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

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Two New Members of the AMSL Board of Governors

Ave Maria School of Law issued a press release yesterday about two people joining the school's Board of Governors. Maybe they will be two people who have much knowledge and experience in Catholic legal education, two people who will be committed to raising the school out of Tier 4 and who will act in the best interests of the law school. Is that too much to ask for?
Ave Maria School of Law (AMSL) announced today that retired businessman James William Fennessey of Naples, and real estate executive Michel Saadeh, also of Naples, have been elected to the Law School's Board of Governors. .......

Mr. Fennessey retired from a successful career as a businessman in 2005. He is very active in the Naples community and is a member of Legatus .... Mr. Fennessey and his wife, Moira, are active volunteers and supporters of the Law School. In February, the Law School honored the Fennessey family with the naming of the Marian Garden at the Vineyards Law School Campus for Mr. Fennessey's niece, Lisa. .......

Mr. Saadeh has served as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Vineyards Development Corporation since January 1994. Ave Maria School of Law resides within the Vineyards community in North Naples, and the Vineyards frequently hosts AMSL meetings and events.
Hhmmm, two Naples businessmen with personal connections to the Vineyards. I wonder if they know the Vineyards is only a temporary location and that the law school will soon be moving to Ave Maria University's campus. (After all, that is the reason the law school moved from Michigan in the first place, right?)
AMSL also announced that board member and Dean Emeritus Bernard Dobranski has left the board due to term limits, and that Leonard Leo has stepped down from the Board after distinguished service. These changes took effect at the April 28 meeting of the Law School's board of governors in Naples.
I thought that Dean Dobranski was exempt from term limits like Mr. Monaghan, due to his position as Dean Emeritus, but I guess I was mistaken.
Dean Emeritus Dobranski will continue to serve AMSL as a member of the Law School's faculty. He was also unanimously appointed to the AMSL Advisory Board, a prestigious group of former AMSL board of governor members who continue to provide counsel and advice to the board after their service.
I wonder who else is on the AMSL Advisory Board. Anyone know?

Fumed by Thales at 11:14 AM. |

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Arkes Swims Tiber

Congratulations, Prof. Arkes! (h/t Francis Beckwith)

Fumed by Advocatus Militaris at 9:57 PM. |

Monday, April 26, 2010

This is mean, but...

...why does it not surprise me that Raymond Arroyo is working on an original musical?

Fumed by Advocatus Militaris at 10:14 PM. |

US Coalition for Life and Jackson Labs

The US Coalition for Life frowns on Jackson Labs. Apparently Jackson Labs has a long and checkered history when it comes to medical eugenics. AveWatch has the story.

Fumed by Thales at 8:23 PM. |

Orange Bowl, Here We Come!

The journey begins.

Fumed by Thales at 7:25 PM. |

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Wanderer Retractions

It is very important to speak the truth, and if falsehood is stated, willingly or unwillingly, it is important to retract it. So I applaud The Wanderer for retracting any false statements it made. The statements appeared in stories written by Ms. Montesino de Stuart. I've said before that Ms. Montesino de Stuart's writing is sometimes a little over-exuberant for my tastes, and I wonder whether this over-exuberance sometimes leads her to make statements that are too conclusory to be indisputably supported by fact. Ms. Montesino de Stuart, I believe you read this blog, so please consider this advice I respectfully offer: I admire your drive as an investigative reporter, but perhaps moderation in your tone would be useful, not only to protect against statements which might not be entirely supported by fact but also to present a more persuasive argument to your readers.

Now since I haven't read the problematic articles and can't find them online, I don't know exactly what was false, but I again applaud The Wanderer for correcting its mistakes. There seem to be two problems with the articles: statements that AMU is aggressively recruiting non-Catholics and statements that abortion could be permissible in Ave Maria Town. I don't quite understand the last one. Apparently, the falsehood is that abortion is not permissible in Ave Maria Town because certain covenants prohibit it. But didn't we already know about the covenants, and isn't the problem rather that the covenants probably won't withstand constitutional challenges, as Professor Rice argues?

UPDATE: I believe these are the problematic articles: 1, 2, 3, 4.

Fumed by Thales at 7:25 PM. |

AMSL Flashback: University of Iowa Comparison

In some recent comments to this post, the commenter "an observer" had a fun link to an old Michigan Bar Journal article from November 2000. Many alumni remember being told by the administration back in the early days that AMSL had similar statistics with the University of Iowa, a top 25 law school. So it's nice to see that our memories are accurate. Check out this excerpt:
The first class, which matriculated in August, 2000, had 218 applicants of which 111 were accepted and 75 enrolled. The median LSAT is 158 (79-80th percentile) and median GPA is 3.33. Those statistics put Ave Maria in the top 45 law schools for degree of difficulty in acceptance. The University of Iowa, which is ranked 21st in law school education, has similar medians.

Fumed by Thales at 6:56 PM. |

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tuesday Evening Blues

(picture of Advocatus Militaris and Casimir Pulaski courtesy of Mrs. Militaris)

Fumed by Advocatus Militaris at 7:25 PM. |

Friday, April 16, 2010

It's Official....

.... according to the US News, Ave Maria School of Law is regarded as the worst law school in the country. Not one of the worst, but the worst.

Of course, I'm referring to the assessment scores. The peer assessment score (25% of the total score) was 1.2, the lowest score of all schools. The lawyer/judge assessment (15% of the total score) was 1.5, the second lowest score of all schools. These two scores combined puts AMSL in sole place at the very bottom when it comes to assessment, and I think it's probable that it means AMSL has the lowest total US News score, considering how much the assessment is weighted.

I looked back at the scores from last year to see what happened.
For peer assessment, it looks like it went 1.4 (2007), 1.3 (2008), 1.3 (2009), 1.2 (this year).
For lawyer/judge assessment, it went 2.1 (2007), 2.1 (2008), 1.9 (2009), 1.5 (this year).

That lawyer/judge assessment is the most shocking. It seems that in the past, AMSL has always had a better reputation among lawyers and judges than among the law school academics (think of the number of clerkships, and the potential anti-conservative/Catholic bias of legal academia). I think AMSL's lawyer/judge assessment tended to be one of the better ones among Tier 4 schools. Now this year, AMSL is seconnd worst, after a drop from 1.9 to 1.5.

Ouch. As I've argued before, heads should roll for this but I don't have much hope that there will be changes.

The Naples News had a recent article where it highlighted a married couple attending AMSL:
The Maces are both enrolled as first-year Ave Maria School of Law students, taking on a combined $300,000 in student loan debt. For them, it is the trade-off to being able to attend the same school and make valuable career connections in the place they call home.

"The loans were a huge issue for us, because Ave Maria is a very expensive school," Kristie Mace, 26, said. "It's definitely something that weighs on our shoulders all of the time."
Well, AMSL is charging $35,380/year for tuition. Is AMSL worth the money?

Fumed by Thales at 11:42 AM. |

Thursday, April 15, 2010

AMSL 2010

Fumed by Advocatus Militaris at 2:21 PM. |

US News Rankings: Where Is Ave Maria Law?

This year's US News & World Report law school rankings are officially out today. Ave Maria School of Law remains in Tier 4. Rival University of St. Thomas Law School is Tier 3.

Unfortunately, the statistics are all hidden behind the subscription wall. If anyone buys a copy of the magazine or subscribes for the statistics, let us know AMSL's specific scores.

Fumed by Thales at 9:21 AM. |

AveWatch on Jackson Labs Story

Another story on Jackson Labs over at AveWatch.

Fumed by Thales at 9:19 AM. |

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Anyone Have Jackson Labs Information?

I realize that there are some strong opinions about whether Jackson Labs's plan to open a facility in Ave Maria Town is good or bad. I don't have all the information to make an informed decision, so if anyone has additional information, weblinks, etc., please share them with me and everyone else.

Here are some questions I have:
-What type of work will Jackson Labs be doing in a Florida facility, and is this work morally permissible from a Catholic ethics perspective?
-What type of work does Jackson Labs engage in now, and is this work morally permissible from a Catholic ethics perspective?
-Apparently Tom Monaghan asked for guidance on these very questions from the National Catholic Bioethics Center. What did he specifically ask of the NCBC? What did the NCBC specifically tell Monaghan? Is there a press release or other publication from the NCBC on this issue?

Fumed by Thales at 11:34 AM. |

Naples News Article on Jackson Labs

Naples News has an article about the Jackson Labs story. Jackson Labs is a biotech company which is considering building a laboratory in Ave Maria, Florida. Apparently, the land that they are considering for building used to be partially owned by Tom Monaghan, though it seems as if he sold his interest to Barron Collier. (If I'm getting the facts wrong, please correct me.)

Anyways, some interesting excerpts from the article:
Maine-based The Jackson Laboratory is working out the details and seeking state support to build a research complex on roughly 50 acres southwest of Ave Maria town and university.

"If they were to locate here I think there would be very considerable benefits to the entire area," said Nicholas Healy, president of Ave Maria University. "They will bring well-paying jobs and so on. It will help real estate in the town."

While officials with the nonprofit lab group say they don't perform research with embryonic stem cells, the foundation's Web site advertises workshops and conferences educating other scientists on the use of stem cells for research. Embryonic stem cells are derived from the earliest stage of human life, just a few days after an egg is fertilized, and usually are harvested from embryos left over after in vitro fertilization treatment.

"Obviously, there are issues that arise whenever you hear the term 'biomedical research,'" Healy said. "Some people have concerns over that. From what we have been told, Jackson labs does not do human embryonic stem cell research, which from the point of view of Catholic moral teaching, would be problematic (if they did)."

Healy said he doesn't have a problem with Jackson's involvement in education on stem cell research.

"There is nothing wrong with having seminars or workshops," he said. "We could have a seminar here on it. The Catholic Church is not afraid to engage issues in science and technology."

But the lab is realistic in understanding the organization may not have all of the same world views as its potential neighbor, Jackson Vice President Charles Hewett said.

"There are probably some philosophical differences that will emerge," Hewett said. "We certainly are very thoughtful about the subject, but not willing to rule out doing human embryonic stem cell research."

Ave Maria University founder Tom Monaghan, a frequent contributor toward right-to-life and anti-abortion issues, is a partner with Barron Collier Cos., in the development of the town and surrounding lands. Gable said he went to Monaghan with the Jackson Laboratory proposal last year to get Monaghan’s blessing on the project.

"Obviously, because Tom is our partner, when this opportunity was brought to our attention last year, we went to our partner and said, 'This is what we want to do, is it something you're comfortable with?'" Gable said. "He went and did his due diligence, researched it, and said, 'Go ahead with it.'"
If the Vice-President hasn't ruled out doing human embryonic stem cell research, then was Monaghan's due diligence that thorough?

Also, in the article, Healy doesn't sound too educated on what exactly occurs at Jackson Labs. Would Healy be fine with hosting this upcoming Jackson Labs seminar on the AMU campus? It's more than mere educational slide shows; there are laboratory-based demos, and if any of these labs use human embryos, I suspect that would be a big no-no from a Catholic ethics perspective.

Finally, what kind of work does Jackson Lab do anyways? In another comment thread, I noted that it looks like one thing they do is create mice cells specifically designed to serve as "platforms" for human embryo engraftment. In so doing, it appears that Jackson Labs is specifically intending to support the immorality of human embryo research. Am I wrong in thinking that this is similar to a factory in the business of making condoms, specifically intending to support the immorality of contraception?

Fumed by Thales at 10:59 AM. |

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Happy Quasimodo Sunday! (or Divine Mercy Sunday, or Low Sunday)

A little B.B. to celebrate the day!

Fumed by Advocatus Militaris at 10:42 PM. |

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Is It Moral to Work at a Lab Where There Is Human Embryo Research?

In the comments on this post, I got into an argument with commenter "anonymous" about whether someone can work at a lab where there is human embryo research. I believe that "anonymous" is mistaken in his position, and I'll explain why now.

To start, let me make clear that the hypothetical we're discussing involves a lab that uses "illicit material," which is, for example, human embryos or cell lines created from human embryos. (This post is not about the Jackson laboratory that may or may not be built in Ave Maria Town. I haven't done sufficient research to know what scientific practices would occur at the Ave Maria lab if it was constructed.)

In 2008, the Vatican issued an "Instruction Dignitas Personae" which commented on various bioethical issues, including "The use of human 'biological material' of illicit origin." Paragraphs 34 and 35 of the instruction make clear that any research on "illicit material," even material that was obtained in a manner completely separate from the research lab, is not permitted. In other words, mere independence from the evil actions that produced the illicit material is not sufficient. This is because there is an additional duty "to avoid cooperation in evil and scandal."

Commenter "anonymous" reads the Instruction as permitting a person to work in a lab where illicit material research is occurring, "so long as he does not use the illicit material, he uses whatever authority he has to prevent use of illicit material, and takes appropriate measures to decry the use of illicit material so as to avoid scandal."

This is incorrect because "anonymous" is only thinking that there is a duty to avoid scandal, and he is ignoring that there is also a duty to avoid cooperation with evil.

Of course, for a better explanation I need to turn to Fumare hero, Professor Charles E. Rice. In his book, The Winning Side, page 229, Rice explains some important concepts:
Formal cooperation in evil, which is never morally justified, therefore consists of "direct participation" in the evil act "or a sharing in the immoral intention of the person committing it." (Evangelium Vitae, no. 74). Evangelium Vitae did not explicitly state the principles of material, as opposed to formal cooperation. "Material cooperation is that in which the cooperator performs an act which in itself is not wrong, though it is used by the principal agent to help him commit sin. This type of cooperation, as opposed to formal cooperation in evil, is not always wrong. Its morality depends on the proximity to the immoral act itself and whether there is a proportionate reason. Thus, material cooperation may be either proximate or remote." (Rev. Edward Hayes et al., Catholicism and Ethics: A Medical/Moral Handbook (1997), 72).
In the Vatican Instruction, only one example is given of a connection to experimentation on illicit material that is so remote that it is permissible: a parent using a vaccine necessary for the health of a child that was developed using cell lines of illicit origin. Even in that case, there is still a duty to make known one's disagreement with the evil (which is an appropriate measure so as to avoid scandal).

Now there are many different levels of involvement with the evil of human embryo research, from the parent's use of a vaccine to the researcher's actual experimentation on human embryos. One of those levels of involvement is if a person was employed at a lab where human embryo research was being done. A few examples include a janitor who cleans the lab where human embryo research occurs, an IT technician who fixes the computer on which the human embryo researcher works, or a lab assistant who prepares the microscope and slides for his researcher boss. In these instances, the employees would not be using illicit material and they would not have the authority to prevent such use. Let us also assume that these employees loudly decry the use of the illicit material to anyone who will listen so as to avoid any possibility of scandal. In all these instances, the employees would still be materially cooperating with evil. This is so because, in the words I quoted above from The Winning Side, they would be " perform[ing[ an act which in itself is not wrong, though it is used by the principal agent to help him commit sin."

Some material cooperation with evil is entirely permissible. In his book, Rice talks about material cooperation with evil in the context of abortion and quotes a pastoral statement which discusses the example of a hospital worker who cleans an operating room where abortions are sometimes performed. "The worker may oppose abortion and intend only to facilitate the morally upright, indeed laudable, surgical procedures performed there. He or she merely accepts as an unintended albeit foreseen consequence that the well-maintained facility will enable physicians to perform abortions." (page 231). This is given as an example where the hospital employee's actions might be morally permissible.

In the abortion context, it is easy to imagine nurses with even higher levels of material cooperation with abortion: for example, there is the nurse who holds the scalpel for the abortionist. For both the worker who cleans the operating room and the nurse who holds the scalpel, both employees aren't formally or directly participating in the abortion, as the abortion would still occur if they weren't there, but since their actions do help the abortionist commit the evil, both are instances of material cooperation. Assuming that both employees loudly decry the abortion so as to avoid scandal, the morality of their actions depends on their proximity to the abortion and whether there is a proportionate reason for their actions. Even assuming that the nurse who holds the scalpel makes known to everyone that she disapproves about abortion so as to avoid scandal, she might be so connected to the abortion such that her actions are impermissible and immoral.

Back to our original question: Is it moral to work at a lab where there is human embryo research?

The answer: It depends "on the proximity to the immoral act itself and whether there is a proportionate reason." For the janitor who cleans the lab where human embryo research occurs, his actions might be sufficiently remote so that his actions are morally permissible, especially if the janitor has a proportionate reason for his employment at the lab (like if he truly needs the money and this is the only job he can find). But for the lab assistant who prepares the equipment for his researcher boss, even assuming that the lab assistant declares to everyone around him that he disapproves of the research thereby avoiding scandal, his actions might be too connected to the immorality of human embryo research, especially if the lab assistant has an equivalent employment opportunity at a neighboring non-human embryo research lab. Merely taking "appropriate measures to decry the use of illicit material so as to avoid scandal," as "anonymous" argues, is sometimes not enough.

Fumed by Thales at 1:41 PM. |

Friday, April 09, 2010

When American Cardinals Flex Their Muscles...

...it is generally the faithful who suffer, while the unorthodox receive Archdiocesan awards.

Chris Manion has a good take on it here as well.

Fumed by Advocatus Militaris at 3:10 PM. |

Monday, April 05, 2010

Christ is Risen!!

Happy Easter!!

Fumed by TheLawDog at 12:38 PM. |

Friday, April 02, 2010

O Most Terrible and Glorious Day!

"At the Incarnation Jesus became like us in all things except sin; but at the time of the Passion, He became sin. -- He took on our sins and that was why He was rejected by the Father. I think that this was the greatest of all the sufferings that He had to endure and the thing He dreaded most in the agony in the Garden. Those words of His on the Cross were the expression of the depth of His loneliness and Passion -- that even His own Father didn’t claim Him as His Son. That, despite all His suffering and anguish, His Father did not claim Him as His beloved Son, as He did at the Baptism by St. John the Baptist and at the Transfiguration. You ask 'Why?' Because God cannot accept sin and Jesus had taken on sin -- He had become sin."

--Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta's instructions to the M.C. Sisters, April 1, 1981.

Walk with the Lord during His Passion today. Let the Grace reserved for you be poured out in full measure. Let us turn our past denials and betrayals of Him into repentant fervor to bear OUR cross, a cross that has been precisely weighed and measured for our earthly journey. It is not an ounce too heavy, nor an inch too large for us to carry when Christ is at our side.

Fumed by TheLawDog at 12:53 PM. |