Weekly Reading – August 29, 2014

Going off a thought when I wrote “More Things to Read,” on Fridays or Saturdays I will post a “roundup” of things that caught my eye the previous week which a few of you may find interesting. Some of this material probably warrants a good deal of commentary, but my time, as usual, is limited. As always I thank anyone and everyone who, via this blog, Twitter, Facebook, or e-mail, keep my eyes and mind occupied while confirming that not everything on the Internet is worthless.

  • SSPX Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica,” Society of St. Pius X U.S. District – This story has been picked up by a variety of sources, though the non-traditional Catholic media and blogging world has been unsurprisingly silent about it. No, an SSPX priest being allowed to say Mass at the tomb of the Society’s patron does not mean canonical regularization is imminent, but it does show, at the “ground level,” recognition in Rome (and other places) that the SSPX is Catholic; that the faithful who attend their chapels are Catholic; and that there is nothing sinful about their Masses. If full rapprochement between Rome and the Society is going to happen, this may be the way to go: bottom-up encounters in the spirit of prayer and piety. For those interested, the linked press release also contains a full video of the Mass.
  • Eric Posner, “Do Republican Law Professors Strategically Conceal Their Views?” and “Are Republican Law Professors Cited More Often Than Democratic Law Professors?” – Both of these blog posts are a follow-up to Posner and Adam Chilton’s recent paper on ideological bias in legal scholarship. While defining ideological leanings based on contributions to Republican and Democratic candidates carries a heavy risk of imprecision, Posner and Chilton’s findings appear to jibe with what most folks with eyes to see long suspected: Law professors largely write from their ideological premises and that the legal academy is largely tilted against conservative law professors. Though Posner doesn’t go into it, it does seem that those conservatives who have had the most success in legal academia over the past 30-40 years have been economic conservatives (or, more accurately, economic liberals/neoliberals) rather than social conservatives. Because social conservatism carries the stigma of being misogynistic (opposes abortion), homophobic (opposes same-sex marriage/unions), and theocratic (believes in God), very few are found in legal academia and the ones who are there typically keep their views under wraps and out of their publications.
  •  Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig (ESB), “All Kinds of Noble Lies” – The main topic of this post — the odd and convoluted ways in which Christian cultural warriors attack contemporary sexual mores (or, really, the absence of them) — isn’t of particular concern to me. What I found interesting (well unsettling) is how Christian ethics continues to be watered-down by an obsession with consequentialism. While it is true that some practices which are manifestly unethical and sinful do lead to concrete negative consequences more often than not, that’s not universally true. In fact, sometimes manifestly unethical and sinful behavior reaps substantial material/physical rewards with a low probability of being caught (assuming the activity is illegal) or subjected to other negative backlash (e.g., social stigma, disease, etc.).
  • John J. Mearsheimer, “Why The Ukraine Crisis is the West’s Fault,” Foreign Affairs – Mearsheimer, for those who don’t know, is a hyper-realist whose work has caused no small amount of disquiet over the years. He’s not concerned with “normativity”; he’s concerned with how states react and why based on their individual strategic considerations. As such, in his version of the “Ukraine Crisis” narrative, Western — U.S. and EU — involvement in Ukrainian (and other former Soviet Bloc) affairs has triggered an understandable, albeit hostile, response from Russia. Why? Because Russia isn’t interested in having NATO on its front doorstep. Moreover, Russia isn’t thrilled about losing its “sphere of influence” over its former satellite states — states which continued to serve as a “buffer zone” between Russia and Europe ever since the collapse of communism. To a large extent Mearsheimer is right, though that doesn’t change the fact that Russia’s actions in Ukraine are illegal as a matter of international law and immoral as a matter of just-war theory. Realists, of course, don’t go in for legalism and morality when speaking about international affairs. They want the cold, hard facts.