Counterpoint REGULATION AS SOCIAL JUSTICE Gavin Bade
THE BOYS ARE ALRIGHT Kara Brandeisky
a magazine of politics and culture
BOB SHRUM May 2012
WHAT CLARA AND VAIL’S VICTORY MEANS Cole Stangler
A LIBERTARIAN LOOKS AT THE LEFT Preston Mui
The legacy of tony judt Dan Solomon
NO GIRLS ALLOWED
The Catholic Church’s sexist ordination policy Mark Waterman
Jose Maria Aznar’s
Latin American Board Training the New Face of the Right
Counterpoint VOLUME 2.1 MAY 2012
EDITORIALS From the editors
NAACP & GU OCCUPY led a rally in Healy Circle on March 24 to support the movement calling for justice for Trayvon Martin. Photo courtesy of Thea Fowles
Student debt bubble should no longer be ignored
merica’s bubble economy is on the verge of another crisis. At a total of $870 billion, the student debt bubble puts the housing bubble to shame and has already surpassed the nation’s collective $693 billion credit card balance. One doesn’t have to be one of the millions of students and graduates submerged in debt to recognize that this bubble is a ticking time bomb for the entire economy. As for the students who have amassed onerous loans—their financial future is bleak. Just as the housing crisis trapped millions of Americans in suffocating mortgages, student debt is preventing millions of college graduates from attaining a basic level of financial security and achieving a decent standard of living. Like the toxic no-asset, no-income loans that sparked the economic crisis in 2008, banks hand out huge loans to students, despite grim job prospects that leave little opportunity for repayment. And as the bubble hones in on $1 trillion, private loan agencies continue to rake in the profits. It’s crony capitalism at its very finest.
Editor Cole Stangler Design Editor Jessica Ann Director of Technology Benjy Messner Editorial Board Gavin Bade Rachel Calvert Cole Stangler Mark Waterman Contributors John Flanagan Preston Mui Eric Pilch Dan Solomon Clare Tilton Galen Weber GENERAL INFORMATION This magazine was made possible with the support of Campus Progress, a project of the Center for American Progress, online at CampusProgress.org. Campus Progress funds, trains, and mentors students running a diverse and growing group of progressive campus media organizations. Grants and assistance can help you build and maintain a web site, expand print runs, and promote your organization on campus. For more, visit CampusProgress.org/publications. Counterpoint is run by undergraduate students at Georgetown University, but Counterpoint is unaffiliated with the University and funded solely by Campus Progress. The content is the responsibility of Counterpoint contributors alone, and does not necessarily reflect the views of University administration, faculty or students. Commentary, “On the Ground” columns about life at Georgetown, features, reviews and blog posts reflect the opinions of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Counterpoint. Editorials reflect the opinions of the editorial board. CORRECTIONS AND CLARIFICATIONS If you have comments or questions about the accuracy of a story, email editor Cole Stangler at email@example.com. SUBMISSIONS Counterpoint publishes a variety of submissions from a progressive perspective. Both pitches and completed manuscripts are acceptable. Counterpoint also accepts letters to the editor from any perspective. Please limit letters to the editor to 400 words. Counterpoint reserves the right to reject pieces at the editor’s discretion, to edit for length, tone, clarity and accuracy, and to choose accompanying headlines and graphics. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with submissions. c 2012, Counterpoint, all rights reserved. Email: email@example.com Online at counterpointmagazine.org FONT CREDITS Yann Le Coroller (AlteHaasGrotesk), Lauren Thompson (Champagne & Limousines), Justus Erich Walbaum (Justus)
ON THE COVER: A female priest from the Catholic Action Network’s Women’s Ordination Conference. Photo courtesy of flickr user alexis.lassus
3 | Student debt bubble should no longer be ignored
5 | LIBERTARIANS AND THE LEFT
11 | CRIMINAL INJUSTICE
Time for sexist ordination policy needs to go
The possibilities and limitations of an alliance
6 | THE CIRCUS CONTINUES
ON THE GROUND 4 | HOPE AND CHANGE COME TO THE HILLTOP The meaning of Clara and Vail’s election
12 | THINKING ETHICALLY
Patriarchy and right-wing myths fuel debate over contraception mandate
In posthumous release, Judt reflects on his life and the role of the public intellectual
8 | A VOICE FOR THE VOICELESS
14| LORI JEAN
Women and the priesthood in the Catholic Church
A conservative legal scholar comes to radical conlusions
The LGBT activist and GU Law graduate discusses her life, her landmark discrimination lawsuit, and her work for LGBT rights.
counterpointmagazine.ORG We encourage an open discussion of diverse viewpoints. Give us your opinion and feedback. Comment online at
The statistics are astonishing: college seniors who graduated in 2010 owe an average of $25,250 in student loans, according to data from the Project on Student Debt. Those who take out these outrageous loans are entering an economy with historically high unemployment levels for recent graduates. But while there are some very minor signs of economic recovery, there is no indication that the upward trend in student debt will reverse anytime soon. Unfortunately, the political class doesn’t have the interests of students at heart. In July, the interest rate on federally-administered Stafford loans is scheduled to double from 3.4 to 6.8 percent. Democratic members of Congress and the Obama administration— ostensible allies of students—have been far too silent on the matter and must begin to aggressively lobby against the interest rate hike. Given the outrageous levels the bubble is hitting, it is inexcusable not to act. But apart from the minor reforms, it’s clear that the broader education system that perpetuates student debt is unsustainable. For
future college students, a university education will increasingly depend on a willingness to assume heaps of debt, transforming what was once a guarantee of financial success into an economically unrewarding endeavor. Misguided critics say that college students who protest the need to amass massive levels of debt ought to keep quiet and appreciate their university degree. But in today’s world, a college degree doesn’t make the difference that it used to, and college graduates facing both a lousy job market and years of loan payments are right to seek reform. Students need to continue to air their grievances, ensure that the forgiveness of student loan debt remains a core value of the Occupy movement, and in the meantime, pressure their elected representatives to make minor reforms. Hopefully, by addressing the underlying problems of the student loan industry, we can eventually force a conversation on the more ambitious and meaningful question—whether or not higher education is a public good altogether. CP
Time for sexist ordination policy to go
n the wake of a far-reaching sexual abuse scandal and subsequent coverup, the insular nature of the Catholic Church has come under increased scrutiny. Among many issues threatening the credibility of the Church as an institution dedicated to social justice, the question of female ordination highlights the reactionary and often bigoted disposition of the Church. The simple truth is that barring women from service as priests is a sexist policy—an insistence on tradition that hinders the viability of the Church in more ways than one. There are practical reasons why the Church needs to consider updating its policy. The Church currently faces large shortages of priests, and ordaining women would most certainly mitigate this logistical problem. In the United States, the Church also faces a considerable drop in participation among female believers. As an incredibly traditional institution, the Church has never been quick to change. But as the Church enters the twenty-first century, it is time for the Vatican to embrace internal reform as a way to embrace egalitarianism and preserve its relevancy in contemporary society. Historically, the Church has been reticent to tread new ground in struggles for equality. In the Jim Crow-era South, the Church was complicit in racist segregationist policies,
preferring to remain on the sidelines of what it deemed to be a “political issue.” It was only after the courts struck down many racist state laws that the Church began to integrate its own institutions. But when it comes to gender equality, the U.S. Catholic Church has not fallen in line with the dominant political trend. The feminist movement has won the right to vote, at least nominal wage parity in the workplace, and greater reproductive freedom in the private sphere. Still, these hard-fought victories have yet to convince the Church that women should be given the same opportunities as men. Given that 64% of practicing U.S. Catholics favor the ordination of women, according to a 2005 Associated Press poll, the Church is going beyond just complacency to actively defy the political trend. In so defiantly clinging to tradition, it implicitly deems women unequal to men. Women’s involvement would also bring new perspectives to male-dominated Catholic hierarchy. This is something the Church is in dire need of. At present, any priest who speaks in favor of women’s ordination will likely be expelled from the Church, and only those priests who most enthusiastically champion Church teachings will be promoted. Such a system practically ensures the survival of backwards and outdated Church
policies. The insular Church hierarchy, with its pervasive boy’s club mentality, has covered up horrific sexual abuse crimes and championed policies that deny fundamental rights to women and homosexuals. With women sitting across the table as equals and members of Church government, the Church would only stand to benefit from the new perspectives and diversity of opinions. Imposing modern social mores can be difficult when dealing with religion, where divine tradition supersedes logic. But tradition evolves, and rather than using ancient texts as tools to block reform, the Vatican should aim to lead the way, being the first to speak out against all forms of global injustice. While it has a sad history of remaining silent on issues that seem to challenge its institutional policies, the Church has also shown the capacity to champion progressive causes like fighting dictatorships in Latin America and Eastern Europe and opposing the death penalty. When it comes to the ordination of women, the Church has an important decision over which of these clashing legacies to fulfill. Ultimately, the Church’s relevancy is being put to test: if it refuses to budge on the ordination of women, it will be further reduced to a merely reactionary institution disconnected from modern society and completely resistant to change. CP
ON THE GROUND cole stangler
Hope and Change come to the Hilltop
The meaning of Clara and Vail’s election
Clara gustafson , the newly elected president of the Georgetown University Student Assocaition, takes the
oath of office over a copy of The Second Sex before the GUSA senate, March 17, 2012. Photo by Patricia Cipollitti
eflecting on Clara Gustafson (SFS ’13) and Vail Kohnert-Yount (SFS ’13)’s sweeping victory in the GUSA Executive election, I can’t help but think of a similarly successful campaign waged just four years ago by the current occupant of the White House. The savvy use of social media, the left-leaning rhetoric, the brilliant marketing strategy and distinctive campaign symbols and images, the dedicated campaign staff, the massive turnout of a previously apathetic electorate that became enthusiastic about change, and, of course, that vague sense that something new and different was on the verge of being realized—haven’t we seen this before? Surely the comparisons only go so far. Unlike the Commander in Chief, the GUSA Executive has a surprisingly limited amount of institutional power. Its role is to oversee GUSA by “administering and enforcing the acts passed by the Senate”—though it can veto acts of the Senate barring a legislative supermajority. But the job description also includes one very important element: the Executive is the “primary point of contact between the student body and the university.”
By focusing on this last point, and understanding that “point of contact” to imply extrainstitutional leadership and advocacy rather than a simple liaison enmeshed in the existing apparatus, Clara and Vail can most effectively speak for the thousands of students who gave them their sweeping mandate. Gustafson and Kohnert-Yount seem to understand this. Unlike some of the other candidates who focused only on reforms allowed by GUSA’s limited jurisdiction, Clara and Vail campaigned on a more ambitious platform that included not only specific proposals but celebrated a broader commitment to progressive causes. And while the Hilltop may no longer be the old boys club it was for so long, it’s no small thing that our current GUSA President were sworn in on a copy of Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex. In order to understand the type of change the two can effect, it’s telling to look at the student organizations they came from. The Solidarity Committee, of which Kohnert-Yount remains a member, engages extensively in extra-institutional organizing in order to affect concrete change on campus, while the GUSA Social Innovation and Public Service fund initiative, chaired by
Gustafson, is the result of extra-institutional organizing. The former group utilizes outside pressure to achieve its aims, while the latter was only made possible through outside pressure. Having an ally in the GUSA Executive for similar types of initiatives—either campaigns launched by existing student groups or new creative ideas that increase student power—would be enormously beneficial. Imagine, for instance, the impact of a GUSA executive signing on to the Leo’s unionization campaign when its success was far from certain or backing the ultimately fruitless campaign in the spring of 2010 calling for the University to divest from Israeli companies complicit in human rights abuses. Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with working within the exiting institutional channels—this is an integral part of the job description, and in recent years, GUSA has shown its capacity to actually impact student lives through a host of programs. The new executives should maintain this positive trend. But in order to be more than the average pair of GUSA executives, Clara and Vail need to use their positions to aggressively advocate for student interests and put their weight behind progressive causes and campaigns at Georgetown. Rather encouragingly, some of their first actions suggest they will. The creation of positions on the Executive Committee committed to social justice issues and representing student advocacy groups, looking to improve links with the underutilized Student Advocacy Office and aiding in efforts to make CHARMS more LGBT friendly are all encouraging moves. So are their first steps to fulfill their campaign promise to overhaul the Center for Social Justice by lobbying for increased funding for the Center and pressuring the administration into finally appointing a permanent director. One can only hope trends like these continue well into next year. If so, Gustafson and Kohnert-Yount would be continuing the proud tradition of student government activism. During the Vietnam War era, student governments were energetic, ambitious, and unabashedly political institutions that sought to wrestle decision-making power away from unaccountable and inefficient university bureaucracies. Many of us forget that the relative amount of jurisdiction student governments enjoy today is usually reflective of how effectively student activists challenged the administration on a particular campus. Remembering this important link and pushing for change outside the established channels should be hallmarks of every GUSA Executive. All in all, Clara and Vail have an excellent opportunity to set a bold precedent for their position, live up to their high expectations, and make change more than just a campaign slogan. I can only hope that, in this last respect, the similarities with Obama will come to an end. CP
Libertarians and the Left
The possibilities and limitations of building an alliance
n my one and only brief foray into electoral politics, I spent the summer of 2008 volunteering for Darcy Burner, who was running for Congress as a Democrat. Because of the party structure, this also entailed going door-to-door for then-presidential candidate Obama and the rest of the Democratic ticket. It was an odd situation; I was interested in politics and had started to self-identify as a libertarian, but Ron Paul unsurprisingly didn’t win the Republican Party nomination. I liked Burner’s strong anti-war stance, and managed to convince myself that Obama was at least marginally better than McCain. Today, hearing about a libertarian supporting, much less working for, the Democratic Party would be unheard of. But it was more common in 2008 than you might think. I was not the only person with libertarian leanings on that campaign, and a number of self-identified libertarians cautiously favored Obama over McCain. Even if we didn’t agree with him on a lot of issues, there was a lot to like about Obama in 2008. He was the candidate calling for an end to crony capitalism, promising that corporate special interests would no longer rule the political process. He stood as an advocate against torture, extraordinary rendition, and endless detention. He claimed he would put an end to the boundless executive power of the Bush years. Four years later, I don’t know a single libertarian that is pledged to Obama. This isn’t to say that we’re all voting Republican this round—although some of us will probably hold our noses and vote for Romney, probably as a reaction to the Affordable Care Act. In 2008, there were legitimate reasons for libertarians to choose Obama, but most of them have evaporated during his first term. In his first term, Obama has continued the Bush legacy of enhanced executive power, favors to special interests, and continued to trample on our civil liberties. His administration has deported illegal immigrants at a far higher rate than Bush ever did. The person he chose to help implement the Affordable Care Act was a former lobbyist at the health insurance giant Wellpoint. Whistleblowers have been prosecuted and Dick Cheney has applauded Obama for continuing his dirty work into what might as well be Bush’s third term. It’s unfortunate, because I think that libertarianism is closer to the Left than the Right, even if most libertarians themselves are aligned with the Republican Party. People tend to see libertarians as an offshoot of the conservative movement and a sect of the Republican Party,
The 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, signed into law by President Obama, contains a provision allowing for the indefinite detention of American citizens. Photo courtesy of flickr user Lauriel-Arwen probably because of the libertarian-conservative “fusionist” alliance during the Cold War. For most of the twentieth century, libertarians saw communism as the main threat to individual liberty. The looming threat of the loss of a market society forced libertarians into an alliance with conservatives, who shared many of their views on economics. But the Cold War is over, and there are new threats to liberty. Still, many prominent libertarian-leaning thinkers such as Will Wilkinson, Matt Zwolinski, and other writers at a blog called “Bleeding Heart Libertarians” have been arguing that modern libertarians and liberals share more values and goals, even if they disagree on how to get there. After all, the great thinkers that inspired the libertarian tradition—Smith, Mises, Hayek, and Friedman—were called classical liberals, not conservatives. For what it’s worth, the lack of a stronger left-libertarian alliance is partly the fault of libertarians. Too many libertarians have failed to recognize that concentration of power happens in corporations as well as in government. Too many libertarians offer only lip service to efforts to help the poor, believing that conceding the need to help the poor means conceding the argument over free markets. We care more about a tiny percentage point increase in the highest tax bracket than we do about corporations hijacking regulatory policy to benefit
their bottom lines. At the same time, if a left-libertarian alliance is to work, libertarians are going to need more from liberals. They can start by being stronger on the issues that we both care about, and by being more critical of representative public figures who fail to live up to the values of the progressive movement. For the past few years, progressives who called for Bush’s impeachment have been far too mute about President Obama doing much of the same. To be fair, many liberals (such as Salon’s Glenn Greenwald) have been wonderfully consistent on these issues, but we need more of them. If libertarians can’t take liberals seriously on the most important issues, such as our civil liberties, how can we ever hope to work together? I understand the impulse to play for “your side”; after all, if the Democrats don’t win, it’s not like the Republicans will be any better on those issues. I get that there are team loyalties and short-term election concerns, and I’m not going to try to tell anyone how to work their party’s internal politics. I just want to remind liberals that politics may be a team sport, but it doesn’t have to be. Your real loyalties should be to your principles and your values, not the D or R next to someone’s name. CP Editor’s note: Preston is the President of Hoyas for Liberty.
COMMENTARY gavin BAde
The Circus Continues
Patriarchy and right-wing myths fuel debate over contraception mandate
t’s one of the tragedies of contemporary American politics— women’s health issues are never just about women or their health. This unfortunate reality has seldom been more visible than in recent weeks, with conservative religious institutions’ reaction to the Obama administration’s decision that the Affordable Care Act will mandate that contraceptives be covered by all health insurance policies. From following most of the mainstream media’s coverage, you’d think the White House was out to depose the Pope himself or deface the grave of Martin Luther. Conservative Catholic bishops and evangelical Protestants have been livid, but their anger masks the true issue behind this debate and only serves to frame it in terms convenient to them. Barely anyone, especially conservatives, has shifted their perspective to see the effects of the mandate from the point of view of women’s health. Instead, the debate is instead a chance to score a point against the President and continue the imposition of a reactionary Christian moral code on every sector of society these zealots can touch. It’s important to get the facts straight: Obama’s contraceptive rule does not force-feed the pill to any religious institution. After a smart compromise, it is the insurance companies used by these institutions to provide coverage to their employees or students that will have to provide for birth control. Moreover, there is nothing that says individual members of these organizations cannot simply choose not to use contraceptives. Providing the option for coverage from an outside company certainly is not the same as forcing an agenda on these religions—it’s intellectually dishonest to say it is. The issue also looks a lot different coming from a woman’s perspective—no matter her religion. Contraceptives are expensive. At its cheapest, the pill runs around $200 a year when purchased out of pocket, and other forms like birth control shots or IUDs are far more expensive. For students and low-income women, these costs are entirely prohibitive. While condoms are cheap and usually readily available for men from local clinics, these same public health resources are unable to accomodate the overwhelming demand for oral contraception. Although many conservatives like to suggest otherwise, a great number of women rely on the pill for uses other than pregnancy interference, including relief for heavy periods, severe acne and menstrual pain, as well as the prevention of ovarian cysts and a
host of other ailments. In many cases, this form of medication is far more effective for women than others on the market and has fewer side effects. Since its introduction, birth control has become a true multi-purpose drug for women and has helped facilitate gigantic improvements in their health and productivity because of it. It’s not just about not getting pregnant. Basic health benefits aside, the central argument used by conservatives—that the mandate is somehow an attack on religious freedom—is still astonishingly dubious. Though it may seem obvious, it’s important to recall that religious institutions often have to cope with rules of secular society that they often find objectionable. Quakers, Jehovah’s Witnesses and other pacifists can’t stipulate that their tax dollars not be used to finance destruction overseas, for instance. Their religiously-based objections to U.S. policy do not exempt them from following the law. Additionally, the religious organizations themselves are imposing upon a woman’s freedom of religion and equal access to healthcare— not the Obama administration. Simply because a woman works in a religious institution should not mean she is required by economic situation to follow a single, narrow interpretation of religious rule. She should be able to serve some facets of her faith while objecting to other interpretations and not have her health penalized for it. Conservatives will say she should simply choose somewhere else to work. Given today’s job market, this is a prblematic suggestion that also indicates the sexism at the core of the matter: a man would never be faced with a similar situation where he had to choose between his job and sex life.
ndeed, buried in this controversy are the attitudes of the long history of American patriarchal hierarchy. A male-dominated society—which the U.S. still is, especially in the institutions of religion and government— simply cannot appropriately represent the interests of women’s sexual health. Some of the reasons are simple. Sex is a comparatively easy business for men. While everyone needs to keep an eye out for those nasty STDs, the fellas don’t have to worry about carrying a baby for 9 months, being a single mother in the alltoo-common case of a runaway dad or facing the stigma and emotional implications of an abortion. Try as we might, I just don’t think we can really wrap our heads around that stuff.
Photo courtesy of flickr user Dan Correia
“I will buy all of the women at Georgetown University as much aspirin to put between their knees as they want.” —Rush Limbaugh
“The Lord says be submissive. Wives, you are to be submissive to your husbands.” — Michele Bachmann Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore
Photo courtesy of World Economic Forum
“But I do think the women of America are owed an apology ... an apology for denying them a voice ... and an apology for denying them a place at the table.” — Carolyn Maloney
Graphic courtesy of flickr user Donkey Hotey
Our society—especially the more conservative, religious sectors of it—still defines very different roles for men and women in sexual life, and these ideologies cannot be separated from the rhetoric surrounding women’s health. Although norms are slowly changing, a sexuallyactive woman is still viewed quite differently from a sexually-active man. The former is a slut, whore or “loose” woman, while similar behavior is more expected and acceptable coming from the man. We still place a very different value on the chastity of a woman versus that of a man, and this hypocrisy rears its head every day from the television screen to individual parenting choices for sons and daughters. To put it simply, a man would never have to think of changing his job or university because of access to birth control or other medications. If, for a moment, we abandoned our insistence on these gender norms, we would see that insurance coverage for contraceptives is not anything extraordinary, but merely another tool to ensure women have the widest possible array of choices to support their health. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be happening anytime soon, not least because conservative forces are bent on preventing the advance-
ment of women into new, non-traditional roles in society and sexual culture. The reactionary yearning for the pure, obedient housewife is clearly still alive and well in the Republican Party today. Even the most prominent and powerful women in and around the party—from Sarah Palin to Michelle Bachmann to Ann Coulter— still espouse a medievalist role for women in America. Even while campaigning to inhabit the most powerful office in the world, Bachmann still said she believed in the truth of a bibilical verse that says a woman should be “submissive” and “obedient” to her husband. They undoubtedly view further access to birth control not as a tool to let women live life the way they choose, but a chance for progressives to further break down their prescribed roles for man and woman in American society. They won’t say it explicitly, but these fears and ideologies underlie every move they make against contraceptive rights. Correspondingly, Republicans have worked to keep the voices of women out of the contraceptive controversy. One of the most heinous and infamous examples came in late February when the House Committee on Oversight and Governmental Reform staged a hearing on the contraceptive rule named “Lines Crossed: Sepa-
ration of Church and State.” The proceedings clearly focused on the Obama administration’s ruling, but Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) avoided the topic of contraception altogether, even avoiding to say the word itself throughout the hearing. What’s more, the five-person panel of religious leaders assembled did not include one woman. As former President of Georgetown Law Students for Reproductive Justice, Sandra Fluke remarked after being prevented from testifying, “Chairman Issa felt that the topic of contraception was not relevant to a debate about contraceptive policy.” Indeed, Representative Issa—the man who orchestrated the hearings criticizing a planned Islamic community center in Manhattan last year as well as the eviction of Occupy DC due to supposed environmental concerns—cares little for the reproductive needs of women. He saw a chance to score political points with his base and take part in one of his favorite Capitol Hill activities—inaccurately trashing the President. His kangaroo court of five quasi-informed misogynists had nothing of substance to say on the rule, and repeatedly misrepresented it as a directive for their institutions to provide mandatory birth control to women. Their allegiances
lie with protecting their extreme interpretations of each of their religions and limiting the sexual freedom of women. It was a display of a structurally violent system at its worst— unhealthy and reactionary beliefs being forced on a group who are denied representation or even a voice in the process. Far from actually taking women’s health into consideration, conservatives are attempting to institutionalize only the viewpoint of the most zealously religious males. Ultimately, the debate has degenerated into a poker game for political capital, with Republican officials gambling women’s right to affordable healthcare. Because these issues don’t affect men nearly as much as women, the patriarchal structure that still governs this country twists the argument into paranoid claims of religious persecution and immorality. Really, the outcome would be a foregone conclusion if we actually let those affected by the policy shape it. But, as Sandra Fluke said in the testimony she was supposed to give to Issa’s committee, “When you let university administrators or other employers, rather than women and their doctors, dictate whose medical needs are good enough and whose are not, a woman’s health takes a back seat to a bureaucracy focused on policing her body.” CP
A voice for the
A Female Priest
performs the Eucharist the bread and wine at a mass held by the Catholic Action Network’s Women’s Ordination Conference.
Photo courtesy of flickr user alexis.lassus
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Women and the priesthood in the Catholic Church
ne is immediately struck by the pervasive culture of fear surrounding the issue. Women’s ordination is so taboo that it cannot be discussed publicly by any church official—the risk of excommunication or official reprimand is so great. Those who speak out in favor are likely to be expelled from the Church. The Church has even gone so far as to state that no professional theologian who supports the ordination of women will ever be consulted on matters of Church policy. “I find it offensive, as an adult, that we cannot even discuss women’s ordination,” says Father Raymond Bourgeois, a priest and lifelong activist who was excommunicated in 2011 for delivering the homily at a women’s ordination ceremony three years earlier in Lexington, Kentucky. Bourgeois is most well known for founding School of the Americas Watch, an organization that works toward closing the United States military school at Fort Benning, Georgia, now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. Bourgeois has spent four years in prison for his role in the protests, and was nominated in 2010 for the Nobel Peace Prize. Bourgeois and other like-minded priests subscribe to the Church’s teachings on the importance primacy of conscience—the idea that one is responsible to do what he or she believes is right in any situation. “At the very root of our Church’s teaching is the sin of sexism,” he said, pointing to the wellingrained culture of discrimination within the Catholic Church. “I have so many women friends who say to me, Roy, I just can’t take the sexism anymore.” Priests who feel similarly face a difficult dilemma: follow one’s conscience or keep one’s career. In the overwhelming majority of cases, priests choose the latter. Most priests believe they are doing good work within their parishes and don’t want to be kicked to the curb for speaking out in favor of women’s ordination. Many entered the religious life at a young age and have never worked elsewhere. If they were expelled from the Church, where would they go? Speaking against sexism is simply not worth the risk. Bourgeois says he’s met privately with many priests across the country who support ordaining women. “They’re very supportive [of women’s ordination], but they’re not ready to go public,” he said. “The biggest challenge has been to try to get fellow priests to do what I had to do … our silence is the voice of complicity.” For the non-religious, it seems evident that the
Church’s policy on ordination is blatantly sexist. Why should only men be able to serve God, when the Church proclaims to support gender equality ? Moreover, other Christian churches, like the Anglicans and a host of Protestant denominations, have already made the decision to allow women priests. So what’s wrong with the Catholic Church, which in 2010 declared the ordination of women to be a crime on par with pedophilia? By official accounts, the Church has never allowed women to serve as priests. Rules prohibiting women from serving as priests are considered to be part of Church doctrine, and thus not subject to change. “Doctrine is not something that the Church made, it is something that was given to it,” says Father Stanislaw Orsy, an expert on canon law at Georgetown University Law Center. “The Church does not feel it has the authority to legislate [about matters of church doctrine].” Behind the doctrine lies a complex web of theological arguments, foremost of which is that Jesus Christ himself, in selecting twelve apostles to spread his gospel, chose only men. In a 1976 letter entitled Inter Insigniores, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under Pope Paul VI declared that Jesus’ decision to exclude women was not influenced by the patriarchal structures of society in first-century Jerusalem. Jesus simply chose men because he wanted to. And the Church is in no position to contradict the Son of God himself. In addition, the Church’s policy is backed up by something called “ordinary universal magisterium,” an unspoken agreement of world’s Catholic bishops. In two thousand years of constant practice, the bishops have never ordained women, thus establishing a tradition with a certain formal holy authority. “There is no evidence that women were ever ordained,” Orsy said. “I taught these matters for years, and I tried to look at every single document I could find, and I found no evidence whatsoever.... In theology, you need hard evidence. We cannot reduce theology to free-thinking that has nothing to do with evidence.” But there are many who find fault with the historical arguments against women’s ordination. In fact, during the 1970s, the Pontifical Biblical Commission, part of the Vatican’s administrative arm, was tasked with a study on the role of women in the Bible. The commission found that there was no biblical evidence to suggest that only men can serve as priests. But Church policy still did not change. Many also take issue with the Church’s cen-
tral theological argument that women cannot be priests because Jesus Christ chose only men as his apostles. “There were twelve apostles chosen before Jesus’ death and resurrection,” said Therese Koturbash, international ambassador for the women’s ordination group Roman Catholic Womenpriests, one of the few groups that openly advocates for the ordination of women and until very recently, performed illegal ordination ceremonies like the one Bourgeois attended in 2008. “But after his death and resurrection the first apostle appointed was Mary Magdalene, a woman, and she is known as the Apostle to the Apostles.” Bourgeois echoed Koturbash, recalling a letter he once received from a college student who wondered, “Who is more qualified than Mary to say the words that male priests say at mass: this is my body, this is my blood?” If the theological arguments surrounding the ordination of women are open to debate and seem to suggest room for progress on the issue, there remains one major obstacle—the organization of the Church itself. “The Roman Catholic Church is a polity that is very top down,” said Dr. Cathy Wessinger, a professor of theology at Loyola University in New Orleans. “It’s like a monarchy.” Wessinger, a scholar of the history of religions, has written two books about women’s participation in both marginal and more mainstream global faiths. She described how the Catholic Church’s top-down efforts to deal with women’s involvement in the Church have been largely unproductive. After the Episcopal Church legalized the ordination of women in 1976, the Catholic Church began trying to reach out to women in order to encourage them to become more involved with the Church. In the 1980s, Catholic bishops in the United States issued a rough draft of a pastoral letter to be entitled “Partners in the Mystery of Redemption”—declaring sexism to be a sin—and organized a series of meetings in which they encouraged Catholics to comment on the document. “My impression was that Catholic feminists, both male and female, were extremely critical of the document,” said Wessinger, who attended the meetings held on the Loyola campus. Catholics recognized the absurd paradox inherent to the document, which, while plainly stating that sexism is a sin, did not advocate the ordination of women. Under increasing pressure from Rome, the American bishops scrapped the pastoral letter entirely, and this small effort to
Father Raymond Bourgeois
speaks at a protest against the School of Americas. Photo courtesy of flickr user peaceworker46
democratically engage with everyday Catholics came to nothing. Later Pope John Paul II attempted to address women’s issues in a 1988 Apostolic Letter entitled Mulieris Dignitatem. While the letter confirms the dignity of women, it goes on to outline two dimensions of women’s vocation, namely virginity and motherhood. “From a feminist perspective, the problem is that he is defining women’s vocations solely in terms of their sexual status,” Wessinger said. “And of course, men’s vocations are not defined in that way.” But instances in which the Catholic Church proactively tries to resolve problems are exceptions to the rule. Generally, the Church reacts to outside pressures the same way it always has, by ignoring them. The grinding Church bureaucracy and the intransigent nature of its leadership have many convinced that women’s ordination isn’t happening anytime soon. “This conversation has been going on for 30 or 40 years and there’s been no progress,” said Father Thomas Reese, a religion and public policy fellow at Georgetown’s Woodstock Theological Center. Reese likened the lack of progress on this issue to the similarly contentious debate about allowing priests to marry. In the 1960s and 1970s, many priests, inspired by more democratic and forward thinking language coming out of the Second Vatican Council, campaigned in favor of permitting priests to marry. For historical reasons, mandatory celibacy is considered “discipline” rather than “doctrine,” and theoretically could be changed. While priests are required to obey the teachings regarding clerical celibacy as long as they remain in force, they are free to oppose and speak out against them. But the movement opposing clerical celibacy came to nothing and priests felt they were wasting precious free time that could have been better spent running their parishes. A few decades later, the Church was rocked by a widespread sexual abuse scandal that many argue could have been avoided had priests been allowed to marry. Based on the Church’s capacity to embrace popular progressive change, Reese is pessimistic about the prospects for the ordination of women priests. “The chances of the pope and the bishops changing their minds about women’s ordination are very, very, very, very slim,” says Reese. “The hier-
archy is an elite that is totally isolated from public opinion.” Priests with even the slightest misgivings about Church policy stand no chance of ascending the ranks of the Church hierarchy. Conversely, those who most aggressively enforce compliance with Church doctrine are typically first in line for promotions. “It is hard to see how the Church’s teaching is going to change because the people in charge have been screened before being promoted... Bottom line? Don’t hold your breath.” In a February 2012 issue of America, a weekly Catholic magazine published by the American Jesuits, Patricia Wittberg wrote an article entitled “A Lost Generation?” in which she notes that, historically, women in Western society were more religious, more spiritual than men. They also tended to join the religious life in much greater numbers. But data from recent studies show that the trend is reversing. Unlike their Protestant counterparts, Catholic women of recent generations are less likely to attend weekly mass, much less enter the religious life. While women may be beating a hasty retreat from the Catholic Church, they are not the only ones. Vocations are down across the board, with parishes across the United States forced to merge or close their doors. According to data from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, the Catholic population is rising steadily, but the last forty years have seen a steep decline in total numbers of priests and religious women. In 2011, there were more than three thousand American parishes without resident priest pastors. In other words, the Catholic Church may soon be forced to grapple with the uncomfortable fact that women’s priesthood could be necessary for the long-term sustainability of the Church. Many women feel called to the priesthood, but the Church continues to deem their vocation illegitimate. At present, women wanting to enter the religious life are restricted to service as nuns. But if the Church were to change its policy, it seems logical that many women would take the opportunity to lead their communities as priests.
“The spirit can speak to anyone it pleases,” said Sr. Rosemary Reid, a member of the Sisters of the Cenacle order. “Whether or not [women’s calling] is valid, well, right now tradition and culture say that it is not.” Reid, now 87 years old, is my great aunt. She has been a nun for more than 60 years. Her order has had its own struggles with finding young women who are interested in the religious life. I asked her about the possibility of ordaining women to the priesthood. “Well, the physical argument is that we’re too weak,” she said with a chuckle. “But sometimes the men are too strong.” Reid said that while some believe that women desire to stage a coup against male privilege, others recognize that women simply want to help provide “solace and help in the service of Christ.” “We are all in the same boat here,” she said. “We are all trying to do the same thing.” Even Koturbash of the more radical Roman Catholic Womenpriests still believes in the Church’s fundamentally good nature. While discussing Womenpriests’ decision to keep the fight for women within the institutional framework of the Church, Koturbash likened the exclusion of women to an oil spill within the church. When the spill hits, members of the community do not simply pack up and leave, she explained, they stick around to try to clean up. “Otherwise,” Koturbash said, “fundamentalism can take hold.” Clearly, the women who feel called to the priesthood simply want their opportunity to serve the Church and to lead, to do good. What is it that the Catholic Church is so afraid of ? I spoke with many people who, like Sr. Reid, emphasized the Church’s capacity for good and its progressive stance on other issues. But as long as the Church continues to refuse to ordain women, it will become increasingly difficult for the organization to maintain its credibility in other areas. That Koturbash and others maintain a certain faith in the Church as a whole is impressive. One cannot help but wonder why more dissidents have not simply walked away, especially considering the Church’s continued refusal to address their grievances, a refusal that stems from the fundamentally authoritarian nature of a twenty-first century faith that remains, as Koturbash says, “a medieval institution.” Indeed, what may ultimately be at stake is the relevancy of the Church—it can either adapt to changing norms in order to maintain its credibility or stubbornly cling to the remnants of patriarchal society and traditions rooted in sexism. Facing a sexual abuse scandal, a shortage of priests, and a steep decline in women’s participation, it seems that the case for women’s ordination is stronger than ever. The alternative—staying the course by continuing to alienate women and ignoring the changing values of the faithful—could be far worse. “When you say that certain subjects are off the table, can’t be discussed, can’t be talked about, I think that leads to a dysfunctional organization,” Reese says. “That makes it real difficult for the Church to deal with problems in the twenty-first century.” CP
A conservative legal scholar comes to radical conclusions
illiam J. Stuntz was dying as he composed The Collapse of American Criminal Justice. Diagnosed with cancer and resisting mind-altering pain medication, he feverishly worked to complete the manuscript before expiring in March 2011. The result of his labors is a magnificent book, which argues the American system of criminal justice has unraveled before our eyes—a phenomenon that has escaped the notice of most citizens. Speaking at a Harvard Law event that honored the life of Stuntz, Columbia Law Professor Dan Richman explained, “[The book] offers a vivid picture of a world where we have an adversarial system without trials, a world where the jails are filled with African-American men. It’s a world where sentencing is untethered to reality.” Readers of The Collapse of American Criminal Justice are transported directly to this world through a narrative that contextualizes the present moment in light of the past 150 years. America has a structural level of incarceration that shatters historical norms. We incarcerate black men at a much higher rate than the height of Stalinist repression. A nation with 3 percent of the world’s population, we have 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. Most distressingly, in the urban communities hardest hit by the system, a vicious cycle of absent fathers and broken homes has taken root. Unfortunately, a quick glance at the statistics underlying the criminal justice system can lead to deeply flawed conclusions. It is tempting to point to the historically low crime rate in the United States and conclude that the status quo is acceptable. Moreover, any defense lawyer will tell you the vast majority of their clients are guilty. Shouldn’t this be seen as a sign the system is working? Stuntz argues strongly against this view and in favor of a more nuanced conception of the criminal justice system. The American public appears to judge incarceration in relation to the incidence of crime, while the scholarly literature on mass incarceration Stuntz is reacting to compares the United States to other Western democracies or historical levels of American incarceration. Based on the first standard, our level of incarceration is much too low. “Out of the tens of millions of felonies that happen each year, American prosecutors convict 1.1 million felons, roughly 700,000 of whom must serve prison sentences,” Stuntz writes. Increasing the rate of conviction, so that one third of felonies were punished, would result in a fivefold increase in criminal justice expenditures— from $200 billion to a staggering $1 trillion. The higher figure is roughly comparable to all government expenditures on health care and pensions today. The second standard, reflecting the scholarly
debate that Stuntz summarizes, reveals more. Compared to Western European peers, the United States has a lower crime rate—Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Great Britain have levels of burglary that are roughly twice as high—but ten times as many prisoners. Yet, it may still be imprudent to theorize about an incarceration ceiling based on Western industrialized peers. Crime is substantially lower in the U.S., critics might say. What these two perspectives actually reveal is that the criminal justice system inevitably involves balancing community property rights and safety concerns with the overall consequences and efficacy of criminal prosecution. This may be a distressing conclusion—since the majority of crime will not, and has not historically, led to judicial sanction—but it is inescapable based on the data presented by Stuntz. By this standard, our criminal justice system has fallen far out of balance, and the lack of awareness among the general population results from the primary targets of the system’s machinery, the urban poor. This toxic status quo is also the product of an underappreciated set of historical circumstances, according to Stuntz. Liberals laud the legacy of the Warren Court, which enshrined state appointed counsel for indigent defendants, created Miranda rights, and prevented prosecutors from using evidence obtained by illegal seizures. Stuntz argues these path-breaking reforms actually did more harm than good in the long run by inciting a conservative counter-reaction. Symbolic assaults on criminal coddling liberals by the likes of Ricard Nixon, George Wallace, and Ronald Regan eventually became more than symbolic. Politicians on the left responded by implementing ‘tough on crime’ policies. This reached a high water mark under President Clinton, who arguably implemented the most punitive criminal justice policies in the last forty years. In this environment, average sentences rose. This gave prosecutors more leverage to threaten extraordinarily high punishments and compel defendants to enter guilty pleas. Defendants—disproportionately from the inner city and generally appointed less competent counsel—faced juries composed of more affluent residents of the suburbs who did not hail from the communities dealing with violent crime. The resulting outcomes have produced the collapse we witness today. Near the end of The Collapse of American Criminal Justice, Bill Stuntz reflects on the future of our criminal justice system based on his lifetime of scholarship in criminal law and criminal procedure. The results are at once refreshing and also quite surprising. A conservative and a contributor to publications like The Weekly Standard and Christianity
THE COLLAPSE OF AMERICAN CRIMINAL JUSTICE By William J. Stuntz (Harvard University Press $35.00)
Today, Stuntz’s analysis nonetheless results in policy prescriptions more closely associated with the political left in America. Rather than focusing on punishment, the book advocates a greater investment in intelligent, preventative policing. Stuntz argues that average sentences must be reduced, public defense must be funded at a dramatically higher level, and steps must be taken to remove the overwhelming reliance on plea-bargaining. The drug war should be wound down, or at the very least de-emphasized. Yet, his prescription also has a deeply conservative element. If criminal justice is about balancing community interests and the effects of prosecution, as Stuntz would suggest, the communities dealing with high crime rates are best equipped to handle these questions. This leads Stuntz to advocate for greater federalism in the execution of criminal justice. Juries should come from the communities where crimes are taking place. For example, suburban residents of Chicago’s sprawling Cook County are poorly equipped to serve on juries dealing with inner city violence and drug crime. There is a growing awareness of the problems identified in The Collapse of Criminal Justice, in no small part due to the book’s impressive sales, coupled with the success of titles like Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow and Paul Butler’s Let’s Get Free. In early March, even conservative culture warrior Pat Robertson came out in favor of marijuana legalization. Yet, mass incarceration is not a phenomenon that will be easily displaced. Conservatives and liberals alike would benefit from Bill Stuntz’s beautifully argued tome from the brink of death. In the final pages, Stuntz writes, “The criminals we incarcerate are not some alien enemy. Nor, for that matter, are the police officers and prosecutors who seek to fight crime in those criminals neighborhoods. Neither side of this divide is ‘them.’ Both sides are us.” It will take a more full appreciation of this fundamentally inclusive message to overturn the scourge of mass incarceration and bring the criminal justice system back from collapse. CP
REVIEWS Postwar, Judt’s self-described magnum opus: an overlay of historical analysis, undergirded by the historian’s personal encounters with intellectuals and activists. In many ways, Thinking the Twentieth Century strikes the reader as a more appropriate approach to intellectual history, buttressed by Snyder’s contributions on Eastern European history, Marxism, and American politics. In his foreword, Snyder describes the origins of the book’s structure: more complex than a simple compilation of interviews, Thinking the Twentieth Century has its origins in “spoken history,” a popular tradition in Eastern Europe’s historical literature. The thematic importance of Snyder’s discursive framework is not confined to Eastern Europe, however. The structure of Jewish Talmudic dialogue and the Left’s centuries-old argumentative style, both of which played critical roles in Judt’s intellectual evolution, are similarly apparent. Many narratives characterize Judt’s life, work, and thought, but none more pointedly than the twentieth-century tale of global upheaval, its social impact, and the lives of the minds which understood it (or, more frequently, which did not). In Thinking’s early pages, Judt paraphrases Eric Hobsbawm, whose personal narrative of modern left-wing politics spans his “short twentieth century”: “We have never quite lost the sense that… you cannot fully appreciate the shape of the twentieth century if you did not once share its illusions, and the communist illusion in particular.” Judt’s interactions with Snyder, then, can be seen in this light: as an attempt to reckon with his past demons, to redress his intellectual failings, and to reflect on the political shortcomings of his erstwhile “circles.” Of course, Judt’s historical shortcomings were comparatively minor. Raised in London’s East End by a Trotskyist, the young historian persistently diverged from the Commu-
In posthumous release, Judt reflects on his life and the role of the public intellectual
The People’s LibrarY, which included some of Tony Judt’s work, epitomized the spirit of discussion and debate among those who flocked to Zuccotti Park in Occupy Wall Street’s early days. Photo courtesy of flickr user Brennan Cavanaugh
ast October, during a warm Yom Kippur weekend, I took a stroll down to Occupy Wall Street. For me, the Saturday-morning field trip was an organizer’s self-indulgence; as a DC human rights advocate, I came to learn, but largely to ogle in bewilderment at Occupy’s peculiar community of anarcho-syndicalists, disillusioned college professors, anti-imperialists, and seasoned AFL-CIO operatives. As I made my way through Zuccotti’s whimsical village, I encountered a myriad of ideologies, global perspectives, and theories of everything. I met a participatory economist, a Robert Owen plagiarist, and a Connecticut high school teacher with an oddly romantic, revisionist perception of Iroquois governance. I asked a few questions of my newfound companions: Why are you here?
What does this grassroots community mean to you? Where do you see the Occupy movement in five years? And, perhaps most importantly for the radical activist, what’re you reading? Most literature recommendations were unexceptional, in that I had never heard of them. There was one conversation, though, that caught my attention. A Fordham law student, he had taken the subway down to Zuccotti everyday for the past week and was an active member of the now-controversial People of Color working group. I asked him for a couple of book recommendations, and he pulled two short essays from his bag: Indignez-Vous, by Stéphane Hessel, the French provocateur; and Ill Fares the Land, by the late historian Tony Judt. As Jennifer Homans recently noted in a
New York Review of Books essay, her husband died three months before Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation, too early to bear witness to today’s social transformations. Judt’s physical decline was slow, heartwrenching, and inspiring: between late 2008, when he was first diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, and his death in August 2010, Judt wrote prolifically, publishing incisive reflections on social-democratic politics, contemporary intellectual history, and his encounters with postwar trans-Atlantic society. Before his diagnosis, Judt began work on an intellectual history of twentieth-century political and social thought. Judging from Thinking the Twentieth Century—a posthumous collection of topical dialogues with a protégé, Timothy Snyder—the original content would have mirrored the structure of
Louis Napoleon, published in 1952. As with most of Marx’s work, Brumaire is a dual-layered text, comprised of Marx’s class-oriented history of France’s 1848 political transition, as well as a broader study of the art of history and historical observation. Judt’s preference for the Brumaire—rather than, say, his father’s abridged copy of Capital—underlines the historian’s support for a human, compassionate politics, rather than the obscure, detached system of Marxian political economy. Ethical clarity defined Judt’s thought, as well as his perception of intellectual responsibility throughout the twentieth century. Judt began his academic career as a historian of French labor politics, studying the evolution of grassroots socialism in finde-siècle France. In 1979, his engagement in labor history led him to publish a visceral, biting critique of social history’s reliance on theoretical, modeled perceptions of politics, entitled “A Clown in Regal Purple.” As Judt transitioned into France’s postwar intellectual history, manifested in the 1994 publication of Past Imperfect, his ethical politics became increasingly clear; like Raymond Aron, Francois Furet, and France’s liberal democrats, the historian condemned Sartre, Beauvoir, and Merleau-Ponty’s self-justifying, contradictory support for Communist terror and atrocity. In Thinking, Judt mounts a rousing case against the teleology of Marx’s dialectic, defending a liberal—in his lexicon, social-democratic—understanding of historical events and social progress. Judt’s coverage of Marxism is nuanced, reflective of his thorough comprehension of the ideology’s evolution, historical application, and ethical failings. The same cannot be said for Judt’s understanding of Zionism, which, unfortunately, remains the historian’s most prominent legacy. In contrast to his learned engagement with Marxism, its supporters, and its critics, Judt’s engagement with Zion-
“Ethical clarity defined Judt’s thought, as well as his perception of intellectual responsibility throughout the twentieth century.” nist mythology of his old Left predecessors; despite his participation in the Grosvenor Square demonstrations against the Vietnam War, as well as the 1968 Paris “street,” Judt dismissed the crude Third Worldism of his New Left contemporaries. While Judt derides the “old/new Marx” debates that captivated the bearded philosopher’s 1960s’ adherents, the discourse clearly underlines his understanding of Marxist thought. When probed on his selective Marx bibliography, Judt refers his readers to The Eighteenth Brumaire of
ism relies solely on youthful experience. During the 1960s, the student of history worked as a kibbutznik, attracted to Israel’s collective farms by Labor Zionism’s social-democratic mythology. During the 1967 war, Judt served as an auxiliary serviceman in the Israel Defense Forces, embedded in a Golan Heights unit. In his conversation with Snyder, Judt describes his gradual disillusionment with Labor Zionism’s ecumenical utopia, demonstrated by the emergence of anti-Arab sentiments among his Israeli compatriots.
THINKING THE TWENTIETH CENTURY By Tony Judt with Timothy Snyder (Penguin Press $36.00)
Judt’s Jewish binationalism, by far the most discussed, disputed component of Judt’s public voice, stems from his experiences during the war, in contrast to his broad familiarity with Marxism. Where Judt takes the reader through the complex, late-nineteenth century debates on Marxist orthodoxy and evolutionary socialism, the historian describes Zionism’s evolution as a dichotomous interaction between political Zionism and its Jabotinskyinfused, revisionist Zionism. Judt may be right about the problematic psychology of Holocaust memory in the United States, but his portrayal of American Jewry’s encounters with Israeli politics, the rise of right-wing politics in Israel, and its impact on the ideology of Jewish nationalism strikes the reader as, well, anachronistic. At its core, Thinking the Twentieth Century is a humble guide to the ethics of history, with pervasive relevance. In the midst of the twenty-first century’s first “revolutionary” wave, Judt’s cautionary approach to historical teleology, his simple, articulate defense of moral economics and the public sphere, and his commentary on intellectual responsibility have much to offer. The historian’s literary presence at Zuccotti Park is fitting, as well as a challenge to the spirit of contemporary social movements. As Judt makes clear in Ill Fares the Land—and reinforces in Thinking the Twentieth Century—a revolution of the ninety-nine percent may not be necessary, prudent, or applicable to the process of crafting a communitarian society. Given the intellectual consequences of exaggerated historical self-awareness, it may be more appropriate to, as Snyder says, view the near future as something “just a bit better,” and mobilize a collective ethic to attain it. Judt may not have lived to address this century’s early upheavals, but his ethical perspective on the twentieth century certainly should. CP
An Interview with
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Greg Hernandez (greginhollywood)
LGBT Rights Advocate
Lorri L. Jean (LAW ’82) is a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center. She was the lead plaintiff in Gay Rights Coalition of Georgetown University Law Center v. Georgetown University, a landmark federal lawsuit that compelled the University to give the gay rights group equitable access to benefits as a student group because of the sexual orientation protections of the D.C. Human Rights Act. She now serves as CEO of the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center, the world’s largest LGBT organization with more than 300 full time employees serving over a quarter million people each year, a position she has held since 1993 with a short break while serving as executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force from 2001 to 2003. Before 1993, Ms. Jean spent ten years as an attorney for FEMA, where she was the highest-ranking openly gay or lesbian person in the federal government until her retirement from government office. John Flanagan had the chance to chat with Ms. Jean about her life, the landmark discrimination lawsuit, and her work as an activist for LGBT rights.
What did you know about Georgetown’s position on LGBT rights before you arrived? We see a lot of stories about gay, lesbian, or transgender students at relatively conservative universities who are agitating for acceptance and then they fall under criticism for not recognizing the character of their university before they arrive. How would you respond to that criticism? One of the things that was very interesting that came up in the litigation, actually, was that the catalog that I got from Georgetown when I was considering going to law school did not even mention that it was a Catholic institution. I don’t even know if I realized if it was a Catholic institution. I’m not Catholic, it wasn’t in the law school catalog that I got, and this was actually introduced in evidence in the very first trial at the D.C. Superior Court level. And certainly there was nothing about LGBT anything in these catalogs. More to the point, when we were organizing the LGBT student group, it never occurred to us that this would be an issue because I, for example, was involved in the Women’s Rights Collective, which was an approved student group at the Law Center that was regularly involved in prochoice activities and that was never an issue. So it never occurred to us that because the Catholic Church, a separate entity from Georgetown University, had an issue with homosexuality that that might determine whether a student group that was fighting for equal civil rights would be a problem.
Do you think it would matter if it were explicitly stated at the outset? Well, you know, the Georgetown case is a lot more complicated because Georgetown received huge amounts of government funding, including from the District of Columbia, which required compliance with D.C. law.
At the time, the District of Columbia had one of the strongest human rights ordinances in the country which included sexual orientation. What we said at the time was, “Look, Georgetown can’t have it both ways. If you’re going to use religion and now say it for the first time, when you didn’t say it to the women, when you didn’t say it to any of the other groups that might have been doing things that were not consistent with Catholic Church doctrine, if you’re going to let that govern, then you can’t have it both ways, you can’t also then get all this government funding. I guess I feel like if they advertised that this was an organization that did not in any way support LGBT rights and did not welcome LGBT students, then, I don’t know, maybe it would be different. But I sort of feel that the nature of progressive change is that people within institutions are the most effective change agents. So maybe somebody reads that and they go there, but what happens to the student who didn’t read it or what happens to people who didn’t realize it applied to them and suddenly then it does? Does that mean they never get to advocate for what’s right? By that theory, black students would have never been able to advocate civil rights on their campuses because they should have known what the environment was when they went there. Women couldn’t have advocated. That’s the antithesis of academic freedom if you ask me.
You asked for University recognition and support for your group. Were you expecting the University to endorse the organization or simply to allow it access to certain benefits? There was no endorsement that was given by the University to any student group, and so we thought we’d just get the approval through the normal process. In fact, we went through the entire law school
process and got all the approvals from the student bar association, the faculty senate. It never was an issue. Our group was completely approved, and then it went to [University President Fr. Timothy Healy] for what everyone presumed was just going to be rubber stamp approval. When we started this group, we never thought there was going to be an issue with it. We never for one moment anticipated a controversy and then suddenly after we’d gone through all the approvals – we were just following all the bureaucratic red tape – Fr. Healy vetoed it and it shocked everybody. During the actual trial, and at various levels of this litigation, we always made it clear that we didn’t expect University endorsement because they didn’t ever give it to anyone else. What we did expect was equal treatment among all the student organizations, which included the ability to use rooms for meetings, there was a small stipend that was given to recognized student groups, they provided office spaces for student groups – you know, those sorts of things. Once Healy vetoed it, though, we were shocked into this adversarial posture.
How would you describe your legal strategy? What made you think that you had a viable case when Fr. Healy denied you? Because the human rights ordinance in D.C. was so strong and because of all the funding that Georgetown had gotten from the D.C. government. We felt that, “Hey, you have to comply with D.C. law and D.C. law says that you can’t discriminate against us.” Frankly, when we first decided to get a lawyer, we thought naively that the University would change its course rather than go through litigation. They would realize, “Hey look, these students aren’t going to take this lying down and the law is clear.” So we thought it’d never actually go forward.
We thought that the mere threat of a lawsuit would be enough. We underestimated the homophobia of members of Georgetown’s staff and board and the internalized homophobia of Fr. Healy. He was a closeted gay man and well known to be. I always felt like that fact led him to pursue this with far more vehemence than he likely would have otherwise.
I’ve never heard that about Fr. Healy before? Where had you heard that?
We knew people who had been in relationships with him. He was pretty well known in some quiet circles of gay men.
Did you know that when you went to go seek his approval?
I did not know at the time that it had to go to Fr. Healy to get approval. We went through all the steps at the Law Center and that’s all that we thought had to happen. Then suddenly it was vetoed from on high. As you know, the law school’s all the way across town, so I don’t even know if we realized it had to go to Fr. Healy for approval. Clint Hockenberry, who was my co-plaintiff, and I and an undergrad we recruited to join us went into this because the undergraduate organization was trying to get organized at the same time. Clint might have known Fr. Healy was gay, but I didn’t until after all of this happened. Then afterwards everyone was talking about how hypocritical it was that this gay man was doing this.
Did you experience any pushback from administrators or students while you were litigating? Did you ever feel intimidated?
What is the issue that most divides the LGBT community? You know, things have really been changing rapidly. Twelve years ago I would have said marriage because there were huge swathes of the population in our community that felt that we should be pushing for that, they weren’t sure that they even wanted it. But I don’t think that’s the case anymore. One of the things that divides our community today is how much support, if any, we should be giving to politicians who continue to say we should be treated as less than. There are people, like me, who draw a fine line and say, “I may have to vote for people who don’t support full equality, but I won’t give them a dime.” There are others who will say that this is just one issue, so they’ll support those people. For example, some of the Log Cabin Republicans will support candidates who are clearly anti-gay. They might argue that Obama is anti-gay. Certainly he does not support our full and complete equality, so that’s why I didn’t give him a dime. But it’s not part of his platform that we are sinful and evil and to be denied equal rights, whereas there are some Republicans and Democrats who believe that. I guess that’s one issue, but I’m sort of feeling like our community on the key civil rights issues is fairly together these days. You know, there used to be a big debate about transgender rights, and HRC [Human Rights Campaign] really bore a lot of the brunt of that, but they’ve come along now too.
What would you say are the essential media,
rhetorical, and strategic tools of an LGBT Completely! There came a point, and by this point – I rights activist? For media, I would say social media has becan’t remember if this was my third year or whether it was it was my second year because come a huge tool in our arsenal because we can it’s been so long now and this went on for nine reach so many people so quickly. I think the reaction to the passage of years – that the administration tried to blame a significant tuition increase on us and to suggest Proposition 8 in California was a perfect example. that tuition had gone up because of the cost of The community got incredibly angry all over and when I organized the very first march and the litigation. And then when they did that, of course demonstration in front of the Mormon temple there were a bunch of students who said, “Oh, here in Los Angeles and word spread about come on, that’s complete malarkey!” But there what was happening via the Internet, and there were some students who then began to confront were demonstrations in front of temples across some of us in the halls and say, “Hey guys, look the country and the world. That’s an example of what you’re causing! I can’t afford this!” So, there things that could never have happened before. And I also think of China because we have was that. And then Fr. Healy himself pressed us. I saw a China partnership. The LGBT movement in China is just getting started. him at the law school and went They’re in their first decade, and as up to him and tried to engage they were getting started they had MORE ONLINE him about how important it was decades of strategies and tactics and Read the full interview at to stop fighting this, to settle it, progress to view on the Internet, COUNTERPOINTMAGAZINE.ORG. to let us be. Then he poked me even though they couldn’t see it in in the chest and told me that he would blackball me and that I would never their country. They could see what was happening around the world and it has impacted them. So I’d practice law in that town if I didn’t give up. So, of course I felt completely intimidated, say that’s the most important media tool. From a rhetorical perspective, I think that our but again I was so young and naïve that I didn’t stop to think whether he could make good on greatest strength is coming out and talking to colleagues, families, and neighbors about who we his threat.
are and our lives. Now the vast majority of people in the country all have someone in their lives who they know who is LGBT. That was never the case before. When I was growing up, you would ask people and nobody would say they knew anybody who was LGBT. Now virtually everybody will say that they know someone. Being able say, “We’re your friends, we’re your family, we’re your neighbors,” I mean, that’s incredibly powerful. Strategically, I think that the way the fight for the freedom to marry has proceded has been fascinating to watch. It’s been very strategic because we haven’t just gone at it in one way. We’ve fought it in the legislature. We’ve fought it in the courts. When the first plaintiffs wanted to start pushing the marriage case in Hawaii, everybody was against them doing it. As a result, that moved forward domestic partnership rights. So, every step of the way, even though there have been some big internal disputes about it, we’ve tried to cover the waterfront. If we couldn’t get “the whole enchilada,” we’ve just pushed for what we could get, never losing sight of the ultimate goal, which is full and complete equality under the law.
The Human Rights Campaign, which you mentioned a while ago on the transgender issue, has come under criticism for being overly centrist and enabling the Democratic Party and the president in their lackluster support for LGBT issues, particularly marriage. How do you balance the need for radical change with working within the present legal and political infrastructure? What is the role of civil disobedience and protest in the LGBT movement? I think that all successful social change movements have people who are working on the inside and people who are rattling chains from the outside. That is, civil disobedience at the far left of the continuum to quiet insiders at the right end of the continuum. In fact, I feel that one of the weaknesses of our movement today is that we have lost that “in your face,” radical contingent. It simply does not exist in a significant degree anymore. Where we did have such a contingent in a very significant way was in the first decade of the AIDS epidemic when ACT UP was formed and Queer Nation was formed and organizations like that who, literally, demonstrated, did die-ins, who used all kinds of civilly disobedient tactics to bring attention to the issues and to bring about systemic change. One of the things that happens when you have that strong radical component to your movement is that it makes the people in the middle seem so much more reasonable. Our movement continuum now is much more out of balance. What people were asking for twenty years ago which was, in some respects, much more in the middle of the continuum, begins to look like a far left demand because there is no far left anymore. CP
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Published on Apr 17, 2012