Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Catholics on the Supreme Court

I don't even know if it's well known. If it is, I don't know if it's appreciated. But the fact is, there are five conservatives on the Supreme Court, and they are all Catholics. And now with Obama's having nominated Sotomayor, there will be six total. Six out of nine Justices of the Supreme Court will be Catholic.

That's amazing enough. How did that happen? Talk about changes. How did that happen?

But to me that's not the really amazing thing. The really amazing thing is that no one ever talks about it. That is just so amazing.

How long ago was 1960, when Kennedy made his Dallas speech? Seemed a pretty important thing at the time. Did suspicion of Catholics just disappear after that?

One has to admit that the fact that there are five Catholics on the court, and that they constitute together the powerful conservative bloc, that they all seem very ideological, seems like something people would notice and comment on. I would; I do; I am. Doesn't seem to make much difference. No one seems to have an opinion.

I have an opinion, I've got to say. I think that beliefs and culture have meaning, and I think that even if backgrounds are not determinative, in some cases they fill out a dossier, contribute to a profile. Anyone can be respectful of authority, but no one quite so much as a Catholic. There it is. Catholics who have been reared in the tradition can throw it off, to some extent, but not completely, and if they do, it's like an outer layer. The other part doesn't just disappear. There's some saying that I forget that the Jesuits have, something like give us the boy until age (something), and we have him for life. Something like that. Little as I know about them, I've never met any of them, Alito, a New Jersey Catholic, typifies it for me. And now that I hear more about Roberts, deference to power and authority seems pretty deep in him.

Why don't we hear about this? OK - people think I'm just prejudiced when I say this. Do you think so? I don't think so, but maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it's just coincidence that these conservative men support the powerful over the powerless relentlessly, and are about to vote down Roe vs. Wade if they possibly can, just as their Church teaches and urges and pressures them to do. Maybe it's just coincidence.

I think people don't talk about it because it's not fashionable to recognize differences in populations of different sort. I think prejudice is out of fashion.

But what if it's not prejudice? Were going to have six Catholics on the court, none of whom is apostate, and all of whose church weighs in very heavily against abortion.

Isn't this a hell of a chance to take, nominating another one? Or is everyone right who ignores this, and am I a lone prejudiced person from another era who just doesn't recognize current truth - conventional wisdom, to quote Galbraith, with all that implies.

What an amazing thing is not happening.

Budd Shenkin

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