have missed that in RCIA.

  84. c matt permalink
    June 26, 2008 4:33 pm

    And don’t forget the DC snipers – oh wait, there was a gun ban in DC so it could never have happened.

  85. June 26, 2008 4:35 pm

    Jonathan, didn’t you even bother to look at statistics? Lott’s arguments only make sense if there is a border bewteen jurisdictions in the US– which is why a national handgun ban is the only way to go. I know that is not a fashionable thing to say, and even Obama is now pandering to the yahoos, but it is still right.

  86. June 26, 2008 4:38 pm

    Blackadder: I didn’t say court decisions should reflect Catholic teachings. What I said is (i) Supreme Couirt justices do not get a waver from the natural law, and positive law should reflect the natural law; (ii) law is an ordinance of reason for the common good. If that is specifically Catholic then fine, but I thought the whole point of the natural law is that it is accessable to reason?

  87. Zak permalink
    June 26, 2008 4:39 pm

    Given the primacy of the family over the state in Catholic social thought, isn’t an argument in favor of the family’s right to defend itself possible? If the state were to try to take away your children unjustly, resistence would be permissible under Catholic social thought. If the state were unable to protect your children, would it not be your responsibility to do so?

    Also MM, your econometric analysis is interesting, but it demonstrates correlation, not causation. One could look at it and argue that people buy more guns to defend themselves if they live in violent societies. You could argue that more guns make societies more violent. Or you could argue that both high gun ownership rates and high levels of violence are caused by a third factor (Calvinism, presumably).

    Of course, that’s what I was thinking until I looked at your analysis more closely. You looked at the correlation of GUN ownership and of GUN deaths. It seems to me that a fairer analysis would look at gun ownership and all deaths, to establish the correlation (although it still would not explain causation).

    All that said, I’d feel safer in Washington (and Chicago), if handgun bans were kept in place. My guess is that gun control does reduce crime. On the other hand, having read Scalia’s argument, I can’t find a good reason to dispute it on Constitutional grounds, and I feel that, as John Paul II wrote in Centissimus Annus (40), “it is preferable that each power be balanced by other powers and by other spheres of responsibility which keep it within proper bounds. This is the principle of the ‘rule of law’, in which the law is sovereign, and not the arbitrary will of individuals,” and that the proper bounds of the Supreme Court in cases like this is to determine whether statutes correspond with a plain text reading of the Constitution.

  88. jonathanjones02 permalink
    June 26, 2008 4:41 pm

    As the son of a rather active NRA member, and as one who has cared about this issue for a while, I am familiar with the book and the stats.

    MM, do you want to deny that a very solid majority of those places with the most guns per resident have very low crime rates? And that a rather solid majority of those places with significant restrictions, such as DC, NYC, LA, Detroit, ect. have very high crime rates?

    I can bring the numbers if necessary.

  89. c matt permalink
    June 26, 2008 4:41 pm

    Do the US Bishops enjoy magisterial infalliblity as to what is for the common good in this particular situation? If not, then it would seem one can disagree with their application as to what is for the common good without being a dissenter.

  90. June 26, 2008 4:42 pm

    Feddie,

    So, in your view, I am bound to follow the prudential judgment of the USCCB on gun control.

    Gotcha.

    Must have missed that in RCIA.

    I think you did, actually. Well, not you, but whoever taught it and continues to teach it. We just don’t seem to teach it in parishes. American values do make it more difficult to swallow that episcopal conferences do

    I think the fact that you call the USCCB’s position as “prudential judgment” is the problem in it of itself. It’s just bad ecclesiology. Bishops by virtue of their office are more than simply priests with greater jurisdictional power, you know.

  91. June 26, 2008 4:43 pm

    Do the US Bishops enjoy magisterial infalliblity as to what is for the common good in this particular situation?

    Sigh…

  92. Mike Petrik permalink
    June 26, 2008 4:44 pm

    Katerina,
    Let me be clear. Heller is grounded in the text of the constitution. One can take issue with the text; that is why the constitution provides for amendments. In contrast, Roe was grounded in rank policy preference. Its citation to written text was phony. To my knowledge the only two constitutional scholars of any rank who actually support Roe are Erwin Chemerinsky (who admits that he is 100% result oriented — the constitution’s words are irrelevant) and Larry Tribe (whose defense is incoherent, and indecipherable even by me — and I taught constitutional law at a law school for 8 years). True scholars such as Gunther, Van Alstyne, and Ely — all liberals — have each criticized Roe for being nothing more than an expression of policy preference clothed in transparently silly constitutional reasoning. I think your accusation regarding hermeneutics is mistaken.

  93. TeutonicTim permalink
    June 26, 2008 4:45 pm

    “That may or may not have been a valid circumstance in the 1800s; it most certinainly is not today.

    Continue to keep your head in the sand. It’s amazing that this comes from one who constantly harps on how Bush is a tyrant and too powerful.

    It’s obvious you do not understand the meaning of the 2nd amendment or why it was written

  94. Zak permalink
    June 26, 2008 4:46 pm

    Katerina,
    Some, including Cardinal Ratzinger at time, I believe, have questioned the ecclesiology of bishops conferences in general. The teaching role of the bishops is as an individual authority in their local church, not their collective office within a national church, isn’t it (especially since, as MM is so fond of noting, the nation is a social construct that can be illegitimate).

  95. June 26, 2008 4:46 pm

    kat-

    So, is it your position that I am bound by the USCCB’s statement of policy on gun control?

  96. June 26, 2008 4:47 pm

    Freddie,

    I have a question for you. Why do you think the COurt was hesitant to define a level of Scrunity? It seems during Oral Arguments that Scalia was ready to go there. Kennedy appeared to be very close to him too. Was it because the there was one of the majority that was not ready to take that step?

    Also why did they go right up to the edge and danced with the incorporation doctrine but did not go all the way.

    As to the link you provided yesterday that tried to project what a Scalia Opinion would look like. Scalia was quoted as to a past work

    “T]he Second Amendment [i]s a guarantee that the federal government will not interfere with the individual’s right to bear arms for self-defense. … Dispassionate scholarship suggests quite strongly that the right of the people to keep and bear arms meant just that. … [T]here is no need to deceive ourselves as to what the original Second Amendment said and meant. Of course, properly understood, it is no limitation upon arms control by the states.”

    Of course as pointed out but what about the 14th plus the second. That Justice Scalia is of course referencing the amendment purely without the 14th consideration.

    Despite what I am reading elsewhere Justice Scalia has never been one that hostile to the Justice Scalia 20th-century consensus on incorporation

    I realize this a case that involves the District and not a “State” but I think the same principles apply.

    I have to admit I ould have prefered some of these questions answered and put precedent now. Epscially with a 5/4 Opinion

  97. jonathanjones02 permalink
    June 26, 2008 4:47 pm

    Let me repeat a point about the common good: it is perfectly acceptable to serve the common good by being a responsible, non-criminally inclined family member protecting your family by keeping firearms for protection and for sport.

    In fact, you are serving the common good, beginning with your family.

    I challenge anyone here to make an argument that the most “armed” places in the U.S. are the most dangerous, and that this is because of the availability of guns as opposed to human behavior.

  98. Mike Petrik permalink
    June 26, 2008 4:49 pm

    MM,
    If your are suggesting that somehow the bishops are saying that the possession of handguns violates natural law or even that natural law requires that handguns be banned, you are mistaken. And if the bishops did say such a thing, they would be mistaken. Accordingly, your appeals to natural law are not only grounded in an improper understanding as to how natural law intersects with positive law in a constitutional federal republic, it is not even germane.

  99. June 26, 2008 4:50 pm

    Also why did they go right up to the edge and danced with the incorporation doctrine but did not go all the way.

    Because that question was not necessary to decide the case, which involved DC (not a state).

  100. Zak permalink
    June 26, 2008 4:50 pm

    jonathan,
    one may do no harm to the common good through some individual type of activity, but the activity could still be banned legitimately in pursuit of the common good. For example, your manufacture of moonshine liquor might be safe, but if 70% of moonshine liquor caused fatalities, it would be reasonable to prohibit it.

  101. June 26, 2008 4:53 pm

    Zak: yes, since I didn’t instrument, then I suppose the reverse correlation you posit is certainly possible. But I think common sense would favor my direction of causality. On the gun deaths point, Martin Killias shows no evidence of any compensation effect on murder ways of kinlling people: “residents of countries with low rates of gun ownership using “means other than a gun” more frequently to commit homicide and suicide “making up for the absence of guns”.”

  102. June 26, 2008 4:54 pm

    Why, Feddie, would you want to become a cafeteria Catholic on this topic? The issue is not whether you “can” go against the bishops, but whether you “should”.

  103. June 26, 2008 4:56 pm

    Jonathan: for statistics go here: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm199900/cmselect/cmhaff/95/95ap41.htm

    And you are missing the point I make in the post: it doesn’t matter is Area A has low gun deaths if it is off the charts in Area B. We are resposible for each other. It’s called solidarity, It stands opposed to laissez-faire liberalism.

  104. Mike Petrik permalink
    June 26, 2008 4:57 pm

    Zak,
    Yes, and in this case it may well be reasonable to ban handguns. But that is no more the question before the Court than is whether it is reasonable to ban uncivil political or religious speech. The question is not whether the legislature made a reasonable policy choice; the question is whether that policy choice is available given our written constitution. The Framers were well aware that times could change such that the constitution may need amendment. Some on this thread apparently believe that such an amendment is appropriate, as do some of our bishops. But such opinions do not give license to judges to do what they are not properly empowered to do.

  105. Policraticus permalink*
    June 26, 2008 5:03 pm

    Since there are several different arguments going on in this 90+ comment thread, I thought I would just put in my overall opinion on the matter (I have not read the opinion of the Court):

    I believe the Second Amendment does extend to individuals and that it was intended to do so in the first place. However, it is worded very vaguely, which is why I support restrictions on gun possession (e.g., concealment, background checks, licenses).

    From a purely Constitutional standpoint, I believe the Court made the right decision (and I think that should always be the approach of the Court, i.e., a Constitutional, non-legislative approach).

    I do not think it is sinful to own a gun.

    I think as Catholics were are bound to listen carefully to the statements of the U.S. bishops whose collective voice is often a great moral clarion. What is clear from their statements is that their urgings to restrict and possibly ban handguns stems not from the sinfulness of owning a gun (there is no sin there), but from the unfettered violence that is occurring on U.S. urban streets. This violence has deep roots in socio-economic and moral failings which are not themselves engendered from owning a gun. The simplest way to eliminate this violence is to ban handguns. The harder and more preferable way is to work for economic justice, evangelization, and moral instruction. The simple way, it seems, would be more expedient and realistic, so I do not blame the U.S. bishops for promoting it conditionally.

    I would support an amendment to the Constitution to ban handguns if one were to be seriously proposed for the sake of the common good. While owning a gun may keep my family safe in the event of rare assault, the owning of guns in poor urban regions causes assault to be evident, certain, and frequent. A total ban on handguns does more for the common good in the United States than the owning of guns by good and virtuous citizens.

    Be gentle on me.

  106. June 26, 2008 5:05 pm

    As a Roman Catholic, I have not only the right, but the duty to protect and defend my family from aggression or harm, no matter the cost. The very idea that a government can tell me I don’t have the right to own a sword, spear, slingshot, firearm, etc. in order to protect my family flies in the face of natural rights, even Aquinas would affirm that the right to self defense is a God-given right.

    The Second Amendment to the Constitution was put in place not to protect sportsmen and hunters, but because the Framers realized that without the ability to protect and defend ourselves from the aggression of government America would soon be subjected to tyranny and oppression. Take a look at history, the quickest way for a populace to lose their liberties and freedoms is when the lose the ability to protect and defend themselves from aggression, no matter where it comes from.

    The Heller ruling did not go far enough in it’s decision. It still allows the federal government to regulate and register firearms, which is found nowhere in the Constitution.

  107. June 26, 2008 5:05 pm

    Feddie,

    Since you’re a lawyer, I’ll let you read the documents for yourself and let you decide, since whatever I say will be considered my mere opinion. Read the section of Lumen Gentium on Bishops, Christus Dominus from Vatican II, Apostolos Suos and Pastores Gregis–Apostolic Exhortations by John Paul II.

  108. jonathanjones02 permalink
    June 26, 2008 5:08 pm

    No, MM, you are missing the point entirely: go ahead and show us all a positive correlation of high ownership and high crime rates across a variety of environments.

    You can’t, because it doesn’t exist.

    But I’ll tell you what does exist: high rates of crime where there are lots of criminals, and the gun laws in those places are irrelevant.

    What do these places of high crime, across a wide variety of environments, have in common – DC, LA, NYC, Detroit, Miami, Gary, New Orleans, Kansas City, Oakland…ect – ?? The existence of a lot of the criminally-inclined. But – shocka! – there also tends to be restrictive gun laws!

  109. Zak permalink
    June 26, 2008 5:10 pm

    Mike, I basically agree with you (about 10 or 15 comments above). I was just addressing that component of the argument about common law.

    MM, it is true that your explanation is the most likely for gun deaths. But I don’t know if it is true for overall murder rate, or overall violent crime rate, where guns might be expected to have some deterrent effect.

  110. Mr. Smith permalink
    June 26, 2008 5:12 pm

    Why do people resort to whether something is infallible or not? Infallible Church Teachings are not the extent of the obedience you are required to show to the Church.

  111. Mike Petrik permalink
    June 26, 2008 5:18 pm

    Zak, understood and thanks.
    Poli, your post is entirely well-reasoned, even though I cannot join you in advocating for the repeal of our Second Amendment. I am genuinely uncertain as to whether such a repeal would, in the final analysis, inure to the benefit of the common good.

  112. TeutonicTim permalink
    June 26, 2008 5:19 pm

    “A total ban on handguns does more for the common good in the United States than the owning of guns by good and virtuous citizens.”

    Policraticus – Your post was well written and received until the above statement. A ban does not make anything better. One could have said the same thing about drugs – Just because something is banned doesn’t mean it won’t be a problem. Criminals will get what they want, when they want, and for whatever reason they want. No amount of wishing will change that.

  113. June 26, 2008 5:22 pm

    Mr. Smith: not so. That’s the limit for you to be a Catholic. See Lumen Gentium 25 on religious assent. See USCCB Faithful Citizenship — guidance of Chuch leaders is not just another political opinion or policy preference among many. It is on another level entirely. Its teachings are not optional concerns that can be dismissed.

  114. Mike Petrik permalink
    June 26, 2008 5:24 pm

    TT,
    I understand your point, which is reasonable. But I think it does depend on facts and circumstances that can be difficult to predict. Indeed, one could use such an argument to justify not banning abortion, though I realize that in that case we *are* talking about a direct affront to natural law. In my experience many policy questions lend themselves to very uncertain prudential analyses, which is yet another reason why bishops would be well-advised to steer clear in cases that do not involve direct moral questions.

  115. June 26, 2008 5:29 pm

    Jonathan, how many times do I have to point out that you cannot make that kind of inference when neighboring juridisdictions, absent border controls, have no such controls?

    Look at international evidence where you do indeed have border controls, and you will see a clear positive relationship– I drew it myself here: http://bp3.blogger.com/_dehtj8kgqzM/Rp-7tnzAAVI/AAAAAAAAACI/0GbYmsAVnm8/s1600-h/gun+statistics_31043_image001.gif

  116. Zak permalink
    June 26, 2008 5:32 pm

    Poli,
    I agree with everything you say prior to the constitutional amendment to ban handguns. On that, I am opposed, because if you’re wrong, it would be very hard to change.

    I think would favor a consitutional amendment enabling Congress to enact laws banning types of weapons. Maybe that’s what you meant.

    On the argument of whether a ban would serve the common good, I’m agnostic. I wish for better evidence of the effects of such bans on crime. Banning the sale of guns would still leave a huge supply of such weapons, which would probably lead, in the long run, to their possession mostly by criminals. Trying to confiscate such guns, however, would lead to thousands of Ruby Ridge-like incidents, in many of which, innocent people would be harmed. I don’t think that’s feasible.

  117. June 26, 2008 5:35 pm

    It would be fun to hear Nate’s opinion on all this. :-)

  118. Zak permalink
    June 26, 2008 5:39 pm

    On a side note, one interesting historical part of Scalia’s argument was its examination of the articulation of the right to keep and bear arms for former slaves in the south. Quoting the Freedman’s Bureau Act,

    “[T]he right . . . to have full and equal benefit of all
    laws and proceedings concerning personal liberty,
    personal security, and the acquisition, enjoyment, and
    disposition of estate, real and personal, including the
    constitutional right to bear arms, shall be secured to
    and enjoyed by all the citizens . . . without respect to
    race or color, or previous condition of slavery. . . . ”

  119. June 26, 2008 5:48 pm

    MM

    Looking at the Bishop statements on this I see nowhere where one as a Catholic is bound to interpretation of the Second Amendment that violates their judgement of the text and jurisprudience.

    I am no expert that is for sure in Binding quality and levels of Consulatation and obedience one must give everything that comes out of United States Bishops Conference. I generally find the more scripture they quote and base it in the Tradition of the Church that something is up.

    The foundation document appear to be a 1978 DocumentHandgun Violence: A Threat to Life.

    http://nccbuscc.org/sdwp/national/criminal/handguns.shtml

    A document t quotes (John 10:10) and then relies on FBI stats

    Actually what they wanted much of has been incorporated into law

    There is nothing to indicate that this document from the Committee on Social Development and World Peace and to all Americans of the United States Bishop Conference is binds Catholics in anyway. In fact in their conclusion they state that people of good will can disagree.

    As a practical matter if this doument is the basis something that I should consult in prayer something I would be better off watching Larry King and listening to his guest on the issue.

    I have not brought this subject up to my Bishop since well this document from the Committee on Social Development and World Peace has never been proclaimed from the Puplit. However I have a feeling he could tell me it would be perfectly permissable to disagree with this document and as A Catholic I could fight the stated Bishop Aim of hand gun abolition

  120. June 26, 2008 6:01 pm

    I see a few people are angry (Katerina and Iafrate are the main ones I saw) at the prospect of disagreeing with the USCCB on a matter of prudence. I’m a little curious about this. The Louisiana Conference of Bishops at the moment has a “Legislative Update” in which one of the issues it mentions is that it supports an amendment keeping the office of women’s policy in the governor’s office rather than the Department of Social Services.

    I’m all for an increased awareness of the need for obedience, but I think a good Catholic could disagree with the point above. Reading the comments, it seems many here don’t think. So I’m curious if at what point, if any, can a good Catholic seeking the common good and following Catholic doctrine disagree with the bishops on matters of prudence?

  121. Paul in the GNW permalink
    June 26, 2008 6:05 pm

    Since we are way off topic anyway…..

    MM, Kat, Mr. Smith

    That’s the limit for you to be a Catholic. See Lumen Gentium 25 on religious assent. See USCCB Faithful Citizenship — guidance of Chuch leaders is not just another political opinion or policy preference among many.

    First, I do listen to the Bishops (well not all of them, but Chaput, Burke, Brunet, especially). I even very much value the USCCB’s voice. However, all the sources you cite are referring to the teachings of Christ, the deposit of Faith and the Church.

    First, I am required to be obedient to my Bishop (Alex Brunet) and to the Bishop of Rome and to the Church. The USCCB is not an authoritative body requiring obedience although it does have some power in church governance – purely internal to the amchurch.

    Second, my obedience to the Church is a matter of faith and canon law.

    What we are talking about here is an issue of policy. This is not a Church or Faith issue. Still, as a Catholic I value and respect the USCCB opinion. But, I don’t have to give them “a whole nother level” of authority in this.

    If Pope Benedict came out a with a statement that countries should massively move to nuclear power to save the environment I would be free to disagree because he is not speaking about the Faith. He may be applying the faith, he may be interested in the common good. He may even be right, but his authority in this area is limited to his ordinary authority as a notable leader on the global stage, it is not the authority of the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church.

    Please…..

    I believe Elvis is in the room.

    Paul

  122. June 26, 2008 6:06 pm

    [MM] I know that is not a fashionable thing to say, and even Obama is now pandering to the yahoos, but it is still right.

    Sorry us little yahoo folk ain’t real sophisticated like you smart people who know what’s best us for us. I can’t imagine what those 18th Century statesmen were thinking when they wrote that immoral Second Amendment thingamajig. But then again, subhuman yahoo that I am, I’m grateful to own firearms, not as much to defend my family from the thug on the street, but from enlightened elitists like MM.

  123. June 26, 2008 6:16 pm

    One other word on what is binding to Catholics.

    I do wish people would be a tad careful here. I have enough problems to trying to bring people into the Church.

    I would hate to think that someone would not become Catholic because they were mistaken belief that to be Catholic means that they have to be be bound to have a certain position on handguns or (insert issue x).

    I don’t think that is all the intention of the Church and I don’t think they wish to give that impression!!!

    But to read what I am seeing hurled around one would think if your Bishop supported a Min wage increase you would be bound to support it and not oppose it. That is just false and in fact seems to go against what I see in the Chuuches own “Catechism” of Social Justice

    There are levels here that are important

  124. June 26, 2008 6:46 pm

    So, in your view, I am bound to follow the prudential judgment of the USCCB on gun control.

    No, you’re jumping to conclusions. But you claimed that the U.S. bishops do not speak for the Church, and that is a lie.

    Must have missed that in RCIA.

    I can only imagine the kind of RCIA you must have gone through.

    Katerina – c matt and Feddie are apparently of the “What Can I Get Away With” strand of Catholicism.

    As a Roman Catholic, I have not only the right, but the duty to protect and defend my family from aggression or harm, no matter the cost.

    The ends justify the means, eh? That’s a very Catholic viewpoint.

    I see a few people are angry (Katerina and Iafrate are the main ones I saw) at the prospect of disagreeing with the USCCB on a matter of prudence.

    I am not saying that U.S. Catholics may not disagree with policy recommendations of the U.S. bishops. What I disagreed with was Feddie’s dishonest assertion that the U.S. bishops do not represent the Church. He does not take them at all seriously, and this is wrong. There is a difference between acknowledging that Catholics may disagree with this or that particular teaching or suggestion and completely ignoring even the general spirit of where the bishops are coming from by turning the u.s. constitution into an idol that is a higher authority than the Church. This is what Feddie, and others here, are doing, and this is what they have been doing all along: Catholicism is great — even the one, true faith! — until it interferes with good old american values. Let the lawyers keep saying “the law is the law is the law.” We Catholics who take a higher law seriously know better.

    My position: Owning a gun is not necessarily sinful. But only professed pacifists should be allowed to own them.

  125. June 26, 2008 6:53 pm

    Michael-

    Catholicism=supporting a national gun ban.

    Got it.

  126. TeutonicTim permalink
    June 26, 2008 6:55 pm

    “But only professed pacifists should be allowed to own them.”

    Discrimination is a Catholic viewpoint!

    OK, I’ll profess to be a pacifist, that is, until i need to use the gun I’m allowed to own the the Michael J. States of America.

  127. June 26, 2008 7:01 pm

    Feddie — Surely basic reading was a prerequisite for your law studies?

  128. June 26, 2008 7:03 pm

    If you’re one of the many bloggers here who never criticizes Gerald Campbell and his ilk for contradicting binding Church teaching about whether abortion should be legal, then maybe you should think twice before adopting a self-righteous “more Catholic than thou” attitude on the gun control issue (as to which there is no authoritative teaching). I don’t mean to pick on poor old Gerald again; it’s just wearisome to keep seeing such a double standard.

  129. TeutonicTim permalink
    June 26, 2008 7:18 pm

    Indeed, SB

  130. June 26, 2008 7:19 pm

    SB – Unlike you, I haven’t spent much time researching Gerald’s precise position on abortion. I haven’t the time or the interest. I’m also do not see the relevance of Gerald Campbell’s opinions on abortion here.

  131. Paul in the GNW permalink
    June 26, 2008 7:23 pm

    M.J. Iafrate But you claimed that the U.S. bishops do not speak for the Church, and that is a lie.

    Sorry, you are twisting this beyond comprehension. The USCCB does not as a body speak for the Church, it is a conference to coordinate the ministries and efforts of the Bishops in the U.S. It has a voice, it speaks, but it is not an authoritative body in anything except liturgy and some pastoral issues.

    What I disagreed with was Feddie’s dishonest assertion that the U.S. bishops do not represent the Church.

    The USCCB ‘represent the Church’ in the sense that it provides an ‘organ’ for the individual Bishops to offer opinions and guidance on a variety of issues to Catholics, the general public and politicians.

    turning the u.s. constitution into an idol that is a higher authority than the Church.

    And you are twisting this as well. If the constitution required me to do something immoral or even support something immoral (i.e. slavery or abortion) I would oppose it, defy it, try to change it and I believe everyone on this blog would also. If the constitution prohibited me from doing things I believed were significant to the Gospel or the Church I would defy the ban. This is not one of those issues!!! If you want to advocate for an amendment, go ahead. If the USCCB supports you, bully for you, but I don’t have to agree as a matter of faith. Unless we have Vatican III and all you (sic) liberal nut jobs (end sic) make ‘thou shalt be not own hand guns’ the 11th commandment.

    I personally value the USCCB input. I think there statement is important. I consider the argument carefully. At this time I disagree with the USCCB analysis.

    Catholicism is great — even the one, true faith! — until it interferes with good old american values.

    I know I put Catholicism way out in front, by a mile and I bet Feddie does as well. What you don’t seem to understand is a USCCB statement on a public policy issue is not an authoritative statement, is not a matter of obedience, and really has very little to do with what it means to be Catholic.

    Peace
    Paul

  132. Paul in the GNW permalink
    June 26, 2008 7:23 pm

    Sorry, I don’t know how I left that unclosed bold tag in there – hand html coding error

  133. June 26, 2008 7:24 pm

    Michael — No research is needed if you’re a regular reader of Vox Nova, which I have reason to suspect that you are. The relevance is that you and certain other bloggers are hypocrites if you criticize anyone who is against gun control even while never saying one word of criticism about a fellow blogger who is pro-choice.

  134. June 26, 2008 7:31 pm

    I truly don’t get holding up USCCB policy positios – WHICH ARE NOT WRITTEN BY BISHOPS BUT BY STAFF – up as dogmatic.

    Did the United States bishops ever condemn slavery before 1864?

    No?

    So does that make it slavery moral?

    On another note – a Catholic Cardinal recently said, at a Mass in England, that the Pope would like to see the Tridentine Mass happening in every parish, as a normal part of parish life.

    Are commenters here on board with that? Are they working hard to make that happen? Are they supporting it? Are they helping their pastors achieve that end? Working to educate the laity on the Holy Father’s clear hopes for a restoration of the pre-Vatican II liturgy to a more prominent place in Catholic life?

    There’s no question the Pope wants that. Are you helping him? Publicly supporting him?

    I don’t think so. But you’ll go to the mat for some USCCB staff production.

  135. June 26, 2008 7:34 pm

    No research is needed if you’re a regular reader of Vox Nova, which I have reason to suspect that you are.

    I am a regular reader in the sense that I read most of the blog posts and I follow the comments of posts I find interesting. I don’t find discussion probing Gerald’s opinion on abortion that interesting and I have not paid much attention to those discussions. Something tells me there is a lot of misrepresentation going on anyway. I’m not interested in the BS.

    The relevance is that you and certain other bloggers are hypocrites if you criticize anyone who is against gun control even while never saying one word of criticism about a fellow blogger who is pro-choice.

    I don’t “criticize anyone who is against gun control.” I suggest you, along with Feddie, enroll in a course to brush up your reading skills. A Catholic position on guns and gun control cannot be steered by the u.s. constitution or american Tradition, more generally conceived. It should be steered by the faith. Feddie’s approach is the former, on this issue, and on a host of others. If he is against gun control, he should justify it on Catholic grounds, not on the constitution. If memory serves, no where in this long stream of comments has he done so.

  136. Paul in the GNW permalink
    June 26, 2008 7:37 pm

    Terry

    AMEN!! AMEN!!! AAAAMENNN!!! (Gregorian Chant)

  137. June 26, 2008 7:41 pm

    Silly me. I thought this was a post about a constitutional decision.

    I think some of the bloggers here at Vox Nova need to take a remedial civics class.

  138. Gerald Augustinus permalink
    June 26, 2008 7:51 pm

    NRA4EVER :P

  139. Paul in the GNW permalink
    June 26, 2008 7:52 pm

    If he is against gun control, he should justify it on Catholic grounds, not on the constitution.

    HUH! It is not a moral issue! Owning a gun is not immoral. He justifies his opposition based on facts and analysis about crime.. Besides, he doesn’t say he is opposed to gun control, just a total ban on hand guns.

    The moral questions are about how to best govern society in the U.S. and how best to reduce violence. Facts and analysis!

    I can only imagine the kind of RCIA you must have gone through.

    (pathetic sarcasm)I can imagine you didn’t go to RCIA – you were in CCD with me taught by a contracepting former hippe. Or maybe you went to Catholic school and were taught by an activist nun.

    Pathetic sarcasm because it isn’t that far from true for far too many Catholics my age.

    Peace

    Paul

  140. June 26, 2008 7:58 pm

    Guns are “not a moral issue,” folks. Ha!

  141. TeutonicTim permalink
    June 26, 2008 8:00 pm

    “Guns are “not a moral issue,” folks. Ha!”

    Nope, they’re not.

  142. Paul in the GNW permalink
    June 26, 2008 8:09 pm

    Gun ownership is not a moral issue. Period.

  143. June 26, 2008 8:31 pm

    I thought this interesting and amusing considering the topic

    St. Gabriel Possenti was a Catholic seminarian whose marksmanship and proficiency with handguns single-handedly saved the village of Isola, Italy from a band of 20 terrorists in 1860.

    The Savior of Isola

    In 1860, a band of soldiers from the army of Garibaldi entered the mountain village of Isola, Italy. They began to burn and pillage the town, terrorizing its inhabitants.

    Possenti, with his seminary rector’s permission, walked into the center of town, unarmed, to face the terrorists. One of the soldiers was dragging off a young woman he intended to rape when he saw Possenti and made a snickering remark about such a young monk being all alone.

    Possenti quickly grabbed the soldier’s revolver from his belt and ordered the marauder to release the woman. The startled soldier complied, as Possenti grabbed the revolver of another soldier who came by. Hearing the commotion, the rest of the soldiers came running in Possenti’s direction, determined to overcome the rebellious monk.

    At that moment a small lizard ran across the road between Possenti and the soldiers. When the lizard briefly paused, Possenti took careful aim and struck the lizard with one shot. Turning his two handguns on the approaching soldiers, Possenti commanded them to drop their weapons. Having seen his handiwork with a pistol, the soldiers complied. Possenti ordered them to put out the fires they had set, and upon finishing, marched the whole lot out of town, ordering them never to return. The grateful townspeople escorted Possenti in triumphant procession back to the seminary, thereafter referring to him as “the Savior of Isola”.

    http://www.possentisociety.com/history.asp

  144. Nate permalink
    June 26, 2008 8:31 pm

    Guns don’t kill people.
    People kill people.

    People with guns.

  145. Nate permalink
    June 26, 2008 8:35 pm

    I encourage all of you to read the Papal Peace Messages, from 1968 to 2008.

    “It is necessary before all else to provide Peace with other weapons – weapons different from those destined to kill and exterminate mankind. What is needed above all are moral weapons,” – Pope Paul VI

  146. June 26, 2008 8:46 pm

    I don’t find discussion probing Gerald’s opinion on abortion that interesting and I have not paid much attention to those discussions. Something tells me there is a lot of misrepresentation going on anyway. I’m not interested in the BS.

    The only BS in those discussions is from Gerald, who has made no disguise of his thinking that any form of legal restriction on abortion is counterproductive and shouldn’t be pursued. He even compared the pro-life movement to Southern racists. But so be it: if you really haven’t paid attention to any of his many posts on the subject, other bloggers who pretend to favor wholehearted devotion to the Church refuse to criticize Gerald even while they criticize conservatives for much more minor deviations from Catholic teaching.

  147. June 26, 2008 8:53 pm

    Nate,

    As to the Papal Peace Message you quoted

    You will be glad to know that the Supreme Court did not say every citizen had a right to a weapon of Mass destruction

  148. jonathanjones02 permalink
    June 26, 2008 10:03 pm

    “Jonathan, how many times do I have to point out that you cannot make that kind of inference when neighboring juridisdictions, absent border controls, have no such controls?”

    Bunk. We know where the criminals are – Memphis, for example, has very detailed information on where they dispersed after public housing was torn down. Guess what? Gun violence followed them. Those areas where lots of guns reside but the citizens obey the law? Very, very, very little gun violence. We see this pattern repeated over and over and over again. This is the issue you refuse to address. Criminals are the problem, and they will not obey your gun control laws.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200807/memphis-crime

  149. Legion of Mary permalink
    June 26, 2008 10:11 pm

    I agree with Policratus. A quick read of the Metro section of the Washington Post will tell you all you need to know.

  150. June 26, 2008 10:14 pm

    A remedial civics class, Feddie? How about a remedial class on moral philosophy and Catholic legal and social teaching? Vox Nova is a Catholic blog, not a secular American one.

  151. June 26, 2008 10:19 pm

    Terry, for some bizarre reason, raises the issue of the pope’s support for a Tridentine Mass in each parish, and asks if we support that. For myself: the answer is yes, a definitive yes. I take all aspects of the faith seriously. So he is very wrong when he makes that unfounded allegation.

    And by the way, a USCCB document, no matter who drafts it, has the collective approval of the US bishops– and look up what Lumen Gentium has to say on episcopal collegiality (and see the documents referenced by Katerina too- she knows far more than me on that topic).

  152. June 26, 2008 10:37 pm

    But so be it: if you really haven’t paid attention to any of his many posts on the subject, other bloggers who pretend to favor wholehearted devotion to the Church refuse to criticize Gerald even while they criticize conservatives for much more minor deviations from Catholic teaching.

    If you say so. Again, I’m not really very interested in whatever it is you seem so worked up about.

  153. June 26, 2008 10:44 pm

    Well, isn’t that convenient. Every time Gerald lets loose with one of his pro-choice comments, or denouncing any attempt to legislate about abortion, all of the supposedly pro-life bloggers around here disappear, feigning not to notice; they’re too busy condemning conservatives for failing to agree that the Supreme Court’s role is to enforce non-binding statements from American bishops.

  154. June 26, 2008 11:51 pm

    Please let me know about the remedial civics class offerings. I’d like to enroll.

    Constitution smonchtitustion, the question is whether it is right or not, and, assuming thats a hard thing to figure out, doing the best we can we might jot down some groundrules. Same thing for the USCCB. Niether one, however, should be confused with good reasons, the proof is in the pudding and most of these arguments lack chocolate.

  155. June 27, 2008 12:35 am

    There seems to be a challenge here to look at this more in lines of Catholic Thought with then the assumption being that the Court Opinion today will be found lacking

    What will Catholic Legal thought say on this case. I expect perhaps not much.

    However this is areas where I think it might look if t decide to try to state a view

    What did the Supreme Court do today. It simply reaffirmed a right that is older than this nation. That is the right to keep and bear arms in order to to protect your self , your familes and your friends. It is a right that was codified after being violated In England and that codification is directly related to the amendment we have. It touched on the fact that such a right was needed when the Govt became a Tyrant or as often the case in this Nation’s History when the State is not there in time to help.

    If we wish to look at it in a Catholic way I guess we should have to see if such things are perhaps a natural right. It was viewed as that for much of our history. Despite reliance by some on one case that was always very narrow and had its own peculair history

    The Common Good-
    THe Common good would have been served a devastating blow if the Court ruled this was a collective right. In vast parts of this Country the second amendment has been seen as a very essential individual right. THis is not because the average person has done a extensive history of the Jurisprudence. IT is something more powerful. It has been passed down from generation to generation for a couple hundred years.

    This passing down is not just regional. From the deep South to Michigan , to Wisconsin and even to very liberal and progressive Vermont (there are reasons why Howard Dean had close to a 100 percent NRA ranking) this viewpoint is ingrained in the American mind and seen as essential

    For a court that has no armies, no police force to enforce it Opinons the integrity of the Court is a must. IF the Court had ruled a collective right there were have been huge distrust of the Govt and many people would look at the Court in much more wary manner. This was not a regular case. What is at stake here is not a momenatry hot issue. This is a case that touches on the very tradition and culture of huge parts of American.

    THe Common Good is not helped if that is damaged.

    On a related note there seems to be a viewpoint of Let us promote the common good by any means necessary. I am not at all sure Catholic Legal Theory would endorse that. It was not the job of the Supreme Court to make the Second Amendment for all practical purpose extinct.

    Let us conceded the point for this hypo that the making illegal all handguns and related arms was a common good .Then is it right for a part of the Govt that has no authority to do so act on it.?

    IF so then why not the Armed Forces? THe Joint Chiefs? Why not have the President issue a Executive Order and on his authority establish the decree. What is next ? We would have Chaos , power plays, a Govt that is not reliable to protect our rights because different branches are upsurping the other. A Public that ignores decrees

    That might sound dramatic but it is logical extension of what would happen. The Supreme Court cannot eliminate rights willy nilly and generally it cannot create many of the rights that so many want here. Such as the Right ot Health Care, or the Right to Employment, or Right to Housing. TO create those rights it has to have some authority either given to it by written law or by Tradition. It has none of that as to the rights that so many want.

    In the end Catholic Legal Thought will not have I expect a lot to say because this is the first step. THe court went to some pains today to note that many Regulations are not cast in doubt. THe general public could not own a Bazooka yesterday and they cannot today. Machine guns if prohibted are not gong to be showing up Wal Mart tommorow. The extent of this right , it ‘s scope , and how it can be regulated will be decided in the future.

    In other words is much too early to be making grand declaration that Catholic Moral principles and the Common Good have been violated by what the COurt did today

  156. June 27, 2008 12:43 am

    What exactly IS “Catholic Legal Thought”? You have it capitalized, no less. Is this related to Catholic Social Doctrine, or is it something dreamed up as an alternative to it?

  157. June 27, 2008 1:53 am

    Contrary to the title of this post, there is nothing “shameful” about the Court’s decision in D.C. v. Heller. The text of the 2nd Amendment and the history behind its drafting make clear that the right to keep and bear arms is very much an individual right.

    Moreover, your sentiment that the “the right to bear arms that the Supreme Court upheld today comes directly from this notion of personal liberty trumping the common good” is confusing and misplaced.

    First, personal liberty and the common good are not opposed. A good way to elevate the common good is to promote personal liberty. Secondly, it is not the Court’s role to determine “the common good.” That is for the legislatures of the states and the U.S. Congress. The Supreme Court interprets laws against the U.S. Constitution. Third, John Lott, Ph.D. has written extensively on the fact that states which have concealed carry laws have consistently lower crime rates. The sentiment that our city streets will now pour with blood is not supported by facts.

    Your comparison of Scalia’s opinion somehow leading to Roe v. Wade is really bizarre. Roe v. Wade involved the invention of a so-called “right” which had NO basis in the Constitution whatsoever. (By the way, courts never make rights — humans are born with rights.) But individual gun ownership is rather plainly stated in the 2nd Amendment. Moreover, the 2nd Amendment has a very long history even prior to the ratification of the Bill of Rights. The writings of the Framers make very clear in many instances that they supported the right to self defense via keeping and bearing arms.

    Brilliant jurist that he is, Justice Scalia correctly interpreted the 2nd Amendment. What is frightening is that 4 Justices would infringe on our right to self-defense contrary to the plain meaning of the 2nd Amendment.

  158. Richard permalink
    June 27, 2008 3:05 am

    Hello Minion,

    You are certainly correct that a USCCB document has the collective approval of the bishops.

    But difficulties emerge. Episcopal conferences possess no formal magisterial or even canonical authority. Lumen Gentium speaks of episcopal collegiality, but does not formally vest this in episcopal conferences. You’re well read enough to know of Ratzinger’s and Kasper’s ongoing debate about the status of the conferences in Catholic eclesiology.

    The bishops, as successors to the apostles, are due the full measure of respect as our shepherds. But this respect is not absolute. We know too well from history that not only individual bishops can err or even defect from the true faith, but so can entire local bodies of them Synod after synod signed off on Arian formulas in the 340’s and 350’s. Entire regions of the East signed on to Monophysite formulas in the 5th and 6th centuries. The entire English Church sans St. John Fisher disavowed the authority of the Pope. And so on.

    Am I suggesting that the USCCB statement on guns is heretical? Heaven forfend. In a way that’s more respect than it deserves. The magisterial authority cited (as in so many USCCB statements over the last four decades) is vaporous and highly selective. Yoru suggestion that gun rights are a strictly an Enlightenment conceptus, and a highly dubious one at that (unless we mean to dismiss all rights talk as ENlightenment bound, which would put you in conflict with most of the post-Leonine social teaching of the Churhc), is tendentious at best. Even if we grant the premise principles enunciated, however,the USCCB call for a ban on handgun owership is a prudential recommendation. Because it comes from the bishops, it may be due attention and respect, no matter how much they seem to abuse that authority. But when so disconnected with the larger body of magisterial tradition, one may fairly wonder at how much the document is really a political act as opposed to a teaching exercise.

    It goes without saying that the USCCB statement cannot be easily reconciled with Second Amendment. Of course if the bishops in council in union with the Pope are teaching a matter of doctrine, the Church would have to trump the Second Amendment for us as Catholics. But no one can seriously suggest that this is what has happened here.

  159. Richard permalink
    June 27, 2008 3:14 am

    P.S. The question of Benedict’s request for traditional Latin masses in each diocese is neither here nor there, since this is a matter of strictly Church governance. In the matter of provision of the sacraments, the Pope’s authority runs wide and deep.

    The Church carries considerable authority in the matter of social teaching, but it operates in a different canonical sphere. And here no intrinsically evil act is being denounced, as might attach with abortion. I’m afraid you can’t simply latch on to your nominal (or whatever) support for Summorum Pontificum as way of trying to trump someone else’s loyalty to the magisterium, or suggest hypocrisy therein.

  160. June 27, 2008 6:34 am

    Every time Gerald lets loose with one of his pro-choice comments, or denouncing any attempt to legislate about abortion, all of the supposedly pro-life bloggers around here disappear, feigning not to notice;

    SB: I agree with you, though it has only recently come to my attention. It really is pathetic. Gerald must be some big shot or something to have all these devoted pro-lifers so cowed and quivering this way. (Ooooh, scary big shot).

    Either that or they agree with him, but don’t have the cojones to just outright push moral heresy the way he does, so they let him do their dirty work and surround him with a wall of protective silence.

    Nice job folks.

  161. June 27, 2008 6:48 am

    What is shameful is that people need to lie about someone and their position as a means of “proving a point.”

  162. June 27, 2008 8:45 am

    MIchael ,

    A description of Catholic Legal thought or theory can be found here

    http://www.ewtn.com/library/Academic/ZLEGALTH.HTM

    It is the the sort of stuff that places like Mirrors of Justice engages in. I think at the very least it is examing the law among other things in the Catholic intellectual tradition and as how it conforms or does not conform to Christian tradition

  163. June 27, 2008 8:47 am

    Henry — as always, you are the one misrepresenting things so as to make false accusations. No one is lying about Gerald — he is most certainly pro-choice as a legal matter — I’ve gone round after round with him ridiculing the very notion that the law should get involved, comparing anyone who does want abortion to be illegal to Southern racists, or even taking the staggering position that the Catholic notion of “subsidiarity” would justify keeping abortion as a private decision between the woman and her doctor. There is absolutely no question as to where he stands.

  164. June 27, 2008 8:53 am

    It isn’t a lie to link to someone’s actual words.

  165. jonathanjones02 permalink
    June 27, 2008 8:54 am

    Debate among state legislators at the time of the Constitution about an individual right to gun ownership didn’t exist because the issue was not controversial. State militas, though, as organized threats to the government, were very controversial. Federalists made the 2nd Am. as a concession toward those skeptical of centralizing government. The 2nd Am does NOT establish an absolute right of gun ownership, the goal is preventing the federal government from infringing it.

    And in this, the ratifiers were wise. I am grateful for our Constitution and happy that the SC has made this decision.

    The challenge I have extended in the comments still stands. Someone show us all a place of high gun ownership, law-abiding citizens, and high gun crime.

  166. June 27, 2008 9:07 am

    What exactly IS “Catholic Legal Thought”? You have it capitalized, no less. Is this related to Catholic Social Doctrine, or is it something dreamed up as an alternative to it?

    The English language needs a word for “someone who adopts a mocking tone when HE is the one who doesn’t know what he’s talking about and didn’t even take the time to do a simple Google search.” :)

  167. June 27, 2008 9:28 am

    The English language needs a word for “someone who adopts a mocking tone when…

    Perhaps we should look to the Germans:

    Lisa: Dad, do you know what Schadenfreude is?

    Lisa: It’s a German term for “shameful joy”, taking pleasure in the suffering of others.

    Homer: Boy, those Germans have a word for everything!

  168. Paul in the GNW permalink
    June 27, 2008 9:46 am

    MM

    And by the way, a USCCB document, no matter who drafts it, has the collective approval of the US bishops– and look up what Lumen Gentium has to say on episcopal collegiality

    Wrong on several counts. A USCCB document doesn’t have the Bishops’ authority until they vote to approve it. Lumen Gentium doesn’t say anything specifically about the authority of bishops’ conferences, and not bishop, not even the Bishop of Rome has magisterial authority in anything but matters of Faith and Morals. This is a prudential judgement.

    You and Kat need to go back to school on collegiality of bishops and the Magisterial Authority of the Church. I am about as enthusiastic a defender of Magisterial Authority as you will find, but it is limited to Faith and Morals. I have read, and just reread the citations Kat provided. It is required that one understand the nature of the teaching authority of the Church and the context of the Church and the document.

    Violence, crime, and a society that is suffering from them are moral issues. Guns, and who owns them is not itself an issue of morality. Judgment on what laws regarding guns might reduce violence and crime and perhaps heal society are purely prudential. Again, this is not a matter of faith or morals. There is no ecclesiastical authority in this matter.

    By the way, I am not particularly pro-gun, don’t own a gun, am not a member of the NRA. I don’t particularly care about this ruling one way or the other.

    I hammer on this, Episcopal authority, and USCCB authority and will do so all day and all weekend if necessary because you are misleading others.

  169. digbydolben permalink
    June 27, 2008 9:52 am

    The Constitution must be interpreted as it was originally understood by those who wrote and ratified same.

    What is being “pushed” here by most of the objectors to Morning’s Minion post is a very poor understanding of 18th century history and a total lack of appreciation of what was uppermost in the Framers’ minds when they wrote the Second Amendment. What they principally wanted to ensure was the right of secession, and to ensure it by empowering the States to arm their militias. They had very little concern for an individual freedom here–mostly because guns were NOT in the hands of the less-well-to-do, unless they lived on the frontier. Guns in the eighteenth century were part of the paraphernalia of the privileged and the land-owning–in other words, part of the property of those who’d finance and equip the State militias. There’s a little comma in the Second Amendment to the Constitution that is being conveniently overlooked by Scalia and the majority in the Heller decision, and that comma is as important to the meaning of the Amendment as the words are: it vastly qualifies the notion of an “individual right” to bear arms.

    All that being said, however, I DO think that what we have in this decision is an expression of a culture that is TRADITIONALLY based on violence, and I think that, despite what the Englightenment thinkers who framed the Constitution thought, Americans have TRADITIONALLY believed in their “right” to commit mayhem in the streets, to overrule and supercede the lawfully appointed constabulary, and, in general, to conduct their affairs in complete disregard of the common good. The only thing that could change America’s vicious affinity for an easy resort to intimately personal violence by arms-bearing would be what Poliacritus suggests, which would be ANOTHER amendment to the Constitution limiting this so-called “right.” I don’t see it happening.

    Shortly, I will be emigrating to Europe, where there is no recognition of a “right” to bear arms. I will feel much safer there than I do in Albuquerque, where the gangs are armed and commit drive-by shootings on a regular basis. I DON’T WANT to own and operate a hand-gun, and I don’t want to be constantly harassed (as most are in this city) by a local constabulary who go nervously every day in fear of their lives because of the prevalence of gun ownership by the criminal class.

  170. June 27, 2008 10:06 am

    What they principally wanted to ensure was the right of secession

    Just when I think we’ve reached the lowest depths of constitutional ignorance, the V-N regulars manage to dig a little deeper.

  171. T. Shaw permalink
    June 27, 2008 10:26 am

    Two things.

    1. President Bush gave us this correct (per the US Constitution, Federalist papers, written record of the Constitutional Convention and sate ratification votes, not your ignorant, baseless opinions and wild-eyed speculations on morals – if you can vote for Obama you know NOTHING about morals, and have no authority to comment thereon) decision by his SCOTUS nominees. Addendum: If the perfidious dems had not blocked scores of other judicial nominees, we’d be closer to over-turning Roe.

    2. You V-N savants are so consistent.

    Here’s a clue: Now a law-abiding person in DC has a miniscule chance to be on an equal footing with the vicious criminal that would kill him or her.

    Did St. Thomas Aquinas write that God made all men equal? I doubt it, but one of you geniuses knows the answer right off the top of your pin head.

  172. June 27, 2008 10:38 am

    Digby

    While some fear of the Federal Govt at the time of the founding was in play that was not everything that was play. The Opinion also goes into great detail about the State Consts that were approved around the time and later that have similar language and is based on the same thought,

    What your posts fails to note is that the State ofen failed to act in the common good even in our short history in the nation. TO be more precise perhaps it felt that by its actions of discriminaton and yes even disarming of groups it was acting in the common good at time. We can see that as Afrian Americans in which various attempts were made to disarm them.

    THe terror in the South and elsewhere would have been far greater if these folks were not armed. Black groups that organized themselves for the protection of the community were not a rare thing down here. Though we are often see on TV images of the Federal Govt or Nationalized Guard units protecting the rights of black citizens this was the exception and not the rule. THey could not be everywhere.

    Could this happen again? Well it might. If I was a Muslim American I would be a big advocate for the second amendment myself because if something horrifc happened on US soil as result of Islamic terrorism I would not be comfortable with just relying on state authority to safe guard my rights in the passions of the day. The internment of Japanese Citizens citizens during WwII is relative recent frightening example.

    Your assertion that guns were just the in the hands of mostly the landowners and the well to do, absent those on the frontier, is very false. Of course in the 18th Century the Frontier was surrounding you on all sides.

    Scalia I think has given a very good overview of the history. From my reading of the reactions even those that do not have a huge vested interest seem to indicate that he is correct on the history.

    As he correctly points out:

    “By the time of the founding, the right to have arms had
    become fundamental for English subjects. See Malcolm
    122–134. Blackstone, whose works, we have said, “constituted
    the preeminent authority on English law for the
    founding generation,” Alden v. Maine, 527 U. S. 706, 715
    (1999), cited the arms provision of the Bill of Rights as one
    of the fundamental rights of Englishmen. See 1 Blackstone
    136, 139–140 (1765). His description of it cannot
    possibly be thought to tie it to militia or military service.
    It was, he said, “the natural right of resistance and selfpreservation,”
    id., at 139, and “the right of having and
    using arms for self-preservation and defence,” id., at 140;
    see also 3 id., at 2–4 (1768). Other contemporary authorities
    concurred. See G. Sharp, Tracts, Concerning the
    Ancient and Only True Legal Means of National Defence,
    by a Free Militia 17–18, 27 (3d ed. 1782); 2 J. de Lolme,
    The Rise and Progress of the English Constitution 886–
    887 (1784) (A. Stephens ed. 1838); W. Blizard, Desultory
    Reflections on Police 59–60 (1785). Thus, the right secured
    in 1689 as a result of the Stuarts’ abuses was by the
    time of the founding understood to be an individual right
    protecting against both public and private violence”

    There are no doubt areas of the United States, especially those areas populated by those of that hot tempered Scot/Irish blood that were a tad more prone to violence. However in most areas of this Country where that group was not present the Right to Bear Arms as a individual right was still Strong.

  173. June 27, 2008 10:39 am

    Henry, just for reference sake, here are numerous quotes from Gerald indicating that he is legally pro-choice, as I said:

    In this thread, Gerald praises the group “Catholic Democrats” because ” their main focus is to reduce the incidence of abortion — not to change the nature of law or society. ” He adds, “I believe they are correct in their assessment, as I have tried to argue repeatedly on this site.” Later in that same thread, Gerald says that it is “insane” to continue to seek “the legal protection of innocent life.”

    The following examples are all from this thread. Gerald first says that “there are better means available to achieve the end that have nothing to do with using the law as a means of coercing behavior.” Then he defends the pro-choice position as “reasonable and ethically defensible”: “Some people.e.,g, are quite fearful of the consequences of government intrusion into such a personal matter. They are also concerned with what such intrusion would do to the entire country. Given this, they judge it prudent to let each women to decide their course of action. This is reasonable and ethically defensible.”

    Next, he points to Prohibition in order to argue that a law banning abortion would be imprudent: “But I am saying that there are lessons to be learned from the means that brought about Prohibition. When the law gets ahead of itself, the law tends to lack legitimacy.” Similarly, Gerald dismisses legal measures as “divisive and counterproductive”: “In the meantime, I believe the most effective means available is through measures design to reduce the incidence of abortion. I don’t believe legal means are very effective. I’m not saying they have no effect. But they tend to be divisive and counterproductive.”

    And to cap it all off, Gerald claims that subsidiarity “very clearly” supports the “pro-choice position.”

    Wow! And he says that sort of thing with no disagreement from the enforcers of Catholic orthodoxy around here! Amazing.

  174. June 27, 2008 10:41 am

    Henry, just for reference sake, here are numerous quotes from Gerald indicating that he is legally pro-choice, as I said:

    In the “Catholic Democrats” thread, Gerald praised the group “Catholic Democrats” because ” their main focus is to reduce the incidence of abortion — not to change the nature of law or society. ” He added, “I believe they are correct in their assessment, as I have tried to argue repeatedly on this site.” Later in that same thread, Gerald says that it is “insane” to continue to seek “the legal protection of innocent life.”

    The following examples are all from the recent “With Obama It Really is a Vote for Abortion” thread.

    Gerald first says that “there are better means available to achieve the end that have nothing to do with using the law as a means of coercing behavior.” Then he defends the pro-choice position as “reasonable and ethically defensible”: “Some people.e.,g, are quite fearful of the consequences of government intrusion into such a personal matter. They are also concerned with what such intrusion would do to the entire country. Given this, they judge it prudent to let each women to decide their course of action. This is reasonable and ethically defensible.”

    Next, he points to Prohibition in order to argue that a law banning abortion would be imprudent: “But I am saying that there are lessons to be learned from the means that brought about Prohibition. When the law gets ahead of itself, the law tends to lack legitimacy.” Similarly, Gerald dismisses legal measures as “divisive and counterproductive”: “In the meantime, I believe the most effective means available is through measures design to reduce the incidence of abortion. I don’t believe legal means are very effective. I’m not saying they have no effect. But they tend to be divisive and counterproductive.”

    And to cap it all off, Gerald claims that subsidiarity “very clearly” supports the “pro-choice position.”

    Wow! And he says that sort of thing with no disagreement from the enforcers of Catholic orthodoxy around here! Amazing.

  175. TeutonicTim permalink
    June 27, 2008 10:45 am

    Digby – I think you really need to reread your history. Guns only in the hands of land owners? Hahahahahahahah!

  176. June 27, 2008 11:42 am

    A description of Catholic Legal thought or theory can be found here

    http://www.ewtn.com/library/Academic/ZLEGALTH.HTM

    Just as I suspected… simply a recent project of American lawyers and law profs. Here we are debating whether or not we need to listen to the u.s. Catholic bishops while at the same time giving all kinds of authority to the musings of u.s. Catholic lawyers, the types whose mantra is “the law is the law is the law” (eh, Feddie?). Amazing.

    The English language needs a word for “someone who adopts a mocking tone when HE is the one who doesn’t know what he’s talking about and didn’t even take the time to do a simple Google search.”

    Sorry, those of us who work on real theology don’t really bother with phenomena like the Catholic Legal Thought clique.

  177. June 27, 2008 11:49 am

    Based on what I have read from many Catholic Law professors, they resort quite a bit to the USCCB (did I say extensively?) on immigration, labor issues, health care and so on. I have not read what they have to say about gun ownership, but I don’t know why they would be inconsistent on that matter if they seem to rely on the USCCB for everything else.

  178. June 27, 2008 11:50 am

    Sorry, those of us who work on real theology don’t really bother with phenomena like the Catholic Legal Thought clique.

    It’s no wonder you guys ran off Rick Garnett, then.

  179. c matt permalink
    June 27, 2008 12:20 pm

    I thought we were debating real law, not real theology? To say the opinion is “shameful” from a theological perspective is one thing; to say it is shameful from a Constitutional law perspective is totally different. Perhaps the two debates should be separated.

    In fact, there should be no debate about the shamefulness of the opinion from either perspective. Legally, the opinion is perfectly sound. Theologically, the real problem (if there is one) is with the Second Amendment, not the opinion.

  180. c matt permalink
    June 27, 2008 12:23 pm

    Katerina,

    When I see Catholic law professors referring to USCCB docs on immigration, etc., it is usually in the context of policy making authority of the government (eg, discussing certain legislative issues such as immigration reform, universal health care, etc.) which is perfectly appropriate. I rarely see them cite to such documents on issues of Constitutional interpretation.

  181. c matt permalink
    June 27, 2008 12:30 pm

    Re-reading the original post, it seems MM is looking at the opinion (hence the 2nd Amd) from a theological perspective only. The problem is that the USCCB determination (“We believe…”) is nothing more than their prudential judgment that banning handguns would reduce hand-gun related crime, and hence be for the common good. This is a completely fact driven determination that does not claim to teach on matters of faith and morals to be held as true. They could be as mistaken on this as trying to predict the weather.

  182. June 27, 2008 12:43 pm

    Michael I just pointed that out as a example. Here is a blog that has severa lof their contributors

    http://mirrorofjustice.blogs.com/mirrorofjustice/

    I assume the same thing goes on elsehwhere in the world or at least I hope it does. It does seem LAW and a Catholic viewpoint of it is critical

    I would also like to point out that at one time Rick Garrett was a contributor here also I think a respected one

    http://vox-nova.com/2007/10/27/what-is-the-mission-of-a-catholic-law-school/

    If I recall correctly I never saw anyone object to his presence. It should also be mention that he links to this Vox a great deal and incorporates its thoughts in discussion.

  183. June 27, 2008 1:04 pm

    Yes, it is a prudential judgment in the sense that it is the application of underlying principles to particular facts and circumstances. Prudential judgment does not mean license to ignore– which many on the right appear to assume. The USCCB itself says that this is not just one opinion among many, and must be taken seriously. The “facts and circumstances” spoken to by this prudential judgment includes the violent nature of American society and the of-the-charts gun deaths. It does not refer to some fantasy situation of arming citizens against tyrants, communists or Martians with lasers.

  184. June 27, 2008 1:06 pm

    SB: if you want to know why Rick left, please ask him. I will not tolerate you spreading stupid rumors and casting aspersions on the rest of us in that context. Any more of that and you’re out of here, permanently this time.

  185. June 27, 2008 1:21 pm

    People continue to misrepresent Gerald. He has more than once said the end that he desires is to make abortion illegal (therefore, he is not pro-choice). He has specifically said that the means is an issue, and we must take into consideration the actual circumstance we live in (something, I think, partisans who just use the term life for votes do not do). He has also more than made it clear that there are several levels of the discussion going on, and people taking a discussion on one level (how things are in US law) do not demonstrate either comprehension or honesty in their dialogue with Gerald. That they squash different discussions together demonstrates why I think it is a mental problem behind their debates with him; they have not had sufficient intellectual training to understand core distinctions. But it is possible the error is purposeful; then it is malicious to the core. Either way cease and desist. Talk to him, but not misrepresent him.

  186. June 27, 2008 1:40 pm

    I didn’t squash different discussions with Gerald together. I’d never heard of him before the other day, when he said outright that the pro-choice position is justified by subsidiarity. If someone said to me “the legality of gassing Jews is justified by subsidiarity” I wouldn’t need any further discussion or ‘understanding of core distinctions’ to know what I think of his opinions.

  187. June 27, 2008 1:46 pm

    Perhaps the two debates should be separated.

    Yep, let’s isolate theology so that it has little to do with real life. Good idea. That’s precisely the kind of thinking that worked to Hitler’s benefit.

    Michael I just pointed that out as a example. Here is a blog that has severa lof their contributors… I would also like to point out that at one time Rick Garrett was a contributor here also I think a respected one… If I recall correctly I never saw anyone object to his presence.

    Of course no one objected to his presence. He was an insightful contributor. Personally, I agreed with him on some things and disagreed on others. But I’m not sure why it surprises you that I’m not generally impressed with “Catholic Legal Thought” or its blogosphere devotees, considering my theological and political commitments.

    I assume the same thing goes on elsehwhere in the world or at least I hope it does. It does seem LAW and a Catholic viewpoint of it is critical

    Probably. But elsewhere in the world, those who reflect on such things probably don’t have a blinding devotion to the united states constitution and “what the forefathers envisioned.”

  188. June 27, 2008 1:46 pm

    Zippy

    He is discussing subsidiarity in the ACTUAL US situation. If you think “moving it to the states” or “to the cities” will change anything in the present circumstance, you are mistaken. It is an issue which needs universal control, not haphazard chaos. If moved to an issue of subsidiarity, the end result will indeed be pro-choice in the present circumstances. Stating that is not say “I desire it to be so.” It is just observing a phenomena. Your inability to understand somehing THAT simple is disheartening.

  189. June 27, 2008 2:28 pm

    Zippy — the comment in question is here: http://vox-nova.com/2008/04/29/deal-hudson-and-deacon-sambi/#comment-20096

    Note that Gerald isn’t making a factual claim about the effects of subsidiarity; he isn’t claiming that under conditions of subsidiarity, some states will still allow abortion. To the contrary, Gerald expressly said that the abortion decision “should be decided at the level of the women, the doctor, and the pastor. This is subsidiarity.” This is also 1) pro-choice, and 2) completely contrary to the concept of subsidiarity. As Morning’s Minion correctly said elsewhere, “subsidiarity has little to do with the liberty of the individual from state power.”

  190. c matt permalink
    June 27, 2008 2:45 pm

    But the crucial fact/circumstance of which the USCCB has no special competence (and some may say has a special incompetence) is whether a gun ban would increase or decrease the off-the-charts gun related deaths.

    Separating the debates [theological v law] would not render the theological debate meaningless in the “real world”. It is simply the difference between debating whether one followed the rules or what the rule says (law) and whether the rule should be changed (theology/philosophy). The court’s job in interpreting the Con is the former.

  191. June 27, 2008 3:33 pm

    Six more comments and we hit 200– come on, you can do it!!!

    (But if you want to criticize, criticize me, please: leave Gerald Campbell– who is not here to defend himself– out of this).

  192. June 27, 2008 3:34 pm

    I’ll help.

    Here’s one more comment. ;)

  193. June 27, 2008 3:48 pm

    Michael I.,

    I don’t know any serious thinker who has “blinding devotion” to the U.S. Constitution.

    That said, many serious thinkers see good things in the U.S. Constitution, good things that are worth conserving. Defending those good things from people who seek to destroy them is just as acceptable as you defending your strange desire to bring about the end of the state.

  194. June 27, 2008 4:06 pm

    199

  195. June 27, 2008 4:15 pm

    MM — no one is saying anything about Gerald’s words that hasn’t been said numerous times elsewhere. He has already “defended” himself, in the sense of reiterating his pro-choice position as wise, prudent, reasonable, ethical, better suited to producing a consensus against abortion (never mind how), less racist (again, never mind how), and all of the rest.

    I brought it up only because I’m bothered by the rank hypocrisy from you, Katerina, Poli, and Michael I, — all of you consistently ignore a co-blogger who says that it is “insane” to try to make abortion illegal, even though that is binding Church teaching, but at the same time criticize conservatives for disagreeing with documents that, at best, consist of prudential judgment on issues outside any bishop’s competence or teaching authority.

  196. June 27, 2008 4:17 pm

    By the way, do you have an email address?

  197. digbydolben permalink
    June 27, 2008 4:27 pm

    You know, since I’ve been called on the accuracy of my knowledge of 18th century (far better on European 18th century history, I’ll admit–where guns definitely WERE part of the paraphernalia of the privileged), I think I should admit that I have very little regard for you Americans’ idolatry of your Constitution. It seems to me that it’s a document that is very much limited by the narrowly rationalist Enlightenment thinking of its fabricators’ times: they were extremely narrow-minded, atheistic-tending men, who were more solidly racist in their attitudes toward blacks and Native Americans than even their religiously bigoted forefathers had been.

    The American Constitution is a document that is manifestly perverted by its framers’ racism and elitism, and the two-fifths clause is just one manifestation of the crudeness of their thinking: they seem, additionally, to have little or no regard for any human who wasn’t a property owner, for instance.

    And, as for the influence, historically, of written or unwritten “constitutions”–especially when they continue to be read in a dogmatic, adulatory way, well, I’ll just refer you to the Roman “constitution,” which, the more it was read narrowly, and the less in any kind of spirit of preservation of the Roman people’s freedom, the more it came to be a hindrance to the security of those people’s republican institutions. Because of this overly literalist reading, Romans of the first century AD actually were able to continue to believe they were living in a republic: after all, the Senate still met, there were still votes, etc.

    In Albuquerque, I have very good reason to worry about my SAFETY from the vicious gangs that the police are terrified of. I’m not much worried about my “right to bear arms,” and I can’t wait to get to the security and tranquility of a continent where only the constabulary have a “right to bear arms,” and where that constabulary is not so terrified of the populace they’re charged to protect that they’d treat me and the other law-abiders with suspicion and contempt, as the Albuquerque cops do.

  198. June 27, 2008 4:35 pm

    Digby — if you let your flaming contempt for Americans affect your personal life, I’m sure all of your neighbors and co-workers will be even more delighted to see you leave.

    In any event, you seem to have the common misunderstanding of the Constitution’s THREE-fifths clause. That clause counted slaves as 3/5 of a person not because it was diminishing their humanity — in fact, the Southern slave states wanted to count slaves as whole persons (because those states would then have greater representation in Congress even while they refused to allow slaves to vote). And it was the Northern free states that didn’t want to count slaves in the census at all; not counting slaves meant that Southern states wouldn’t have an exaggerated representation in Congress. So 3/5 was a compromise position (why it was 3/5 rather than 1/2, I have no idea).

  199. June 27, 2008 4:43 pm

    I can be reached at morningsminion@gmail.com.

  200. June 27, 2008 4:52 pm

    Digby: think and challenge yourself – read this book :

    http://www.vindicatingthefounders.com/

  201. June 27, 2008 5:38 pm

    SB – So the three-fifths clause was a compromise. So what? The southern states wanted to count slaves as persons only so that the states would have greater representation. That’s an instrumental argument for their “full personhood.” Not to mention the fact that the ones arguing for their “full personhood” were the ones enslaving them! The bottom line, even if it was a compromise position, is that slaves were not counted as full persons, nor were they treated as full persons.

    These are foundational realities on which the nation rests. This is our history. Let’s be honest about it.

  202. Mike Petrik permalink
    June 27, 2008 6:19 pm

    Michael,
    Yes, the constitution is imperfect. It is a human instrument devised by humans. But that instrument is nonetheless the law of the land to be interpreted by human judges. They should do so honestly.

  203. June 27, 2008 6:32 pm

    Michael — well, the point is that the 3/5 clause wasn’t about anyone’s “personhood” at all. It was about how to determine how many representatives a state would have in Congress. And to be perfectly accurate, the Constitution said that representatives would be apportioned by counting “free persons” and “three fifths of all other persons.” So in literal terms, the clause referred to slaves as full “persons” — it’s just that their collective number in a given state was reduced by 40% for purposes of determining how many seats the state got in Congress.

  204. June 27, 2008 7:16 pm

    SB – If that’s the kind of reasoning it takes for you to be okay with your country’s evil history, do what you need to do.

  205. June 27, 2008 8:09 pm

    Is this what it comes to? You are shown the actual meaning of a constitutional provision, and your only response is to question the motives of the messenger? How disgusting. I’m most definitely not OK with everything in my country’s history, and you have absolutely no reason to make that kind of slanderous insinuation. Understanding what a constitutional provision was meant to accomplish does not mean endorsing slavery.

  206. June 28, 2008 12:43 am

    What is disgusting is the suggestion that it had nothing to do with the personhood of slaves.

  207. Jim permalink
    June 28, 2008 2:57 am

    I wonder if Michael J. Iafrate, et al., would have the courage to run his mouth nonstop if he were unlucky enough to have been born anywhere besides the evil United States, where his b.s. is protected by the same constitution he finds so otherwise despicable. It strikes me that his preferred worldview is one of unending, unyielding religious war, where anyone who believes in something based on faith is justified in pursuing it at all costs, disregarding civil society for the divine good. Maybe we can lock you in a room with a Calvinist, Orthodox Jew, and an al Qaeda Muslim, and let you hack each other to death. The rest of us would prefer to live in a society where civil law governs our daily interactions, rather than every nut (e.g., Michael) pursuing his own fevered utopia until everyone is dead.

  208. June 28, 2008 9:29 am

    Facts are facts, Michael. The fact is, that constitutional provision had nothing to do with the personhood of slaves. Nothing. If personhood were at issue, it wouldn’t have been the southern states arguing to count all slaves, and it wouldn’t have been the northern states arguing that slaves shouldn’t count in the census. That makes no sense whatsoever. To the contrary, it was precisely because the northern states disliked slavery that they wished to diminish the political power of southern states by not counting slaves (thereby artificially inflating the representation of southern states in Congress).

    If you still claim that the 3/5 provision was about personhood, you are opposed to facts, logic, and history. And to repeat, pointing out the genesis and actual meaning of a constitutional provision in NO WAY means that one is in denial about the evil of slavery. That is just a lie.

  209. June 28, 2008 9:47 am

    Sorry, I got carried away; didn’t meant to say “lie,” as I shouldn’t assume that anything you say is knowingly untrue. In any event, observing what a constitutional provision means and where it came from is just a factual question; no sensible person would infer that normative approval is implied.

  210. Nate permalink
    June 28, 2008 11:33 am

    It would be helpful if everyone took a step back and looked at the big picture: we are called to create a world of peace where guns do not exist.

    “Peace, many people believe and say, is impossible, either as an ideal or as a reality. Here on the contrary is our message, your message too, men of good will, the message of all mankind: peace is possible! . . . peace is a duty.” – Paul VI

    As it relates to guns – it is our duty to create a world where homicidal weaponry does not exist.

    “Let us all unite to fight every kind of violence and to conquer war!” – JPII

  211. June 28, 2008 12:29 pm

    Jim – You have fallen for the myth of the state as savior. Unlearn, buddy, unlearn. We have another Savior in Christ Jesus.

  212. c matt permalink
    June 30, 2008 10:54 am

    Slavery implies the personhood of the enslaved – you don’t “enslave” horses or carts.

  213. July 1, 2008 12:55 am

    Slavery implies the personhood of the enslaved – you don’t “enslave” horses or carts.

    It most certainly does not. It reduces a person to property. You’re out of your mind.

  214. c matt permalink
    July 1, 2008 2:37 pm

    It certainly does “reduce” them to property – but to reduce them to property, they must have been something above property beforehand – throughout history, slavery has only been applied to people, not non-people. In that sense, making someone a “slave” means you must at least recognize they are persons whose freedom you are taking. I have never heard of someone referring to their covered wagon or cow as a “slave.” You are obviously not very familiar with the historical use of the term.

  215. July 1, 2008 2:54 pm

    c matt – Your suggestion that slave owners believed they were merely taking freedom away from humans beings that they, in fact, considered to be “persons” flies in the face of all evidence showing that they considered them less than human.

    I wonder about your insistence on this point: that slave owners considered slaves to be fully persons. What are you attempting to prove by making such claims? That slavery “wasn’t so bad”?

  216. Phil Steinacker permalink
    July 15, 2008 12:44 am

    I rarely visit this site since I discovered it a year or so because each time I find the lefty idiocy that pervades what is offered as reasoned “argument” is so pathetic I wind up getting sucked into what eventually becomes a waste of time. It is a waste, because as a rule those that advance a leftist agenda – whether within the Church or in our political culture – simply cannot hope to win a discussion without resorting to omissions, distortions, & misrepresentations. Reading this nonsense takes too long (for nothing especially gained) and responding takes even longer – too long.

    Oh well, here we go again.

    I was going to attempt to be thorough in my attributions by copying and pasting a complete list of all the various “nobles” & “knaves” from either side of this debate, but I just discovered that the cowards who run this site prevent one from having that capability (unlike most other blogs). I suppose they put a high value on the content, and harbor fears that others might try to steal their copy.

    Given the comprehensively erudite nature of the arguments mounted by those who respectfully disagree with the bishops’ position on gun control so ably misrepresented and distorted by the likes of (oops, can’t list them all, haven’t got time, and I can’t copy and paste; you know who you are, anyway – we ALL do!), I must conclude that it is the content contributed by the conservative, constitutional, gun-rights-Catholics that has such great value requiring protection from copyright violations.

    It certainly couldn’t be MM or Kat, or digby or nate, etc. Their arguments are thin gruel.

    And speaking of you guys, I got one for you!

    You’ve all been demanding – in your typically self-righteously haughty manner – our blind loyalty to non-Magesterial pronouncements by groups of bishops without sufficient authority to issue statements with any greater weight than advisory. And you’ve done so unequivocally and passionately. This is irrefutable. It’s in the record (don’t worry, it won’t get out – they won’t let me copy and paste it…).

    Therefore, would I not be correct in drawing from your individual and collective (doesn’t that word make you all feel so warm and fuzzy inside?) positions the inference that you unreservedly and completely refute the alleged Vat II notion oft-cited by liberal Catholics of the Primacy of Individual Conscience over hard Church teaching, dogma, doctrine, Canon law? Catholic liberals all, YOU are familiar with the concept that one must follow one’s own conscience over the Magesterium, right? I’m SURE you’ve advanced that position now and again – maybe over the abortion issue, perchance?

    I mean, don’t you guys use that one now and then yourselves? Or, if not you, then certainly most of your liberal Catholic friends do who elevate a few bishops’ non-binding opinions to the level of hard Church teaching on policy positions that are more in tune with hard left teachings. Funny how that works.

    Kudos to Freddie, SB, jh, Paul in the GNW, Teutonic Tim, and so many others who cleaned the collective clocks of these pseudo-Catholic anarchists. Special compliments to Richard, who set MM back on his ass so well MM still doesn’t seven see it. Richard, you and the others operate within such a fact and thought-based framework that MM and friends were out of their league. They certainly demonstrated no grasp of your arguments sufficient to meaningful retort.

    Thanks.

  217. July 15, 2008 12:49 am

    Phil:

    1) I’m the only contributor here who is an anarchist.

    2) Don’t know why you can’t cut and paste. We do it all the time here. You may have an archaic browser. Time for an update?

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