A Catholic Majority on the Court?:

There will be, if Alito is confirmed. This is an extraordinary development. It was, let's recall, only forty-five years ago that JFK's Catholicism was a major issue in a presidential campaign. As Ken Kersch and Philip Hamburger have shown, anti-Catholic sentiment played a large role in the development of modern establishment clause jurisprudence (in part through the influence of that old KKKer, Hugo Black). The leading separationist group after WWII was known as Protestants [now, Americans] United for the Separation of Church and State.

We can rejoice that Catholics are now such an accepted part of the American scene that it will hardly raise any eyebrows that a fifth Catholic has been nominated to the Supreme Court (joining, of course, two Jews). I'll leave it to the sociologists to explain this phenomenom in detail, but I'd venture that it's not simply a result of more enlightenment on the part of non-Catholic Americans, but also that Post-Vatican II, the Catholic Church is less foreign, both in prayer (in that mass is now in English), sociologically (because Catholics no longer differ that much from other Americans in where they send their kids to school and how many children they have), and in terms of ideas (e.g., the Church's renouncement of anti-Jewish theology; compare the 19th century Edgardo Mortara case). In short, as with American Jews and other groups, a story of both declining prejudice and assimilation.

Tom (www):
Now let's try to reign in our hostility over the pre-modernized Vatican II church. Anti-Catholicism shouldn't be OK just because you're criticizing the Church of the last 2,000 years instead of the Church of the last 20 years, with which you're delighted. Mortara is a hammer for anti-Catholic prejudice, and you might, instead of just linking to a story about it, inform readers that Mortara himself decided to leave his family, a fully voluntary decision as he time and again reiterated. Or are you suggesting that the Church in fact was antisemitic until Vatican II?

If Catholics are now "welcome" because we have conformed to the prevailing zeitgeist-- "Mass in English? those strange folks are really just like us!"-- it's a sorry commnent on the health of Catholicism. By the way, Scalia rejects most of the modern reforms, and attends the old Latin Mass. So maybe that would make only four "acceptable" Catholics on the Court instead of five?
10.31.2005 8:38am
bearing (mail) (www):
Yeah, I'm not sure how happy I'm supposed to be about our successful assimilation into American culture.

You've got a point: we don't, demographically, look very different from the rest of the country. If that's the price we had to pay, perhaps it is too high.
10.31.2005 8:53am
DavidBernstein (mail):
Without getting into a long debate about church history, let me point out that MORTARA WAS SIX YEARS OLD!
10.31.2005 8:59am
Could it have to do with the role of Catholic law schools in opposing critical legal theories, and other deconstructionist legal movements, and the defense of more conservative theories of law? None of the justices went to a Catholic law schools, but there might have been some influence on Catholic professors and students at the top WASP law schools.

Just a thought, it's probably just a coincidence combined with the assimilation of Catholicism.
10.31.2005 9:01am
Bill Harshaw (mail) (www):
Might also reflect the move of Catholics from the Democratic Party to the Republican, given that Reps have dominated the nominations for the last 40 years.
10.31.2005 9:12am
"...because Catholics no longer differ that much from other Americans in where they send their kids to school and how many children they have..."

I'd be hard pressed to believe that's true; especially the average size of Catholic families.

Nevertheless, my experience is colored by being both Irish and Catholic, so their is an issue of collinearity...
10.31.2005 9:18am
Gary (mail):
It is typical of human nature to look at situations so differently. Roman Catholic is dead. It does not exist.
10.31.2005 9:42am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
I see a big change in this country. Back around the time of WWII, my father and aunt were involved with Catholics. Their parents put an end it to. That just wasn't done. Marriage was not acceptable, esp. given the RC requirement for raising kids of mixed marriages in that church. But then, I grew up in a neighborhood that was well mixed between Protestant and Catholic. In high school, we really never thought about who was Catholic, and who was Protestant - but this was after JFK. Things have gotten to the point where 3 of my last 4 girlfriends have been RC, as well as one of my best friends.

From that historical point of view, if you get out of the ethnic communities, Catholicism is pretty much a non-issue these days in much of this country.

On the other hand, a lot of Catholics have moved over to where I think they find a natural home in the Republican Party. This has been long acoming. My father had a Irish RC law partner, who recalls fondly having JFK sitting on his porch during his 1960 presidential campaign (he was the Democratic county chair - and Kennedy's CO state chair Whizzer White was along that day). Yet, by the time he died, he was voting an almost straight Republican ticket (but was still a registered Democrat).

Note though that the move of Catholics to the Republican party has been primarily of the more devout. Those who don't take the Church's teachings overly seriously, whether they be about abortion or divorce, are significantly more likely to stay Democrats.

But what that means is that the devout Catholics who move over to the Republican party find that they often have as much, if not more, in common with evangelical or conservative Protestants as they do with their more liberal Catholic brethern.

Besides, the Republican party is no longer the WASP party. The President who put two African-Americans in a row in at Sec. at State has a brother (JEB) and family who are Roman Catholic.

Let me also add that there may be more comfort in nominating a Catholic over a non-Catholic "conservative" in that there be some thought that a Catholic is less likely to pull a Souter with the Vatican breathing down his neck.
10.31.2005 9:49am
Harriet Miers' Law Partner (mail):
Mr. Bernstein wrote:

anti-Catholic sentiment played a large role in the development of modern establishment clause jurisprudence

Probably because the Catholics like Scalia want the government to fund their parochial school operations that instruct little minds that their first loyalty is to a guy wearing a white dress in Rome. It's clear, either in the past or in the present, that Catholics like Scalia want to tear down the war between church and state so they can get their hands on government money.
10.31.2005 10:00am
bearing (mail) (www):
Well, if nothing else this thread is going to demonstrate that anti-Catholic sentiment is alive and well.
10.31.2005 10:04am
Voorhies (mail):
Is tom suggesting that if you are critical of the Catholic Church of the last 2000 years your are anti-Catholic. In the sense that you resent or dislike persons who are practicing Catholic's today?
10.31.2005 10:13am
Zachary Calo (mail):
It's shameless self-promotion to be sure, but that's what people in my position do: for more on the history of anti-Catholicism and Establishment Clause jurisprudence, I have a piece in 91 Virginia Law Review 1037 (2005).
10.31.2005 10:14am
Bezuhov (mail):
Given entropy's inexorable pull, societies that achieve some level of widespread freedom will tend to regress toward more authoritarian structures absent powerful countervailing forces. See (of course) ancient Greece, Rome, Ming China, et. al.

Sort of a cultural hardening of the arteries.

The interesting thing is how the Catholic Church contains within itself both the authoritarian structure and a powerful countervailing force (the guy it ostensibly worships). Guess that's what makes it "catholic".
10.31.2005 10:27am
Roach (mail) (www):
I suppose Catholics should apologize for the Mortara case when Protestants and Jews apologize for the violence against Catholics in the wars of religion and under the Bolshevik regime in Russia, whose early leadership was predominantly Jewish. In other words, none of us needs to apologize at all for anything done in the past, in other countries, often in contravention of our respective religious doctrines. It's silly to bring up age-old fights such as these, especially when in America most of these animosities of the "old world" have never been as pronounced as in Europe. Specifically, American Catholics have uniquely embraced the liberal ideal of America explicitly, whether in the form of a JFK or an Orestes Brownson. That said, Arthur Schlesinger once noted that anti-Catholicism was an abiding theme in American social history. If anyone has been consistently discriminated against and openly put down in America, it has been Catholics.

I think one reason for the dominance of Jews and Catholics in the law is that both of our traditions have a long history of linguistic interpretation and detailed analysis of laws, rules, and regulations. Protestantism, has a strong strain of anti-intellectualism, rooted in the emotivist ideal of an "individual relationship with God." This is not true of all Protestants or variations of Protestantism, of course, but it's pretty central to numerous Protestant sects, where contempt is openly shown for "the man who would rather read Shakespeare than the Bible." While Catholics and Jews embrace the ideas of authority and tradition within their religious traditions, Protestantism has in many respects broken them down. Even now, I'd wager, Catholics and Jews are overrepresented in the learned professions, specifically law and medicine. I think this comes from the culture of respect for learning as an end in itself, which is largely abesnt from Protestant traditions.

I think this anti-intellectualism explains in part the lack of serious constitutional scholarlship by a Harriett Miers, nor the recognition of this fact by Bush and Miers herself. For both of them, approaching a text with a "good heart" is all that is needed. A lifetime of study is likely only to get one into trouble with unnecessary, byzantine complexity.
10.31.2005 10:29am
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
Hey, I can still do the altar boy's end of a Latin Mass.

Now, we're set up for the final takeover. We've got our guns stockpiled, and the Pope is ready to fly in in his papal jet, codenamed the Bird of Pray. I think it's being put off until Guy Fawkes Day, so he can canonize the martyr on the steps of the Capitol.

The Pope will take back 15,000 Marines as reinforcements for his Swiss Guard, and so that if any future dictator sneers "how many divisions has the Pope?" he can reply "one more than you have plenary indulgences."

I suspect the overrepresentation of Catholics and RC law schools is due to the fact that the church has essentially used legal reasoning patterns for over a millenium. Its theology even resembles the caselaw system. If you can never admit to being wrong, you must distinguish or re-interpret what you said before.

I read once that Pius IX came out with a bull in the 1870s where, he, well, flipped out. Condemned democracy and freedom of expression. Of course he caught hades over it. He could have backed down (it wasn't ex cathedra), but hated to do it. So some theologians reinterpreted it for him. He hadn't been talking about the real world, but about an ideal world in which absolute truth is known, so the only purpose of disputing it is to mislead. It is natural for a religious type to think of ideal worlds rather than real ones. His position was entirely logical, it was just misunderstood. You might say they applied a narrowing construction to his teaching...
10.31.2005 10:41am
Harriet Miers' Law Partner (mail):
Bearing, why is it considered anti-catholic to state the obvious? The Catholic Church doesn't increase its numbers in American by proselytization; they rely on large numbers of births to up their membership, and they must retain those members by continued reinforcement of Catholic doctrine during the formative years. That's why parochial education is such a huge deal for the Catholic hierarchy; it's the way they keep their members.

In fairness, this is also what some Protestant churches do, too, although they are much more focused on evangelization as the preferred method of increasing their memberships.

I'd be wiling to wager that the main reason behind any significant increase in the number of Roman Catholics in this country is the influx of immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries in our hemisphere and not from any significant number of conversions. Based on my experience in the South and Southwest, I'd also wager a fair number of these Catholics have been successfully wooed away from the Catholic Church by the Southern Baptists and other evangelical denominations and by groups such as the Mormons.

Simply put, without a form of religious segregation, the Catholic Church can't compete with evangelical Christianity. As you all on this blog like to point out, the problem lies with the Catholic Church, not the protestants. And since they fail in the marketplace, they do what every threatened legacy players does: they seek protection from the market through the form of government subsidies.

Again, how is that anti-Catholic?
10.31.2005 10:53am
Alixtii O'Krul V (mail) (www):
Why do I suspect Bruce is conflating "those who don't take the Church's teachings overly seriously, whether they be about abortion or divorce," with those who dissent with the Church's teaching on those issue? If I'm right, he's commiting a gross mischaracterization.
10.31.2005 10:59am
Let me also add that there may be more comfort in nominating a Catholic over a non-Catholic "conservative" in that there be some thought that a Catholic is less likely to pull a Souter with the Vatican breathing down his neck.

Interesting, but isn't that essentially the argument used by numerouos anti-Catholic critics: that Catholics obey the Vatican rather than the U.S. Constitution or their own consciences?
10.31.2005 11:09am
"The Pope will take back 15,000 Marines as reinforcements for his Swiss Guard, and so that if any future dictator sneers 'how many divisions has the Pope?' he can reply 'one more than you have plenary indulgences.'"


I have it on good authority that the Holy See is currently training an elite group of soldiers who will fly the flag of the newly revived Templar Order.
10.31.2005 11:17am
Gordon (mail):

It was, let's recall, only forty-five years ago that JFK's Catholicism was a major issue in a presidential campaign.

And with Catholic Bishops threatening to excommunicate or deny communion to those who don't toe the line with the Catholic Church's radical beliefs on reproductive issues, it has become a major issue once again.

Thanks, Popes John Paul and Benedict.
10.31.2005 11:22am
Ryan (mail) (www):
Lest we forget in all of our talk about Catholicism, the premise of this post isn't even true. There are currently three Catholics on the Court and Alito would make four. Unless we're redefining the word "majority" this is just false.

Note: Clarence Thomas may have been Catholic before, but he attends an Episcopal church now.
10.31.2005 11:48am
Bob Bobstein (mail):
A little off-topic, I know, but...

How fruitful, really, is the search for the Evil Historical Roots of one side or another in today's political debates?

Some here have at least hinted that anti-Catholic prejudice is the reason for the way we've read the Establishment Clause. I've seen someone write that the anti-abortion movement was stirred up by Protestants fearful of being overrun by Catholic breeders.

Even if both of these things are true (I really don't know), does it matter? I think that some people today genuinely believe that abortion is wrong; and that some people genuinely believe that the government shouldn't be excessively entangled with religion.

Even if someone with similar views 50 years ago had accompanying views that all right-thinking people now hold to be abhorrent, I don't see what impact that has on evaluating the good-faith pro-life or pro-separation of church and state views of people today.
10.31.2005 11:49am
Jacques Galdarnet (mail):
Isn't Sandra Day O'Connor a Catholic? Therefore, Alito is simply one Catholic replacing another.
10.31.2005 11:57am
chris (mail):
According to this site, Clarence Thomas is now indeed a Catholic.
10.31.2005 12:00pm
Gordon (mail):
Why am I not surprised that Clarence Thomas is no longer an Episcopalian?
10.31.2005 12:02pm
James Kabala (mail):
O'Connor, despite her Irish surname, is not a Catholic; Thomas, however, has returned to the Church at some point in the years since his confirmation (I believe circa 1996 or so).
HMLP: A lot of what you say may have had some truth in the forties, but it bears little resemblance to present-day reality. The Catholic birth rate is no higher than the Protestant birth rate, or not much higher. Catholic schools and C.C.D. programs these days are at least as likely to be nests of dissent and theological incompetence as they are likely to be Catholic robot factories.
And as for the "man in a white dress": This oft-repeated line is the stupidest cheap shot ever. The Pope, like many people on formal occasions, wears a robe such as was worn in the classical period. Do male judges wear dresses? Do male students wear dresses on graduation day?
10.31.2005 12:26pm
Mark Hayden (mail):
If confirmed, Samuel Alito will be the fifth Catholic justice of the Supreme Court (Thomas, Scalia, Kennedy, and Roberts being the others). That is 55% of the court as compared to 24% of the US population. (This percentage of the population is from a study titled "Americans Struggle with Religion's Role at Home and Abroad", released on March 20, 2002 by the Pew organization. A Harris poll in 2000 put that number at 19.9%). It would also mean that, of the 13 Catholics ever to have served on the Supreme Court, 5 would be current.
My question is whether this is coincidence or by design?
As I was brought up in the Roman Catholic Church, Baptised and Confirmed, and having a majority of my family still practicing (my mother converted to Catholicism seven years ago), I have a measure of respect and understanding of the religion. Many of my progressive/liberal beliefs are a result of the Church's teachings. So I am no knee-jerk anti-Catholic (or self-loathing Catholic).
So, what are we to think about this development? Is it coincidence that, since Roe v. Wade, Republican presidents have nominated 9 persons to be elevated to the Supreme Court and 6 are Catholics (not to mention Meirs, who was brought up Catholic, which would make 7 out of 9)?
The Church's position on politicians (and, presumably Justices) and abortion is summarized by the following paragraph from then Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI):
"5. Regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia, when a person's formal cooperation becomes manifest (understood, in the case of a Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws), his Pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church's teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist."
Thus, bishops informed John Kerry, in 2004, he would not be eligible to recieve communion because of his position on abortion.
I'm not saying that a person should be rejected or confirmed based on his or her religious beliefs, but I can't help wondering if that is why these nominees were nominated and if the Pope's letter would influence/have influenced his vote on issues before the courts.
Gordon is right, the Pope(s)are responsible for making this an issue again.
10.31.2005 12:31pm
DJW (mail):
Bruce Hayden wrote:

Note though that the move of Catholics to the Republican party has been primarily of the more devout. Those who don't take the Church's teachings overly seriously, whether they be about abortion or divorce, are significantly more likely to stay Democrats.

But please also note that those Catholics who take the church's teachings on social justice, stewardship of the environment, the death penalty, and just war are significantly more likely to stay Democrats. Associating the church's teachings with a single political party is missing the complexity of the catholic community.
10.31.2005 12:56pm
A non-catholic christian:
I noticed this a while back, during the Roberts confirmation.

The thought that came to my mind was "if we are worried at all about diversity, then we really should have some more non-catholic christians on the court." A large majority of the cournty falls into this category, but only two Justices will fall into the same category.

I really don't care what a Justice's religion is as long as he or she is a good Justice (originalist). I wouldn't have a problem with an atheist either (even though I might be considered a religious zealot) as long as she was unbiased toward religion and a faithful interpretor of the constitution. But I think the next nominee should not be catholic. Yes this amounts to a religious test, but to have 6 catholics on the court would is not a diverse enough group for the court. In my opinion a small group of people from the same religion should not decide what the religion clauses means.
10.31.2005 1:00pm
Sydney Carton (www):
Harriet Miers Partner,

You should google more. The statistics show that while immigration is a large part behind the growing numbers of Catholics in America, conversions are not insignificant (and most of those conversions come from evangelical protestants). To state that Catholicism cannot compete with Protestantism is flatly ridiculous, and suggests a sinister bigotry on your part (which your other comments have greatly confirmed). The Catholic church does initiate conversion campaigns directed at evangelicals, though, in the interests of ecunemical understanding.
10.31.2005 1:01pm
Sydney Carton (www):
Sheesh. That last line should've read: "The Catholic Church does NOT initiate conversion campaigns directed at evangelicals..."

Sorry for the mix-up.
10.31.2005 1:03pm
James Kabala (mail):
It turned out in the end that Miers was never brought up Catholic; there were many conflicting reports on this issue, and in the end the Diocese of Dallas was forced to search their records and declare that there was no record of her ever having been baptized a Catholic or having received any other sacraments. She was apparently raised as an Episcopalian.
Also, Bork was not a Catholic at the time of his nomination; he actually didn't convert until a few years ago. His wife was always a Catholic, which may be the source of the idea that he has always been one.
10.31.2005 1:03pm
Mr. Mandias (mail) (www):
While I have it on good authority that after Alito completes the papist takeover of the court, interdicts will now be announced via high-altitude EMP.

'God is on the side of the big battalions' will enter the vocabulary of theological discourse.

But Jack Chick's canonization will still languish.
10.31.2005 1:05pm
Cheburashka (mail):
Is this correctly viewed as a Catholic majority or a Jew shortage?

I still think Kozinski was a better choice.
10.31.2005 1:09pm
Robert Schwartz (mail):
"I think this anti-intellectualism explains in part the lack of serious constitutional scholarlship by a Harriett Miers, nor the recognition of this fact by Bush and Miers herself."

Or it could mean that they both had better things to do, which is true of 99.9999% of humanity.
10.31.2005 1:17pm
Quick (mail):
HMLP You mock the attire of the Pope. You ascribe base, money grubbing motives to Catholics for gov't funds and state that Catholics can't compete with evangelicals unless they're educated separately. (I guess non-Catholics learn their faith by magic.)

You're saying that Catholic Doctrine cannot stand up to critical analysis or "fails in the marketplace", whatever that means in a religious context, without offering any explanation why.

You further say that the only way Catholicism grows is by people being born into it, clearly implying that Catholics don't really think about what they believe.

That is how it is anti-Catholicism. If you mock our leadership, slander our adherents and don't give us credit for making informed decisions like you can, we'll see it for what it is. Do you now?
10.31.2005 1:30pm
fred (mail):
Kennedy might call himself Catholic, but that does not mean that he is Catholic any more than my calling myself Zorastrian makes me a Zorastrian. Kennedy is not Catholic. By virture of his support of the murder of innocents, he cannot "rightfully claim to share fully and practically the Catholic faith" ("Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics", November 1998, the United States Catholic Conference).
10.31.2005 1:36pm
Gordon (mail):
fred, you've just made my point very well. The Popes and Catholic bishops, by threatening politicians and justices who don't toe their line with communion denial or worse, have raised the specter of "the tunnel between the White House and the Vatican" raised against Al Smith in 1928 all over again.
10.31.2005 1:39pm
Sydney Carton (www):

Since when is denying communion, or even excommunication, the establishment of any religion? Frankly, it's not about trying to get the government to do things, but making sure that prominent politicians do not mislead the faithful with their heretical stances.
10.31.2005 1:55pm
Harriet Miers' Law Partner (mail):
I decided to do some googling. I only spentg 15 minutes on this, but here is what I found.

According to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, "Since 1960, 71% of the U.S. Catholic population growth has been due to the growth in the number of Hispanics in the U.S. population overall." As far as membership goes, "[i]n 2002, 82,292 people were received into full communion with the Catholic Church. In addition, 81,013 adults and 1,005,490 infants were baptized." So explain to me how "conversions are not insignificant (and most of those conversions come from evangelical protestants)"?

Assuming these numbers were a reasonable representation of modern activity in the church, and the 1 million in live births pretty much explains how the Catholic Church grows from 53 million in 1990 to 62 million in 2000 (the numbers available from the American Religious Data Archive). Even if the overall Catholic birth rate is declining, I'd be willing to bet that the birth rate among Latino Catholics is greater than that of non-Latino Catholics, and hence, provides the vast majority of those 1 million infants that were baptized.

The past project manager of The Hispanic Churches in Public Life study stated that "[f]or every one Latino who returns to the Church [after a time in a protestant or evangelical church], about four leave [permanently]."

I apologize for making the "man in the white dress" comment. From what I have read, the Pope wears a cassock pretty much all the time, not just when he is in public. I believe even judges take off their robes in chambers (at least the one I worked for did). But looking back, it is a cheap shot, and I won't use it again.

I've read back over and can't find any "sinister bigotry" in my comments. I am not advocating, for example, that Catholics be barred from holding public office. I merely point out what I think are fair points: the Catholic Church is an authoritarian institution that relies primarily on the births of its adherents to generate significant gains in its membership; that it relies on parochial education to retain these adherents; and that the Church cannot compete in the theological marketplace, as evidenced by the startingly low number of adult baptisms (as opposed to the adult receptions into full communion, which as I understand it, are those Anglicans, Orthodox, etc., who come over with a valid infant baptism already).

I have other thoughts concerning the notion that Catholics have "a long history of linguistic interpretation and detailed analysis of laws, rules, and regulations" that is helpful to a modern democracy. I certainly agree that those raised in the Jewish faith are much more intellectually honest, and think Cheburashka might have hit the nail on the head as to how to frame the question.
10.31.2005 2:05pm
fred (mail):

Glad I could "make your point". Let me amplify: The rules for being a Catholic are very clear. It's a voluntary association, and persons such as Kennedy and Pelosi voluntarily opt out of the organization. Such persons, however, either aren't smart enough or honest enough to recognize that they're no longer members in good standing, i.e., they're no longer Catholic, and should rather join
the Methodist church.

10.31.2005 2:07pm
Lex (mail):
Religious minorities (Catholics &Jews) would now comprise 78% (7 of 9) of the Supreme Court, representing 24% and 2% of the American population. The former are very underrepresented in the Ivy League, but are now overrepresented on the top court. Yes Catholics have assimilated and gone over to the right (as are some Jews, historically allied with the left), but the bigger story is that of majority American protestantism itself, divided between the weak left-leaning WASP established denominations following European protestants into intellectual lethargy and low-birth-rate extinction, and on the other hand strong, right-leaning evangelicals constituting a majority of the majority (Miers, Texas, SMU) who cannot manage entry to the court (or the Ivy League for that matter).
10.31.2005 2:15pm
James Kabala (mail):
163,000 converts a year seems to me like a strikingly large number. If all these converts lived in the same city, it would be slightly smaller than Dayton, Ohio and slightly larger than Springfield, Massachusetts. 163,000 was actually a larger number than I expected. How many millions of converts a year does HMLP expect the Church to have? Furthermore, if the accusation is that Catholicism is less attractive to converts than other faiths, especially evangelical denominations - indeed, Catholicism "cannot compete in the theological marketplace" - the numbers are only meaningful if compared with the number of converts made by other denominations. Are those numbers higher or lower?
10.31.2005 2:32pm
You should google more. The statistics show that while immigration is a large part behind the growing numbers of Catholics in America, conversions are not insignificant (and most of those conversions come from evangelical protestants).

According to the American Religous Identification Survey, roughly 4,300,000 US adults who did not self-identify as Catholic in 1990 did in 2001, and roughly 9,500,000 US adults who did self-identify as Catholic in 1990 did not in 2001.

The growth of Catholicism in the USA appears to be coming from births and immigration rather than from conversions, because the latter contribution is a net negative.

I state this to try and put some numbers behind these arguments, not because I think the argument itself has any validity. Nobody's denomination has a plurality anywhere close to 50%; if religion is a popularity contest then everybody has lost.
10.31.2005 2:41pm
Quick (mail):
HMLP said "I certainly agree that those raised in the Jewish faith are much more intellectually honest" (than Catholics, in context). You just can't keep from stepping in it, can you? Do you think that its "sinister bigotry" or maybe garden variety bigoty, to believe that Catholics are not up to par with other people on intellectual honesty. Give us a reason so we know that it isn't bigotry that drives your views.

I accept your apology for mocking the Pope.

What exactly is a "theological marketplace"? Do you think that Islam is the Truth because there are more Muslims than Evangelicals? Or because of their rapid increase in market share?
10.31.2005 2:55pm
tylerh (mail):
"Given entropy's inexorable pull" -- Entropy is not a force<, so entropy can not "exert a pull" on anything. Apparent Bezuhov slept through the physics lectures where this point was belabored.

Can anyone tell me if Bezuhov's history is as bad as his/her physics?
10.31.2005 2:58pm
Jim O'Sullivn (mail) (www):
When I was a kid growing up on Long Island in the late 50's, early 60's, St. Ignatius had masses on the hour in the church building, and on the half-hour in the school auditorium, between 6am and 12:pm every Sunday. All of them were SRO. All of the priests were native-born Americans. Now, there's no need for the auditorium, and there's plenty of room to sit in Church The sermons are delivered mostly in impenetrable foreign accents. Most of the empty seats represent people now at soccer practice or playing golf. You see them only at Christmas and Easter, or at weddings and funerals. I'm amazed that the RC Church in America can be taking over the Supreme Court while it continues to spiral out of existence.
10.31.2005 3:08pm
Sydney Carton (www):
Conversion are not insignificant because approximately 160,000 people joining the Catholic Church per year is a boatload of people. True, it's easier to be born into a church than to make an adult decision to change religions and become Catholic. I don't have numbers on contra-conversions (Catholics becoming Protestant) but I'd suspect it's not so high.
10.31.2005 3:08pm
Not to get to deep here, but Jesus did say (I'm paraphrasing here): "Peter you are Rock, and on this Rock I will build by church and against it the gates of hell will not prevail."

My point: While Anti-Catholicism is rampant in the US and on this board (yes, HMLP you too.), RC was founded by God and will continue and prevail until the end of time. So do we have too many Catholics on the SCOTUS or not enough? God knows, I do not. And it's not really the point of most of these entries.

When the time comes that we can all focus on the precepts of ones faith vs. number of conversions and the challenges our society invokes on the religious of mind, then we will have come to sound, reasonable and as a result (I hope) less bigoted place.

Lastly, and to prempt an arguement, the RC, while founded by God and is perfect, its human implementation is prone to the same errors and faults of all humans.
10.31.2005 3:26pm
Arminius (mail):
Perhaps this simply reflects the religious composition of the legal profession. What percentage of all layers is Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, agnostic...? I'd love to be informed, if anyone knows.
10.31.2005 3:42pm
eddie (mail):
For Harriet Mier's Law Partner

It is interesting that you appear to think that it is ok for the government to deny assistance to parents who do not endorse the educational philosophies that dominate the government supported schools. It appears that your view is that it is ok for the government to favor the current philosophies prevalent in the public schools to the detriment of parents with differing philosophies. This blatant discrimination (perhaps bigotry) against parents who do not believe like the supporters of the public schools is generally so engrained in our society that to identify it as I just have is to be looked upon as a loon. However, are my tax dollars going to support parents in getting their children educated or is it going to support the public schools? A related question, who has primary responsibility for the education of children, the parents or the government? I have to say the overall societal acceptance of the proposition that it is ok to take my money to ostensibly aid parents in educating their children and at the same time deny some parents this aid because they have a different view of education than that of the public schools is obnoxious, appalling and unjust.
10.31.2005 3:57pm
RightWingsparkle (mail) (www):
Geeze. I don't think I have ever been on a thread with such notions about the Catholic Church that are as ridiculous as these.

I am a devout Catholic. A convert no less. I don't think we Catholics spend a lot of time figuring out ways to make everyone Catholic. We figure our life is the best witness (as Mother Teresa pointed out many times) And I certainly don't think we think about it when a Supreme Court nominee is selected. I didn't even realize he was Catholic until I read this thread.

Those of us who are conservative Republicans know what we want in a judge. Our faith may influence our view, but we don't confuse that faith with politics or judicial power.

Pointing out how many Catholics don't live their faith or what Popes messed up in the past in no way describes our faith or diminishes it.
10.31.2005 3:59pm
Gordon (mail):
Sydney and Fred: The Pope certainly has the right to excommunicate or deny communion to anyone he chooses to.

But any sitting Judge or Justice who decides a case based upon the precepts of the Pope instead of the United States Constitution, Statutes, and the Common Law has no business being a Judge or Justice.

And I find it ironic that the Pope is doing exactly what anti-Catholic bigots said the Pope would do when they opposed Al Smith or John F. Kennedy.

By the way, I have no doubt that Judge Alito tell the Pope to pack sand if the Pope tried to give him an order on how to decide a case.
10.31.2005 3:59pm
eddie (mail):

We can only hope that all of the Justices follow their consciences when carrying out their judicial responsibilities.
10.31.2005 4:05pm
eddie (mail):
Ditto RightWingsparkle.
10.31.2005 4:07pm
Tony Kennedy:
Hey, I got it! If I cite an encyclical as precedent, it's not religious, it's just citing international law! If I can cite Belgium, why not Vatican City?

Next, maybe the 10 Commandments will be OK, as they show one wandering tribe's legal system!
10.31.2005 4:09pm
Sydney Carton (www):

What exactly is the Pope "doing"? I don't see him, or any other Bishop or Cardinal for that matter, doing something which would cross the line. Since you say the Pope "is doing exactly what anti-Catholic bigots said the Pope would do", I'm very, very, very curious to find out what it is he is doing, and how he's playing to that sterotype, if any. Please be generous in your examples.

Additionally, what exactly are you worried about? Honestly. Do you really think the Pope would "order" a result in a case? Is that what you're saying? Do you think he, or any other Vatican official or Bishop, has said that in the past?

Do you think that, independent of any such order or not, a judge would decide a case in one way merely to uphold what he believes to be his faith? Do you think that would apply necessarily more to Catholics than adherents of other religions? If so, why? What basis can you possibly make for such an accusation, if so?
10.31.2005 4:10pm
eddie (mail):
Some of you seem to fear us automaton Catholics, who may soon have five automaton Catholics on the Supreme Oligarchy. That's an attempt to satire by the way.
10.31.2005 4:15pm
Quick (mail):
That's pretty good Tony! :)
10.31.2005 4:18pm
David Zarmi (mail):
This goes way back to Roach's post and Jews and Bolshevism: It is ridiculous to copmpare the actions of the Roman Catholic Church and the Pope to those of individuals who happened to be Jewish (and then really only by Jewish religious law or the latwer Nuremburg and not their own beliefs).
Firstly, the Bolshevik Jews did not kill people as Jews, they killed them as Bolsheviks, believers in a system antithetical to Judaism and under which they killed large number of Jews, as well (I once read a statement from a Russian Communist saying that he only wished that those from Christian families would persecute Christians as muich as those from Jewish families persecuted Jews under the Soviet government).
Secondly, the Catholic Church is an organized religious structure, so that the Pope has the authority to speak for all Catholics. No Jew has that authority; Judaism in general is highly disorganized and the actions Bolshevik heretics cannot possible be ascribed to the Jewish religion or other Jews. Marx may have been a Jew in my book (i.e. Jewish Law), but he certainly did not consider himself one and would have hated me for acting as one.
Thirdly, the regime in the Soviet Union was never "predominantly Jewish." Many Jews were ionvolved, perhaps in numbers greater than those that existed in the Pale of Settlement (where Jews were allowed to live in Russia), but that doesn't make it predominantly Jewish, just like the Supreme Court is not predominantly Jewish.
I am not a Protestant nor an expert in protestantism, but it seems unfair to blanketly refer to extremely diverse religious groups by the term "Protestant" and then blame them all for the actions of one religious group. Can you honestly blame the Methodists for Anglican or Episcopalian actions? Catholocism, again, does have a hierarchy with the Pope at the top. Just like we could blame Anglican or Russian Orthodox actions on their leadership.
That said, I think Roach certainly does have a point about Protestantism and anti-elitism and intellectualism (if individual interpretations are correct, then no rigorous anlytical methods need be utilized). The priesthood is seen as the highest calling by Catholics, a learned profession, just as the study of the Law was (and is still in many circles) seen as the highest calling by Jews. Those Jews who have given up Jewish Law have replaced this reverence with other studies, including American Law. Perhaps the number of Jews in law out of proportion to their numbers (even more than Catholics) can be understood because while Catholics believe that the priesthood was for a minority, Jews felt that all Jews had to study the Law. But it's really all conjecture.
10.31.2005 4:29pm
taigaintucson (mail):
"Or are you suggesting that the Church in fact was antisemitic until Vatican II?"

Well, actually, it was. The Catholic Church held that all Jews, including those who weren't alive at the time, were responsible for the death of Jesus until Vatican II.
10.31.2005 4:49pm
Quick (mail):
Catholics have done terrible things down through the ages (just like everybody else) but that is different from saying the Church itself was anti-semitic.
I'd make the same case for some of the actions of Catholics as David Z. regarding Bolshevik Jews not acting in there capacity as Jews but on behalf of king or country rather than church.
Would a pre-Vatican II church that was anti-semitic risk so much to rescue Jews from Hitler?
10.31.2005 5:30pm
Sydney Carton (www):

"The Catholic Church held that all Jews, including those who weren't alive at the time, were responsible for the death of Jesus until Vatican II."

What a bunch of B.S. Doing so would contradict one of the primary tenets of Catholicism: that because we are sinners, humanity itself is collectively responsible for the sin that Jesus died to save us from.

Perhaps you'd like to cite an encyclical which promotes your theory? I didn't think so.
10.31.2005 5:46pm
Harriet Miers' Law Partner (mail):
As I recall, Augustine was a huge promoter of the whole "Jews Killed Jesus" theory, and I think the Inquisition targeted Jews for punitive action and declared the Talmud to be blasphemous.
10.31.2005 6:21pm
Gordon (mail):

This is from a statement in 2004 by then Cardinal Ratzinger:

Regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia, when a person's formal cooperation becomes manifest (understood, in the case of a Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws), his Pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church's teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist.

Question No. 1 is, of course, whether Ratzinger-Benedict's statement applies to Catholic judges as well as politicians.

As for your larger question, all federal judges should decide cases based upon the United States Constitution, the United States Code, the Code of Federal Regulations, and controlling or persuasive case law.

The statements of the Pope or any other religious leader, including evangelical right wing Protestants, mainline left wing Protestants, Muslims, etc. are not relevant independent of the sources of authority cited above.
10.31.2005 6:37pm
RightWingsparkle (mail) (www):

Of course it applys to Catholic Judges and poltitians! A person, no matter what he does for a living, has to decide if he wishes to follow the teachings of the Church or not. He is FREE to not do so in the name of his politics. The Church also has a right to say, "well, you are going against teaching so you must not receive the Eucharist." Both have that right.

The politican is free to do what his conscience bears. The Church does not tell a politican what he must do in govt. It tells a politican what he must do to be Catholic.

It's not like many issues force a Catholic to make this choice. In fact, I can only think of the grave sin of abortion.

But, in my view of course, the unborn child has right to life no matter what any Church says. I think the "right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" pretty much covers it for me.
10.31.2005 7:23pm
guest paranoid (mail):
Maybe we ARE seeing a permanent religio-majority on SCOTUS. You'll notice how ethnic and cultural groups "specialize" when they first arrive in these united states. Indian budget hotel, African taxi, Mexican landscaper, dishboy (and now construction worker), Italian pizzeria, etc. Eventually, perhaps, this manifests itself in the professions and intellectual work.

What surprises me is how retrograde this choice is. The bulk of the Italian-Americans came BEFORE WWI. And yet you have Scalia and Alito's (Santorum) parents coming here shortly after the peak of that immigration. And we don't see Asians (yes, a catch-all category) and Hispanics(mostly Mexican) in this choice. These groups have yet to reach their peak in this country through immigration.

I doubt the keep-a-slot-for-a- Hispanic-for-SCOTUS-theory as their percentages are nowhere near most asian groups considered individually among advance degree professionals. I'll bet when Alito is confirmed he'll get maybe one or 2 clerks out of 4 or 5 who are Asian—not Hispanic. Rather, the hispanics will be more represented in elective office first due to sheer numbers. Making them somewhat similar to the IRISH. They'll have to match the rate of college-education attainment to show up in SCOTUS before the Asians. Not likely. But they can show up in some choice Cabinet positions first.

Compare this to the jews who were first represented by Brandeis, frankfurter roughly AT peak numbers (excluding holocaust-wave).

The post-soviet infusion of jews keeps their numbers from suffering a non-evangelical mainline protestant (presb, episcop., methodist) waspish fate. But,intermarriage is HIGH with jews. It seems it will further dilute them even when the 90's wave of immigration is considered. They may be 25+% of ivy-leaguers now, but perhaps their numbers will start to decrease without further action. What is Monica Lewinsky doing now?

But they may still specialize within the legal profession. So we have the jewish defense attorney (Kuntsler, Shapiro, Dershowitz). Ruth Bader Ginsburg was first a ACLU advocate. A prominent role for Jews in entertainment might also show a lot of jews in talent agencies, entertainment and media law…..representing clients.

So how does this relate to their ethnic/religious experience?
10.31.2005 7:26pm
Gordon (mail):
Right Wing Sparkle:

You are right about politicians. But do you really think that JUDGES are free to do what their conscience bears, when their religious leader tells then "rule against abortion, or you're outta here!"?

Any Judge who thinks that his rulings will be based upon the commands of his religious authorities is not fit to serve on the Court and should resign or be impeached.

What is the difference between a Catholic Judge deciding a case based upon the Pope's relgious edicts, and a left-wing judge deciding a case based upon his personal notions of equity and justice?
10.31.2005 7:37pm
guest paranoid (mail):
Well, I'd compare the early religious experience of jews and catholics.

Young catholics are INDOCTRINATED into the faith by CCD now taught in the vernacular.

Young jews are taught a cultural tradition by going to Hebrew school. Learning this language to be proficient enough to read from the torah at bar mitzvah is the goal.

Furthermore, I don't think I remember anything in RC tradition mystical and an interpretive community like Kabbalah. (Maybe the scholastics and early gnostics [which is common to all Christians]) And I don't remember any jewish group cracking skulls and disciplining like the Jesuits.

We have a poor phrase for judicial review: that it is "interpreting the constitution." For these RC-jurists issuing opinions is like producing encyclicals on canon law. This is like detailing the city-of-god world system in the thomist and Augustinian traditions as if by following a mathematical proof. This is _not_ "interpreting" the constitution but rather treating it as axiomatic. If the framers SAID this, then this follows in whatever new issue comes before them. Leave your interpretation at the door for there is only one.

As the torah was written so long ago, and Hebrew wasn't a spoken language, once the jewish youth learns the grammar of Hebrew he/she can speculate the meaning of what that Hebrew is saying. Or even alternative interpretations. Next, perhaps by acquiring this skill they are very able to represent clients and advocate because they can see different perspectives and what are the possible motivations and mindset of their client or of God.

Maybe the evangelical wasps will keep a majority as prosecutors.

I await the branch of federal govt. or specialty in law that will become dominated by muslims as they are starting to come more and more to this country. From my slight understanding of Islam: there isn't a comparable notion of god's love like that in Christianity where God gave his only begotten son. Islam is only submission to Allah's laws—perhaps this prefers THEM to be prosecutors who won't go soft on criminals?
10.31.2005 7:56pm
Jason Jonas (mail):
> "Mortara himself decided to leave his family, a fully voluntary decision as he time and again reiterated"

So everything's in order then. You won't object if Ian Paisley abducts some Irish Catholic kids, raises them as fundamentalist Protestants, and then lets them make a free decision on adulthood as to which religion they'll adopt?

As for judges choosing between the US Const and the Catholic Catechism... there is nothing in the US Const that requires an RC judge to contravene his or her church's doctrines. Ie, nothing binding on the Supreme Court itself (as opposed to particular interpretations of the Const, which are adopted by the SC and binding on the other actors in the legal system). If there were a clause denouncing Popery, or barring the Jesuits from entering the country, or declaring "Every pregnant person has the right to have his oor her baby killed before it is fuully born, or afterwards if it's deformed"... maybe then, aliter for Alito. But there's no such clauses. Also, since it lost its temporal power base, the Papacy has rediscovered the merits of religious freedom -- apparently it was on the desk of Catholic doctrine all along, but for centuries someone placed the beer coaster of "Error has no rights" over it.
10.31.2005 7:56pm
I haven't read all the prior postings, but has anyone noted that the five Catholics, if Alito is confirmed, will presumably be the five most conservative justices? I'm not making any point -- perhaps it's just a coincidence.
10.31.2005 8:59pm
Sydney Carton (www):

The statement made by Ratzinger was in response to the repeated statements of politicians saying: "I'm a faithful Catholic and I support abortion laws." There is zero consistency in being a Catholic and supporting abortion laws. It has nothing to do with judging at all, periodl. Ratzinger's statement means that a Catholic politican cannot possibly expect to write a law allowing abortion, or euthenasia, or genocide, or torture, and say that he's still Catholic (after being warned privately by the Bishop or Priest).

Nowhere does the Church require that a judge reviewing the Constitutionality of abortion laws, or any other laws, comport them with Catholic doctrine. Unlike you, the Church understands the difference between constitutional review of laws and legislatively enacting them. To uphold the Constitutionality of abortion, or to require it be struck down as an issue properly decided at the state level, is not an issue for Catholicism. Period. Jason Jonas says it best: "there is nothing in the US Const that requires an RC judge to contravene his or her church's doctrines."

Honestly, why the heck you thought Ratzinger's statement would be a zinger is beyond me. I asked you specific questions; you balked. And it is your sort of sinister questioning: well, this CATHOLIC judge better not be reviewing anything on the basis of his CATHOLIC religion, that causes bigotry.
10.31.2005 9:11pm
Anon7 (mail):
Now that we will have a Catholic majority on the Court, I suppose they will strike down the death penalty as soon as possible. If not, I can't see how they can truly be called Catholics.
10.31.2005 9:55pm
Pauly (mail):

The church is not compelling politicians to vote against abortion. It is reminding them that the church's position is profoundly anti-abortion and that acting in a pro-abortion way will have significant effects on their personal spirituality. Like any private club if you don't follow the rules of the club you risk your membership, more so if you do it publicly.

It also annoys me that the Catholic Church is continually brought up for anti-semitism when the church's actions are not as anti-semitic as some people declare. For example in the Mortara case the only religion apart from Catholicism allowed to be practiced in the Papal States was Judaism. Protestants were not allowed, nor Muslims nor Hindus, nor Zorastrians, nor Wiccans it was Catholics and Jews, nobody else. OK the Catholic Church treated the Jews pretty shabbily, but they treated them better than they treated anybody else. If you want an example of how effective the Church could be if they truly persecuted a group have a look at the treatment of the Albigensian Heretics (estimated 1,000,000 casualties and the complete extermination of the heresy in 20 years).

Harriet Miers' Law Partner
The Holy Office (commonly known as the Spanish Inquisition) had no official powers over Jews practicing their religion, they had powers over Jewish converts to Catholicism, Catholics who converted or reverted to Judaism and Jews who proselytised. They had the same powers over Muslims too. There are some isolated examples of the Inquisition overstepping the mark towards Jews practicing their religion but that was mainly in the time of Tomas de Torquemada. Possession of a Talmud by a Catholic was considered by the Holy Office to be evidence of apostacy or heresy, not blasphemy (Apostacy and Heresy were considered to be far more serious sins than Blasphemy)
10.31.2005 10:28pm
Fiona de Londras (mail) (www):
It may seem strange for there to be a Catholic majority but when you take into account the big issues in America (esp. gay marriage and abortion) the promotion of people with strong Catholic faith is understandable.
11.1.2005 4:42am