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Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Catholic Recipe for Hamburgers

In blogospheric terms, the discussion of Justice Scalia's statement that there is no such thing as a Catholic judge is long over, so it's a little late to weigh in.  Moreover, I agree generally with Rick's pithy pronouncement on the subject, which he fills in on MoJ and in the comments to his post, so it would seem there is little to add.  But I want to add two comments.  The first is raised by a quote offered up by Judge William Pryor in his article, The Religious Faith and Judicial Duty of an American Catholic Judge, 24 Yale L. & Pol'y Rev. 347 (2006), which is well worth reading.  In his article, Judge Pryor offers up this quote from the Catholic Catechism:

Human work proceeds directly from persons created in the image of God and called to prolong the work of creation . . . . Work honors the Creator's gifts and the talents received from him.  It can also be redemptive.  By enduring the harship of work in union with Jesus, the carpenter of Nazareth and the one crucified on Calvary, man collaborates in a certain fashion with the Son of God in his redemptive work.  He shows himself to be a disciple of Christ by carrying the cross, daily, in the work he is called to accomplish.  Work can be a means of sanctification and a way of animating earthly realities with the Spirit of Christ.

Obviously, this sentiment does not mandate, or even suggest, a particular jurisprudential view or methodology.  In that sense, a "Catholic Justice" imbued with this belief in work as a duty of faith may be indistinguishable in his or her outward approach or outcome from any other judge; so Scalia is right, in that limited sense, to say there is no such thing as a Catholic Justice.  But in a broader sense, he is wrong: a faithful Catholic Justice brings to his work a sense of the sacredness of all work, of the hope that labor can be a profound and redemptive activity.  Surely that is something distinctive.  "Distinctive," not unique -- it is an outlook that surely is not limited to Catholics, nor, I think, to religious individuals.  But distinctive, nonetheless.

Which leads me to my other comment, and the title for this post.  Justice Scalia said in his remarks that the Catholic faith seems to him to have little effect on his work as a judge, "just as there is no Catholic way to cook a hamburger."  At the risk of straying into an almost self-parodying respect for religion, I take issue with that, and I was disappointed that no one during the first round of discussion of Scalia's comments focused on the mundane act of cooking a hamburger rather than the supposedly exalted act of judging.  Surely the point of a religious life, or of any effort to live a serious and thoughtful life, is that any and every action can be imbued with purpose, meaning, or at least a sense of the fullness of the moment.  If anything, I think the question whether there is a "Catholic [or other] way to cook a hamburger" -- whether, in less risible terms, it's possible to invest mundane acts with meaning -- is of more importance than the comparatively episodic and ephemeral work of judging. 


Posted by Paul Horwitz on November 8, 2007 at 05:31 PM in Religion | Permalink


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Christian Law Clerk, thanks so much for the comment. Not to slight the others, but I did especially want to express my appreciation for your very interesting comment, which opens a window into how one lives one's commitments through work.

Posted by: Paul Horwitz | Nov 13, 2007 6:09:37 PM

Thank you for the quotation from Judge Pryor's article. I am a Christian who is currently clerking on the US Court of Appeals, and generally agree with and appreciate the content of that quote. As a Christian who is now in a position to help decide cases, I have given this issue some thought (though not as much as you or Judge Pryor).

I believe that my Christian faith is very relevant to my job, but not in the way that most people would suspect, i.e., not in terms of a result in any one case ... rather, it is relevant in terms of how I approach my work. I don't think that anyone could read any bench memo or opinion I've drafted and see a "Christian" analysis or result. Indeed, it is my faith which teaches that I am to respect the law, the parties, and the other judges, be fair- and open-minded toward all, and be intellectually honest. It is my faith which tells me not to be results-oriented, but to do the serious and hard work of research and analysis to be sure that each decision is legally right. I may not like where the research or analysis leads, but, in such circumstances, I cannot twist the law or ignore it to reach the result that I personally favor. Instead, I should reach the fairest result within what the law allows, and, if so inclined, seek legal change through other means by.

And, as mentioned in the post, this is important work. Justice and mercy are vital parts of the Christian faith and of Jesus's ministry. Every day, I am keenly aware of the trust -- from both the public and from God -- that has been placed in me to do my work well and right.

I have long been interested in issues of work and faith, in particular in the context of the legal profession, so thank you for providing further food for thought. I will also point out that Fordham law school has a center for faith and law that puts on great programs, and Redeemer Presbyterian Chuch in NYC has a Center for Work and Faith that addresses these issues from a religious perspective

Posted by: Christian law clerk | Nov 11, 2007 3:50:18 PM

I'm not sure whether or not there is a specifically Catholic recipe for hamburgers, but there certainly is a Jewish recipe: use kosher meat, hold the cheese, and don't serve with a milkshake. The mistake in believing that there is a universal recipe for hamburgers, rather than just what was borrowed from Grandma's kitchen, might teach the following lesson: Judges who fail to understand that their judicial recipes are borrowed from the local kitchen are destined to cook the local fare.

Posted by: Russell Covey | Nov 9, 2007 8:09:38 AM

A lapsed Catholic and not at all fond of Scalia's jurisprudence insofar as I can make sense of it, I'm in general agreement with the tenor and tone of your post, although I would think a Catholic legal philosophy with roots in Aquinas and hence natural law, could certainly account for the importance of the so-called "comparatively episodic and ephemeral work of judging," vis-a-vis heretofore or otherwise mundane acts suffused with the sacred, the holy, religious meaning: even the mystic will understand religious value and meaning to allow for differences of degree and significance between different kinds of action (sometimes conceived on the order of a hierarchy of 'worlds'). What is more, Scalia belongs to a religious tradition that once understood the importance of the distinction here detailed by Josef Pieper between *intellectus* and *ratio*:

"*Ratio* is the power of discursive, logical thought, of searching and examination, of abstraction, of definition and drawing conclusions. *Intellectus* on the other hand, is the name for the understanding in so far as it is the capacity of the *simplex intuitus*, of the simple vision to which truth offers itself like a landscape to the eye. The faculty of mind, man's knowledge, is both these things in one...simultaneously *ratio* and *intellectus*; and the process of knowing is the action of the two together. The mode of discursive thought is accompanied and impregnated by an effortless awareness, the contemplative vision of the *intellectus*, which is not active but passive [with regard to the will, conscious thought, synchronous intentionality], or rather receptive, the activity of the soul in which it conceives that which it sees."

The *intellectus* was understood in one sense as being beyond the sphere of man qua man, and thus "superhuman" or indicative of our potential for supra-rational or para-rational (not irrational) revelatory intuition: it "reaches out beyond the sphere of the 'human,' touching on the order of pure spirits:"

"'Although the knowledge which is most characteristic of the human soul is *ratio*, nevertheless there is in it a sort of participation in the simple knowledge which is proper to higher beings, of whom it is therefore said that they possess the faculty of spiritual vision.' That is how the matter is put by Aquinas in the *Quaestiones disputatae de veritate*. It means to say that man participates in the angelic faculty of non-discursive vision, which is the capacity to apprehend the spiritual in the same manner that our eye apprehends light or our ear sound."

The *vita contemplativa* remains important to Catholic thought and this alone should add something distinctive, unique, spiritual, to Scalia's work as a judge, even if it is, in the end, the fruit of an attitude of inward calm, of silence, of "letting things happen," of the serenity of leisure in the scholastic sense. If, as Eric Gill says, "holiness means wholeness," than Scalia's Catholicism cannot but affect his jurisprudence.

Now I'm sypathetic to your final sentence to the extent that one can recognize in the Catholic worldview a "holy tradition of working" in which, say, cooking garden burgers, is every bit as important and holy as the act of judging: both are forms of work and, as such, holy. As Eric Gill wrote:

"To the workman, the artist, the subject has always been all in all. Unless he know what he is making he cannot make anything. Whether it be a church or only a tooth-pick he must know what it is; he must have it in his mind before he can begin, before he can even choose his material or lay his hand on a tool. And what a thing *is*, what things *are*, and, inevitably, whether they are good or bad, worth making or not, these questions bring him without fail to the necessity of making philosophical and religious decisions."

"Action is for the sake of contemplation, the active for the sake of the contemplative. To labour is to pray."

"'The artist is not a special kind of man, but every man is a special kind of artist.' This is a true saying; but we no longer believe it."

[Quoting Maritain] "'Art abides entirely on the side of the mind.' Art is skill, skill in making, human skill, the skill of rational beings. Art abides entirely on the side of the mind. Yes, and the idea of a drain-pipe must be as clearly in the mind as the idea of a painting. There is no escape from mental responsibility."

"This worship of God which a man displays in his work we call Beauty. Beauty is not to be confused with loveliness. Beauty is absolute, loveliness is relative. It is for the love of God and his worship that a man deals justly by the work of his hands. Beauty is not an accidental perfection either of God's creation or of man's handiwork. Beauty is an Essential Perfection of Creation and of handiwork. Beauty is the love of God and his praise and worship sensible in the work of man's hands."

Posted by: Patrick S. O'Donnell | Nov 8, 2007 7:42:27 PM

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