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WHERE IS GOD? THE PROBLEM OF DIVINE HIDDENNESS

Every now and again I come across a fantastic article the warrants posting here; I recently came across one in Word on Fire which, I thought, was pretty insightful. Be edified.

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If God exists, where is he?

Moreover if God is all-loving and all-powerful, why hasn’t he shown himself to the world? He’s all loving: why would he leave any room for doubt? He’s all-powerful: why not reveal himself in the most spectacular of ways that would make unbelief impossible?

I’ll start by admitting that the argument from the hiddenness of God is a reasonable objection; and I’ll also admit that there are days when I wonder to myself in exasperation, “God where are you?” I think it’s a fair question; but just because a question is fair does not mean it’s irrefutable. Good questions often have good answers; and I think this particular question of God’s hiddenness has, in return, some reasonable answers.

This is really an objection regarding an absence of evidence for God. Surely you’ve heard it said that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence; but this isn’t always true. Absence of evidence can be good evidence of absence if:

1. We should expect more evidence than we find. (Should there be more evidence?)

2. We exhaust all possible ways of investigation for evidence. (Have we done enough looking around?)

But my contention is that (1) God has provided sufficient evidence for reasonable belief (2) thorough investigation reveals good evidence for God’s existence. In other words, the obscurity of God’s presence in the world is not sufficient evidence to prove that God does not exist.

Here are a few points to consider:

First, God is not entirely hidden. He just doesn’t appear today in a way directly accessible to the physical senses, as your friends, spouse, or boss do. But discovery by bodily experience is only one way to learn truths. We can also learn things by logic and reason.

At the end of the day, something is convincing people today of God’s existence, and has for the last twenty centuries. Growth in education and scientific advancement has not put a damper on the life of the Church. (On the contrary, growth in education and science can historically be attributed largely to the Church.) Christians, by and large, don’t just put blind trust in the notion that God exists; they are convinced. This conviction is what drives evangelization (inviting nonbelievers into the fold), debate, radical life changes at times of conversion, and most impressively, martyrdom. The religious conviction of Christians does not happen coincidentally; reasons drive conversion and belief.

Second, God is all-knowing and we are not. We can think like God, but not as God. Consider the following argument:

1. If God exists, then he would do X, Y, and Z.

2. But he doesn’t do X, Y, and Z.

3. Therefore God does not exist.

The problem with the major premise is that it assumes we can know exactly what it’s like to be God; and more specifically what it’s like to reason as God. But to think with omniscience and act with omnipotence as the eternal Creator is outside of our limited human experience. (Imagine an ant trying to understand quantum mechanics.) We cannot fill God’s shoes, nor can his “brain” fill our heads. As G.K. Chesterton remarks in Orthodoxy:

The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.

God may have good reasons for his “hiddenness” that we just don’t see. But this doesn’t mean we can’t make logical inferences and get partway to a good explanation. We just can’t arrive at a full explanation apart from God’s direct revelation.

Third, God desires man to seek him. We know this because he said it:

“Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Matt 7:7-8)

This is not a direct promise from God that he will grant everything at our immediate request, like a genie in a bottle. But God promises providence to all who acknowledge him with trust—like a father to his child—that he will give us what we ask for (provided that we ask for what is good for us).

A twelve-year-old atheist might pray a desperate prayer to God in hopes that God will reveal himself—but in the end may not “find” God until he is eighty-six years old and minutes away from physical death. Another twelve-year-old atheist may pray the same prayer and be knocked onto his knees at the moment he says “Amen.” Why God seems to answer some prayers immediately, and not others, is a mystery. Likely it is often ourselves—and not God—who stand in the way of God’s immediate “delivery of the goods.” Or it may be that God desires for us to struggle for a while—perhaps for a long while—that we might grow or be improved in some way.

God is not interested in numbing us from all pain and suffering in this life. Christianity is not a get-out-of-suffering-free card. God is interested in granting us eternity, free of all suffering and pain and illuminated by unimaginable joy, in the next life: in life after death in heaven, and life after life after death at our bodily resurrection.

The more we seek God, the more he’s likely to reveal himself. The more he reveals himself, the more we’ll come to know him. Remember Aslan’s words to Lucy in Prince Caspian,

“Every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”

Fourth, it may be that God desires only those who seek him to see him. This was Blaise Pascal’s best guess. God has revealed himself in such a way, posits Pascal, that those who seek him sincerely will indeed find him, but those who do not seek him will not. He writes:

It was not, then, right that He should appear in a manner manifestly divine, and completely capable of convincing all men; but it was also not right that He should come in so hidden a manner that He could not be known by those who should sincerely seek Him.

He has willed to make himself….appear openly to those who seek Him with all their heart, and to be hidden from those who flee from Him with all their heart. He so regulates the knowledge of Himself that He has given signs of Himself, visible to those who seek Him, and not to those who seek Him not. (Pensee 430)

Fifth, there are sufficient reasons to believe in God despite his “hiddenness.” There are good reasons to believe in God and these reasons drive our hope. God is hidden now; but not forever, provided we persevere in faith and love to the end (see Mat 10:22, Matt 15:4-7; Rom 11:22).

St. Paul writes that “Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made” (Rom 1:20). Vatican I confirmed that we can know God exists through reason alone. And the point is this: we cannot see God directly in nature—but we can see his footprints, as it were. St. Thomas Aquinas developed this idea and demonstrated the truth of St. Paul’s claim in the thirteenth century, particularly in his Summa theologiae and Summa contra gentiles building upon the intellectual foundation of pagan philosophers like Aristotle and Plato.

If the universe had a beginning (as many scientists, both atheist and believer, are willing to grant), there are good explanations for it. The kalam cosmological argument and Leibniz’s argument from contingency give air-tight philosophical explanations (using science to support their premises) for how the universe must have a cause that is eternal, spiritual, all-powerful, and intentional. Furthermore, logical incoherencies of an actual infinity of past events make an eternal universe improbable. But even if the world was eternal, according to Aquinas’ arguments the world still needs and explanation outside of itself—an explanation that points to a being who looks very much like God.

Thus, the origin of the universe (and the vastly improbable life-permitting universe we find ourselves in) give us good reasons to believe in an all-powerful Creator; and the argument from objective morality suggest that God is, in fact, all-good and the standard of all goodness.

God has given us good reasons to believe in an intelligent Creator; and indeed these reasons have convinced most through the ages. We might thus ask the atheist: On what basis should we expect more evidence from him?

Sixth, God may not want to “scare” us into belief. Perhaps God has given us just enough evidence of himself to keep us interested in him, that we might continually seek him. A direct revelation of God that cannot be denied may just scare people into obedience. But God wants obedience from his children out of love, not out of fear. Seeing God is not to have faith in him.

Remember the words of St. James: “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder” (Jas 2:19)

Seventh, God’s hiddenness allows us to help one another to believe. This explanation has been proposed by philosopher Richard Swinburne. God has revealed himself enough so that many people have come to believe—the Church has not tired. But many people are tired because they do not have hope.

God’s hiddenness gives believers an opportunity to have compassion, and to grow in virtue, particularly towards unbelievers. It provides an opportunity to evangelize, to grow in patience, gentleness, and reverence, and to grow in faith ourselves by responding to tough skeptical objections. If God’s existence was obvious to the whole world, apologetics and evangelization might look a lot different than it does.

Eighth, the testimony of miracles are temporary events where God does in fact reveal himself in a more accessible way. There are many miracles described in the Bible. But miracles—events in nature that require a supernatural explanation—are not a thing of the past.

David Hume believed that miracles were not part of human experience; but scholar Craig Keener begs to differ. Keener has assembled a massive two-volume work demonstrating that, in fact, millions of people even today claim to have experienced a miracle through belief in God (perhaps through prayer or some other religious means).

Of course, testimony itself doesn’t prove the validity of the claim, but based on the numbers it very well could be that at least one of these is a true miracle. (Indeed, there are many accounts of atheist investigators, medical specialists for example, who are hired to investigate and become believers as a result of their findings.)

It only takes one miracle to show God’s existence. And as long as God’s existence remains possible, miracles remain possible. I think there are good reason to believe God has revealed himself, time and time again through the ages, by miraculous intervention.

Ninth, an apparently supreme and undeniable manifestation of God’s existence may not guarantee “God did it.” A “sign in the sky,” for example, could be aliens playing a prank on us. Sounds silly. How would you know for certain it wasn’t?

A much more convincing manifestation of divine existence would be God actually dwelling among us in the flesh; but would this guarantee faith in those who encounter him?

Tenth, God has revealed himself to us directly. He did so in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus was born of a virgin, possessed inexplicable wisdom (even as a child) that shocked the “educated,” turned water into wine, multiplied loaves and fishes, prophecied and fulfilled prophecies, calmed storms, performed exorcisms, restored the dead to life, triggered radical conversions, performed countless physical healings, loved like only God could love, died a terrible death on the cross after being scourged half to death—and finally, rose from the dead in a glorified body that could pass through walls yet still eat broiled fish.

Jesus claimed to be the one God of the Israel—the one God of the universe—and gave the people he encountered every reason to believe it. Yet people still disbelieved firmly; even firmly enough to execute him in the end.

Maybe God knows that a more obvious—even blatant—presence in the world right now wouldn’t be the “Ah ha!” moment many skeptics believe it would be.

Maybe God’s hiddenness is an act of mercy.

Down in adoration falling,
Lo! the sacred Host we hail,
Lo! oe’r ancient forms departing
Newer rites of grace prevail;
Faith for all defects supplying,
Where the feeble senses fail.

By Matt Nelson in Word on Fire and published on October 24, 2018 and can be found here.

 

 

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THE IGNOBLE LIE

Every now and again I come across a fantastic article the warrants posting here; I recently came across one in First Things which, I thought, was pretty insightful. Be edified.

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During one of the more infamous moments in Plato’s Republic, Socrates suggests that the ideal city needs a founding myth—what he calls “a noble lie”—to ensure its success. The myth has two parts. The first relates that every person in the city comes from the same mother, and thus encourages belief in a common origin and kinship of all the citizens who live in the city. The second relates that every person belongs by birth to a particular class based upon his or her talents and abilities, indicated by a metal gilded upon each soul at birth: gold for the ruling class; silver for ministers, soldiers, and high-ranking servants; bronze and iron for the workers.

Socrates argues that both parts of the myth must be believed by all citizens for the city to succeed. The myth at once seeks to unite and to differentiate, to explain what is common and distinct, to foster civic patriotism amid significant difference. The first part encourages civic commitment, shared sacrifice, and belief in a common good. The second justifies the existence of inequality as a permanent feature of ­human society.

Socrates is reluctant even to speak the myth aloud, recognizing how repulsive it is likely to sound to his hearers. More, he admits that it will require great acts of persuasion—likely over generations—before it is accepted by denizens of the city, and even then, it is likely not to be persuasive to the ruling class. If anyone is likely to accept the myth, he suggests, it is the uneducated working class.

When I present the noble lie to students in my classes, it rankles—as Socrates predicted it would. They dislike the idea that the just polity must be based upon a deception. But what irritates them even more is the suggestion that the just city must be based upon inequality. As good liberal democratic citizens, they intensely dislike the suggestion that inequality might be perpetuated as a matter of birthright, and they identify with the injustice done to the underclass. Over twenty years teaching at Princeton, Georgetown, and Notre Dame, I can’t recall a single student who regards the myth as anything but troubling. Most find it repugnant.

When pressed on the question of why it will prove more difficult to persuade the ruling class of the truth of the noble lie, most students believe that the ruling class’s superior education and intelligence make them more resistant to propaganda, while the simple working people are likely to succumb to deception because they don’t adequately understand their own interests. My students implicitly side with Marx in believing that the less educated are likely to adopt “false consciousness.”

Plato intends us to understand the myth ­differently. Unlike Marx, he did not believe that the members of the lower class would be unlikely to know their own interests. The underclass is likely to accept the myth because they realize it works to their advantage. Its members are keenly aware of the fact of inequality. That part of the “lie” hardly seems false to them. What is novel, and what works to their advantage, is the idea that inequalities exist for the benefit of the underclass as well as the rulers. That is, members with noble metals in their souls are to undertake their work for the benefit of everyone, including those whose souls are marked by base metals. By contrast, members of the ruling class are likely to disbelieve the myth out of self-interest. They balk at the claim that every person, regardless of rank, belongs to the same family. They do not want the advantages that might solely benefit their class to be employed for the benefit of the whole.

Only if each group accepts each part of the “lie,” as Socrates explains, is a kind of social contract achieved. Elites and commoners both accept the part of the myth that does not appeal to them for the sake of the part that does. Elites are distinguished in a society that justifies inequality; commoners are best off in a society that compels service of elites for the whole. Instead of acting as warring parties, both sides work for the good of all.

Such a compact is difficult to achieve. Much of the rest of The Republic is taken up with the question of how the ruling class can be persuaded, or even compelled, to throw in their lot with the rest of the city, rather than simply dominating or neglecting the others. Given the brute fact of inequality, Plato sees the great challenge of politics to be the task of persuading the advantaged to see themselves as part of the whole.

Compare Socrates’s expected response of the ruling class to this “noble lie” to the typical reaction of students at elite universities. Today’s elite students tend to focus on the myth’s claims about perpetual and generational inequality as the most objectionable part of the myth. The claim of common kinship seems unproblematic and even uninteresting. What explains the apparent reversal of scandal and resistance among the ruling class in our age?

Elite college campuses are hotbeds of activism against inequality, especially as it touches on race, gender, disability, and sexual orientation. In recent years, students and faculty from UC Berkeley to Yale to Reed College have protested instances of perceived bias, but few incidents have been quite so remarkable as the protests that greeted the social scientist Charles Murray at Middlebury College on March 2, 2017. Before speaking a word, Murray was greeted with twenty minutes of unbroken denunciatory chants by hundreds of students in the audience. In order to hold the planned discussion, he and his host, professor Allison Stanger, had to leave the lecture hall for a private studio. Students followed them and beat on the walls and windows of the room. As they left that secure space, the crowd buffeted and grabbed at Murray and Stanger, leaving Stanger with a neck injury and a concussion.

Murray had been invited to discuss his book Coming Apart, a study of the growing inequality between rich and poor white Americans between 1960 and 2010. Murray’s book focuses on two phenom­ena. First, he points to the way Americans have been sorted into separate geographic enclaves according to wealth, class, and education. Second, he points to the way poor and uneducated Americans suffer unprecedentedly high rates of social pathology, including divorce, out-of-wedlock childbirth, crime, drug addiction, ­unemployment, bankruptcy, isolation, and anomie.

The students who prevented Murray from speaking mostly come from, and will settle in, what Murray calls the “HPY” (Harvard, Princeton, Yale) bubble, a place of remarkable ideological, economic, and social homogeneity. Admission and graduation from an institution like Middlebury is the passport into the HPY bubble. This is no mean feat. According to U.S. News and World Report, Middlebury College is tied for sixth with Pomona College, behind Williams, Amherst, Bowdoin, Swarthmore, and Wellesley, in the rankings for best liberal arts colleges in America. It is among the most selective schools in America, accepting only 17 percent of applicants in 2017. Students have an average SAT score of 1450 out of 1600, along with a 3.95 high school GPA. Its cost for tuition plus room and board tops $64,000.

One might have thought that students at such a school would be keenly interested in hearing a lecture by someone who would discuss the evidence, basis, and implications of economic and class divergences in America today. Indeed, one might suspect that if the students were upset about inequality, they would have been inspired by Murray to direct the onus of their discontent against Middlebury College itself as a perpetrator of class division or even against themselves as willing participants in that perpetuation. At the very least, one might have thought that they would be interested in listening to an analysis of the role educational institutions play in creating and maintaining inequality. Instead, they shouted down the man who was going to speak with them about the role they play in perpetuating inequality—in the name of equality itself.

Of course, it wasn’t the subject of Murray’s lecture that was being protested, but the fact that he had discussed statistical differences in IQ among different races in his 1994 book, The Bell Curve. The main point of that book, however, was concern that social sorting would exacerbate class differentiation in America—just the kind of sorting that elite schools like Middlebury help to advance. The violent protests against Murray had the convenient effect of preventing any exploration of the pervasive class divide in America today, and leaving the elite students and ­faculty of Middlebury self-satisfied in their demonstrative support for equality.

Like so many similar demonstrations against inequality at elite college campuses, the protest against Murray was an echo of resistance of the ruling class to the noble lie. The ruling class denies that they really are a self-perpetuating elite that has not only inherited certain advantages but also seeks to pass them on. To mask this fact, they describe themselves as the vanguard of equality, in effect denying the very fact of their elevated status and the deleterious consequences of their perpetuation of a class divide that has left their less fortunate countrymen in a dire and perilous condition. Indeed, one is tempted to conclude that their insistent defense of equality is a way of freeing themselves from any real duties to the lower classes that are increasingly out of geographical sight and mind. Because they repudiate inequality, they need not consciously consider themselves to be a ruling class. Denying that they are deeply self-interested in maintaining their elite position, they easily assume that they believe in common kinship—so long as their position is unthreatened. The part of the “noble lie” that once would have horrified the elites—the claim of common kinship—is irrelevant; instead, they resist the inegalitarian part of the myth that would then, as now, have seemed self-evident to the elites as well as the underclass. Today’s underclass is as likely to recognize its unequal position as Plato’s. It is elites that seem most prone to the condition of “false consciousness.”

The dominion of this new elite has been long anticipated, discussed most cogently by social critics such as Michael Young, C. Wright Mills, and Christopher Lasch. Among the ablest chroniclers of the new elite has been New York Times columnist David Brooks, who in April of 2001 published “The Organization Kid,” an essay describing the replacement of America’s WASP aristocracy by a “­meritocracy.” After spending several weeks with students on Princeton’s campus, Brooks concluded that there had been certain gains and decided losses resulting from this regime change. One loss he bemoaned was abandonment of “noblesse oblige,” or an encouragement of concern among the ruling class for those less fortunate as a consequence of the mere luck of birth and genealogy. Brooks contrasted this with the older WASP ideal based on civic, military, and Protestant values: “The Princeton of that day aimed to take privileged men from their prominent families and toughen them up, teach them a sense of social obligation, based on the code of the gentleman and noblesse oblige. In short, it aimed to instill in them a sense of chivalry.”

Noblesse oblige—“obligations of the nobility”—provided some measure of legitimacy to the older aristocratic order. It allowed the ruling class to claim that their actions weren’t merely self-serving, but instead supported the whole community, especially the poor and powerless. The image of the knight-errant coming to the rescue of the damsel in distress was a romantic and dramatic representation of a much broader ethic, that of the strong protecting and standing for the weak. The ancien régime—premised upon the rule of a hereditary aristocracy that ruled for the good of the whole polity—was overthrown because most people ceased to believe its conceit. Its flattering self-portrait of a paternalistic and caring overclass was increasingly viewed as a self-serving rationalization and a form of societal self-deception in the service of status maintenance. Barbara ­Tuchman described the crisis of legitimacy of the chivalric code in her book A Distant Mirror:

The ideal was a vision of order maintained by the warrior class and formulated in the image of the Round Table, nature’s perfect shape. King Arthur’s knights adventured for the right against dragons, enchanters, and wicked men, establishing order in a wild world. So their living counterparts were supposed, in theory, to serve as defenders of the Faith, upholders of justice, champions of the oppressed. In practice, they were themselves the oppressors, and by the 14th century the violence and lawlessness of men of the sword had become a major agency of disorder. When the gap between ideal and real becomes too wide, the system breaks down. Legend and story have always reflected this; in the Arthurian romances the Round Table is shattered from within.

We may be quick to agree that there was a gap between the stated ethic of noblesse oblige and the ­actual actions of the nobility of the ancien régimeBut, much like those who took for granted the naturalness of political arrangements during the medieval ages, today’s elites seldom subject their meritocratic justifications of their status and position to the same skepticism.

While elites may suffer self-inflicted blindness to the nature of their position, the rest of society clearly sees what they are doing. The uprising among the working classes across the developed West arises from a perception of illegitimacy—of a gap between claims of the ruling class and reality as experienced by those who are ruled. It is no coincidence that these rebellions come from the socialist left and authoritarian right, two positions that now share opposition to state capitalism, a managerial ruling class, the financialization of the economy, and globalization. These populist rebellions are a challenge to the liberal order itself.

Our ruling class is more blinkered than that of the ancien régime. Unlike the aristocrats of old, they insist that there are only egalitarians at their exclusive institutions. They loudly proclaim their virtue and redouble their commitment to diversity and inclusion. They cast bigoted rednecks as the great impediment to perfect equality—not the elite institutions from which they benefit. The institutions responsible for winnowing the social and economic winners from the losers are largely immune from questioning, and busy themselves with extensive public displays of their unceasing commitment to equality. Meritocratic ideology disguises the ruling class’s own role in perpetuating inequality from itself, and even fosters a broader social ecology in which those who are not among the ruling class suffer an array of social and economic pathologies that are increasingly the defining feature of ­America’s underclass. Facing up to reality would require hard questions about the agenda underlying commitments to “diversity and inclusion.” Our ­stated commitment to “critical thinking” demands no less, but such questions are likely to be put down—at times violently—on contemporary campuses.

Campaigns for equality that focus on the inclusion of identity groups rather than examinations of the class divide permit an extraordinary lack of curiosity about complicity in a system that secures elite status across generations. Concern for diversity and inclusion on the basis of “ascriptive” features—race, gender, disability, or sexual orientation—allows the ruling class to overlook class while focusing on unchosen forms of identity. Diversity and inclusion fit neatly into the meritocratic structure, leaving the structure of the new aristocratic order firmly in place.

This helps explain the strange and often hysterical insistence upon equality emanating from our nation’s most elite and exclusive institutions. The most absurd recent instance was Harvard University’s official effort to eliminate social clubs due to their role in “enacting forms of privilege and exclusion at odds with our deepest values,” in the words of its president. Harvard’s opposition to exclusion sits comfortably with its admissions rate of 5 percent (2,056 out of 40,000 applicants in 2017). The denial of privilege and exclusion seems to increase in proportion to an institution’s exclusivity.

Highly touted commitments to equity, inclusion, and diversity do not only cloak institutional elitism. They also imply that anyone who is not included deserves his lower status. If elites largely regard their social status, wealth, and position as the result of their own efforts and work (and certainly not of birth or inheritance), then those who remain in the lower classes have, by the same logic, chosen to remain in such a condition. This scornful view is shared by prominent voices on the right and left. For instance, James Stimson—the Raymond Dawson Professor of Political Science at the University of North Carolina—recently told the New York Times:

When we observe the behavior of those who live in distressed areas, we are not observing the effect of economic decline on the working class, we are observing a highly selected group of people who faced economic adversity and choose to stay at home and accept it when others sought and found opportunity elsewhere. . . . Those who are fearful, conservative, in the social sense, and lack ambition stay and accept decline.

In other words, it’s their own fault. They deserve to lose, just as Harvard’s meritocrats deserve to win.

That the ruling class today is more prone to denounce inequality from its manicured campuses than promote among its own denizens belief in a common civic life is not a sign of its greater enlightenment and progress, but a sign of a new aristocracy that is unconscious of its own position and its concomitant responsibilities. They are deluded by an updated “noble” lie.

From the vantage of nearly 2,500 years, Plato’s noble lie doesn’t appear to be a falsehood after all. For a society to function, two seemingly contradictory beliefs must be simultaneously held: We are radically different and radically alike. We are extensively differentiated yet bound together. We are called to sometimes radically unequal tasks, but those tasks are part of an effort to benefit the whole. Plato thought the “fact of difference” would be easy for people to acknowledge, since it is so evident to our senses, if not always easy for those in a position of lower status to accept. The challenge was how to achieve belief in a common origin and shared kinship. The Republic of Plato was one effort to answer that challenge, if a fairly absurd and implausible one (as Socrates readily admitted). We have two main answers on the table today.

For as long as our nation has been in existence, confused and diverging streams have fed into the American creed. The first of these was political liberalism. It puts a stress upon individual rights and liberty, promising that if we commit to a common project of building a liberal society, our distinct and often irreconcilable differences will be protected. Liberalism affirms political unity as a means to ­securing our private differences.

Christianity has been the other stream. It approaches the question from the opposite perspective, understanding our differences to serve a deeper unity. This is the resounding message of St. Paul in chapters 12–13 of 1 Corinthians. There, Paul calls upon the squabbling Christians of Corinth to understand that their gifts are not for the glory of any particular person or class of people, but for the body as a whole. John Winthrop echoed this teaching in his seldom-read, oft-misquoted sermon aboard the Arbella, “A Model of Christian Charity.” Winthrop begins his speech with the observation that people have in all times and places been born or placed into low and high stations; the poor are always with us, as Christ observed. But this differentiation was not permitted and ordained for the purpose of the degradation of the former and glory of the latter, but for the greater glory of God, that all might know that they have need of each other and a responsibility to share particular gifts for the sake of the common. Differences of talent and circumstance exist to promote a deeper unity.

So long as liberalism was not fully itself—so long as liberalism was corrected and even governed by Christianity—a working social contract was possible. For Christianity, difference is ordered toward unity. For liberalism, unity is valued insofar as it promotes difference. The American experiment blended and confused these two understandings, but just enough to make it a going concern. The balance was always imperfect, leaving out too many, always ­unstably oscillating between quasi-theological evocation of unity and deracinated individualism. But it seemed viable for nearly 250 years. The recent steep decline of religious faith and Christian moral norms is regarded by many as marking the triumph of liberalism, and so, in a sense, it is. Today our unity is understood almost entirely in the light of our differences. We come together—to celebrate diversity. And today, the celebration of diversity ends up serving as a mask for power and inequality.

In this settlement, the language of rights prevails. But as Simone Weil noted decades ago, the language of rights ultimately cannot build, or even sustain, a common life:

If you say to someone who has ears to hear: ‘What you are doing to me is not just’, you touch and awaken at its source the spirit of attention and love. But it is not the same with words like ‘I have the right . . .’ or ‘you have no right to . . .’ They invoke a latent war and awaken the spirit of contention. To place the notion of rights at the centre of social conflicts is to inhibit any possible impulse of charity of both sides.

Weil predicted what we now experience. After more than two centuries, we can no longer assert the compatibility of Christianity and liberalism. Liberalism is ascendant, but its victory will be pyrrhic. A ­society solely premised upon a shared belief in individual differentiation will end in a war of all against all. The state of nature lies not in an imagined past; it is plainly visible in a near and all too real future.

The new aristocrats believe we have transcended the need for Christianity, which they regard as a myth no less mendacious than Plato’s noble lie. They believe that by dispelling the old myths, they can become the vanguard of an ever more equal society. They blind themselves to the fact that this claim is a form of status maintenance, allowing denial of a deeper commonality with those they regard as benighted and backward. Elites denounce the “populists” while denying that they have fomented a class war. They deplore the obnoxiousness of Donald Trump, perfectly obtuse of their complicity in his ascent.

We are in uncharted territory. Liberalism coexisted with Christianity for its entire history, with Christianity moderating the harder edges of the regnant political philosophy, supporting forms and practices that demanded from elites the recognition of their elevated status, and hence, corresponding responsibilities and duties to those less fortunate. The thoroughgoing disdain and dismissiveness of today’s elites toward the working class is a reflection of our newfound “enlightenment,” just as is the belief among the lower class that only a strong and equally disdainful leader can constrain the elites. Liberalism has achieved its goal of emptying the public square of the old gods, leaving it a harsh space of contestation among unequals who no longer see any commonality. Whether that square can be filled again with newly rendered stories of old telling us of a common origin and destination, or whether it must simply be dominated by whoever proves the strongest, is the test of our age.

By Patrick J. Deneen and published in First Things in April 2018 and can be found here.

Title VII’s Religious Organization Exemption Protects Salvation Army

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

In Garcia v. Salvation Army(D AZ, Sept. 12, 2016), an Arizona federal district court dismissed a Title VII religious discrimination claim brought against the Salvation Army by a former social services coordinator for the organization.  Plaintiff claimed that she was subjected to discrimination, retaliation, and hostile
work environment after she stopped attending services at the Salvation Army’s Estrella Mountain Corps where she was employed.  The court held that Title VII’s religious organization exemption applies to plaintiff’s claim, and that the Salvation Army did not waive the defense by failing to assert it as an affirmative defense.

You can learn more about this issue here.

WHY MAN AND WOMAN ARE NOT EQUAL

Every now and again I come across a fantastic article the warrants posting here; I recently came across one in First Things which, I thought, was pretty insightful. Be edified.

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Of course, conservative Christians believe that women and men are not equal. We know we believe such things, because the elites outside our faith (today celebrating Women’s Equality Day) regularly tell us we do. How could we forget?

They are right, but in the wrong way. Civilized people realize (even when they don’t realize they realize) that male and female are not equal. G. K. Chesterton, with his table-turning wit, got it right in his essay “The Romance of Thrift”:

I remember an artistic and eager lady asking me in her grand green drawing-room whether I believed in the comradeship of the sexes, and why not. I was driven back on offering the obvious and sincere answer, “Because if I were to treat you for two minutes like a comrade, you would turn me out of the house.”

So it is. Women create, shape, and maintain human culture. Manners exist because women exist. Worthy men adjust their behavior when a woman enters the room. They become better creatures. Civilization arises and endures because women have expectations of themselves and of those around them.

This is not just a conservative or traditionalist idea.

The New York Times’s Gail Collins told NPR unequivocally that the most important primary finding of her brilliant book America’s Women (which faithfully sits to the left behind Leslie Knope’s desk in every Parks and Recreation episode), is that the most powerful and important influence women have had on our nation’s founding, growth, and success is this: They make men behave. All their other important contributions are secondary.

Collins provides examples from history. Here is one: The British investors of Jamestown—who sent only men to establish the work, so that they could not be distracted—were not seeing the expected return on their investment. They sent an agent to investigate, and it was found that the men weren’t working. According to the report of one Sir Thomas Dale, the men were at “their daily and usuall works, bowling in the streetes.” This habit kept the settlement, Collins explains, “a long, rowdy fraternity party, minus food.” The investors’ solution? They began enticing marriageable young women to set out for the colonies with offers of free passage and appealing hope chests. They supposed that wives might turn these “we’ll work tomorrow” fraternity boys into diligent, hard-working, productive men. And they did. One thing led to another, and presto: the most prosperous, hard-working nation in the history of the world. Not just because of women, but through the socializing power of wives and mothers.

Anthropologists have long recognized that the most fundamental social problem every community must solve is the unattached male. If his sexual, physical, and emotional energies are not governed and directed in a pro-social, domesticated manner, he will become the village’s most malignant cancer. Wives and children, in that order, are the only successful remedy ever found. Military service is a very distant second. Nobel Prize winning economist George Akerlof explains that “men settle down when they get married; if they fail to marry, they fail to settle down,” because “with marriage, men take on new identities that change their behavior.” This does not seem to work with same-sex male couples in long-term relationships.

Husbands and fathers become better, safer, more responsible and productive citizens, unrivaled by their peers in any other relational status. Husbands become better mates, treating their wives better by every important measure—physical and emotional safety, financial and material provision, personal respect, fidelity, general self-sacrifice, etc.—compared to boyfriends, whether dating or cohabiting. Husbands and fathers enjoy significantly lower health, life, and auto insurance premiums than do their single peers, for a strictly pragmatic reason. Insurance companies are not sentimental about husbands. Husbands get lower premiums because they are different creatures in terms of habits, values, behavior, and general health.

This is why Golding’s Lord of the Flies is a tale not so much about the dark nature of humanity as about the isolation of the masculine from the feminine. Had there been just a few confident girls amongst those boys, its conclusion might have been more Swiss Family Robinson.

Man and woman are not equal. He owes what he is to her. That is hardly her only power, but it is among her most formidable. Christianity has always known this. The Savior of the world chose to come to us through a wife and mother. It’s why you find what you find at the very center, the honored and singular position, on that superlative ceiling of a certain celebrated chapel.

Woman is the most powerful living force on the globe. She creates, shapes, and sustains human civilization. The first step in weakening her power is to convince her that she must overcome her femininity. This, ironically, is precisely what the most vocal strains of feminism have advocated. Yes, woman should have equality in the workplace, in politics, and in the public square. But to render her more like man in order to accomplish this, and to judge her womanliness a hindrance to her ascendancy, is to get things exactly backwards. It is to treat her as much less than she truly is.

By Glenn Stanton and published in First Things on August 16, 2016 (see here).

NBI Seminar: Family Law From A to Z – Roundup

As I have posted recently (see here), I  had the great opportunity to lead (perhaps “teach”) a continuing legal education seminar hosted by the National Business Institute (a.k.a. NBI, see here).  The subject was “Family Law From A to Z” and I had opportunity to speak on two main topics in particular: Custody and Ethics.  I was joined by four other capable attorneys who each had their own topics to present.

Although NBI published the materials, I retain the ownership of the portions I wrote, which I will post here in this blog.

Listed below is the complete list of the materials I wrote for my portions which can be read here on this blog.

Thanks!

__________

Company Settles With EEOC Over Firing of Seventh Day Adventist

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

The EEOC announced last week that North Carolina-based Greenville Ready Mixed Concrete, Inc., has agreed to a $42,500 settlement in the EEOC’s suit (see prior posting) against it for firing a Seventh Day Adventist employee who refused a Saturday work assignment. The company has also agreed to a 5-year consent decree requiring it to create an anti-discrimination policy, engage in employee training, post notice about the lawsuit and submit periodic reports to the EEOC.

You can learn more about this issue here.

 

PC Entertainment as Medieval Allegory

Every now and again I come across a fantastic article the warrants posting here; I recently came across one in Splice Today which, I thought, was pretty insightful. Be edified.

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These days, every piece of entertainment is read as though it were a raw allegory, in which there are no characters or events, only emblems. In a Christian allegory like Pilgrim’s Progress, abstract categories, collective identities, virtues and vices like Christian, Worldly Wiseman, and Obstinate run hither and thither, pretending to be particular people. The point isn’t art or a convincing fiction or shedding light on particular characters or events; it’s the flat didacticism of a hyper-simplistic sermon, pounded into the heads of the peasantry in the form of general categories of people performing generic actions. It was a relief to arrive at artists such as Shakespeare, in whose plays very particular people appeared and spoke and loved and fought.

If Shakespeare were around today, the reactions—even, for God’s sake, by drama critics—would tend to go like this: Danes are not really indecisive (let’s examine the statistics on that); this distortion and vilification of Danes must end. Women shouldn’t be portrayed as passive victims, like Gertrude and Ophelia, for women are super-strong, or at least if we keep saying that over and over we might convince ourselves that they are, which would be a good thing, even if they’re not. People like us want characters who look like us, in every single presentation of anything, so why doesn’t the cast more or less perfectly mirror the population as a whole by race, gender, orientation, disability?

Consider some of the reactions to the Roseanne revival, which really do tell you where we’re at right now. Roxane Gay in The New York Times, and a number of other people elsewhere, said it was funny, which, I remind us all, is a central function of comedy. Then she said she wouldn’t watch it again. She had a number of reasons, but the main one was that she doesn’t like the politics of Roseanne Barr’s Twitter feed. Soon we’ll be demanding an ideological profile of everyone working on any entertainment, so that we can insulate ourselves completely from any sign of disagreement. People, even fictional characters, disagreeing with me is abusive and harms my self-image; it’s like being sexually assaulted.

The new Roseanne has been held by many to be an “inaccurate” or “idealized” “portrait of the President’s base” (for example, by Jared Yates Sexton), which takes it for granted that the purpose of the show is to depict Trump voters, which I imagine is not exactly how Roseanne thinks about it, especially as her character long preceded the political advent of Trump. Now, there’s no doubt that what Sexton and others mean is that Roseanne, and every slice of media which depicts any person who supports Trump, should portray every Trump supporter as an idiot and a bigot. What they are saying flatly, though, is that Roseanne should base her character on statistical averages for Trump voters; that anyone who is depicting any Trump voter ought carefully to jam all Trump voters into a single body. Good luck.

That Roseanne Barr is a particular person, and Roseanne Conner a particular character, both of whom have a long history, is neither here nor there according to this style of criticism. That she’s extremely idiosyncratic and funny is irrelevant: if either Roseanne voted for Trump, she must represent herself as a “typical” Trump voter. There are about a million things wrong with this. It’s an extremely primitive form of raw philistinism that misunderstands art entirely. But perhaps the worst immediate practical consequence is that it’s turning television, drama, film, and fiction into sheer pedagogy. The question isn’t “Was that a good movie?” But, does it manipulate its audience to achieve some sort of social or political transformation?

That’s why Black Panther was welcomed as though it was the Poor People’s March on Washington, even as the cast peddled Lexuses. I’d like to start by demanding evidence that movies or sitcoms or novels actually do have much of an effect on anyone’s opinions or behavior or self-image.

If you were to put out a movie right now in which a black female character behaved passively, or in which she was in a self-esteem crisis that left her confused and which didn’t suddenly transcend into self-realization, you’d be regarded as a racist and sexist. People would criticize your work on the ground that it’s an inaccurate depiction of black women. You’d protest, in vain, that you did not write the character to be a representative of all black women, or “the typical black woman,” but rather a completely particular human being. In vain, that it’s be impossible to create a character that represented all black women. In vain, that every black women is in fact a particular human being. In vain, that what the critics want would make your art an idiotic allegory.

And in fact, what the critics demand is not an accurate representation of millions of people as one person, even supposing that such a thing were possible. What they demand is an inaccurate representation, a picture that is “aspirational,” in which each black woman depicted is all black women and all black women are beautiful and strong and overcome whatever hardships and barriers they face. Then maybe when all the black girls see it, they will become more like that.

So in the end, every character has to be an inaccurate and tendentious and impossible representation of millions of people, whether it’s all black women jammed into a single strong and beautiful body or all Trump supporters jammed into the body of Roseanne. You certainly will kill entertainment this way, making it all into an ideological falsification of reality. And if you think that proceeding in this utterly disingenuous and incoherent manner way will make black girls stronger or Trump supporters more ashamed, I demand that you show me the fucking evidence.

By Crispin Sartwell and published in Splice Today and can be found here.

 

NBI Seminar: Ethics

As I have posted recently (see here), I  had the great opportunity to lead (perhaps “teach”) a continuing legal education seminar hosted by the National Business Institute (a.k.a. NBI, see here).  The subject was “Family Law From A to Z” and I had opportunity to speak on two main topics in particular: Custody and Ethics.  I was joined by four other capable attorneys who each had their own topics to present.

Although NBI published the materials, I retain the ownership of the portions I wrote, which I will post here in this blog.

Copied below are the materials I wrote for the section entitled “Ethics.”

Thanks!

__________

 Client/Lawyer Relationship

The client/lawyer relationship in a family case is unlike that relationship in any other case.  A family law case involves extremely intimate and visceral issues affecting intensely personal aspects of one’s life.  A family case looks at one’s sex life, home life, relationship with a significant other, children, and finances; there are few things more personal than these.  When a client seeks out an attorney to help him through these issues, that attorney should be cognizant that the client is coming to him for more than just a mere legal problem, but a problem affecting his every day personal life.  As a result, the attorney’s role with his family law client is often more than just as a legal advisor, but also something of a counselor as well.

There are factors other than legal maneuvers and/or dollars and cents that go into the issues which the attorney and client need to address in a family case.  Like all legal issues, a family client should have a sober view of the costs and benefits of the litigation at hand, but, due to the intensely personal issues involved, there is more than just costs to consider.  For example, a family client embroiled in a divorce may be fighting for a family heirloom which, for that client, is of priceless value.  Other times, the emotionality in the case is so high that the client may be willing to spare no costs to have his revenge against his spouse.  Still other times, clients may pursue the custody of their children without any sense of the costs involved and/or approach issues through emotion rather than rationality (e.g.: being unwilling to accept that his spouse is in a new relationship).

Suffice it to say, it is imperative for an attorney involved in a family case to take the time to think beyond mere legal considerations and delve into the emotional and personal issues which form the underpinning of those legal issues.  A client often has emotional attachment to his house, or his personal property, and, most especially, family heirlooms.  The attorney should help the client walk through his emotions to discern whether it is worthwhile investing a lot of time and/or money into those items.  Other times, a client may be pursuing a course of action that has revenge as its primary motivation, as opposed to a legitimate legal or personal reason; here, again, the attorney’s role is to help direct the client’s efforts to more productive ends.

Custody cases are cases which especially need an attorney’s sober input into an emotionally charged situation.  Understandably, clients become extremely emotional when dealing with the custody of their children.  Sometimes clients simply cannot accept that the other parent has entered into a new relationship.  Other times, a client has a hard time dealing with the fact that the other parent makes different decisions than he would have.  Of course, still other times, unfortunately, a client may not objectively be a responsible or good parent.  It takes an attorney, who is dispassionate from the case, to help the client look at the matter rationally and from a more objective point of view.  The focus of a child custody matter is the child, and what is in his best interests, and sometimes those best interests are not served by one’s own client.  It often takes more than mere legal analysis to help a client recognize what is best for his children.

Custody is also unique inasmuch as the case can continue for many years, has to account for all the various chances and vagaries of life, and its effects can last long after the case concludes.  A child will take with him for the rest of his life how his parents interacted with him and with one another.  Furthermore, in most cases, a child will maintain relationships with both of his parents during the case, and long after the case concludes, which means that they (the two parents) will have to deal with one another indefinitely.  So, it is important for an attorney to sit down with his client and talk about the emotional and interpersonal implications of custody that are not necessarily legal issues.

Attendance at Client Conferences by Friends or Family of Client

The Rules of Professional Conduct apply to family cases just as much as they do to other sorts of cases; therefore, Pa.R.P.C. 1.6 applies.  Pursuant to Rule 1.6 a client is entitled to lawyer/client confidentiality.  Given this, then, it is important to be cognizant and vigilant as to who is permitted into a conference with the client.

As with any case, certain factors need to be considered before allowing a third party into a client conference: (1) does the client give permission to have the third party in the room?; (2) will the client provide compromising information that could be drawn from the third party at a hearing (and unprotected by lawyer/client confidentiality); and, (3) could the third party be an adverse party?

As a threshold matter, the client must grant permission for anyone to be present at any conference.  The presence of a third party serves as a waiver of confidentiality, and, generally speaking, only the client can waive lawyer/client confidentiality/privilege.  The other factors listed above are tactical in nature.  Once the confidentiality/privilege is waived, the third party could be called as a witness and examined at a hearing as to what the client said in what was believed to be a private meeting.  Obviously, this could serve to severely handicap a case if certain issues come to light that otherwise could have remained in confidence.  Finally, it is not uncommon for a third party – such as a grandparent – to seek custody of a child.  The client and his parents may be allies when a case begins, but life is unpredictable and the relationship between a client and his parents could deteriorate, leading to the grandparents seeking custody themselves.  As a result, an adverse party has had direct and intimate access to confidential lawyer/client communication and information which could be used against the client.

Finally, a person who finds himself in a custody case is often in a compromised position in his life.  In other words, sometimes a person who is very young and/or financially insecure and/or still living with his parents and/or frightened or scared or at a loss as to what to do, has a child.  Such a person reaches out to the people in his life, say his own parents or his new girlfriend or wife, or what-have-you, for advice, counsel, and/or moral support.  While this is perfectly natural and in most situations a good thing, it is important to be attentive to undue influence over the client from these third parties.  It is getting increasingly common in our post-modern culture for grandparents to have a significant role in the raising of grandchildren.  An attorney has to ensure that the goals being sought, and the arguments being made, and the tactics employed are the ones the client wants (with the attorney’s guidance and advice of course), and not the goals, arguments, and tactics the third party wants.  Obviously, a client will be influenced by all of the voices in his life, but the attorney must ensure, as best he can, that the decisions made by the client are his own and not merely those he is pressured into by third parties.

Attorneys’ Fees

An attorney has an obligation to ensure he clearly expresses his fee structure and billing to his client.  This clarity includes the amount of the fee, whether the fee is flat or hourly (and, if hourly, how that is calculated), expressing the billing rate, and for what he is using the fee.

The main distinctive in family law, as compared to other areas of the law, is that a family law attorney may not enter into a contingency fee arrangement with a client where payment is contingent upon securing a divorce or upon the amount of alimony or support received by the client.  Obviously there are no contingency in custody matters either.

Of course, when pursuing payment of one’s attorney’s fees by the opposing party, one must ensure one’s billing is clear, reasonable, and accurate.

Communication With Adverse Party

Communication with an adverse party, if represented, is like any other sort of case.  Communication ought to be timely, civil, and professional.  When discussing the case with the adverse party, it behooves the attorney to keep in mind that he does not have personal knowledge of the underlying issues and to do his best not to get embroiled in the emotionality of the underlying issues.  While strong advocacy is always key to an attorney’s representation of a client, keeping one’s mind open is beneficial, especially in cases involving children where their best interests are being sought (as opposed to one’s client’s best interests).  As mentioned above, emotionality is high in family court cases, and an attorney ought not contribute to it, but, rather, should serve to help temper it.

Communication with an unrepresented party presents a couple of variables that would not necessarily be present with a represented party.  It is important for an attorney not to misrepresent the law, bully, or otherwise misuse his influence or position when communicating with an adverse party.  A way to ensure as much transparency as possible is to keep communications with unrepresented parties in writing and stored in the client’s file, regardless of whether that is electronic communication, facsimile, or traditional letters.  It is worth noting that the negative feelings an adverse party has toward one’s client are, more often than not, easily transferred to the attorney representing that client.  So, as a result, the aggressive stance and perhaps unkind (if not directly insulting) words which could be directed towards one’s client will frequently be directed toward that client’s attorney.  The attorney must do his best not to get caught up in the moment and respond personally in the face of such treatment.  Keep in mind that the adverse party is usually just as emotionally invested in the case as one’s own client and one should not take the negative treatment one receives personally but, rather, understand it to be the expression of a frustrated and angry individual who has dispute with one’s client.  Keeping a level head, calm voice, and focusing on the issues, will help turn away the wrath of an adverse party, and help foster an environment where resolution can be achieved.

Finally, in the context of divorce, there is a notice period which can be waived provided the appropriate document is prepared and executed.  As an unrepresented party is typically at a disadvantage against an attorney, it is best, in order to avoid as much ambiguity as possible, simply not to have the unrepresented party execute the waiver, to ensure he is given as much leeway as reasonably possible.

Malpractice Concerns

Ethics complaints/grievances are heard by the Pennsylvania Disciplinary Board.  All lawyers admitted to practice in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania must comply with the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct.  The Disciplinary Board serves to ensure lawyers remain compliant with the Rules.

When a client believes an attorney has violated the Rules of Professional Conduct, he has the right to bring a complaint with the Disciplinary Board.  Once the complaint is filed, the Disciplinary Counsel takes the lead and determines whether that complaint will lead to discipline.  As a result, a complainant (i.e.: the client) is merely a witness to the disciplinary complaint while the Disciplinary Counsel takes the lead.

The Counsel, if it determines that an attorney my be subject to discipline, conducts an investigation.  This investigation includes affording the allegedly unethical attorney an opportunity to respond to the allegations made against him.

In order for an attorney to be found to have committed misconduct, the opposing party must prove the alleged misconduct with clear and convincing evidence.

The potential discipline an attorney could receive is either private or public.  Private discipline typically does not require a hearing as it is generally reserved for minor violations that will not lead to disbarment.  A minor violation is usually a matter which is a first offense and/or something that can be easily corrected and/or the result of merely poor habits or case management.  A private discipline – which is not publically available – includes things like private reprimands and informal admonitions.

A serious violation, which could result in discipline like disbarment, suspension, or censure, is considered public discipline.  Public discipline is typically imposed after a hearing.  Public discipline can only be imposed by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.  If an attorney is disbarred, the attorney cannot practice law at all in any way.  A disbarred attorney may seek reinstatement after five years, but only if the attorney can show that he can meet the moral qualifications, and his resumption of the practice of law will not diminish the integrity of the bar.  Disbarment is completely public except in situations when the attorney elects to resign from the bar, in which case the record upon which the disbarment is based is confidential.  Another public discipline is suspension.  While suspended, an attorney cannot practice law.  Suspension can be as long as five years in length, but if it reaches five years in length, the same standards to resume practice as disbarment apply.  Finally, an attorney may be publicly censured.

The time an ethics complaint can take may be relatively short, but could also last approximately one year in length.

As a complainant is not a party to the ethics matter, he has no right to appeal an adverse decision.  Instead, the Counsel allows for an internal review process which can be requested by a Complainant.  If the Counsel rules in favor of the attorney, that attorney cannot bring suit against the Complainant as any communications and/or testimony are absolutely privileged and the person who provided the communication and testimony is immune from civil suit.

It is important to note than an ethics proceeding is not a substitute for legal malpractice law suit.

Mike Rowe: America’s Suffering From ‘An Epidemic Of Fatherlessness’

Every now and again I come across a fantastic article the warrants posting here; I recently came across one in The Daily Wire and Facebook which, I thought, was pretty insightful. Be edified.

________________

ByJACOB AIREY

March 28, 2018

On Tuesday, Mike Rowe, host of “Returning The Favor” and “Dirty Jobs,” took to Facebook to defend fathers and fatherhood in general, pointing to the growing discontent with having a strong dad in the home.

In the post, Rowe highlights a comment by Angelina Jolie he suggests echoes the sentiment of too many people in our culture:

A couple years ago, when Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were getting divorced, Jolie was quoted as saying, “It never even crossed my mind that my son would need a father.”

I was struck by her comment, and I remember wondering how many other Americans might share her view. At the time, I didn’t think many. But today, I’m convinced the number is significant. I’m also amazed at how quickly fatherhood has fallen out of favor. Can you imagine a celebrity – or anyone for that matter – saying such a thing just twenty years ago?

Rowe then cites facts and statistics about the negative effects of a fatherless home.

The facts seem pretty clear.

  • 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes – 5 times the average. (US Dept. Of Health/Census)
  • 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes – 32 times the average.
  • 85% of all children who show behavior disorders come from fatherless homes – 20 times the average. (Center for Disease Control)
  • 80% of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes – 14 times the average. (Justice & Behavior, Vol 14, p. 403-26)
  • 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes – 9 times the average. (National Principals Association Report)
  • 43% of US children live without their father [US Department of Census]

Is it really so surprising to learn that a majority of bullies also come from fatherless homes? As do a majority of school shooters? As do a majority of older male shooters?

Rowe goes on to ask readers to “consider the possibility that this thing we like to call ‘an epidemic of bullying,’ is really an ‘epidemic of fatherlessness.’ I also think it’s reasonable to conclude that our society is sending a message to men of all ages that is decidedly mixed”:

Think about it. On the one hand, we’re telling them to “man-up” whenever the going gets tough. On the other, we’re condemning a climate of “toxic masculinity” at every turn. If that strikes you as confusing, imagine being a fourteen-year old boy with no father figure to help you make sense of it.

Read Rowe’s complete post here and the article is here.

______________

FB:

Returning the Favor

A couple years ago, when Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were getting divorced, Jolie was quoted as saying, “It never even crossed my mind that my son would need a father.”

I was struck by her comment, and I remember wondering how many other Americans might share her view. At the time, I didn’t think many. But today, I’m convinced the number is significant. I’m also amazed at how quickly fatherhood has fallen out of favor. Can you imagine a celebrity – or anyone for that matter – saying such a thing just twenty years ago?

This week’s episode of RTF is about a guy named Carlos who found an effective way to deprogram bullies. Please watch it. It’s a great story about a great guy making a real difference around a serious issue. It occurred to me though, half way through filming, that bullying – like so many other social ills in today’s headlines – isn’t really a problem at all; it’s a symptom. In my view, a symptom of a society that seems to value fatherhood less and less.

The facts seem pretty clear.

• 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes – 5 times the average. (US Dept. Of Health/Census)
• 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes – 32 times the average.
• 85% of all children who show behavior disorders come from fatherless homes – 20 times the average. (Center for Disease Control)
• 80% of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes – 14 times the average. (Justice & Behavior, Vol 14, p. 403-26)
• 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes – 9 times the average. (National Principals Association Report)
• 43% of US children live without their father [US Department of Census]

Is it really so surprising to learn that a majority of bullies also come from fatherless homes? As do a majority of school shooters? As do a majority of older male shooters?

I know this is controversial, and I’m sorry to inject an uncomfortable element into a post about a “feel-good” show, but I think it’s important to consider the possibility that this thing we like to call “an epidemic of bullying,” is really an “epidemic of fatherlessness.” I also think it’s reasonable to conclude that our society is sending a message to men of all ages that is decidedly mixed.

Think about it. On the one hand, we’re telling them to “man-up” whenever the going gets tough. On the other, we’re condemning a climate of “toxic masculinity” at every turn. If that strikes you as confusing, imagine being a fourteen-year old boy with no father figure to help you make sense of it.

Anyway, the bullying crisis is real, but the root cause has nothing to do with video games, or guns, or social media, or rock and roll, or sugary drinks, or any of the other boogymen currently in fashion. Nor is it a function of some new chromosome unique to the current crop of kids coming of age. Kids are the same now as they were a hundred years ago – petulant, brave, arrogant, earnest, frightened, and cocksure. It’s the parents who have changed. It’s the parents who have put their own happiness above the best interests of their kids. It’s the parents who actually believe “the village” will raise their kids, when the village is profoundly incapable of doing anything of the sort.

Of course, I could be wrong. I often am. But I can tell you with certainty that whatever the root causes of bullying may be, Carlos Flores is part of the solution. Watch the video and see for yourself. And if you’d like to see more men like him, doing similar things in other places, do me a favor and share his story. It’s a good one. And imitation is also part of the solution…

Thanks,
Mike

 

NBI Seminar: UCCJEA: Uniform Child Custody and Enforcement Act

As I have posted recently (see here), I  had the great opportunity to lead (perhaps “teach”) a continuing legal education seminar hosted by the National Business Institute (a.k.a. NBI, see here).  The subject was “Family Law From A to Z” and I had opportunity to speak on two main topics in particular: Custody and Ethics.  I was joined by four other capable attorneys who each had their own topics to present.

Although NBI published the materials, I retain the ownership of the portions I wrote, which I will post here in this blog.

Copied below are the materials I wrote for the section entitled “UCCJEA: Uniform Child Custody and Enforcement Act.”

Thanks!

__________

Parents and children are more mobile than ever.  It is not uncommon for parents and children to live and move to various states over the course of the life of a custody order.  The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (23 Pa.C.S.A. §5401 et seq.) was adopted as a way to address and deal with the various pitfalls can afflict a custody case.  The UCCJEA is now the law in 49 states, Washington D.C., and various territories (Massachusetts is the only hold out).

The UCCJEA is divided into four basic parts.  The first part consists of the general provisions (e.g.: definitions).  The second part deals with jurisdiction.  Part three regards enforcing out-of-state custody orders.  Finally, the fourth part contains miscellaneous provisions.

The purpose of UCCJEA is, in large part, to determine the proper forum for almost any custody matter between two states (or, even, a state and another country) and to ensure only one state can actually have jurisdiction.

Jurisdiction attaches to the state that is determined to be the “home state” of the child(ren) at issue.  The “home state” is defined as the state where the child has lived with a parent for six consecutive months prior to the commencement of the case (if the child is less than six months old, then the state the child has lived in since birth).  If the child has not lived in a state for six months, then the home state will be the state which has “significant connections” with the child and at least one parent or, absent that, “substantial evidence concerning the child’s care, protection, training, and personal relationships.”  Mere physical presence, however, is not required or sufficient to make a custody determination.  Standard notice requirements apply to cases under UCCJEA.  If there is another action already pending in another jurisdiction when the Pennsylvania action is initiated, then Pennsylvania may not exercise jurisdiction over the matter unless the other action is terminated or stayed.  A basic principle one can take from the UCCJEA is that a non-“home state” must defer to a “home state.”

Of course, if more than one state has significant connections and substantial evidence, then the courts in the two potential state jurisdictions are to communicate with one another to determine which state has the most significant connections to the child.  When the courts interact with one another, the parties have a right to submit arguments and facts to the courts regarding their preference of jurisdiction and, at the courts’ discretion, the parties may also participate in their communication.  A record of this communication, regardless of the participation of the parties, must be created and kept.  As part of the cooperation between the two states, a Pennsylvania court is empowered to request assistance from another state to hold hearings, order the production of evidence, order an evaluation, copies of transcripts, and/or the appearance of a party.

A Pennsylvania court may decline to exercise jurisdiction if it is determined that it is an inconvenient forum.  In order to determine whether it is an inconvenient forum, the court must first consider whether a court from another state would be more appropriate according to the following factors (as quoted from 23 Pa.C.S.A. §5427(b):

(1) whether domestic violence has occurred and is likely to continue in the future and which state could best protect the parties and the child;

(2) the length of time the child has resided outside this Commonwealth;

(3) the distance between the court in this Commonwealth and the court in the state that would assume jurisdiction;

(4) the relative financial circumstances of the parties;

(5) any agreement of the parties as to which state should assume jurisdiction;

(6) the nature and location of the evidence required to resolve the pending litigation, including testimony of the child;

(7) the ability of the court of each state to decide the issue expeditiously and the procedures necessary to present the evidence;  and

(8) the familiarity of the court of each state with the facts and issues in the pending litigation.

If it is found that jurisdiction was assumed by Pennsylvania due to the unjustifiable conduct of a party, then the court has authority to revoke jurisdiction and assess the party which engaged in unjustifiable conduct, expenses, costs, attorneys’ fees, and the like.

Once jurisdiction is established, that state has exclusive and continuing jurisdiction until circumstances change.  The first way circumstances change is if (1) the child and a parent no longer have significant connection with the state and evidence to make a custody determination is not available in that state or (2) a state court determines that neither the child nor either parent reside in the state any longer.

An example of #1 could be as follows: the parents and children live in Pennsylvania for a period in excess of six months.  Unfortunately, the parents divorce and a custody order is entered in Pennsylvania. Eventually the mother and children move to Delaware.  The father remains in Pennsylvania.  The children maintain a significant connection with Pennsylvania through regular and frequent visits with father there.  At some point, father seeks to modify the custody order and files a petition to modify in the same jurisdiction as the original order (i.e.:  Pennsylvania).  In response, the mother attempts to transfer jurisdiction of the case to Delaware.  The UCCJEA, which is designed in part to prevent forum shopping, would serve to prevent the transfer sought by mother by its protection of an issuing court’s jurisdiction unless no parent resides in that state.

An example of #2 could be as follows: the parents and children live in Pennsylvania for a period in excess of six months.  Unfortunately, the parents’ divorce and a custody order is entered in Pennsylvania. Eventually the mother and children move to Delaware while the father moves to New Jersey.  As no parent lives in Pennsylvania, it no longer has exclusive or continuing jurisdiction to modify its own custody order.  Instead, the state where the children reside with at least one parent would likely have jurisdiction.

Once a custody order is entered pursuant to the UCCJEA, a Pennsylvania court is empowered to enforce it and the UCCJEA provides procedures to register a foreign order in Pennsylvania (see 23 Pa.C.S.A. §5445 et seq) .  Of course, the other party has a right to contest the validity of the order that someone tries to register in Pennsylvania, and has twenty days to file a petition contesting after being served notice.  Once registered in Pennsylvania, the courts of Pennsylvania can enforce it as they enforce any other custody order.  The UCCJEA allows for expedited enforcement of a custody determination (23 Pa.C.S.A. §5448) upon petition by one of the parties.  The petition requires representations as to jurisdiction.  A hearing is ordered as soon as possible (“the next judicial day after service of the order unless that date is impossible.”)  A successful petition may result in attorneys’ fees, expenses, and costs to be assessed the opposing party.  Finally, pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S.A. §5451, a party may petition for the issuance of a warrant to take custody if there is immediate danger to the child or immediate risk of removal to another jurisdiction.  If granted, such a petition empowers law enforcement authorities to seize the child for the petitioner from the other party.  The process to secure a warrant also carries with it the potential for an order of attorneys’ fees, expenses, and costs to be assessed the opposing party.

Of course, a state which does not have jurisdiction may enter a temporary emergency order if the child is in danger and needs immediate protection.  Pennsylvania can invoke emergency jurisdiction if a child has been abandoned or needs immediate protection (or the sibling or a parent of the child needs protection).  Once the emergency order is entered, the court determines if there is an existing order from another state and, if so, the emergency order must allow time for the parties to return to the state with jurisdiction.  The emergency order will remain in effect unless and until the “home state” enters a custody order.  If there is already an order in another jurisdiction, or a custody action already started in another jurisdiction, then an emergency order in Pennsylvania must provide the parties a period of time to secure an order from this other state else the emergency order remains in effect.  Upon being informed of the other state’s potential jurisdiction over the emergent matter, the Pennsylvania court must communicate with the court of the other potential jurisdiction.

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