God’s real presence in my soul imposes on me a threefold duty

One of the more intriguing features of torts is relationality, which is a term to describe the way in which duties exist in relation to particular persons. This idea of relationality has a place in the spiritual life as well.

The concluding section of Chapter VII of The Presence of God by Fr. Anselm Moynihan O.P. is called “The Peace of God.” Notice how the threefold duty he describes arises out of God’s real presence in the inner sanctuary of one’s soul:

God’s real presence in the inner sanctuary of my soul imposes on me a threefold duty. I must defend the sanctuary; I must adorn and enable it; I must enter frequently to worship him who dwells there. There is, therefore, a certain resemblance between the duties we have in regard to the divine indwelling in our souls and those we have towards Our Lord’s sacramental presence in our churches.

I must, first of all, defend the inner sanctuary of my soul, for during this life it is always under siege. St. Peter calls upon us “to resist those natural appetites which besiege the soul” (1 Peter 2:11). In other words, I must fight against my evil inclinations; I must fight against sin, above all against mortal sin. Mortal sin destroys the sanctuary completely, leaving the soul ruined and desolate. And it is perfectly true to say that the destruction of every church in Christendom would count for nothing in God’s eyes by comparison with the ruin of a single spiritual sanctuary, destined as it is for eternity. But I must strive also against venial sin, for though it does not destroy the temple and extinguish the presence of God, deliberate venial sin involves the pollution of the temple and a slighting of him who dwells there. “Do not distress God’s Holy Spirit, whose seal you bear until the day of your redemption comes” (Eph. 4:30).

The avoidance of sin is of course the supremely important thing in this defense of the soul’s sanctuary. Yet, apart from what we would recognize as positive sins, there are many other things which, if we are not careful, will invade the soul and turn the temple of God into a marketplace. The worries and distractions of our daily life can very easily overwhelm us unless we are on the alert. It is essential that we refuse to let those get the better of us to the extent of destroying our peace of soul. To possess one’s soul in peace, free not only from the violence of serious sin but also from worries and irritations that so easily upset us, is an essential condition of intimacy with the Divine Guest of our soul, as it is the first mark of reverence which we owe to him. God is honored by silence. The external silence and quiet which we strive to preserve in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament has its yet nobler counterpart in the silence and quiet of soul we ought to maintain in the presence of the adorable Trinity in our hearts.

I must not only defend the soul’s sanctuary against every evil and discordant force; I must also try to adorn and enable it. That is, I must fill my heart with noble thoughts and desires, worthy of God. St. Paul has a beautiful exhortation on this in his Epistle to the Philippians. After urging them to let no anxiety disturb their peace of soul, casting all their care upon God, he goes on to say: “And now, brethren, all that rings true, all that commands reverence, and all that makes for right; all that is pure, all that is lovely; all that is gracious in the telling; virtue and merit, wherever virtue and merit are found—let this be the argument of your thought” (Phil. 4:8). Constant spiritual reading is the great means of doing this, especially reading of the New Testament and the lives of the saints. In these all that is “pure and lovely and gracious in the telling” is put before us in its most attractive form, and by continually dwelling on it our own minds and hearts take on some of its nobility.

Lastly, I myself must frequently enter the inner sanctuary to pay honor to the Divine Guest. I do that by what is called recollection.

Anselm Moynihan, O.P., The Presence of God, pp. 55-57.

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.