​Unconstitutional Catholics

From the August/September 2015 Print Edition

In late January, the Supreme Court granted review in Glossip v. Gross, a case involving a constitutional challenge to a drug protocol used in the imposition of capital punishment by lethal injection. Under current practice, lethal injection works by way of three drugs: the first sedates the person to be executed, the second paralyzes him, and the third stops his heart. At issue in the Glossip case is whether the sedative—Midazolam—effectively puts the prisoner into a state of unconsciousness in which he will be unaware of the rest of the execution. The state of Oklahoma claims that Midazolam works if given in a big enough dose, but some recent executions, during which prisoners showed signs of distress, call this claim into question. The court will thus have to decide whether the procedure violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on “cruel and unusual punishments.” Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami and Bishop Seán O’Malley of Boston issued statements cheering the court’s decision to hear the case. Their interventions cut more broadly than the issues raised by the case at hand, passing judgment on capital punishment itself. While “welcom[ing] the Court’s decision to review this cruel practice,” ­Archbishop Wenski held that “the use of the death penalty devalues human life and diminishes respect for human dignity. We bishops continue to say, we cannot teach killing is wrong by killing.” Said Cardinal O’Malley, “We pray that the Court’s review of these protocols will lead to the recognition that institutionalized practices of violence against any person erode reverence for the sanctity of every ­human life. Capital punishment must end.” Continue Reading »

Bret Stephens Assails Celibacy

From Web Exclusives

The unexpected resignation of Benedict XVI from the papacy and the subsequent conclave and election of his successor produced a blizzard of public commentary on the state of the Catholic Church, and in particular calls to abandon celibacy as a required discipline for priests, notably in Bret Stephens’ Wall Street Journal column “A Church, If You Can Keep It.” … Continue Reading »

Faith-Based Voting

From the February 2012 Print Edition

I think Mitt Romney’s a good, moral man,” Southern Baptist pastor Robert Jeffress told CNN at last October’s Values Voters Summit, “but I think those of us who are born again followers of Christ should always prefer a competent Christian to a competent non-Christian like Mitt . . . . Continue Reading »

In Defense of Ambition: Esolen’s Curious Overstatement

From Web Exclusives

Is ambition evil? In an October 2011 essay in First Things that offers an otherwise insightful and provocative critique of Stephen Greenblatt’s theologically tone-deaf interpretations of Shakespeare, Anthony Esolen appears to say as much. This is an important mistake. Esolen rightly calls out Greenblatt’s ignorance of”or insensitivity to”the great moral tradition of Western civilization… . Continue Reading »

Treating Democracy

From the November 2011 Print Edition

The Responsibility of Reason: Theory and Practice in a Liberal-Democratic Age by Ralph C. Hancock Rowman and Littlefield, 346 pages, $90 Modern societies lack confidence in the moral competence of reason. Americans agree, for example, in deploring a sexually exploitative culture that corrupts the . . . . Continue Reading »

Tiger Woods and Plato

From Web Exclusives

Two weeks ago, the Tiger Woods scandal was returned to the news by reports that Woods was receiving treatment for sex addiction. While many may have welcomed this sordid story’s earlier disappearance, it in fact deserves serious consideration because of what it says about our culture and, in fact, about our very humanity… . . Continue Reading »

Roman Polanski, Hollywood, and the Mystery of the Missing Outrage

From Web Exclusives

The arrest in Switzerland of Roman Polanski, and his possible extradition to the United States to stand trial for the rape of a minor, has stirred a surprising public controversy. While many commentators have expressed satisfaction that he might be called to account for his crime, others, especially those in Hollywood, have come to Polanski’s defense. The controversy itself is not so surprising as the character of the defense… . Continue Reading »

Same-Sex Marriage and the Death of Tradition

From Web Exclusives

Conservatism emerged as a defense of tradition. Edmund Burke, universally acknowledged as the founder of modern conservatism, famously defended tradition as a source of social safety and stability, a bulwark against the corrosive effects of an unfettered rationalism. To be sure, neither Burke nor his later followers have defended a blind adherence to traditional social forms. As Burke noted, a state incapable of change is a state without the means of its own preservation. Tradition must often be altered and adapted to new circumstances. Nevertheless, for the conservative, if tradition is not always to be preserved, it is at least always to be given the benefit of the doubt. As the most eminent of American Burkeans, Russell Kirk, once said, “if it is not necessary to change, then it is necessary not to change.”

The same-sex marriage movement is surely a great challenge to conservatism. The success of the movement would represent a great repudiation of tradition; in fact, it is almost impossible to distinguish the victory of the same-sex marriage movement from a complete repudiation not only of the traditional definition of marriage, but of the social authority of tradition as such. Consider the following points… . Continue Reading »