It seems suddenly okay that a nominee to the Supreme Court be … *GASP* …. Catholic!
On the website of The Boston Globe comes this on the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to SCOTUS.
My emphases and comments.
Posted by Michael Paulson May 26, 2009 02:33 PM
Judge Sonia Sotomayor has much to distinguish her, but one element of her biography stands out in the world of those interested in religion and the public square: [Since I have been HAMMERING that topic forever, I think that includes readers of WDTPRS!] she is Catholic, and, if approved as a Supreme Court justice, she will be the sixth Catholic on the nine-member court. That is a remarkable accomplishment for American Catholics, who make up 23 percent of the nation’s population, [And it wasn’t that long ago that people in the USA debated if Catholics should be allowed to participate in society.] and will now potentially hold 67 percent of the high court’s seats. Two of the justices are Jewish; the resignation of Justice David Souter, who is an Episcopalian, will leave, amazingly given the history of this nation, just one Protestant on the Supreme Court, 89-year-old Justice John Paul Stevens.
Undoubtedly, Sotomayor’s Catholic-ness will be the subject of some debate. Just how Catholic is she? Steven Waldman, blogging at Beliefnet, quotes a White House official saying, “Judge Sotomayor was raised as a Catholic and attends church for family celebrations and other important events.” [In other words… she is… what… a CINO? A C&E Catholic? A “cultural Catholic”? What does that mean?]
David Gibson, also at Beliefnet, suggests there may be a strategic reason for Sotomayor to downplay her faith affiliation:
“The (awful) question will now be, what KIND of Catholic is she? She is divorced, without kids. Heck, she may want to downplay her practice of the faith as that will be a huge target–and it’s easy to guess who’ll be lobbing most of the heavy ordinance.” [Is that a kind of inuendo there about the number of children practicing Catholics have?]
And Cathy Lynn Grossman, blogging for USA Today, makes a similar prediction:
“Next up: Expect her nomination to re-ignite the ongoing Catholic blogosphere wars over who is Catholic enough. If confirmed, Sotomayor, who grew up in Catholic schools in the Bronx, would be the sixth Catholic on the high court. It may be that her life experiences will align her with the social justice issues pushed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on race, poverty, immigration and economic issues. But for some outspoken Catholics, the ‘life’ issues — abortion, family planning, so-called ‘conscience clauses’ for health workers, embryonic stem cell research and end-of-life choices — are the litmus test.” [I ask this: If President Obama at Notre Dame used the word “children” and not just the usual “fetus”, then I would say that legalizing the choice to kill those children might make a good topic for discussion. Also, this president vote in favor of what can only be termed infanticide.]
Over at GetReligion, Terry Mattingly wonders why the word “Catholic” is not more a part of the early press coverage, and asks if that would be different if Sotomayor were a known opponent of abortion rights:
“Her life story will be a big part of the upcoming mini-debates about her appointment. Here is my question: If she was a pro-life woman, from a Hispanic background, do you think that the word ‘Catholic’ would be appearing higher in these early (I repeat, EARLY) reports about her life and work? Just saying.” [D’ya think?]
What does it matter if Sotomayor is Catholic? Jacqui Salmon, blogging for the Washington Post, suggests perhaps not much, at least as far as judicial decisionmaking is concerned:
“Experts have been split on what the Catholic majority has meant so far. They point out that Catholics on the bench historically have spanned the spectrum from liberal to conservative. Dennis J. Hutchinson, a court historian at the University of Chicago, noted in 2005 that one of the most liberal Supreme Court justices of the 20th century, William J. Brennan, was a Catholic, and so is one of the most conservative, Scalia.”
Manya Brachear, blogging for the Chicago Tribune, tackles the same question, and comes to the same conclusion, although also pointing out the symbolic significance:
“Cathleen Kaveny, law professor at the University of Notre Dame, said a sixth Catholic in the High Court would illustrate how entrenched the church has become in the U.S. A sixth Catholic with views like Sotomayor’s also [And here I think we are edging up to what is really going on….] would put the American church’s diversity on display. [Watch now the Kmiec Catholic, Catholic Lite, partisan Catholic ala “Yes we can” in this next part…] ‘My guess is she’s very much operating in accordance with the commitments of the Catholic social justice tradition which is emphasizing … inclusion, solidarity, justice to those least among us,’ Kaveny said. ‘It’s strand of American Catholic teaching that is somewhat distinct from other Catholic teaching but not incompatible. [There. She tries to shift the paradigm. Do you remember my parsing of McBrien (“a study of the progressivist mind“) when I pointed out that the left doesn’t want to admit the real divisions in the Church? Here is an example of what I am talking about.] People emphasize different aspects.'”
Catholic groups are just now beginning to react to the nomination. Catholics United, a liberal group, reacted positively, [Dog Bites Man. Film at 11. This is one of the slitheriest groups I have seen, FWIW.] and said, “We call on other leaders within the Catholic community to join us in welcoming Judge Sotomayor’s nomination and to approach her confirmation hearings with civility and reason.” [I hope that Catholics United will also make a statement about voting in favor of infantide.] I haven’t heard yet from conservative Catholic groups, but in general the reaction from the right has been critical. [Wait… wasn’t the first part of that “haven’t heard”?] Ted Olsen, blogging at Christianity Today, reviews the early statements and headlines his post, “Pro-Life Group Consensus on Sotomayor: ‘Activist’.”
Meanwhile, one thing that struck me in President Obama’s remarks about Sotomayor this morning was the language he used to describe the role of Catholic schools in offering children a path out of poverty. [wedge] This is what he said:
“When Sonia was nine, her father passed away. And her mother worked six days a week as a nurse to provide for Sonia and her brother…But Sonia’s mom bought the only set of encyclopedias in the neighborhood, sent her children to a Catholic school called Cardinal Spellman out of the belief that with a good education here in America all things are possible.” [And this will – of course – for all reasonable people interested in dialogue and diversity and just getting along together be a reason to set aside any concern about statements or her record.]
Just a guess… but here is what this feels like to me.
I am pretty sure that, among other motives, this is also part of a conscious agenda. This White House, and those who seek to be its satraps, are doing their best to subvert institutions and some high profile public Catholic figures in order to drive a wedge between different groups of Catholics. They especially want to cleave off the strong Catholic bishops from the rest of the squishy Americanized Church. They do so by seeming to embrace an important but logically secondary set of common objectives so as to neutralize the deeper foundations of a true Catholic influence in the public square.
Granting that in this life there is no perfect politics – or much of anything else for that matter…
If politics should be about the social expression of the City of God, liturgy is the sacramental expression of the City of God.
The language and effect of the one will be in discord or harmony with the language and effect of the other.
I repeat: At this point it may be that the only way we can emphasize the hollow sound of their cymbals is through authentic Catholic worship.