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Irish bishops channeling Nancy Pelosi

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Nov 09, 2012

When questioned about details of Obamacare, Rep. Nancy Pelosi famously remarked that “we have to pass the bill so that we can find out what is in it.” This is the “shoot first, aim later” approach to legislation. Once the bill becomes law, the problems will become obvious.

Did I detect something of the same attitude in the Irish bishops’ endorsement of a children’s-rights amendment? This constitutional amendment has worried Irish pro-family activists, who see it as a threat to parental rights. The bishops acknowledged that concern, and expressed their sympathy: “As bishops we share the concern of others to ensure that the proposed amendment on children does not undermine the rights of parents and the presumptive place of the family…” Yet ultimately the bishops concluded that, in their opinion, the proposed amendment was properly worded so as to avoid the problem.

Notice, now, that in reaching this conclusion the bishops are exercising their judgment as constitutional scholars. Which they aren’t.

Indeed the bishops recognize that their judgment may prove incorrect. Their statement allows that “the possibility of unintended consequences is always present in the context of Constitutional change.” This suggests a rather cavalier approach to the process of changing a nation’s foundational law. Wouldn’t it be more prudent to have the potential consequences of an amendment studied carefully--by people qualified to make legal judgments? The Irish bishops think not:

If unforeseen or unintended consequences do emerge in time, the remedy of further Constitutional amendment or amending legislation is available to mitigate the consequences of any such developments.

In other words: It’s probably OK to amend the constitution, because we think the wording is innocuous. But if it turns out badly we can always amend the constitution again to undo the damage.

As I said above, bishops are not experts in constitutional law. Q.E.D.

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