Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sotomayor: a Catholic intellect, not an ideologue

A sixth Catholic for the Court?  Works for me.

For the once-over on Sotomayor as Catholic, Michael Paulson at the Globe has a good round-up of first impressions HERE.  (I'm adding his "Articles of Faith" to the re-invigorated blogroll box...)

Permit me to wave the flag for a minute here.  Note Paulson's own observation, at the end of his post, about Obama's nod to Catholic schools as a traditional path "up" for the disadvantaged.  This is certainly a plus, but more than that...the sixth Catholic part isn't about abortion politics, it's about having a coherent intellectual worldview, one that certainly foregrounds concern for others but which does so on the basis of employing a comprehensive rationality.   

In other words, we have Catholics on the Supreme Court not because the U.S. public is fascinated by the lurid glamour of Vatican-fixated moviemakers, we have Catholics on the Supreme Court because their formation predisposes them to the art of enacting principles in the real world -- to jurisprudence.

Point two.  One more time, let's repeat together:  the question of abortion is not a question specific to Catholic faith.  Sotomayor may be judged a good or bad Catholic by whichever bishop chooses to speak out -- I'll go way out on a limb here and guess that one might -- but this nomination is NOT "wafer watch" material.  The question of abortion always comes up in a SCOTUS pick and, from what I've seen thus far -- I've heard of two rulings in which she "leaned center right" -- we have no reason to think that she's at all ideological about "life" or "choice."   (UPDATE 5/27:  Waldman at Beliefnet has the specs on the abortion-related rulings.)

Bottom line:  making the SCOTUS pick be a case about Catholic abortion politics is a great way to avoid the real intellectual contributions that Catholics are making...and thus, a really bad idea.