The urgent need is to reawaken to a full awareness of God

After identifying as a problem “the lack of any interest in God or sense of his reality among reputed Christians,” Fr. Moynihan describes the problem in more detail by reference to “[a]n American writer, speaking of the students at one of the smaller American universities.” This writer describes the students “as living ‘in comfortable disregard of the superhuman. They are neither in revolt against it, nor in search of it. Religion as a social service they find all about them, and they respect. Religion as something relating to God they neither know nor miss.'” (pp. 2-3, emphasis added) This is a “degradation of religion,” Moynihan writes. He says this “thinly-disguised worship of humanity is the natural outcome of the overthrow of supernatural authority and dogma.” (p. 3, emphasis added). Although Moynihan believes “Catholics are not so likely to fall complete victims to it,” he says “there is a danger that Catholics may develop a practical attitude which is not so very different, that of laying too much stress on the humanitarian and social side of the Church’s work.” (p. 3, emphasis added) Moynihan continues:

We live in an age that is preoccupied with social questions, and Catholics are being challenged to justify their faith by its concrete success in dealing with these questions. Aware of the great contributions which the Church’s doctrines have in fact to make in this sphere, Catholics may be led to speak and act as if it were the main concern of the Church instead of a secondary, if important, one. As the Second Vatican Council has vigorously reasserted, the real mission of the Church is to bring the world back to God, to make it conscious of him as the supreme, adorable reality and its own highest good. On the other hand it is perfectly true that in proportion to the successful accomplishment of that mission, justice and peace will reign among men, and even sufficient material prosperity, following Our Lord’s promise to those who seek first the Kingdom of God. Furthermore, these things will in fact only come about if the Church’s primary task is achieved, if it succeeds in reawakening the world to a full awareness of God. That is by far the most urgent, the direst need of our time, to make people aware of God. And it is the fundamental requirement for the renewal of the Church itself. (pp. 3-4, emphases added)

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.