Center Sponsors Successful Joint Colloquium with Villanova Law School

Here’s an article, from the St. John’s Law School website, on the inaugural session of the Joint Colloquium in Law and Religion, which the Center hosted with Villanova Law School this semester. The Joint Colloquium, which featured leading law and religion scholars, used innovative “virtual classroom” technology to allow students and faculty at both schools to participate simultaneously through a synchronous video link.

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Joint Colloquium with Michael Walzer

From the article:

Michael Walzer (Institute for Advanced Studies) discussed the ethics of war in classical and contemporary Jewish law. Legal historian Sarah Barringer Gordon (University of Pennsylvania) explained how the availability of the corporate form empowered African-American congregations in the early national period. Kristine Kalanges (Notre Dame University School of Law) explored the relationship between Islamic law and contemporary ideas about constitutionalism and human rights. Kent Greenawalt (Columbia Law School) and Donald L. Drakeman (Cambridge University) both presented papers on Originalism. Greenawalt argued that factors other than the original understanding inevitably will and should play an important role in constitutional interpretation. Drakeman offered a methodological middle ground, one that takes account of both original intent and original meaning. Steven D. Smith (University of San Diego School of Law) critiqued the standard account of American religious freedom, and asked whether religious freedom in America today is suffering a decline.

The virtual classroom enriched the discussions by allowing for a fruitful exchange between participants at the two host schools. After the speakers presented their papers, students had the opportunity to ask questions and present their own insights and opinions on the issues.

This was our first experience with virtual classroom technology, and it was highly successful. You can read more about the joint colloquium, and view a photo gallery, here. Thanks to everyone who made it possible, and see you next time!

 

Johnson, “Monastic Women and Religious Orders in Late Medieval Bologna”

Next month, Cambridge will publish Monastic Women and 9781107060852Religious Orders in Late Medieval Bologna, by Sherri Franks Johnson (University of California, Riverside). The publisher’s description follows.

Sherri Franks Johnson explores the roles of religious women in the changing ecclesiastical and civic structure of late medieval Bologna, demonstrating how convents negotiated a place in their urban context and in the church at large. During this period Bologna was the most important city in the Papal States after Rome. Using archival records from nunneries in the city, Johnson argues that communities of religious women varied in the extent to which they sought official recognition from the male authorities of religious orders. While some nunneries felt that it was important to their religious life to gain recognition from monks and friars, others were content to remain local and autonomous. In a period often described as an era of decline and the marginalization of religious women, Johnson shows instead that they saw themselves as active participants in their religious orders, in the wider church and in their local communities.

Schroeder, “Deborah’s Daughters: Gender Politics and Biblical Interpretation”

Next month, Oxford will publish Deborah’s Daughters: Gender Politics9780199991044_140 and Biblical Interpretation, by Joy A. Schroeder (Capital University and Trinity Lutheran Seminary). The publisher’s description follows.

Joy A. Schroeder offers the first in-depth exploration of the biblical story of Deborah, an authoritative judge, prophet, and war leader. For centuries, Deborah’s story has challenged readers’ traditional assumptions about the place of women in society. 

Schroeder shows how Deborah’s story has fueled gender debates throughout history. An examination of the prophetess’s journey through nearly two thousand years of Jewish and Christian interpretation shows how the biblical account of Deborah was deployed against women, for women, and by women who aspired to leadership roles in church and society. Numerous women—and men who supported women’s aspirations to leadership—used Deborah’s narrative to justify female claims to political and religious authority. Opponents to women’s public leadership endeavored to define Deborah’s role as ”private” or argued that she was a divinely authorized exception, not to be emulated by future generations of women.

Deborah’s Daughters provides crucial new insight into the the history of women in Judaism and Christianity, and into women’s past and present roles in the church, synagogue, and society.

Herringer, “Victorians and the Virgin Mary: Religion and Gender in England 1830-85″

Next month, Manchester University Press will publish Victorians and the Virgin Mary: Religion and Gender in England 1830-85 by Carol Engelhardt Herringer (Wright State University). The publisher’s description follows.

This interdisciplinary study of competing representations of the Virgin Mary examines how anxieties about religious and gender identities intersected to create public controversies that, whilst ostensibly about theology and liturgy, were also attempts to define the role and nature of women. Drawing on a variety of sources, this book seeks to revise our understanding of the Victorian religious landscape, both retrieving Catholics from the cultural margins to which they are usually relegated, and calling for a reassessment of the Protestant attitude to the feminine ideal. This book will be useful to advanced students and scholars in a variety of disciplines including history, religious studies, Victorian studies, women’s history and gender studies.

Rice,”Contraception and Persecution”

Next month, St. Augustine’s Press will publish Contraception and Persecution by Charles Rice (University of Notre Dame Law School). The publisher’s description follows.

“Contraceptive sex,” wrote social science researcher Mary Eberstadt in 2012, “is the fundamental social fact of our time.” In this important and pointed book, Charles E. Rice, of the Notre Dame Law School, makes the novel claim that the acceptance of contraception is a prelude to persecution. He makes the striking point that contraception is not essentially about sex. It is a First Commandment issue: Who is God? It was at the Anglican Lambeth Conference of 1930 when for the first time a Christian denomination said that contraception could ever be a moral choice. The advent of the Pill in the 1960s made the practice of contraception practically universal. This involved a massive displacement of the Divine Law as a normative measure of conduct, not only on sex but across the board. Nature abhors a vacuum. The State moved in to occupy the place formerly held by God as the ultimate moral Lawgiver. The State put itself on a collision course with religious groups and especially with the Catholic Church, which continues to insist on that traditional teacher. A case in point is the Obama Regime’s Health Care Mandate, coercing employees to provide, contrary to conscience, abortifacients and contraceptives to their employees. The first chapter describes that Mandate, which the Catholic bishops have vowed not to obey. Rice goes on to show that the duty to disobey an unjust law that would compel you to violate the Divine Law does not confer a general right to pick and choose what laws you will obey. The third chapter describes the “main event,” which is the bout to determine whether the United States will conform its law and culture to the homosexual (LGBTQ) lifestyle in all its respects. “The main event is well underway and LGBTQ is well ahead on points.” Professor Rice follows with a clear analysis of the 2013 Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage. Part II presents some “underlying causes” of the accelerating persecution of the Catholic Church. The four chapter headings in this part outline the picture: The Dictatorship of Relativism; Conscience Redefined; The Constitution: Moral Neutrality; and The Constitution: Still Taken Seriously? The answer to the last question, as you might expect, is: No. Part III, the controversial heart of the book, presents contraception as “an unacknowledged cause” of persecution. The first chapter argues that contraception is not just a “Catholic issue.” The next chapter describes the “consequences” of contraception and the treatment of women as objects. The third chapter spells out in detail the reality that contraception is a First Commandment issue and that its displacement of God as the ultimate moral authority opened the door for the State to assume that role, bringing on a persecution of the Church. The last chapter, “A Teaching Untaught,” details the admitted failure of the American Catholic bishops to teach Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical, Humanae Vitae. But Rice offers hope that the bishops are now getting their act together Part IV offers as a “response” to the persecution of the Church three remedies: Speak the Truth with clarity and charity; Trust God; and, most important, Pray. As the last sentence in the book puts it: “John Paul II wrote in a letter to U.S. bishops in 1993: ‘America needs much prayer – lest it lose its soul.’” This readable and provocative book is abundantly documented with a detailed index of names and subjects.

Mayor de Blasio Reverses NYC Dept of Education Policy of Exclusion

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has reversed the New York City Department of Education’s policy of exclusion of religious groups that engage in “worship” from the use, on equal terms with other groups, of public school classrooms–a policy that was upheld several times by the Second Circuit as vindicating “interests favored by the Establishment Clause.” The Mayor concluded that “[a] faith-based organization has a right like anyone else” to use the public school space.

David Cameron on the Persecution of Christians

The persecution of Christians, slowly, is making its way onto the world’s agenda. In his annual Easter message, British Prime Minister David Cameron (above) urged churches in Britain to do more to draw attention to the suffering of Christians across the globe. Cameron also spoke, unusually, about his own Christian faith and the benefits Christianity “brings to Britain.” Skeptics might perceive an attempt to smooth relations with rank-and-file Conservatives, many of whom Cameron antagonized by supporting same-sex marriage. But politicians always have a variety of motives. Cameron deserves credit for raising the issue of persecution at a time when many in the West ignore it.

And why do so many in the West ignore the persecution of Christians? The always valuable John Allen explains:

Why isn’t this global war on Christians more of a cause célèbre?Fundamentally, the silence is the result of a bogus narrative about religion in the West. Most Americans and Europeans are in the habit of thinking about Christianity as a rich, powerful, socially dominant institution, which makes it hard to grasp that Christians can actually be victims of persecution.

I’ve made a similar point myself, here.

French & Nathan (eds.), Buddhism and Law: An Introduction

This June, Cambridge University Press will publish Buddhism and Law: An Introduction edited by Rebecca Redwood French (SUNY Buffalo) and Mark A. Nathan (SUNY Buffalo). The publisher’s description follows.buddhism

As the first comprehensive study of Buddhism and law in Asia, this interdisciplinary volume challenges the concept of Buddhism as an apolitical religion without implications for law. Buddhism and Law draws on the expertise of the foremost scholars in Buddhist studies and in law to trace the legal aspects of the religion from the time of the Buddha to the present. In some cases, Buddhism provided the crucial architecture for legal ideologies and secular law codes, while in other cases it had to contend with a preexisting legal system, to which it added a new layer of complexity. The wide-ranging studies in this book reveal a diversity of relationships between Buddhist monastic codes and secular legal systems in terms of substantive rules, factoring, and ritual practices. This volume will be an essential resource for all students and teachers in Buddhist studies, law and religion, and comparative law.

Kanarek, “Biblical Narrative and the Formation of Rabbinic Law”

This June, Cambridge University Press will publish Biblical Narrative and the Formation of Rabbinic Law by Jane L. Kanarek (Hebrew College). The publisher’s description follows.biblical

This book presents a new framework for understanding the relationship between biblical narrative and rabbinic law. Drawing on legal theory and models of rabbinic exegesis, Jane L. Kanarek argues for the centrality of biblical narrative in the formation of rabbinic law. Through close readings of selected Talmudic and midrashic texts, Kanarek demonstrates that rabbinic legal readings of narrative scripture are best understood through the framework of a referential exegetical web. She shows that law should be viewed as both prescriptive of normative behavior and as a meaning-making enterprise. By explicating the hermeneutical processes through which biblical narratives become resources for legal norms, this book transforms our understanding of the relationship of law and narrative as well as the ways in which scripture becomes a rabbinic document that conveys legal authority and meaning.

Machiavelli’s Civil Religion

This review by Professor Cary Nederman of Professor Maurizio Viroli’s Redeeming the Prince: The Meaning of Machiavelli’s Masterpiece is very interesting (h/t Matt Lister). I have not read Viroli’s book yet (saving it for the summer!), but his reading of Machiavelli–and in particular his interpretation of the famously perplexing Chapter 26 (“Exhortatio ad capessendam Italiam in liberatemque a barbaris vindicandam”)–makes a fine textualist case for a kind of civil religion in his work. Here, Machiavelli pleads for an Italian redeemer who–”favorita da Dio e dalla Chiesa” (“favored by God and the Church”)–will deliver Italy from its present troubles. The troubles are pretty bad: “sanza capo, sanza ordine, battuta, spogliata, lacera, corsa, e avessi sopportato d’ogni sorte ruina” (“without a head, without order, beaten, denuded, wounded, run down, and having sustained all manner of ruin”). Here’s a bit from the review concerning what Machiavelli had in mind concerning the divine agent who would unify Italy and redeem its national promise:

In contrast to most scholars, for whom Chapter 26 cannot be reconciled with the previous body of the text, Viroli insists that Machiavelli’s “Exhortation” represents the very crescendo of The Prince. How does Viroli arrive at such an unconventional reading?….His overarching insight, I take it, is that we ought to take Machiavelli at his word when he speaks of religious matters and, in particular, mentions the workings of God. The prevailing tendency, of course, has been to dismiss such references as reflective of either his impiety or his wicked sense of humor. On this important point, I believe Viroli to be largely correct. Scholars have all-too-often filtered their readings of Machiavelli through a set of preconceived notions or impressions of what they assume he was saying, according to his longstanding reputation, rather than what the text actually states. This does not mean that Machiavelli’s political thought lacks an underlying agenda, but rather that we must always commence our investigations by taking the words he wrote seriously and at face value….

In particular, Machiavelli’s invocation of prophetic wording in Chapter 26, according to Viroli, reflects the overarching purpose of The Prince: the call for a redeemer, presumably Lorenzo de’ Medici, to unify Italy in order to remove the foreign elements that have dominated its politics. Machiavelli says that such a redeemer is sanctioned by God, who has rendered the moment propitious for such action. Viroli insists that we must take Machiavelli at his word in this regard, rather than dismissing it as incompatible with the general message of The Prince.

That supposed “general message” helps us to grasp the sense in which Machiavelli may be characterized as a realist for Viroli. Specifically, Viroli asserts that Machiavelli adopts the stance of a “realist with imagination.” By this he means that Machiavelli perfectly well understood the situation of Italy as it existed in his own day; this is his “realist” dimension. Yet he posits that Machiavelli was also engaged in an imaginative way to change such reality by promoting a savior, a redeemer, capable of instituting the reforms necessary to transform the realities of his day. On Viroli’s account, Machiavelli pursued this agenda by mythologizing the great men of bygone times as well as some of his contemporaries. Thus, he mythologizes the redeemers whom he lauds in Chapters 6 and 26 — such as Moses, Cyrus and Theseus — as well as recent political figures such as Caterina Sforza and (especially) Cesare Borgia, both of whom he had encountered during his days in the Florentine civil service. Their deeds are transformed by him without regard to their actual behavior, for which Machiavelli has no use. Machiavelli’s realism, then, is not confined to an effort to analyze and explain political events and personalities, past and present, in the manner of a political scientist. Rather, he renders his favored subjects larger than life, with the purpose of exhorting the redeemer to aim at their example, even if he falls short.