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Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Baltimore Catechism, No. 2, Questions 264, 266

264. What is the eighth commandment of God? The eighth commandment of God is: Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. (Exodus 20:16)

266. What does the eighth commandment forbid? The eighth commandment forbids lies, rash judgment, detraction, calumny, and the telling of secrets we are bound to keep.
Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord. (Proverbs 12:22)(emphasis added)


Thus sayeth the Baltimore Catechism which had taught all of those who went through Catholic schools until at least the mid-1960's. The good Sisters would put Catholic children through their paces in learning the little catechism which was so rich in theological and moral education. We would do well to return to the Baltimore Catechism and even read it as adults as a sound and sure guide to the teachings of Mother Church.

As lawyers, we were trained for legal reasoning through the ever-popular and ubiquitous "hairy hypo." The goal of such a method was to get the law student to look at a fact pattern, spot the issues and apply the law. In that spirit consider:

(1) Mr. M., an exceedingly generous philanthropist, has reached a time in his life where he wishes to finally rid himself of the burden of material wealth. To accomplish this goal, he wishes to promote his devoutly held religious beliefs and "save souls." He sees that the best way to do this is through education. So Mr. M. decides to commit vast amounts of his fortune to the creation of what he hopes will be a world-renown religious University in a swampy little outpost. As part of his plan he partners with a land developer to create a new "town." The centerpiece of this town will be the religious based University. Mr. M visited a gathering in Boston, Mass. to explain his plan. Notably he said:

"We'll own all commercial real estate," Mr. M. declared, describing his vision. "That means we will be able to control what goes on there. You won't be able to buy a Playboy or Hustler magazine in [the] Town. We're going to control the cable television that comes in the area. There is not going to be any pornographic television in [the] Town. If you go to the drug store and you want to buy the pill or the condoms or contraception, you won't be able to get that in [the] Town."

(2) Predictably the ACLU and other civil liberties groups promised to file suit if such a vision were ever implemented--citing Marsh v. Alabama other US Supreme Court constitutional precedents to support their view. Increasingly, there was more heat placed on Mr. M. and his vision. This prompted a PR campaign where Mr. M. clarified his view:

"There are a lot of misconceptions," [Mr. M.] said.

"I would say I just misspoke," [Mr. M.] said Friday in an interview with The Associated Press. "The town will be open to anybody."

Mr. M's partner in the venture also added:

"We are not going to censor any of that information, but in deference to [the] University, we are going to request that they not sell that merchandise but we are not restricting," said [developer] chief executive...."The misconception we're trying to clarify is that this is not going to be a strictly Catholic town. ... I think it would be boring if in fact it was all Catholic," [developer chief executive] said.

The two further went on national talk shows clarifying their view.

(3) Things calmed down for several months and Mr. M. attended a First Friday breakfast in a major city. He was invited to be the guest speaker and gave his vision once again of his venture--university and town:

"We control 50 percent of the development," he said. "Our plan is that no adult material will appear on the town's cable system and the pharmacy will not sell contraceptives."

Directions: Spot the issue and apply the law.