SOTOMAYOR’S CATHOLICISM

Catalyst July/August Issue 2009

When President Obama chose Judge Sonia Sotomayor to be the next justice on the U.S. Supreme Court we wondered if there would be an outcry due to her Catholic faith. Barely a peep was made.

When John Roberts was nominated to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, left-wingers accused President Bush of “Playing the Catholic card.” When Bush selected Samuel Alito, these same critics sounded the alarms over the prospect of a “majority” of the Supreme Court justices being Catholic. One would think that the selection of yet another Catholic to sit on the high court would drive these folks right over the edge. But for some reason, Sotomayor’s Catholic credentials didn’t seem to matter. Is that because she is viewed as reliably liberal?

When Justice Roberts was nominated to be on the high court, Senator Dick Durbin told CNN that he considered it fair game to probe Roberts about his Catholicism. After Sotomayor’s selection, Durbin released a glowing statement never once mentioning her religion. When Senators Arlen Specter and Dianne Feinstein questioned Roberts, they both asked him whether he agreed with President John F. Kennedy about the separation of church and state. Neither of them mentioned Sotomayor’s religion in their respective statements on her selection.

When Roberts was nominated, Dahlia Lithwick, legal analyst for Slate, said, “I wouldn’t underestimate the influence of his religion”; when Alito was nominated, Lithwick said that “People are very, very much talking about the fact that Alito would be the fifth Catholic on the Supreme Court if confirmed.” Following Sotomayor’s nomination, Lithwick posted a lengthy piece that never mentioned the judge’s religion.

When Roberts was nominated, NPR’s Nina Totenberg said that Roberts’ wife was a “high officer of a pro-life organization. He’s got adopted children. I mean, he’s a conservative Catholic.” At the news of Sotomayor’s selection, she simply mentioned that the judge attended Catholic schools without ever raising an issue.

Journalist Adele Stan said that “Rome must be smiling,” when Roberts was nominated. In her positive assessment of Sotomayor, Stan never mentioned her religion.

Let’s face it: left-wingers would gladly accept nine Catholic Supreme Court justices if they were reliably liberal before they would ever accept a diverse court that was reliably conservative. Ancestry, anatomy and religious affiliation have always been oversold: what trumps them all is ideology.

What’s going on? Are liberal Catholics Catholic? Obviously not, at least according to liberals. After all, if Sotomayor was known as a practicing Catholic, those who fretted over Roberts and Alito would have been in crisis mode; instead they were calm and collected.

In his press conference discussing Sotomayor’s nomination, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs put any fears the liberals may have had to rest. He said of the jurist, “I believe she was raised Catholic.” If this is true, then the telling verb “raised” would explain why liberals are so fond of Sotomayor—she’s the type of Catholic that they can trust. Let’s just hope they’re wrong.


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Written by Bill