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Christian baker asks for dismissal of lawsuit over cake signifying gender transition

Denver, Colo., Jul 23, 2019 / 02:01 pm (CNA).- Attorneys for Denver-area cake artist Jack Phillips filed a motion Monday to dismiss a third lawsuit seeking to force him to create a cake that expresses a message contrary to his religious beliefs.

Colorado lawyer Autumn Scardina, who filed an unsuccessful complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission in 2017, is seeking $100,000 in monetary damages plus legal fees in the third lawsuit Phillips has faced in seven years.

Phillips, a Christian, is the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, a Denver suburb. He has operated his shop since 1993 and has focused his talents on artistic cakes.

“Phillips wants to peacefully live out his faith as a cake artist by serving all people while declining to express messages that violate his beliefs,” the July 22 motion to dismiss, filed by attorneys with the Alliance Defending Freedom, reads.

“After losing in court, the state [of Colorado] was content to leave Phillips alone to do just that. But Scardina won’t allow it.”

“Phillips requests that the court dismiss the complaint so that he can return to the life he had before the state and Scardina targeted him for his faith,” the motion concludes.

Phillips has said in the past that he not only has declined same-sex union cakes, but he also declines other types of cakes that go against his beliefs, including cakes for Halloween, bachelor parties, divorce, cakes with alcohol in the ingredients, and cakes with atheist messages.

Phillips in 2018 won a six year legal battle that led all the way up to the Supreme Court, whose ruling upheld Phillips’ religious freedom and freedom of expression in his declining to make a cake in 2012 that would have celebrated a same-sex union. Phillips said that particular kind of cake would violate his religious beliefs, but that he would create other kinds of cakes for the couple. Colorado law did not recognize same-sex unions as marriages at the time.

Three months after winning the Supreme Court case, Scardina, who identifies as a transgender woman, sued Phillips for his refusal to make Scardina a gender transition cake – pink on the inside and blue on the outside.

Phillips then countersued the state of Colorado, claiming that he was being persecuted for his religious beliefs. The case was dropped in March 2019 “after the discovery phase demonstrated that the state was displaying ‘anti-religious hostility’ by continuing to pursue Phillips,’” the National Review reported.

Scardina on June 5 of this year sued Phillips for a second time, claiming that he refused to make Scardina a birthday cake.

According to the complaint, filed with the District Court for the city and county of Denver, Scardina called Masterpiece Cakeshop to order a “birthday cake – one in a simple design that Defendants admit they would make for any other customer.”

The complaint noted that Phillips has said previously that he would be happy to make other kinds of cakes for LGBT individuals, as long as they expressed messages that did not violate his religious beliefs.

In the call, Scardina requested from Masterpiece Cakeshop a birthday cake for 6-8 people, with pink cake and blue frosting. A Masterpiece Cakeshop employee confirmed to Scardina that they could make such a cake.

“Ms. Scardina then informed Masterpiece Cakeshop that the requested design had personal significance for her because it reflects her status as a transgender female,” the complaint states.

It was at this point that Masterpiece Cakeshop told Scardina that they “did not make cakes for ‘sex changes.’” Scardina reconfirmed that it was a birthday cake, but Masterpiece Cakeshop declined to take the order and ended the call, according to the complaint.

Scardina called Masterpiece Cakeshop again, in case the previous call had been unintentionally disconnected, the complaint states. Scardina spoke to a different Masterpiece Cakeshop employee about the same order, and that employee also declined the order, saying that making such a cake would violate their religious beliefs.

“Masterpiece Cakeshop, at the direction of Phillips, refused to sell a birthday cake to Ms. Scardina because of her status as a transgender woman,” the complaint states.

The cake Scardina mentions in the new complaint is notably similar to the gender transition cake Scardina requested from Masterpiece Cakeshop in 2017, which was also requested to be made with pink cake and blue frosting.

ADF reported that Scardina had also asked Phillips to create a custom cake depicting satanic themes and images.

Discerning in, and discerning out: What happens when seminarians leave?

Denver, Colo., Jul 23, 2019 / 12:15 pm (CNA).- Catholic journalists know that discernment stories are popular because they give readers hope. And they often follow a pattern: They usually include a “God moment” in which the subject, through a dramatic circumstance, hears the word of God and finds with sparkling clarity,  the call to become a cleric or religious. They end with ordination or follow final vows.

Jacob Hubbard’s discernment story isn’t like that.

Hubbard had multiple “God moments,” and he entered seminary because of them. But in seminary Hubbard realized that ordination wasn’t his calling. In November 2018, he discerned out of seminary.

“By our baptism, we're all called to be priests, prophets, and kings,” Hubbard told CNA. “So although I won't be an ordained priest, I'll be living out my calling by being the priest of my family- the bridge between them and God, offering them Christ as much as I possibly can and relying on His Strength to do so.”

It could be easy to see Hubbard’s discernment out of seminary as a failure. In fact, many seminarians who discern out of seminary face a kind of stigma from their friends and family, and even from themselves.

But that stigma is based on a misunderstanding of seminary’s purpose, Hubbard told CNA.

As Hubbard said, “The stigma today is that when people see seminarians, they don't see them as discerning individuals, they see them as mini-priests.”

Seminary is a “house of discernment,” he said, “not a house of mini-priests,” adding that if a man leaves seminary, it’s often a positive sign of his ongoing vocational discernment.

Fr. Phillip Brown, President-Rector of St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore, agreed.

“As a seminary faculty and as a rector, when a seminarian discerns out, and we're satisfied that it was an authentic, good, discernment, we don't consider that a failure. We consider that a success,” Brown explained.

“What I say to the seminarians is that in the end, the objective here is not to become a priest, but to be what God has made you to be,” Fr. Brown said.


Discerning with openness to God’s call

According to Fr. James Wehner, rector of Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, only about 30% of men who originally enter seminary are ordained.

“It's not a failure,” Fr. Wehner said. “We think it's a very healthy process of discernment where he and the Church recognize that he's not called to priesthood.”

“But we want to give the guys an opportunity to discern and to form, and if they're not called, they will leave here stronger, healthier, Christian men because they were totally open to the formation experience, so it's a win-win situation.”

Even if a man leaves before ordination, Hubbard told CNA, “you can walk out a better man if you do seminary right. You could really figure out the areas you have believed lies your entire life. And then you can accept God's love there instead.”


The difficulties and the fruits of seminary life

There are many gifts that come with entering seminary, but they come alongside trials, Hubbard said.

When he entered Holy Trinity Seminary in Dallas, Hubbard found himself face-to-face with a slew of challenges.

A strict schedule and constant obligations kept him busy, even without the additional work a full-time student must face at the school next door, the University of Dallas.

“You need structure to build your life on, and that structure needs to include self-love, so doing things that you personally love, and then of course prayer where you receive love from God,” he said regarding structure.

The routine of seminary taught Hubbard that “it's impossible to earn God's love by your own measures. But the routine can open you up to being able to receive it more.”


Discerning into seminary

Hubbard said he had long considered the priesthood, with encouragement from his family, and reflected on it while journaling about his prayer life while in high school, and through retreats and mission trips.

After several invitations to visitation weekends at HTS, he attended one, and after a “God moment,” he chose to apply to the seminary, entering as a sophomore in college.


Discerning out of seminary

During Hubbard’s time in seminary, he worked hard to be engaged in the community and to take the opportunities presented to him.

The summer before his senior year, his pastoral assignment was as a counselor at The Pines Catholic Camp, a summer camp in East Texas. There, Hubbard worked closely with other counselors to teach and take care of children at the camp.

Hubbard told CNA that he was struck by some of the beautiful and inspiring marriages he saw the camp directors have, and the happiness he saw that came from their relationships with their wives and children.

That summer he also participated in Trinity Cor, “a two-week backpacking journey to discover your heart,” Hubbard explained. “To really find your manly heart and discover your masculinity, and it was awesome.”

“Coming back from that, I was really feeling like I had more grasp at my heart, and really had the question of discernment lodged in me from The Pines because I saw beautiful relationships there. That experience of The Pines mixed with deepening the discovery of my heart through Trinity-Core began the questioning of my discernment,” Hubbard said.

He sought out counsel about his questions, and trusting his spiritual director to keep his best interests in mind, opened up to him about everything.

One of the biggest moments for Hubbard was when his spiritual director asked Hubbard to consider marriage.

His spiritual director asked Hubbard to imagine himself, in prayer, as a priest coming home from a good day of Confessions and Mass, and then to imagine, in prayer, being married and coming home to a wife and children.

“I felt so much more deeply my heart belonged with a family,” Hubbard explained. “There's no way to really articulate it, except that I just felt myself more present, more human there. Even just painting the picture almost brought me to tears.”

Hubbard left seminary in November of his senior year.

“And I have not regretted it since,” he said. “It's been a beautiful journey. Seminary was a necessary step, and so I know that God has just continued to lead me along a path which I hope one day, He will use to help heal those hurting around me. I want to still give of myself to those around me."


Does “discerning out” mean failure?

Although seminary was helpful for Hubbard in his discernment both for the priesthood and for the married life, he found that a lot of people misunderstood the reasons he had left, and some saw it as a failure on his part.

“I think that a lot of people have the misconception that when you step out of seminary it's a failure of sorts. Their reactions are, ‘Oh, I'm sorry,’ or things like that. The negative stigma of discerning out needs to be eradicated so that seminarians who are torn don't have that fear that when they leave, their friends, their families, their priests back home will be disappointed.”

“The stigma holds seminarians back from being able to healthily discern. I think that's something pretty unaddressed in today's world: the very healthy and good option of discerning out. People see it as something entirely negative, and they shouldn't,” Hubbard continued.

After explaining his decision to his friends they understood and supported him, he told CNA, but the initial uncomfortable or negative feelings still felt like a stigma, or at least a misunderstanding, about what he considered to be a healthy discernment.

“And I experienced that a bit with some of my friends and family, but I also had overwhelming support, especially from my father, and so it was okay,” he said. “I definitely felt supported in my decision.”

Discerning into seminary at 18, his father told Hubbard that he “was proud of Hubbard no matter what.” At the time, Hubbard wondered why his dad didn’t seem more enthused about his entrance to seminary.

“But that consistency was something that was actually beautiful in the long run, and that's what I think parents should strive for when their kids enter seminary,” he told CNA.

“That's the exact same thing he said to me when I discerned out of seminary, and I knew that he supported me on either side and trusted my judgement, so it was incredible. It really was,” Hubbard said.

Hubbard’s father, Brad, told CNA that his first and foremost step is to pray for his children, and says that he wanted to make sure his son was happy with the formation he was receiving while in seminary.

“For me, it's just the importance of leaving the discernment to God. As a parent, I'm there to support and especially pray, and then God's will be done in regards to that.”


Hubbard’s Future

Last May, Hubbard graduated from the University of Dallas with a degree in philosophy, and he now plans to attend the Augustine Institute for a graduate degree in theology.

He believes he has had many blessings throughout his time in seminary and now working, and wants to have the opportunity to impact people through an occupation in ministry after he graduates.

Hubbard finds that despite the magnitude of the decision, he does not question his choice. He told CNA that his relationship with God has grown since his departure from seminary.

And in the pursuit of marriage, Hubbard has felt more confirmed in his choice.

“If everything else were to fall apart in my life, if I questioned every other piece of discernment, that is what I could hold onto and know for a fact that I made the right decision because I have so deeply encountered God's love incarnationally in a way that I could not have in seminary,” he said.


Foster moms ask Supreme Court to hear Philadelphia case

Philadelphia, Pa., Jul 23, 2019 / 12:08 pm (CNA).- Two foster moms are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to protect the right of a Catholic foster agency in Philadelphia to contract with the city without being required to place children with same-sex couples.

“As the City of Philadelphia attempts to shamelessly score political points, dozens of beds remain empty and children are suffering the consequences,” said Lori Windham, senior counsel at Becket, which is representing the moms and the Catholic foster agency.

“It’s time for the Supreme Court to weigh in and allow faith-based agencies to continue doing what they do best: giving vulnerable children loving homes.”

Sharonell Fulton, one of the plaintiffs in the case, has fostered more than 40 children through Catholic Social Services.

“As a single mom and woman of color, I've known a thing or two about discrimination over the years. But I have never known vindictive religious discrimination like this, and I feel the fresh sting of bias watching my faith publicly derided by Philadelphia's politicians,” she wrote in an op-ed for the Philadelphia Inquirer last year.

Toni Simms-Busch, the other foster mother in the case, said in a statement that she valued the freedom of choosing the foster agency that she felt best suited her needs.

“As a social worker I evaluated the quality of care provided by all of the foster agencies in Philadelphia. When I decided to become a foster parent myself, I chose to go through the agency that I trusted the most,” she said.

“The consistency, integrity, and compassion of Catholic Social Services has made all the difference in my journey through the foster care process.”

Last March, the City of Philadelphia announced that it was experiencing a shortage of foster families, in part due to the opioid crisis, and put out a call for 300 new families to help accept children.

A few days later, the city announced that it would no longer refer foster children to agencies that would not place them with same-sex couples.

One of those agencies was Catholic Social Services (CSS), an arm of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia that has been working with foster children since its founding in 1917. CSS serves about 120 foster children in about 100 homes at any one time.

City officials cited the group’s unwillingness to place foster children with same-sex couples due to its religious beliefs on traditional marriage, even though lawyers for Catholic Social Services argued that no same-sex couple had ever approached the agency asking for certification to accept foster children.

Catholic Social Services filed a lawsuit seeking a renewal of its contract, arguing that the city’s decision violated their religious freedom under the constitution.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled against CSS on April 22.

“The City’s nondiscrimination policy is a neutral, generally applicable law, and the religious views of CSS do not entitle it to an exception from that policy,” Circuit Judge Thomas Ambro concluded.

Catholic Social Services has never been the subject of discrimination complaints by same-sex couples. The agency says that it assists all children in need, regardless of a child’s race, color, sex, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity.

“CSS will only certify foster parents who are either married or single; it will not certify cohabitating unmarried couples, and it considers all same-sex couples to be unmarried. So far as the record reflects, no same-sex couples have approached CSS seeking to become foster parents,” Judge Ambro wrote.

Despite this, Ambro concluded that the City of Philadelphia “stands on firm ground in requiring its contractors to abide by its non-discrimination policies when administering public services,” and that the record demonstrates, in his view, the “City’s good faith in its effort to enforce its laws against discrimination” rather than an anti-religious bias.

The U.S. Supreme Court in August 2018 declined to grant an injunction that would require the city to continue its foster-care placement with the agency during litigation over the matter.

Philadelphia is not the only city to refuse to work with a Catholic organization on the issue of foster care and adoption placement. In Buffalo, Catholic Charities recently ceased adoption and foster care work due to rules that would have forced the organization to violate their religious beliefs. Catholic Charities had done work with adoption in Buffalo for nearly a century before the rule change.

In recent years, faith-based child welfare providers in multiple states including in Massachusetts, Illinois, California, and the District of Columbia, have also been forced to shut down their adoption and foster care services because of beliefs that children should be placed with a married mother and father.

Bishop Wall introduces regular 'ad orientem' Mass at Gallup cathedral

Gallup, N.M., Jul 23, 2019 / 11:11 am (CNA).- Bishop James Wall of Gallup announced Monday that each Sunday a Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral will be said with the celebrant facing the same direction as the faithful, in order better to respect the Blessed Sacrament.

Such worship, he said in a July 22 letter to the Diocese of Gallup, is “a very powerful reminder of what we are about at Mass: meeting Christ Who comes to meet us. Practically speaking, this means that things will look a bit different, for at such Masses the Priest faces the same direction as the Assembly when he is at the altar.”

“More specifically, when addressing God, such as during the orations and Eucharistic Prayer, he faces the same direction as the people, that is, toward God (ad Deum). He does so literally, to use a phrase dear to St. Augustine, by 'turning toward the Lord' present in the Blessed Sacrament. In contrast, when addressing the people, he turns to face them (versus populum).”

The bishop wrote that “since the recent solemnity of Corpus Christi, the 11:00am Sunday Mass will henceforth be celebrated ad orientem at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Gallup.”

Bishop Wall opened by reflecting on Benedict XVI's recent letter in which he noted a certain laxity in how the Eucharist is approached.

“We would do well to remember,” Bishop Wall wrote, “that the Eucharist is not simply a nice 'sign' or 'symbol' of communion with God, but rather truly is communion with God.”

He said the emeritus pope's letter “provides an opportunity for us to reflect on how better to respect the Most Blessed Sacrament,” noting arriving early for Mass to pray; remaining afterward to offer thanksgiving; dressing appropriately; keeping the Eucharistic fast; regular, even monthly confession; and reverent reception of the Eucharist.

“There is, however, one particular practice that I would like to highlight here,” said Bishop Wall. “It is about exercising the option to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass facing 'toward the East' (ad orientem) or 'toward God' (ad Deum) as distinct from 'toward the people' (versus populum).”

He acknowledged that such celebration can be “contentious” and that “to make changes to the way we pray can be difficult,” adding that “by explaining and advocating for this, I am in no way trying to disrupt the way the people of this Diocese pray.”

“Rather, I am trying to open the treasury of the Church’s patrimony, so that, together, we can all experience one of the most ancient ways that the Church has always prayed, starting with Jesus and reaching even to our own day, and thereby learn from the 'ever ancient, ever new' wisdom of the Church.”

The bishop wrote that “celebrating Mass ad orientem is one of the most ancient and most consistent practices in the life of the Church.”

However, he said that “celebration of Mass ad orientem is not a form of antiquarianism, i.e. choosing to do something because it is old, but rather choosing to do something that has always been.”

“This also means, in turn, that versus populum worship is extremely new in the life of the Church, and, while a valid liturgical option today, it still must be considered novel when it comes to the celebration of Mass,” he noted.

In ad orientem worship the main point, the bishop said, is that it “shows, even in its literal orientation, that the priest and the people are united together as one in worshipping God, even physically with their bodies.”

He added that describing such Masses as ones in which “the priest has his back to the people,” while technically true, “largely misses” this main point, which is “much grander and more beautiful.”

“Celebrating Mass ad orientem, then, is meant to remind us … that the Mass is not first and foremost about us, but rather about God and His glory—about worshipping Him as He desires and not as we think best. It is His work after all, not ours, and we are simply entering into it by His gracious will,” Bishop Wall reflected.

He also pointed out that a “common objection or at least misunderstanding is that this particular way of celebrating Mass was disallowed at or after the Second Vatican Council. This is not accurate, as none of the conciliar documents even mention this.”

In fact, “a close reading of the rubrics of the Roman Missal will still show today that ad orientem is assumed to be the normal posture at Mass: they often describe the priest 'turning to face the people,' which implies he is facing the altar before and after doing so.”

Bishop Wall also addressed the idea of “preference,” and the principle that “when it comes to taste, there is no room for dispute.”

“To a point, that is true,” he said. “Nobody can fault anybody for liking chocolate chip ice cream more than mint, or Chevrolet more than Ford. When it comes to the ways in which we worship God, however, nothing is simply a matter of taste.”

He quoted from a 2016 writing by Msgr. Charles Pope, a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington, who said that “Preferences should be rooted in solid liturgical principles. […] People matter, and they should be nourished and intelligently engaged in the Sacred Liturgy—but not in a way that forgets that the ultimate work of the Liturgy is not merely to please or enrich us but to be focused on and worship the Lord”.

The decision to provide one ad orientem Mass at the cathedral each Sunday “provides the faithful with the opportunity to attend the Mass in this way … which is still approved and generously allowed by the Church,” he said.

Bishop Wall added that he would like to encourage the practice throughout the diocese as an option for priests.

In his letter, Bishop Wall referenced Fr. Uwe Michael Lang's Turning Towards the Lord, as well the works of Benedict XVI on the liturgy.

Bishop Wall's decision echoes an appeal made several years ago by Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship.

In July 2016, the prefect had said during an address that “I believe that it is very important that we return as soon as possible to a common orientation, of priests and the faithful turned together in the same direction – Eastwards or at least towards the apse – to the Lord who comes, in those parts of the liturgical rites when we are addressing God.”

Cardinal Sarah's encouragement to priests to say Mass ad orientem was part of an address on how the Second Vatican Council's document on the liturgy can be more faithfully implemented.

Archbishop Kurtz resigns as religious liberty chair during cancer treatment

Louisville, Ky., Jul 23, 2019 / 10:01 am (CNA).- Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville has stepped down from leading the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ religious liberty committee as he undergoes treatment for bladder cancer.

Bishop Robert McManus of Worcester, Massachusetts, has been appointed as his replacement and will serve as acting chair of the committee until the November 2019 General Assembly meeting.

“We are praying for Archbishop Kurtz, especially as he undergoes an intense treatment plan at Duke Cancer Institute over these next several weeks and months,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, in a July 23 statement released by the conference.

“I very much appreciate Bishop McManus’s agreeing to step into this chairmanship role and lead the important work of the Committee for Religious Liberty,” he added.

Previously, McManus was chairman of the Subcommittee on Health Care Issues from 2012 until 2018, and also was the chairman of the Committee on Catholic Education from 2005 until 2008. He is a member of the Committee on Doctrine and was a former member of the Pro-Life Activities Committee and the Budget and Finance Committee. He is a native of Providence, Rhode Island and was a priest in the Diocese of Providence before becoming a bishop.

Kurtz announced on July 10 that he had been diagnosed with urothelial carcinoma, the most common form of bladder cancer. He will be undergoing treatment at Duke University, and is expected to receive 12 weeks of chemotherapy, followed by surgery to remove his bladder and prostate.

Kurtz, who formerly served as president of the bishops’ conference, said he had “good cause for optimism” and will be staying in North Carolina for the duration of his treatment.


Selves Are Not Food

Christine Korsgaard argues in this book that we humans have obligations to other animals because life can go well or badly for them: they are the subjects of their lives, and they therefore have an interest in how those lives go. Those facts about them give them a moral claim on us. Korsgaard, as the Kantian she is, makes this claim by saying that we ought to treat animals—all of them, severally and collectively—as ends in themselves and never merely as means to our ends. The burden of Fellow Creatures is to explain the underpinnings of this thesis, and to show some of its practical implications.

Philosophers have devoted considerable attention to these questions during the past forty years or so. Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation, which makes a case similar to Korsgaard’s though from a utilitarian rather than a Kantian point of view, was published in 1975 and has been the subject of passionate debate ever since—it’s the kind of book that causes people to change their lives. There have also been distinguished contributions by Wittgensteinians such as Stanley Cavell. Tom Regan’s Case for Animal Rights dates from 1983, and went into a second edition in 2004. Lori Gruen, Clare Palmer, Jeff McMahon, and many others have made substantial and serious contributions to the developing anglophone discussion. Korsgaard herself, perhaps the most distinguished Kantian of her generation, began to write on the topic about fifteen years ago, and this book organizes and develops positions sketched in various essays published during that time.

Novelists, too, notably J. M. Coetzee, especially in Disgrace (1999) and Elizabeth Costello (2003), have shown, grimly and unforgettably, what the relations between human and non-human animals look like when they’re ordered around industrial-scale slaughter, and what our apparent insouciance about that arrangement suggests about us. Margaret Atwood, in her dystopian MaddAddam trilogy (2003–2013), dramatizes our genetic manipulation of non-human animals and how this contributes to the descent of our world into chaos. Anthropologists, ethnologists, and primatologists, notably Frans de Waal, have explored similarities between us and other primates, with an eye to reordering our sense of ourselves. There’s a massive literature from almost every angle on the question of human exceptionalism—what, if anything, is unique to our species, and does it, whatever it may be, justify the way we relate to members of other species? There are activists, lobbyists, and political pressure groups attempting to transform law, policy, and public opinion on matters having to do with the relations between human and non-human animals. And, perhaps most pressing at the moment, it’s increasingly evident that our current methods of producing and consuming animal protein are, in addition to the slaughter they involve, contributing to the rapidity of climate change and to the concomitant extinction of species. These are matters that exercise many people, and questions about how we humans should treat non-human animals are by now unavoidably implicated with them.

And it’s not only people who write books and make laws and engage in political activism. Everyone, in one way or another, has to do with non-human animals, whether by eating them, hunting them, farming them, living with them as pets, killing them when they appear where they’re not wanted (a mosquito on your skin, a cockroach in your kitchen). Among the middle classes, reliably lively dinner-table conversations can be had about meat-eating, factory farming, pet-keeping, and so on. And among the things Christians seem to care most deeply about, at least in Europe and the United States, is the eternal destiny of their pets. That’s a feature of our time and place and mode of social organization.

Korsgaard’s topic, then, has purchase and relevance. And her book is a very good one. It can be instructive to professionals in the field, and to anyone prepared to give it time and patience even without being knowledgeable about the interpretation of Kant and Aristotle. She writes, mostly, in such a way as to make each chapter capable of being read as an independent essay, and when this isn’t the case she clearly indicates where to turn in the book for further elucidation. And she writes, above all, with clarity and care. As every philosopher knows, to get your readers to see what your distinctions come to and what work they do is just about the whole game. Korsgaard is very good at that. She also shows enough of herself to readers to make them, or at least this one, like her: she dedicates her book to the five cats (named) with whom she’s lived during the past thirty-five years; and she includes, surprisingly for the kind of philosopher she is, occasional confessions of moral failure and moral compromise on her part.


The book includes an affecting discussion of arachnids, including dust mites, which, Korsgaard allows, are possibly, even probably, sentient.

For Korsgaard, to be an animal, human or not, is to be sentient. If you are sentient, that means, roughly, that it seems like something to you to be you. A capacity for pleasure and pain is a minimal version of this. More elaborate versions include a sense of having a life extended in time, and of being related to a world external to yourself in ways more complex than simple pleasure or pain. But the minimal version of sentience is sufficient for being an animal, and also sufficient for having interests and a point of view. To have those is to have a self, to be the subject of a life, and that, in turn, is to have moral standing as the animal you are. All this is, in short, what it is to have animal life: you have an interest in what’s good for you, and you act in accord with that interest.

All this is true, writes Korsgaard, of both humans and non-human animals. It isn’t, however, true of all living creatures. She thinks it isn’t true of plants, for instance, and that it may not be true of some living things we ordinarily classify as animals. It’s clear, though, that these are empirical questions for her: if experimental evidence showed that some living things we ordinarily classify as plants are sentient in this sense, she’d say of them what she says of animals. And if it turns out that, say, planaria or oysters aren’t sentient in this sense, she would not apply the argument of this book to them. Although she isn’t especially interested in worries about whether particular living things are sentient or not, it is clear from by-the-way discussions and examples that she thinks sentience belongs to many (most?) simple animals. The book includes an affecting discussion of arachnids, including dust mites, which, she allows, are possibly, even probably, sentient.

All selves are sentient and all sentient creatures are selves. For Korsgaard, however, not all selves are persons. To be one of those, you need to be rational, and that means that you need to have, or be capable of having, or be the kind of creature that could have (all these subjunctives indicate the delicacy of the position) what she calls a “normative self-conception”: the capacity to ask, and sometimes to answer, the question of whether the reasons for your actions are good ones, and to order your life in accord with answers to that question. So far, this is just Kant. Like Kant, Korsgaard thinks that human animals are rational in this sense, and that, probably, no other animals are.

So Korsgaard is an exceptionalist about humans: she thinks we have properties and capacities that non-human animals lack. But she doesn’t do what most human exceptionalists do, which is to link her exceptionalism to some objective scale of value. Quite the contrary. All value, for her, is “tethered,” by which she means that all value is value for some person or some self. The universal value is that all selves should get whatever is good for them, but the particulars of what’s good for one kind of creature won’t, ordinarily, be the same as the particulars of what’s good for another. Humans are not, in this view, objectively more important or better than spiders or tigers; we’re different from them, as they are from one another, and so what’s good for us is also different from what’s good for them. What’s uniquely good for us is to develop and live in accord with a normative self-understanding; what’s uniquely good for a spider is success at web-spinning and fly-trapping. The only way humans could be more important than all other creatures, Korsgaard writes, would be if what’s good for us were what the world was for. And she considers that idea massively implausible, part of what she calls an antiquated teleological (she might also have said “theological”) view of things.

Kant thought that humans have no reason to treat non-human animals as ends and may therefore treat them as means. Korsgaard differs from him on this, and thinks that had he seen more clearly the implications of his own position he would have agreed with her. She deploys the resources of Kantian theory to develop it. What this development amounts to is the claim that sentient non-human animals are valuable precisely because they are selves. It isn’t, as utilitarians like Singer would have it, just that their experiences are valuable, and that our task is to minimize the pain we bring them and maximize the pleasure; they’re not exchangeable receptacles for pain and pleasure. No, it’s them, the sentient creatures themselves in all their particularity and variety, that place a moral claim on us, and the content of that claim is that we may not treat them merely as means. We must treat them as ends. We must understand that each of them has a life as important to it as your life is to you: for each animal self, her life “contains absolutely everything of value,” as yours does for you. And we must act in accord with this understanding.

Korsgaard has much of interest to say about what it means to act thus, more than I can review here. First, she addresses several responses to the question of the relations between human and non-human animals with which she differs. She disagrees with those who argue that we should, if we can, abolish animal predation, whether by altering predators genetically or by removing them in some other way (she likens this view to gentrification). She disagrees with those who advocate a radical separation of human animals from all others, with the aim of having only “wild” animals in the world. She disagrees with those who advocate the domestication of all non-human animals, and with those who advocate the extinction of the human species in favor of non-human animals. The utopian nature of these projects (other than the last) should be obvious enough.

Korsgaard also takes positions on narrower questions with possibly non-utopian answers. She thinks that we should not eat animals, whether or not they’re raised and killed humanely. That’s because we can get on quite well without doing so, and to involve ourselves in an economy that takes sentient creatures’ lives so that we may eat them is to treat these creatures as means rather than ends. Similarly, and for the same reason, we should never do painful or lethal experiments on them for our benefit. (She includes in her analysis of this question an utterly convincing discussion of the place of animal experimentation in the discovery of insulin.) She thinks that in certain very limited cases we may put non-human animals to work for us—as guides, for rescue, for some kinds of police and military work, and so on. But this may be done only when it is arguably good for the animal in question, which will most often be because of a long process of coevolution that makes work with and for humans part of what seems good to the animal. We should never, she thinks, put undomesticated animals to work in this way—as, for example, the U.S. military has tried to do with dolphins. She thinks we may live with certain kinds of animals as companions, on the double ground that by so doing we may give them a life that is good for them, and that sharing our lives with them may be good for us. She is, on this, self-revealing about the compromises involved in living with and caring for obligate carnivores like cats, who must be fed meat in order to live.

I find myself in agreement with much of this, and instructed by all of it. I’m convinced that it’s possible to derive these positions from Kantian axioms, and that it’s a good thing to do so. I’m also convinced—and now I write as a Catholic theologian—that there’s much here that Catholic Christians ought to embrace, both at the level of conclusion, and at the level of distinction and argument. Still, I want to raise some doubts about the book, and to suggest some extensions to and applications of its conclusions that I think Korsgaard would be unlikely to accept.


Korsgaard’s discussion of abortion stands in significant tension with the deepest and most systematically worked-out aspects of her own position.

First, there’s the question of how Korsgaard’s position applies to the question of abortion—that is, to the question of the conditions under which it’s proper to take the life of those things (there’s no uncontroversial label for them) that come into being via conception in a woman’s womb and ordinarily grow there for nine months or so until they’re born into the world.

With respect to the question of what the fetus (that’s what she calls it) is, Korsgaard’s overall position seems to allow four possibilities. One is that the fetus doesn’t live at all: it’s inanimate. The second is that it does, but that it’s not sentient, being in this way more like a houseplant than an arachnid or a cat. The third is that it lives and is sentient, being therefore a self and the subject of a life. And the fourth is that it lives and is a person, being in this like Korsgaard and you and me. If the fetus is, at any stage of its life in the womb, a creature of the third or fourth kind, then for Korsgaard it would, at that stage, have the moral status common to all such creatures: it may not be treated by us as a means rather than an end, which also means that we offend against our duties to it when we take its life.

Korsgaard’s relaxed and generous approach to the question of when we should consider a creature sentient makes the first two possibilities implausible. We can dismiss the thought that the fetus is simply inanimate at once. And the thought that it’s animate but not sentient would require someone following a Korsgaardian line to assimilate it to plants and (perhaps) bacteria and the like, which would look like special pleading, to put it mildly. Both the third and fourth possibilities are a natural fit, however; and both entail the position that killing a fetus is at least as wrong as killing a cat, and perhaps, if the fourth is followed, as wrong as killing you or me.

This isn’t, however, what Korsgaard seems to think. She offers nothing like a full-dress treatment of abortion, and when she does discuss it in passing (in a thousand words or so) she’s not trying to convince anyone of anything about what a fetus is, or about when and how and if it becomes a person. She raises the issue only to point out that taking the moral rights of creatures to be atemporal—that is, believing it’s possible to do something that damages a creature that doesn’t yet exist (I can in this sense damage my great-grandchildren)—doesn’t entail anything about when a creature thus damaged comes to be. And about that she’s abundantly right.

But the lexicon and syntax of her discussion of abortion stand in significant tension with the deepest and most systematically worked-out aspects of her own position. She mentions, and at least entertains, the view that there’s a right to abortion during the earlier stages of pregnancy. She’s attracted by the view that a decision about when to treat fetuses as persons is like the decision about the voting age—that is, the establishment of an arbitrary bright line that doesn’t reflect any biological or metaphysical reality. But she doesn’t take that line about other forms of life. With respect to those (cats, dolphins, mosquitoes, oak trees), she thinks that there are truths in the order of being about whether they’re sentient and whether they’re persons, and that those truths are capable of being arrived at by empirical study. She says none of this about abortion and, as far as I can tell, that is because she makes a special case of human fetal life without offering any reason to do so.

A position on abortion consistent with her assumptions would be that the moral claim of a fetus depends on its sentience, that it’s an empirical question when that sentience begins, and that our criteria for assessing and acting upon the moral claims of fetuses ought to be no different than those for assessing and acting upon the moral claims of any other creature.


Christians acknowledge, or should, that in a fallen world, there are many things we ought to do that we can’t.

Second, there’s a problem about tragedy and its proper accompaniment, lament. Korsgaard, unlike many Kantians and arguably unlike Kant, rejects the thought that ought implies can. That is, she does not agree that having a duty to do something—in this case, to treat sentient creatures as ends rather than means—entails that it is possible for us to perform that duty. This means she embraces a tragic sense of life, a sense that sees life as confronting us with duties that are beyond our capacity to perform. And she’s quite right to do so; her position requires it. We could do some of the things she thinks we should: we could stop eating sentient creatures, and killing them for food; we could stop lethal or painful experiments upon non-human animals; and we could, perhaps, stop living collectively in such a way that the habitats needed for survival by some animals cease to exist. I agree with her that we should do all those things—and that we could, even if it’s deeply unlikely that we will. But we also kill small sentient creatures just by walking about and breathing and gardening, and this we cannot stop. We cannot remove ourselves from nature’s charnel house, and we cannot stop adding to the piles of corpses in it. Even Jain monks, who employ whisks to remove small things from the paths they tread and masks to prevent inhaling small things, can’t succeed in what they aspire to, which is to refrain from taking any sentient life. This is tragic, and Korsgaard goes far toward acknowledging this.

But she doesn’t get as far as she should, given her own understandings. Her work is, by and large, free from the tone of lament that would be appropriate to its argument. Having a moral duty of the kind she sketches and being unable to perform it ought to be, for a Kantian, a matter for wailing and gnashing of teeth. It means that we can’t act in accord with the goods we perceive and legislate for ourselves, and that begins to call into question the very foundations of the system: What good, we might ask, is rationality, if it demands the impossible and thus leads us to despair? I wish there were in Korsgaard’s work a greater degree of responsiveness to this question, and some engagement with what the rejection of ought-implies-can suggests for the fabric of a Kantian moral life.

Christians acknowledge, or should, that in a fallen world, there are many things we ought to do that we can’t, many evils—including death of all kinds—as yet irremediable. We have an eschatology and an understanding of creation and fall that make sense of this parlous state of affairs, no part of which is available to Kantians. With Augustine, we lament our necessities; and we might, though we rarely do, include in our table-graces lament for whatever has died in order that we might eat (including plants). But these are features that distinguish Christianity from Kantianism. Moral lament is a guest ill at ease among Kantians. Korsgaard’s positions require that it be invited in, but she does vastly too little to make it at home. Her tone is too optimistic.


God’s interests aren’t extrinsic to what creatures are, but are constitutive of them.

Third, there’s a problem about God and hierarchies of value. This isn’t a problem internal to Korsgaard’s system. She’s right that, in the absence of a set of theological and teleological assumptions she doesn’t share and doesn’t seriously entertain, it isn’t possible to find sense in the idea that the flourishing of humans is in some objective sense more important than the flourishing of non-human sentient creatures. And she’s right in saying that all value is “tethered” as distinguished above. A counter-view would have to claim that the good of human creatures is also the good of all other creatures, that they find what is good for them exactly in what is good for us, because the whole cosmos centers upon what is good for humans.

This view seems, on its face, implausible, and I agree with Korsgaard that it is false. But it has a significant lineage: on some readings of Christianity, it is just what Christianity claims. The triune Lord of Christian confession, the one who called everything into existence out of nothing, arguably established everything in just that way. Among the many possible evidences that can be marshaled in support of this view, there’s the fact that this Lord is incarnate precisely as a human being; and that all non-human sentient life is presented in Scripture as ordered to, and named by, human creatures. Why not then say that all creaturely good—what’s good for all non-human creatures (except the angels)—is their rightly ordered relation to us?

Korsgaard briefly comments on the existence of views like this. In a note, she mentions that the Christian philosopher Linda Zagzebski once asked her whether it would make a difference to her anti-hierarchicalism if human creatures were more important to God than non-human sentient ones. Korsgaard responds that, absent further argument, there’s no reason to think that being created for some purpose by a third party (God) entails that the purpose in question should be important to those created for it. If an evil demon had brought humans into existence as crocodile fodder, that wouldn’t make being eaten by a crocodile good for us, and it wouldn’t remotely suggest that it ought to seem good to us. This response is right if God is thought of as a third party, as a being like others with a point of view and interests and powers—a being, that is, who exists in essentially the same way that we do. But it’s not right if God is understood as Christians understand the Lord—as the one in whom all creatures participate according to their kinds, and who gives being to them by fiat, out of nothing. That God, the Lord, isn’t a third party; that God’s interests aren’t extrinsic to what creatures are, but are constitutive of them. There is, on this view, no divergence between what’s good for a particular creature and what it’s made by the Lord to be, because there are no truths about creatures other than those given them by the Lord’s creative act. That’s the fully Christian view, and Korsgaard’s critique doesn’t touch it.

She is nevertheless right, I think, that what’s good for non-human sentient creatures isn’t explicable only in terms of their relations to us. Rather, Christianity is better construed as saying that the created order has goods proper to it, as a whole and in its parts, that belong to what it is independently of any relations it has to us. This is perhaps easier to see in the case of so-called wild sentient creatures than in the case of so-called domesticated ones. The whale, the elephant, and the python are what they are independently of us, and glorify the Lord, therefore, by existing and seeking what is good for them independently of any relations they might bear to us. This is compatible with a hierarchical view in the order of being: it can still be said that we are more intimate with the Lord than they are, and that we are made in the image and likeness of God in ways that they aren’t. But this doesn’t mean they exist only for us.

Christians differ with one another about this, and the view summarized in the preceding paragraph is a minority report. It is in significant ways compatible with what Korsgaard has to say—though there remain deep incompatibilities.


Finally, should Christians do as Korsgaard does, and renounce both the eating of sentient creatures and the performance of experiments on them? Yes, we should, to the extent that we can, and Korsgaard is very helpful in getting us to see why. Sentient creatures have lives and interests and concerns; their lives and interests and concerns are as important to them as ours are to us; and what is good for them is not reducible to what is good for us. When we can—and we often can—we should refrain from killing them and eating them and experimenting on them; and when we can, we should seek and advocate what, as it seems to us, is good for them. So refraining and so seeking would glorify the Lord. And even when we can’t do these things, we should try to remain aware of our unavoidable failures by lamenting them.

Fellow Creatures
Our Obligations to the Other Animals

Christine M. Korsgaard
Oxford University Press, $24.95, 272 pp.

Senate pro-lifers caution Trump against abortion funding in spending negotiations

Washington D.C., Jul 22, 2019 / 04:25 pm (CNA).- The leader of the Senate Pro-Life Caucus is asking President Trump to refuse any attempts to undermine or strip pro-life measures from future spending bills.

“As you work with Congress on a deal to set discretionary spending caps for the next two fiscal years, we wish to express our support for your efforts to secure a commitment from Democratic Leaders to reject anti-life poison pill riders in the House-passed appropriations bills,” states a letter currently being circulated by Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), for signatures by fellow members.

Sen. Daines chairs the Senate Pro-Life Caucus, formed this year. He circulated the letter amidst negotiations between the White House and Democratic leaders on setting discretionary spending caps and the debt ceiling, Roll Call reported. Daines is insisting that any deal must not include pro-abortion riders.

Some of the pro-life protections mentioned in Daines’ letter include the long-standing Hyde Amendment, a bipartisan policy that bars federal Medicaid funding of elective abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or where the life of the mother is at stake. The amendment has passed Congress every year as part of spending legislation since 1976; the rape and incest exceptions for abortion funding were added in 1994.

In June, several Democrats led by Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) attempted to include an amendment reversing Hyde in an appropriations package, but the amendment was pulled amidst concerns that it would affect final passage of the legislation through the Senate.

Other “poison pill riders” that Sen. Daines’ letter warns Trump against include attempts to undo pro-life policies such as the Dornan Amendment that prohibits the District of Columbia from using local funds for elective abortions, as well as any reversal of the Trump administration’s “Title X Protect Life Rule” and its “Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance” policy, an expansion of the Mexico Policy.

The Mexico City Policy was implemented by Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush and barred funding of abortions in $600 million of U.S. foreign aid. Trump’s expansion applied the abortion funding ban to over $8.8 billion in U.S. foreign aid for global health assistance.

The “Title X Protect Life Rule” instituted pro-life protections into federal Title X family planning grant policy; grant recipients could not refer for abortions, nor could they “co-locate” with abortion clinics.

In January of 2019, President Trump wrote House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), promising to “veto any legislation that weakens current pro-life Federal policies and laws, or that encourages the destruction of innocent human life at any stage.”

Sen. Daines pressed President Trump to honor that commitment in spending caps negotiations, and pledged to fight against any pro-abortion riders in legislation.

“As members of the pro-life majority in the United States Senate, we will strongly oppose each of these anti-life poison pill riders and will work to ensure they are not inserted into any appropriations bill before the Senate, either in committee or on the floor,” the letter stated.


HHS delays enforcement of Title X Protect Life Rule

Washington D.C., Jul 22, 2019 / 02:01 pm (CNA).- The Department of Health and Human Services has reportedly delayed enforcement of the new Protect Life Rule, which bars public money from taxpayer-funded clinics that refer patients for abortions.

The Associated Press reported that it had received a copy of a notice sent June 20 from HHS to the representatives of the clinics in question. The notice said the government “does not intend to bring enforcement actions” against clinics that are making “good-faith efforts to comply,” the AP reported.

The HHS had on July 15 informed Title X fund recipients that they will no longer be permitted to refer mothers for abortion services, and must keep finances separate from facilities that provide abortions.

Under the new HHS notice, clinics must submit a compliance plan by August, and by mid-September must demonstrate that they are carrying out “most of the new requirements,” the AP reports.

Title X is a federal program created in 1965 that subsidizes family-planning and preventative health services, including contraception, for low-income families. It has been frequently updated and subject to new regulations.

The HHS had originally said last week that the new rule required immediate compliance. By March 2020, abortion facilities will no longer be allowed to co-locate with clinics that receive Title X moneys. Clinics that provide “nondirective counseling” about abortion may still receive funds.

Previously, abortion providers were ineligable to receive Title X funds, and the Supreme Court upheld this restriction in 1991. When President Bill Clinton took office in 1993, his administration changed the program to include abortion providers.

The rule will strip about $60 million in federal funding from Planned Parenthood, whose clinics both refer for abortion services and are co-located with abortion facilities. Planned Parenthood presently receives about one-fifth of the total amount of Title X funds distributed and serves about 40 percent of all clients who benefit from Title X.

Planned Parenthood has chosen to eschew federal Title X funding under the new rule and continue to refer for and perform abortions. The National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, which represents many of the affected clinics, is challenging the rule in federal court, but the administration says there is currently no legal obstacle to enforcing it, ABC News reports.

Illinois has already announced that the state will provide state funding to abortion clinics and clinics that refer for abortions in the light of new changes to Title X rules, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced July 18.

Planned Parenthood locations in Illinois received 40 percent of the Title X funds distributed in the state, despite only operating 17 of the more than 70 clinics who received funds each year. Approximately 112,000 people in Illinois acquired birth control through Title X.

US bishops say reported shutdown of refugee program is 'disturbing'

Washington D.C., Jul 22, 2019 / 01:01 pm (CNA).- If reports of major cuts to the U.S. refugee resettlement and asylum programs are true they are alarming, the chair of the US bishops' migration committee said Friday.

Politico has reported that officials in the Trump administration were considering cutting the annual refugee cap next year to zero, or to greatly reduced numbers such as 10,000 or 3,000. This represents the total number of refugees that would be allowed into the United States in the next fiscal year.

“This recent report, if true, is disturbing and against the principles we have as a nation and a people, and has the potential to end the refugee resettlement program entirely,” Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin said July 19..

The reports were leaked to Politico from three individuals close to recent meetings of security officials.

These numbers would represent a dramatic decrease from this year’s cap of 30,000 refugees. In 2018, the cap was 45,000, and in 2017 it was 50,000. According to data from the Migration Policy Institute, reported by the Washington Post, prior to Trump’s presidency, the immigration cap has typically been set, since the 1990s, between 70,000 and 80,000.

Vasquez said he was concerned by the reports of cuts to the refugee cap when “the world is in the midst of the greatest humanitarian displacement crisis in almost a century.”

“I strongly oppose any further reductions of the refugee resettlement program,” he said. “Offering refuge to those fleeing religious and other persecution has been a cornerstone of what has made this country great and a place of welcome. Eliminating the refugee resettlement program leaves refugees in harm’s way and keeps their families separated across continents.”

Vasquez noted that refugees already undergo an intense vetting process that often lasts between one and a half to two years, and includes extensive interviews and background checks.

“Many of these refugees have familial ties here and quickly begin working to rebuild their lives and enrich their communities,” he added.

“As Pope Francis has said we must work for ‘globalization of solidarity’ with refugees, not a globalization of indifference. Rather than ending the program, we should work instead to restore the program to its historic norms of an annual resettlement goal of 95,000,” Vasquez concluded.

Earlier this month, the Trump administration published a new regulation for asylum seekers, which states that people seeking asylum in the U.S. must prove that they also sought protection in at least one other country that they passed through in order to get to the U.S.

The move appears to be targeted at the wave of migrants from Central American countries, who pass through Mexico in order to get to the U.S. border.

Trump has made increased immigration restrictions and regulations a cornerstone of his 2020 presidential re-election campaign.

The final cap for refugees for the 2020 fiscal year will be announced in September.

Why I Believe in One More God Than The Atheists

Due to the prevalence of such flamboyantly impassioned anti-religious rhetoric, confected (almost obsessively, it would seem) by quintessential intellectual-yet-idiotic writers, speakers, and online influencers, dialoguing about God has gone severely south in recent years, resulting in countless people of easy influence becoming encouraged not to offer any substantive arguments against God, but merely, whenever the conversation takes hold, to issue a fantastically condescending pronouncement of their otherwise trivial possession of this or that psychological belief state, imagining in doing so they’ve surmounted some otherwise insuperable (for us theists, anyway) logical crag. That, or they simply resort to pejoratives. But as they often discover, two can play at that game, and thus conversations between believer and skeptic regularly morph into a volley of insults getting nowhere and accomplishing nothing. “I don’t believe in God,” they say. “Let’s just say I remain unconvinced.”  “Wonderful,” I’ll tell them.“And I like blueberry yogurt.” Now, does…