Month: February 2017

Opus Publicum on the Move

Crossposted from Opus Publicum’s new home: http://www.gssanchez.com


After nearly six years and two resets, Opus Publicum is making a move to my personal website. While the second iteration of my web-log and its contents will remain dormant online for the indefinite future, this “version” of Opus Publicum is intended to house longer, more detailed pieces with a greater emphasis on examining law, politics, and religion through an authentically integralist lens. This decision has been made for primarily two reasons.

First, as proud as I am of much of my writing (and the combox discussions it generated) on the old Opus Publicum, the blog came to be cluttered with too many asides, ephemeral remarks, and incomplete observations for my tastes. That’s on me, of course. At this juncture, it seems best to make a semi-clean break with the hopes of attracting a larger audience likely unconcerned with what I have to say on professional wrestling and watching the movie Silence with Protestants.

Second, and more important, I have come to realize that if I have something to say on a given topic, then I should do everything in my power to say it well. Blogging, like other forms of social media, can lend itself to a certain degree of irresponsibility when it comes to truth. Although I have never intentionally misquoted, misreported, or mischaracterized any other writer’s position when responding to them critically, the ease with which a blog post can be penned and published sometimes does not allow certain ideas to percolate. I hope to rectify that matter here.

As you may notice, I have migrated some recent content from the old Opus Publicum over here and may, on occasion, populate this blog with revised archival material as need be. Fresh additions to the website as a whole will be made in due course.

Though I hesitate to seek any favors, if you enjoy reading my material, then I please ask that you do what you can to promote Opus Publicum‘s move online. And for those interested, you can follow me on Twitter @OpusPublicum.

P.S. If you notice anything wonky on the website, feel free to let me know through the Contact form.

A Followup on “Trump v. Judiciary”

To follow up quickly on yesterday’s post concerning “Trump v. Judiciary,” reports are out that Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch called President Donald Trump’s recent attacks on the judiciary “disheartening” and “demoralizing.” Trump, naturally, is going after the Democratic Senator who leaked Gorsuch’s statements; to attack Gorsuch—a judge highly favored by social and religious conservatives—would be grossly inept, even for Trump.

The nature of Trump’s attacks on the judiciary boils down to the fact that the President believes the courts are political. Well, of course they are—just don’t tell other lawyers and judges that. Despite some naysayers on the sidelines, the American legal system still functions on the idea that laws can be mechanically applied by the judiciary with lawyers serving as advocates for what that application should look like. Even if this rather naïve view holds true at the local level, the bald politicization of the federal judiciary is hardly a recent development. One of the greatest disservices done to law students is to still teach them that the federal courts are legalist in nature, but I am getting away from my point.

Even assuming Gorsuch used the words “disheartening” and “demoralizing,” that doesn’t say a whole lot about what he will do when he finally gets on the Supreme Court. There are plenty of judges who believe that other judges are “political” while they themselves remain “legal”; perhaps Gorsuch will tell himself that Trump is only attacking “political” judges, such as those of the Ninth Circuit, and not “legal” judges such as himself. That is not to say that Gorscuh, once confirmed, will rubberstamp everything the Trump administration sends the Court’s way. As an Originalist of sorts, Gorsuch is probably not a fan of Trump’s expansionist views of executive power, though he may be less bothered than many liberals about Trump’s national security agenda. But in the end Gorsuch is just one man; his presence on the highest court of the land won’t do enough to change the ideological temperament of the federal judiciary, one that appears to be at odds with any attempt to target foreigners on the basis of ethnicity and culture (or religion?).

Eric Posner Throws Down the Gauntlet on “Trump v. Judiciary”

Over at his customarily insightful web-log, University of Chicago law professor Eric Posner is issuing a challenge: “I’m looking for someone who will provide a legal or constitutional defense of Trump’s attack on the courts.” By “attack,” Posner means President Donald Trump’s recent statements that the judiciary (or at least part of it) is standing in the way of the nation’s national security interests. These statements come on the heels of Judge James Robart’s decision to issue a temporary restraining order against Trump’s controversial executive order (EO) 13,769, which temporarily restricts travel and immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries. The matter is now before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

I am skeptical that either “a legal or constitutional defense of Trump’s attack on the courts” is necessary given that this so-called attack is, at the moment, primarily political and rhetorical. Although Posner makes a loose comparison between “Trump vs. Judiciary” and “Reagan/G.W. Bush v. Congress,” the latter battle, although infused with political elements, was carried out at the legal level. Poser acknowledges, for instance, that “the Reagan administration . . . sought to change [constitutional doctrine concerning executive power] from within by appointing ideologically committed conservative judges and justices.” Arguably, Trump could go a similar route, though it would take a great deal of time—and even then there is no guarantee that judges who appear highly deferential ex ante their appointments will remain so ex post. As recent Supreme Court history has shown, Republican-appointed justices can and will defect from conservative orthodoxy on numerous matters, ranging from abortion to the power of the government to (apparently) mandate individual entry into the health-care market.

Now, as to Trump’s attack itself, whether it is accurate or not is an empirical question. Up until recently, few doubted that the courts are largely deferential to the executive when it comes to foreign affairs, including national security. Posner does not believe this has changed; rather, he appears to believe that the judiciary does not want to green-light ethnic or cultural discrimination. (It is interesting that Posner does not use the word “religious,” perhaps because he acknowledges that the judiciary has a long history of upholding certain discriminations against religious groups and practices.) And so, to the extent that Trump’s EO (and anticipated future national-security measures) seeks “to purify America of foreign influences in a cultural or even ethnic sense,” the courts are unlikely to budge. If so, that likely has far more to do with ideological rather than legal commitments. The Constitution is openly available to be read in a decidedly ideological manner with little-to-no immediate concern being given to legalism in the strict sense. Whatever creative legal or constitutional argument that can be constructed upholding the EO can be thwarted by equally creative legal or constitutional arguments to the contrary. Ideology, not law, is king.

In the end, there appears to be little reason to believe that a “Trumpian view of the Constitution” isn’t ideological as well. The constitutional text, along with the laws which are ostensibly in harmony with it, is silly putty; it can be twisted and stretched in incalculable ways and pressed against the Zeitgeist to take on new appearances. Maybe Trump does want to “purify” America, or maybe he just wants to keep it secure from credible foreign threats which happen to be associated in the public imagination with a particular ethnic-religious grouping. The judiciary, as currently constituted, may be uncomfortable with one or both possibilities, but Trump needn’t appeal forever to law to overcome them; there are many other less savory means at his disposal.

Poll Results: #BenedictOption

Maybe I should be surprised, or maybe I shouldn’t, by the results of my recent poll asking you, dear readers, which form of Catholic spirituality you most identify with. Although I plan on leaving the poll up, as of today — February 8, 2017 — the “Benedictines” have a 2:1 lead on the “Byzantines.” Although far less people took the poll than visit this blog on a regular basis, it would seem that those identify with Benedictine spirituality make up nearly 40% of Opus Publicum‘s readership. My best armchair explanation for this is that, historically, a fair number of “liturgy nerds” (of which I am one) populated this blog’s combox, particularly when I delved into the tumultuous realm of Latin liturgical reform and praxis (including among traditional Catholics). Moreover, I suspect that more than one Eastern reader of Opus Publicum (Orthodox and Catholic alike) find it easier to identify with the sober reverence of the Benedictine way of life than the apparent exoticism of Byzantine spirituality — a spirituality which, for better or worse, is today most identified with Palamism.

The biggest “loser” in my poll is Servite spirituality, which failed to gain even single vote. Redemptorist spirituality didn’t fare much better as it drew only one vote: my own. Admittedly, my poll was far from scientific or complete. Some spiritual forms, particularly the Byzantine, could have been subdivided by geography, and certainly Benedictine spirituality has developed an array of nuances over the centuries, leading to multiple religious orders which, though distinct, all trace their lineage back to St. Benedict himself.

Thank you to all who participated in the poll. It was a fun, if not illuminating, little exercise.

Y100B: Yes

Daniel Bryan and Craig Tello, Yes: My Improbable Journey to the Main Event of WrestleMania (St. Martin’s Griffen 2015, 320pgs.)

When Daniel Bryan (real name Brian Danielson) retired from professional wrestling last year, I was devastated. At 5’8″ and barely 200lbs. for most of his career, Bryan went from being a darling of the American independent wrestling scene to one of the most astonishing success stories in the history of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). Fired twice by WWE and initially looked upon as a “good hand” in the ring with limited star potential, the unassuming — and, by his own admission, unambitious — Bryan developed a cult following among hardcore fans that steadily spread to all corners of WWE’s audience, many of whom had grown numb to the uninspired, formulaic main-event wrestling the promotion became known for after the early 00s. Unfortunately, Bryan’s ring style — a blend of classic British catch wrestling, Japanese strong and junior heavyweight style, and a bit too much of American indie recklessness — had caught up with him by 2014, the year he headlined WrestleMania, working two hard-hitting and excellent matches before capturing the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Not long after this career-defining moment, Bryan was forced to relinquish the belt as he dealt off-air with neck and concussion issues. A brief return in 2015 was cut short by similar injuries, prompting Bryan to make one of the hardest decisions of his life: retire at 35, in the prime of his career.

These sad events are not the main focus of Bryan’s autobiography. Rather, a bulk of the text focuses on Bryan’s life as a working-class kid in Washington state; the ups and downs of his family life, including his father’s lifelong struggle with alcoholism (Bryan himself has never drank); the sacrifices he made to break into the wrestling business, along with the experience of being trained under the legendary Shawn Michaels; and his rapid rise on the American independent scene, quickly going from a “nobody” wrestling under a mask as The American Dragon to being regarded as one of the best all-around wrestlers in the world. Bryan was an integral part of the early years of Ring of Honor (ROH), an independent promotion which helped change the landscape of American graps with stars such as CM Punk, Samoa Joe, and Bryan. Without those early years of ROH, it’s unlikely there would be an NXT today, nor a vibrant U.S. indie scene.

Having come to Bryan’s book with a fairly deep knowledge of his professional history, I was most interested in those parts which focused not on Daniel Bryan the wrestler but Brian Danielson the man. Bryan never shies away from the fact that he is a laid back hippie of sorts who was once awarded PETA’s Animal Friendly Athlete of the Year Award after becoming vegan. (Bryan was eventually forced to abandon veganism after developing a soy allergy.) He also chronicles, in small doses, his relationship with Brie Bella, a former WWE wrestler who is now Bryan’s wife. Despite facing a number of trials during his WWE tenure, not the least of which being the front office’s perception that Bryan could not be a genuine main-event talent, there is no immediate trace of bitterness in the book. Sure, like many wrestlers, Bryan had his share of frustrating moments and ill treatment at the hands of some promoters, but what shines through in this book most of all is Bryan’s genuine love of professional wrestling, not as a low-brow spectacle surrounded by cheap comedy and sex, but as a sport.

There have been a lot of good-to-excellent wrestling autobiographies penned over the years, but Bryan’s stands out for both its genuineness and humor. Bryan has no qualms about poking fun at himself, particularly his youthful naiveté on just about everything. Moreover, Bryan’s account of his career presents pro-wrestling as neither a hobby nor a pathway to fame and fortune; it is, rather, a vocation which, when done right, demands the same level of training, discipline, and desire as any genuine athletic endeavor. Hopefully Bryan’s example rubs off on the next generation of wrestlers.