U.S. Constitution

In Defense of ‘Common Good Constitutionalism’

On March 31, The Atlantic published an important essay by Adrian Vermeule, a Catholic professor of constitutional law at Harvard University, entitled “Beyond Originalism,” igniting a firestorm of controversy within the internet world of legal and political theory. That a secular magazine like The Atlantic would publish an article of such unflinchingly Catholic convictions is … Read more

Three Things America Needs from the New Supreme Court Justice

Justice Anthony Kennedy has just announced his retirement from the Supreme Court. Everyone is talking about who will be his replacement. Much is at stake. For the liberals, it could spell the end to the precarious situation in which Kennedy’s swing vote has brought them many major victories and some small defeats. For the conservatives, … Read more

How Judges Become Tyrants

Among the three branches of American government, there is supposed to be a system of checks and balances to curb any abuse of power. That is at least the theory. In practice, the judicial branch is now engaged in a campaign of checks without balances or precedent. Judges are becoming tyrants without restraint. It is … Read more

How to Curtail Judicial Activism

I hear frequently in this year’s election campaign that Supreme Court appointments should be the key consideration in the choice between the presidential candidates. That’s certainly understandable, and perhaps true. It reflects, however, an unfortunate attitude—widespread and deeply ingrained in the American psyche—that the Court is somehow the ultimate, sovereign institution in the United States. … Read more

Are We Still A Nation of Laws?

Recent weeks have seen a sudden slew of bureaucratic and judicial action on the question of public accommodation of self-identified transgendered individuals. In one of the latest moves, a decision from the Fourth Federal Circuit struck down a Virginia school board ruling that children must use the bathroom corresponding to their biological sex. As Hadley … Read more

What to Look for in a Supreme Court Justice

As we brace ourselves for the political firestorm that is already beginning around filling the vacancy on our highest court, it would be useful to engage in a little “cultural catechesis” on the nature and purpose of the office in question. Though some will decry the “politicization” of the selection process, an honest review of … Read more

How Scalia Inspired a Generation to Defend the Constitution

The death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia at age 79 of natural causes Saturday in Texas is an ideal occasion to reflect on the profound influence he had on the legal profession and, by extension, the nation. Astute observers of academic life in America know that the law professoriate has long been dominated … Read more

The Requirements of the Law

As a full-time parish priest and an armchair theologian, it gives me great pleasure to rub shoulders—from time to time—with real theologians, and to plagiarize some of their ideas. One of them observed, “The Church teaches doctrine, not theology.” The thought was provocative enough to open many intellectual doors for me as I began to … Read more

A Constitutional Defense of Marriage

If marriage were simply a form of sexual-romantic companionship or domestic partnership, then the equal protection clause of the Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment would require the Supreme Court to strike down state laws limiting marriage licenses to male-female partners. There would be no principled basis for distinguishing opposite- from same-sex relationships—or, for that matter, from multiple-party … Read more

U.S. Constitution’s Preamble Upholds Traditional Marriage

On April 28, the United States Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Obergefell v. Hodges and three other cases, testing the constitutionality of state bans on same-sex “marriage” and state refusals to recognize existing same-sex “marriages.” The outcome may well impose same-sex “marriage” on the entire United States of America, much as Roe v. … Read more

Latest News Events Suggest U.S. Constitution a Dead Letter

February 2015 did not just feature bitter cold in the eastern half of the U.S., but was a news-laden month that provided a window on a large number of our contemporary social, political, and cultural troubles. Heading the list was the continuing saga of big and increasingly threatening government in the Age of Obama. Early … Read more

Obama’s Immigration Decree

President Barack Obama’s reaction to the shellacking he and his policies received from the American people in the midterm elections surprised no one in its stubborn petulance. Along with some eye rolling and clearly perfunctory statements about how he would “cooperate” with the new Republican majority, President Obama made clear that he sees himself as … Read more

Is there a Rational Legal Basis for Traditional Marriage?

Many people believe that the momentum to legalize same-sex marriage in all states is now unstoppable—not because all states would do it on their own but because the federal courts seem determined to impose it by judicial decision. A series of district-court judges, claiming to follow the Supreme Court’s decision striking down federal marriage law … Read more

A New Declaration of Independence

Twelve score minus two years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent … something that no longer exists. In 2014, Independence Day is more commonly called the Fourth of July—a Jacobin rather than a Christian practice, naming holidays after dates. (Imagine celebrating the 25th of December.) The rhetorical shift reflects an underlying reality. Lost … Read more

The Real Lessons of Prohibition

In October, 1919, a heavily “progressive” Congress passed the Volstead Act enforcing the Eighteenth Amendment, prohibiting, for almost all purposes, the production, sale, and distribution of alcoholic beverages. There are two things everybody has learned from Prohibition. First, it is wrong to try to legislate morality. Second, you cannot do it, for Prohibition failed. But … Read more

Whose Will Shall Rule?

For decades, now, the universe of constitutional interpretation has been divided into “textualists,” who argue that the document must be read according to the reasonable meaning of its words, and those who argue for a “living” constitution, the meaning of which can “grow” over time to “meet the needs of a changing people and nation.” … Read more

Court’s Approval of Obamacare Shows Contempt for the Constitution

Last week’s marathon speech-fest (it wasn’t really a filibuster) from Senator Ted Cruz probably won’t do much to change the dynamic of politics in Washington or to stop Obamacare from becoming the last brick in the wall of social democracy separating Americans from their traditions of self-reliance and local community control. But, to someone interested … Read more

Interpreting Scripture & the U.S. Constitution

Jesus told his disciples in his famous Sermon on the Mount: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Commonly known as “the golden rule,” this maxim has formed the bedrock of Western ethics for two millennia and is widely considered by philosophers to constitute the essence of the moral law. Yet, … Read more

What a Constitution Can, and Can’t, Do

I was at a conference recently on the relationship between constitutionalism and liberty.  There were quite a few very smart and learned people there.  Two things struck me in particular from the conversations we had over several days:  first, how little faith scholars today seem to have in constitutional structures, and, second, how little faith … Read more

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