June 1, 2009

When (if?) Sotomayor is confirmed, there will be 6 Catholics on the Supreme Court.

And 2 Jews. Only 1 Protestant (the elderly Justice Stevens). Isn't that strange! Now, much as I think that's a problem, I don't think it's a problem you can suddenly get exercised about at the very point of the first Hispanic nominee on the Court. Otherwise, all those previous Catholic appointments that we didn't talk about would block the one Hispanic appointment.

37 comments:

Balfegor said...

Otherwise, all those previous Catholic appointments that we didn't talk about would block the one Hispanic appointment.

I'm pretty sure people talked about it with Roberts, and definitely with Alito. See, e.g. here. And I don't find it surprising, for more or less the reasons outlined by the Catholics quoted in that article -- the Catholics are heirs to a richer intellectual tradition, that being the whole of two thousand years of Christian tradition, and Catholic thought today continues to be informed by the thought of some of the brightest intellectual lights in the West -- men like St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine, etc. Protestantism, so novel and hampered by a bewildering proliferation of conflicting sects and doctrines, has a rather more incoherent and undeveloped intellectual tradition. At least, as an outsider (atheist), that's how it looks to me.

phx said...

Eh, given the dearth of Catholic presidents in our history, this is fair.

phx said...
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Jen said...

And zero nontheists.

PatCA said...

This is all part of the papist conspiracy! (See DaVinci Code, Angels and Demons, etc.)

XWL said...

There are plenty of non-Catholic Hispanics out there, so Obama could have chosen differently.

Besides, the notion of a single 'Hispanic' identity is absurd.

Judge Sotomayor is Nuyorican, if one were to rank within the 'Hispanic' community the ethnicity not of their own that they least liked, I bet Nuyoricans would do very poorly in that survey, so Pres. Obama and the Democratic Party may not be doing themselves the big favor with the majority of 'Hispanic' voters (who are mostly of Mexican or Cuban descent), that they think they are.

It would be like picking a Japanese person for the Supreme Court and expecting Chinese Americans to be well pleased about it.

But when it comes down to it, the law is the law, and background should matter nought as to decisions made (though background will influence how each Justice expresses their own decisions, and how their decisions are processed by others)

lyssalovelyredhead said...

Ultimately, SCOTUS isn't, and isn't supposed to be, representative of the US population, so I think it's all interesting, but not very important.

It could be considered particularly unimportant because Catholics are so politically unpredicatable- in the general population, they split almost even Democrat/Republican (lean slightly Dem), so Catholicism alone shouldn't be a big predictor of judicial outlook. Of course, I guess it's interesting that she will be the only liberal Catholic justice.

Ben (The Tiger) said...

When.

See no reason for her Catholicism to have an impact, unless people start wondering whether she'll overturn Roe...

Mark in Spokane said...

Uh, why is it a problem for there to be Catholics on the court? For the better part of our country's history, Catholics were prevented by political custom from having more than one seat at a time on the court -- there was a "Catholic seat." Brennan was the last justice to hold that seat, btw.

Catholics are not an ideological block on the court -- and never have been. And Catholics have very rarely followed the social teaching of the Church in their judicial opinions. Some examples: Tawney with Dred Scott, Brennan with Roe v. Wade, Kennedy with Casey v. Planned Parenthood, Scalia on the death penalty, etc.

The only two Catholic justices who appear to be guided by Catholic ideas of natural law have been Justice Murphy (a short-sitting FDR appointee) and Justice Thomas.

So, Ann, why is it a problem to have Catholics on the Court? Should we go back to the good old days when there was a "Catholic seat?" Or should there be strict proportional representation of religious groups on the Court?

phx said...

And zero nontheists.

It wouldn't surprise me in the least if Obama was nontheist, or at least an agnostic. But yeah, it's about time we got some nontheists in there. And order me up an Asian or two while we're at it.

William said...

Doesn't this indicate that Catholics are so thoroughly assimilated that their religion is no longer a determinative factor? Catholics are, I suppose, a tad more conservative on social issues but most of their views are pretty much in line with the rest of America. And this includes abortion. It is hard to fit Alito and Pelosi into the same stereotype.

Mark in Spokane said...

My point exactly, William. So, if Catholics are assimilated, why is it a "problem" as Ann puts it, to have so many of them on the Supreme Court?

Juris Dentist said...

"We"?

Speak for yourself, Althouse.

Many people talked about this when Roberts was nominated, But since you thought he was a dreamboat, there was no chance of you engaging this important issue then. It was all fluff from the good professor.

Freeman Hunt said...

There's a lot of law going on in Catholic and Jewish religious heritage. Maybe that produces more law-inclined people.

traditionalguy said...

Just imagine you are thru with promotions and bosses judging your performance for the rest of your life. The challenge to an achiever like Sotomayor will be uphold her self image as a merciful and competent woman Judge. Her affect on Scalia will be huge. Scalia and Kennedy will compete for her allegance. The day will come that she rules the majority of 5 votes faster than we want to believe. Catholic culture comes in many variations, but there remains a shared Sacrament that creates a strong bond of good will among the Catholics. Stay tuned.

pduggie said...

How can we *ever* get exercised about 6 catholics. There is supposed to be NO religious test.

I wonder under what statements by congress or the president someone could oppose a nomination on constitutional grounds?

If Obama says "I am appointing a Baptist this time to rectify historic underrepresentation" isn't that a blatant religious test?

What could be done?

Florida said...

Yes, but there will be only one Latina.

And we all know that a Latina woman will reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life.

Or that negro one.

NKVD said...

That's Justice Taney, pronounced "tawny". I used to live in Frederick, where he lived and practiced law with Francis Scott Key.

dbp said...

All of the conservatives on the court are Catholic, but Sotomayer is liberal. She is adding a kind of diversity--a Catholic liberal. Now if we could just get a conservatve Jew, atheist or Hindu that would really be something!

Zeb Quinn said...
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Zeb Quinn said...

Now, much as I think that's a problem, I don't think it's a problem you can suddenly get exercised about at the very point of the first Hispanic nominee on the Court.

There's so much there I don't know where to start. How about this: It's not a problem. It doesn't matter how many Catholics are on the court. There's no evidence that any of them were put there because they are Catholic. There's no evidence anybody tried to stack the court with Catholics. Pro-lifers? You betcha. But not because they are Catholic. So the Catholic thing is just mere happenstance.

It only becomes a problem if one is hopelessly bound up in a strict rubric of identity politics. And then to free yourself from the self-imposed trickbag it puts you in you discard the Catholic card and draw the Hispanic card, which you pronounce to be a superior card. What a hoot.

Me, I'm much more concerned about the compulsion to seat a Hispanic woman on the court for the reason that she's a Hispanic woman, to the complete exclusion of probably 15,000 or more other persons throughout the US who better qualified, smarter, and better suited for the job.

Oh, can't it be argued that Cardozo was the first gay Hispanic Jew on the Court?

And I am Protestant by the way.

Deb said...
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Deb said...

"Now if we could just get a conservatve Jew.."

Surely you jest.

Actually, I know one or two (aside from myself). And one is a lawyer.

TitusIsOnAMission said...

And now one potential lesbian...allegedly.

mccullough said...

Obama received 45% of the Protestant vote and 54% of the Catholic vote.

He also received 66% of the Hispanic/Latino vote.

The man can read.

a psychiatrist who learned from veterans said...

It was a guy excommunicated by Jews that started it - the privacy thing that is - Spinoza. So Brennnan was Catholic. That guilt, 'I confess .. and to you my brothers and sisters that I have sinned in thought ... in what I have done and what I have failed to do,' sometimes bites the Catholic ideology. There is a spirit of Spinozan privacy behind the Constitution; you can see it in the First Amendment, freedom of religion, the 'consent of the governed,' etc. So it's not written explicitly, but Brennan brought it to bear on the abortion issue perhaps being sensitive out of ambivalence.

I think Ann is correct to worry, as a Roe v. Wade supporter, about this Catholic. One way to read her biography is to see her as a ward of the state, no 'get out of jail free' card for her, no Sotomayor. Thus she is loyal/devoted to the state and its agents in locis parentis. One of the first 'states' to take her beyond her economic circumstances was the Catholic Church/school. She will give it deference.

Mark in Spokane said...

Ah, the dual-loyalty card! I was wondering how long it would take for that to show up! Yes, it's like Al Smith putting in an undersea phone line to the Vatican! Or how JFK was just oozing obedience to the papal court! Yes, Catholics all simply are incapable of performing their constitutional duties because of their filial obedience to HOLY MOTHER CHURCH. Since Sotomayor was educated in Catholic schools, she obviously is simply a kind of Manchurian Candidate -- a sleeper pro-lifer who spends all of her adult life as a Latina activist, La Raza member, attorney, and judge, just so she can get on the Supreme Court and make sure that, along with Justices Scalia and Kennedy, she can vote lock-step with Catholic Social Teaching. Double good grief.

Robert said...

Clearly the Catholics run this country from behind the scenes. You can read about it in "The Protocols of the Elders of Rome"

PatCA said...

I think Ann was thinking of the diversity angle. Isn't it discriminatory against religions to have 6 Catholics?

Elliott A said...

I'm. conservative Jew #3. Many are starting to come out of the closet. when politics comes up a family holidays it is brutal. Despite the paucity of conservative jews here, Israel has many. Living certain realities changes one's outlook

Cedarford said...

William said...
Doesn't this indicate that Catholics are so thoroughly assimilated that their religion is no longer a determinative factor..


Yes. American Catholics benefited from asserting early on that they had no dual loyalty, in growing numbers...no longer conforming to Catholic orthodoxy or placing the Pope and the Vatican agenda above America. They also benefit because America never had a bad war against a Catholic nation (the Lating American interventions and the Spanish-America war were very short.) They stood against the Communists, the greatest killers of the 20th Century. No Catholic ever served on the Central Soviet, or in the GRU or NKVD. They helped Europe withstand the communists, and were key in helping with the final downfall of the Soviet Empire.

============
If Sotomayor is confirmed, then Catholics, some 26% of the population, are 150% over-represented. Had Obama picked a Jew, at 2% of the population, they would have been 33% of the court. (1600% over-represented).

Sorin said...

Why is anyone concerned that she is a Catholic? After all Nancy P. is a Catholic.You know where she stands.

Deb said...

"..Living certain realities changes one's outlook"

Yes, true. Maybe that's the problem with *most* of the Reform Jews I know.

jimbino said...

Why can't anyone get worked up over the fact that there are no scientists, engineers, or even economists among the Supremes, all of them, whether Catholic, Protestant or Jewish, just a bunch of lawyers with wishy-washy humanities training (with the possible exception of Breyer) equally culled from the bottom of the barrel regarding sophistication in science.

former law student said...

Given the Catholic emphasis on social justice, with five Catholics I would expect there to be already an overabundance of empathy for the poor -- has anyone seen it?

And considering there are as many gays as Jews in this country, we need at least two gays on the Court to maintain the proper (dis)proportion.

Freeman is right: Both Catholics and Jews have the equivalent of case law, to apply Biblical teachings to situations not contemplated in the Old and New Testaments: Jews have the Talmud, while Catholics have the writings of the Church Fathers, the Pope, et al.

PatCA said...

Freeman,
As a Catholic, yes, I see a connection between the religion and a career in law. My old friends and I always laugh at the number of good lawyers we know.

We have a complicated "criminal" code, with venial and mortal sins (misdemeanors and felonies), and the law with regard to capital punishment changes with the culture. We have punishments meted out by priest judges which, when served, clear the decks for more life, and more sin.

Anthony said...

I was in law school when Thomas was nominated. A rather liberal class mate started going off about Thomas being a Catholic and that there were too many Catholics on the Court (Thomas at the time was out of communion and was attending an Anglican chruch, and Scalia and Kenendy were sitting).

When I said I was offended and that I was Catholic, I was told that as a Catholic I could not be a good American. And remember, this was not some deep south fundamentalist but a northern liberal at a northern law school.