[USC Political Science professor Howard] Gillman believes that beginning in the 1960s, many conservative Catholics went into the legal profession "because they felt the constitutional jurisprudence of the country was not reflecting their values," particularly on abortion, funding for parochial schools and restrictions on religion in public places. "I think you're seeing the fruits of those efforts now," he said.Interesting. The article also notes that Justice William Brennan, the Court's last passionate liberal, was also Catholic. Liberals are missing something if they lose the sense that rights are real and substantial. As I listen to the attacks on Judge Alito, I hear, relentlessly expressed, the idea that law is political and judges are all ideologues who, given power, will work their will on us. Where are the passionate, Brennanesque liberals of yore, who really believed we have rights? Is that belief becoming solely a conservative notion ?
Bernard Dobranski, dean of Ave Maria School of Law, a Catholic institution founded in 2000 in Ann Arbor, Mich., said the number of highly qualified conservative Catholic lawyers is also a tribute to the strength of Catholic schools, the determination of immigrants to educate their children and a rich tradition of legal scholarship in the Catholic Church.
A hallmark of that tradition is the belief in "natural law," a basic set of moral principles that the church says is written in the hearts of all people and true for all societies. Though long out of favor in secular law schools, the natural law approach is resurgent among conservatives, Dobranski said.
Another reason for the prominence of Catholics in conservative legal circles is that many have graduated from Ivy League colleges and law schools. Attending those schools has practically been a prerequisite for the clerkships that launch high-flying legal careers.
Evangelical Protestants are also becoming more visible on Ivy League campuses and at top law schools. But, said Notre Dame's Bradley, "I do think that there is an important truth in saying that Catholics are the intellectual pillars of social conservatism. Compared to their political allies in that movement, Catholics are heirs to a richer intellectual tradition and . . . are more inclined to believe that reason supplies good grounds for the moral and political positions characteristic of social conservatism. Call it the 'natural law' thing."
November 7, 2005
WaPo's Alan Cooperman explains why, in recent years, so many Catholics have been chosen for the Supreme Court. (Samuel Alito will be the fifth Catholic on the Court.)