Judging Miguel Estrada
The support expressed by John W. Donohue, S.J. , for Miguel Estrada’s nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is misguided, and his equation of the threatened filibuster to the actions of Bully Brooks is irresponsible rhetorical excess (Of Many Things, 1/5). Mr. Estrada holds pro-life views, and the Senate Democrats uniformly oppose such views, to their shame. But over 160 Bush nominees with similar views have been confirmed.
What sets Estrada apart is his history as an ideological operative, well known to people on Capitol Hill. Estrada has long cast common cause with Solicitor General Ted Olson, perhaps the most bellicose and divisive figure in today’s coarse political climate. Again and again he has proven himself to serve the cause by doing what is necessary, including being placed on Justice Kennedy’s staff to ensure ideological orthodoxy by all means necessary.
We can debate the morality of such political operatives; certainly they are not unknown in history, and they can be found on both sides of the aisle. But their place is in the political arena, not the judiciary. Estrada has too much political blood on his hands to merit the honor and responsibility of being a judge on the District of Columbia Circuit.
Moreover, this place on the court was preserved from being filled by Clinton appointees by underhanded tactics that have not been forgotten, nor should they be. Forgiveness is a Christian virtue, but it is rarely observed in politics; and the responsibility to practice it should not be placed upon only one of the combatants. Mr. Olson was confirmed as solicitor general despite his sordid past at the direction of Senator Tom Daschle, the Senate minority leader, as a show of good faith. That olive branch has been returned as a club, repeatedly. The confirmation of Mr. Estrada would be just another victory for such tactics, to the detriment of our republic.
A belated note of appreciation for Valerie Schultz’ fine reflection, Metanoia (12/8). She insightfully probes the radical change of heart that conversion entails and applies it suggestively to the hope for the renewal of a friendship that the years seem to have frayed and sundered. It is helpful to consider, as she does, the ministry of Jesus in the light of God’s work of changing hearts. May I take her insight one step further and offer the thought that ultimately the ground of Jesus’ life and ministry was his passion for communion: to bring all humankind into that communion which is the very life of God? The cross is both the consequence of that passion and the God-given way to the realization of communion.
(Rev.) Robert Imbelli
Chestnut Hill, Mass.
Disagreement, Not Contempt
Your editorial Respecting International Law (1/19) asserts that the Bush administration has set a course contemptuous of international law. Yet your examples do not support such an assertion. You cite the refusal to sign the Kyoto protocols. But that wasn’t contempt for law. It was a disagreement over a proposed law.
You also cite the withdrawal from the SALT I ABM treaty. This withdrawal, however, was also done legally, well within the provisions of the treaty. Furthermore, it was a cold-war treaty between two superpowers, one of which no longer exists, and it was the legal expression of the MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) nuclear policy of an older age. I find it surprising that a Catholic journal would mourn the passing of such a disturbing policy, codified into law.
Your third example was the withdrawal of the U.S. signature from the Rome Treaty that established the International Criminal Court. Once again, however, this treaty was not U.S. law, as it had not been ratified by the United States. There are serious concerns over the court. It is inherently undemocratic and political and reduces the legal protections of U.S. citizens. Similarly, it is hard to see how President Bush’s call for an international lawyer when threatened with a lawsuit represents contempt for the law. Isn’t seeking counsel exactly what the law seeks to accomplish?
You also seem to assume that for the United States to exercise its veto power in the U.N. Security Council represents contempt for the law. But are not such vetoes perfectly consistent with the accepted legal structure to which nations have bound themselves? When France declared that it would veto a further Security Council resolution authorizing war in Iraq, was this also an act contemptuous of international law?
All of your examples represent completely legal and therefore legitimate policy decisions by the Bush administration. Even if one disagrees with the administration’s judgment in any particular case, the examples hardly demonstrate contempt for international law. Respect for international law does not demand that a nation bind itself to laws with which it disagrees as not in its best interest. International treaties become, as you note, the supreme law of the land and can even supersede constitutional protections of human rights. This is precisely why a nation must take the responsibility of entering treaties very seriously. This is respect for law, not contempt.
I expect better from America than to cast gratuitous charges against those with whom you disagree. Respect for international law should not be confused with acquiescence to any demand made by other nations. International cooperation is, of course, an important value. Building an international consensus for law should not be confused with respect for the law itself. I agree that the United States should be involved in this effort, but not at the cost of sacrificing our basic principles or national interests.
Thomas R. Jackson, M.D.
Women and the Environment
Walter E. Grazer’s article, Environmen-tal Justice: A Catholic Voice (1/19), contains good information on one of the most critical issues of our day. I am puzzled, however, that Mr. Grazer, in presenting the Catholic voice on this issue, failed to acknowledge the work of Catholic women religious in the United States, who have been at the forefront of environmental justice actions for decades in this country.
A significant number of women’s congregations include care for the environment as part of their mission statements. A third of the ecology centers in the United States are sponsored by Dominican sisters. The I.H.M. Sisters of Monroe, Mich., modeled breakthrough processes that benefit the environment when they renovated their buildings and grounds. Contemplative women religious have developed methods of organic farming.
Miriam Therese McGillis, O.P., to name only one leader among many women religious, has initiated workshops, written books, provided educational materials and spoken at many large, public gatherings about an alternative and more sustainable way of working with the land and developing a renewed relationship with the whole community of life.
As policy advisor to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and director of the bishops’ environmental justice program, Mr. Grazer would benefit from speaking with women religious about environmental issues.
Marianne Race, C.S.J.