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Is the judge Catholic?

May 27, 2009 | 11:12 am

Sotomayor-cardinal-spellman After President Obama announced the Supreme Court nomination of Sonia Sotomayor, some colleagues and I tried to answer the question "Is she or isn't she?" -- not "Is she or isn't she a judicial activist?", but "Is she or isn't she a Catholic?" The blogosphere yesterday featured a catholic (lower-case C) collection of opinions about whether the nominee, a Latina educated at a school named after Cardinal Spellman, was one of us, and to what extent. (The Boston Globe website offers a comprehensive survey of the speculations.)

Under the headline, "This Just In . . . Sotomayor IS Catholic," Steve Waldman at Beliefnet revealed that "a White House official just confirmed to me that she, in fact, Catholic." Later, however, Waldman caveated his scoop: "Another White House official elaborated slightly, Judge Sotomayor was raised as a Catholic and attends church for family celebrations and other important events."

This would make her a "cultural Catholic." Does that count? It certainly does when Catholic activists point to the size (and political clout) of their flock. As the saying goes, "Once a Catholic, always a Catholic." Or as a priest in Pittsburgh observed, after a friend of mine referred to someone as an ex-Catholic: "There are no ex-Catholics, only bad Catholics."

So, given that definition, Sotomayor would be would be the sixth RC on the court, reducing the Protestant cohort to one, Justice John Paul Stevens. Justices Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg are Jewish.

In a recent blog post, I warned of this marginalization of a group that long dominated the court (and everything else in America, except Hollywood, big-city police forces and organized crime). Still, no WASP Anti-Defamation League has formed to protest -- maybe because Sotomayor is a liberal Catholic, unlike co-religionists like John Roberts and Nino Scalia.

Which raises another question: Will hard-line Catholic bishops demand that a Justice Sotomayor enforce the church's opposition to abortion in her decisions? Will she be denied Holy Communion at one of those "family celebrations"? Or, as Waldman put it: "Will We have a SCOTUS "Wafer Watch'?"

Photo: Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor visiting her alma mater, Cardinal Spellman High School. Credit: White House handout, courtesy Getty Images.

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