Cultivating the awareness of God and cultivating university donors

Catholic higher education in the United States faces some difficulties in common with higher education in the United States more generally, some difficulties specific to the Catholic Church, and some difficulties specific to Catholic education in the United States more generally. At the same time, institutions of Catholic higher education possess potentialities for renewal, including those that that can be activated in pursuit of their mission to cultivate the awareness of God. What might happen if administrators, officers, faculty, trustees and students understood Catholic institutions of higher education as actively oriented toward cultivating the awareness of God? What if institutional advancement were pursued through this kind of cultivation with the sort of planning and prioritization given to cultivation of financial donors? These questions are probably too pointed to make a difference, but they serve as a helpful introduction to this passage from Chapter 1 of The Presence of God by Fr. Anselm Moynihan O.P.:

The awareness of God which a Catholic should have is a supernatural thing, flowing from the divinely-infused virtue of faith in his intelligence. It is, therefore, a divine gift, but like other divine gifts it can and must be cultivated. Its cultivation consists in what is called the exercise of the presence of God. There is no practice more vital to our spiritual growth; for the presence of God is indeed the very sunlight of the soul, bringing every virtue to flower and fruitfulness. Just as we draw light and warmth and vigor from walking in the sun, says a seventeenth-century Dominican writer, so by keeping ourselves in God’s presence will we draw from him the spiritual light of wisdom, the soul’s warmth of charity and its energy of zeal in doing good. This is little more than a paraphrase of St. Paul’s appeal to the Ephesians to live as men “native to the light; where the light has its effect, all is goodness and holiness and truth” (Eph. 5:8-9).

At some time or other we have all encountered people who have learned to walk continually in the presence of God, and we have seen in them the radiance of those “native to the light.” They strike us as men who “breathe an air from another country; compared with other men, they are as the living compared with the dead; or better still, they are like men awake, while the rest are tortured by dreams and haunted of the unreal” (Belloc).

— Fr. Anselm Moynihan, O.P., The Presence of God, pp. 4-5.

adjudication-related considerations in Sheetz v. El Dorado

The Supreme Court’s recent decision in Sheetz v. El Dorado County (2024) features a unanimous opinion for the Court by Justice Barrett and separate concurring opinions by three other Justices (Sotomayor joined by Jackson; Gorsuch solo; and Kavanaugh joined by Kagan and Jackson). These separate opinions address themselves in different ways to the narrow scope of what was decided in the opinion for the Court.

The question presented was whether conditions imposed on building permits are exempt from regulatory takings scrutiny because they are imposed pursuant to legislation rather than administratively. The Court answers this question “no.”

Sotomayor (joined by Jackson) wrote separately to note that there is an antecedent question, one not addressed by the Court, which is “whether the permit condition would be a compensable taking if imposed outside the permitting context.”

Gorsuch wrote separately both to note that the Court’s opinion did not address another question and also to suggest that this question had an easy answer. This was the question “whether the Nollan/Dolan test [i.e. the test that governs the Takings Clause inquiry in this context] operates differently when an alleged taking affects a ‘class of properties’ rather than ‘a particular development.’” The easy answer to this question, implied Gorsuch, was “no.”

If this question was so easy, why didn’t the Court address it? It appears that at least three Justices have a different view than Gorsuch. Kavanaugh (joined by Kagan and Jackson) concurred “to underscore that the Court has not previously decided—and today explicitly declines to decide—whether ‘a permit condition imposed on a class of properties must be tailored with the same degree of specificity as a permit condition that targets a particular development.’” The reason to underscore the limited nature of the Court’s decision, presumably, is to prevent others from reading that opinion to have resolved the issue.

From this brief description of the scope of the opinions, the question naturally arises how the Court decided to calibrate the breadth or narrowness of this opinion. The answer to this question is not something that one tries to answer as a matter of constitutional interpretation. The answer turns instead on the nature of the judicial function within the particular place in the judicial hierarchy occupied by the Supreme Court of the United States, together with a justice’s understanding of how best to carry out that function as a single individual on a multimember appellate court with jurisdiction that is both limited and discretionary. To the extent that these kinds of understanding are informed by a distinctive theory, that would be a theory of adjudication rather than a theory of interpretation or law.

Pope Francis’s Remarks to International Federation of Catholic Universities

On January 19, 2024, Pope Francis was scheduled to deliver “a lengthy address” to the International Federation of Catholic Universities. Because he was a “bit short of breath,” he instead got right to the point of what he was going to say and then let his prepared text speak for itself. Here’s what he said viva voce:

I was planning to deliver a lengthy address, but I am a bit short of breath; as you can see, this cold is not going away! I am giving you the text so that you can read it for yourselves. I thank all of you for this meeting and for all the good that our Catholic universities do by communicating knowledge, the word of God and an authentic humanism. Never tire of persevering in the splendid mission of Catholic universities. It is not their confessional status that gives them their identity: that is one aspect, but not the only one. It is perhaps that clear humanism which makes people realize that human beings have values and that these need to be respected. This is perhaps the finest and greatest thing about your universities. Thank you very much.