Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A few thoughts on Sotomayor

With my brother's wedding - plus a visit to the in-laws - this weekend, I've been a little slow to get back into the swing of things as far as following current events and whatnot. But I thought I'd share a little bit of what I've gleaned so far about President Obama's nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the US Supreme Court.

As Catholics, I think we have good reason to be proud of the progress we have made: in a country that has gone through some periods of really widespread and ugly anti-Catholicism, it now appears that two-thirds of the nation's highest court will be made up of Catholic justices. Admittedly, some justices are more fervent believers than others (for example, Justice Scalia is in regular contact with his brother, the priest, while probable future-Justice Sotomayor is described as someone who "was raised as a Catholic and attends church for family celebrations and other important events"), but that's basically American Catholicism in a nutshell...and we all pretty much understand and accept it, to greater or lesser degrees.

What also often typifies American Catholics and - in my mind - is less acceptable both from the Right and the Left, is a tendency to place political ideology higher in the hierarchy of points of reference for decision-making than personal religious beliefs. This is where the pride of accomplishment mentioned above becomes pretty bittersweet: when it comes down to the fundamental issues on which all Catholics should agree (specifically and most importantly, the "life issues"), the Catholics on the Court are all over the place. In this regard, I'm afraid that Sotomayor will identify herself as liberal first, then "Catholic" somewhere down the list. To be fair, though, Steven Waldman's thesis in a piece for The Wall Street Journal bears repeating:

[T]here’s stunningly little information about her abortion views -– and what we do know hardly paints her as a pro-choice activist.
Judge Sotomayor has ruled on only three cases indirectly related to abortion, and in each instance she took the position preferred by the pro-life forces, albeit for reasons unrelated to the merits of abortion.

So, maybe there's some hope on that front. In any case, she'd be replacing a reliably pro-choice vote...so there's nothing much lost (at least on that level) either way.

An interesting side note spotted by the "Articles of Faith" section of The Boston Globe's website actually relates to my last post, at least a little. Commenting on "the language [President Obama] used to describe the role of Catholic schools in offering children a path out of poverty," Michael Paulson quotes the President as saying, "Sonia's mom...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." Interesting language for someone who just shut down many kids' escape route from the failed Washington, D.C. public school system, isn't it?

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