Religion in Society

Experts Question Catholic Majority in U.S. Supreme Court

| by The American Papist
A sad reminder of what Catholics in public office still face:

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito voiced frustration Tuesday over what he called persistent questions about the court's Roman Catholic majority.

Alito aired the topic in a speech to an Italian-American law group in Philadelphia.

"There has been so much talk lately about the number of Catholics serving on the Supreme Court," Alito said in a speech to the Justinian Society. "This is one of those questions that does not die."

Alito complained about "respectable people who have seriously raised the questions in serious publications about whether these individuals could be trusted to do their jobs."

He said he thought the Constitution settled the question long ago with its guarantee of religious freedom.

Alito, 59, the son of an Italian immigrant, is one of six justices on the nine-member court who were raised Catholic, including new Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

... The Roman Catholic Church endorses positions on several high-profile legal issues, including abortion, the death penalty and gay marriage. Some commentators have argued that Catholics in the court's conservative voting bloc — Chief John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Alito — are likely to oppose abortion or otherwise apply Catholic teachings to their rulings. (AP)

Three quick thoughts:

-- The elephant in the room here is social issues such as abortion and gay marriage. No one would complain about Catholics stacking the supreme court bench if they all were liberal on their views about these issues. No one complains about how many Catholics Obama has appointed to his administration, because all of his appointments agree with his liberal views on these issues. As I've said before, the kind of Catholic the President likes, is a bad Catholic (a "bad Catholic" is someone who actively dissents from the Church's teaching).

-- Catholics on the supreme court who oppose abortion and same-sex marriage do not do so because they are Catholic, they do this because they can think. Catholic opposition to practices which harm human life and society are enlightened by faith through reason, not dictated by faith in opposition to reason. The bottom line here is that you don't have to be Catholic to oppose abortion and same-sex marriage. But it can help your conviction.

-- The recent case of Sonia Sotomayor's nomination is a perfect illustration of the ulterior purpose behind this stupid claim that there are "too many Catholics on the supreme court." The fact that Sotomayor promised to uphold the unjust precedent established by Roe v. Wade - and was never fundamentally challenged to express her opinion about homosexual marriage - guaranteed that pundits would not go after her too much for her religion. If she promised to uphold the natural law conclusions about the dignity of human life and the uniqueness of heterosexual marriage, things would have been very different.

Bottom line: there is no reason to accuse Catholics of being bad for America. Such a charge is always a cheap-shot which ignores the substantive arguments that Catholics bring into the debate, and the long tradition of public service that today's Catholics are proud to continue.

It's time to face our arguments, not accuse our religion.