“Benedict XVI, eleven years later”

This set of reflections by Andrea Gagliarducci at Vatican Reporting is insightful. (HT: The Pillar, Starting Seven)

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.


Two ways of approaching appropriation of tradition by an historical figure like Bonaventure

In the Introduction of his book, The Hidden Center: Spirituality and Speculative Christology in St. Bonavanture, Zachary Hayes, O.F.M., distinguishes two ways of studying an historical figure like Bonaventure. Hayes’s purpose is to explain his inquiry regarding Bonaventure appropriation of theological tradition, but the distinction he draws can be transposed to other types of inquiries into an historical figure’s appropriation of other kinds of tradition as well, including a constitutional tradition.

One can envision two ways of approaching the study of an historical figure. It would be possible to attempt to locate Bonaventure’s work in the flow of history by tracing the developments that have preceded him and following the flow of history away from him. Such an approach is commonly found in studies of the history of doctrine and reflects the awareness that every great thinker carries out his work in a particular context. He is heir to a tradition coming to him from the history of a community, and he is a child of his own times. The consciousness of the individual is intimately related to the community and its history. Thus, theological positions evolve in a history and can be more fully understood only in reference to that history. Studies of this type present invaluable and indispensable insights, but they generally have the disadvantage of not allowing the larger contours of the author’s theological vision to emerge.

It is possible to approach an historical figure in quite different terms. Without denying the importance of what is accomplished by the first approach, it seems true to say that not only are great theologians heir to a tradition; but they appropriate the tradition in a living, personal way. What emerges in their work is not simply the restatement of traditional positions but a refashioning of tradition in a way that often bears the distinctive mark of the personality of the author. We believe this to be the case with Bonaventure. What stands out as most distinctive of his work is not the positions which he accepts from a tradition, but the unique way in which elements from quite diverse sources come together in an intensely personal and unified vision of reality. Obviously one must be aware of the broader historical issues, and we shall refer to them as they seem indispensable in understanding Bonaventure’s own position. But our central focus will be on Bonaventure himself rather than on his historical sources.

Hidden Center, Introduction, p. 6.