The Right Coast

January 14, 2006
Catholicism and the Court
By Tom Smith

Worth reading in the Daily Standard. Even if it's message is, there's something happening here, and I don't know what it is. (If that phrase resonates deeply for you, welcome to old age.) I suppose someone could try to write a law review article on Catholic themes in the opinions of the Catholic justices. But, one, it would be hard to do, and two, it would be difficult to get it published, except perhaps in Notre Dame or Ave Maria L. Rev.

Here's the not very compelling conclusion:

And yet, in another way, everyone who seems so agitated--from the New York Times editorial page to Americans United for Separation of Church and State--is right to worry about the nomination of a fifth Catholic to the Supreme Court. Neither John Roberts nor Samuel Alito admitted in his Senate hearings a willingness to overturn Roe v. Wade. That may have been merely good confirmation strategy, but it is also possible they will prove, as Anthony Kennedy did, unwilling in the end to pull the trigger. The fact that Alito's mother told a reporter her son opposes abortion is no more dispositive than the fact that John Roberts's wife once held a position in a pro-life organization.
But both Roberts and Alito are products of a Catholic intellectual life that has flowered in the years since the Court imposed legalized abortion on the nation. Compelled to moral seriousness by the urgency of the pro-life cause and granted a surprising public prominence by the collapse of the old Protestant mainline, post-ethnic Catholic thinkers have formed an exciting and powerful rhetoric in which to talk about public affairs in a modern democracy. You can see it among an increasing number of professors and journalists. You can see it, perhaps most of all, among lawyers and judges. You can even see it among nominees to the Supreme Court.

That is hardly the same thing as success for the Catholic Church. But it is success, of a sort, for Catholicism.

I'm going to think about this a bit before I opine, but I am sure to have something to say about this eventually.

A READER sends me this interesting data on religious affiliation of US Sup Ct Justices.