April 2020 – Book Reviews: Equality and Non-discrimination

Equality and Non-discrimination
– Adolphe, Fastiggi, and Vacca


Jane F. Adolphe, Robert L. Fastiggi, and Michael A. Vacca, eds. Equality and Non-discrimination: Catholic Roots, Current Challenges. Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2019. 214 pages.
Reviewed by Christopher Siuzdak.

Political rhetoric has made much of the buzzwords equality and non-discrimination, but how are they properly conceptualized and maturely effectuated? The first third of this interdisciplinary collection of essays harnesses the insights of the Catholic intellectual tradition relative to the principles of equality and non-discrimination, the second segment discusses their inflection within the European legal system, and the third section offers an assessment of selected human rights systems from around the globe.

The first chapter, by theologian Robert L. Fastiggi and entitled “Human Equality and Non-Discrimination in Light of Catholic Theology and Magisterial Teachings,” grounds the equality of all human persons in their ultimate origin, dignity, and destiny. Chapter two, by canonist Ernest Caparros and entitled “Sacramental Roots of Canon Law: Fundamental Equality and Functional Difference,” explains how radical equality squares with the diversity of roles within the hierarchically ordered Catholic Church. Chapter three, by classicist Daniel B. Gallagher and entitled “The Principles of Equality and Non-discrimination,” draws a subtle yet invaluable distinction between ends and purposes in arguing that “there are ends in things and that our purposes and choices must respect their priority” (39).

In the fourth chapter, entitled “How to Think about Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) Policies and Religious Freedom,” public intellectual Ryan T. Anderson cautions that some proposed antidiscrimination laws lack necessary nuance and “are about government coercing people to live according to the majority’s values” (44). In the fifth chapter, entitled “The Necessity for a Contextual Analysis for Equality and Non-discrimination,” legal scholar Iain T. Benson discusses the framing of issues. He notes that the invocation of equality invariably places those who are not allied with a given proposal on the defensive, thereby allowing various movements to exploit the rhetoric of equality (66).

In the sixth chapter, entitled “Non-discrimination Policy in the Context of the European Union,” ecclesiastic Piotr Mazurkiewicz examines EU policy in light of the Commission of the Bishop’s Conferences of the European Community’s (COMECE) 2010 document on the matter. The seventh chapter, by barrister Paul Diamond and entitled “Human Rights as Ideology: The Meaning of Equality and Non-discrimination in European Litigation within the Context of Religious Freedom,” expresses concern about the erosion of religious freedoms ranging from public ridicule and open disrespect to the labeling of certain religious expressions as criminal hate speech.

In the eight chapter, entitled “The Inter-American System: Sexual Orientation as a Category and/or Ground of Non-discrimination,” legal scholar Carmen Domínguez Hidalgo discusses “the recent inclusion of sexual orientation as a suspect category in the Inter-American region . . . which in at least one case, undercut the best interests of the child principle, when it was treated as a ‘super-category’ by the” Inter-American Court of Human Rights (xxx). In the ninth chapter, entitled “Equality and Non-discrimination: The Peculiar Approach of the American Convention on Human Rights,” legal scholar Ursula C. Basset argues that the long-standing traditions and identity of Latin Americans is being imposed upon and points out some of the inconsistencies. In the tenth chapter, entitled “ASEAN’s Declaration of Human Rights (ADHR): Clashing Cultural and Regional Values,” legal scholar D. Brian Scarnecchia proposes moving in the direction of human ecology. In the eleventh and final chapter, entitled “Religious Freedom and Christianity in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) in the Context of the Papal Trip to Turkey,” lawyer Geoffrey Strickland discusses the notions of Islamophobia and Christianophobia and offers ideas on what can be done to remedy the scourge of fear and religious repression.

In sum, this collection of essays sheds greater light on the touchstone concepts of equality and non-discrimination. In so doing, it offers a perceptive critique of certain developments in the international arena and proposes certain salutary course corrections. It offers readers a taste of the ideological challenges facing human flourishing around the globe and the opportunities for improvement that likewise present themselves.