August 22, 2005

Judge John Roberts, Supreme Court Nominee

John Roberts is a Catholic, and he's apparently a serious one. If he's appointed to the Supreme Court, he'll be the fourth Catholic on the Court, out of nine justices. It pretty much looks like a fact that George W. Bush will also get to appoint a new Chief Justice when Rhenquist either retires or dies. The name that's been bandied about for a long time for this one is Alberto Gonzalez, the U. S. Attorney General and a Catholic. That would be five of nine justices on the Supreme Court who are Catholic.

When asked by a senator how he would react in cases before the Supreme Court that had the potential for violating his Catholic conscience, Judge Roberts said, after a long pause, that he would recuse himself. Given the vitriolic condemnation of John Kerry by some bishops ("He should be denied Holy Communion for his pro-abortion views and votes."), can we be sure John Roberts wouldn't be the target of this rhetoric, as well? If John Roberts recuses himself for religious reasons, can the other Catholic justices NOT recuse themselves?

I mean, think about Scalia. He's a Catholic who has pretty consistently voted against abortion issues. In his dissent in the Lawrence decision he raised a stink (no pun intended) against the abolition of sodomy laws. As a faithful and highly visible member of a Church that has taken very stern positions against both abortion rights and homosexual rights, can Scalia really vote against them without appearing to be bowing to the Vatican and the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops? If Roberts recuses himself, shouldn't Scalia do so as well? And Kennedy? And Thomas? And (presumably) Gonzalez?

So, we've got 5 of the 9 Supremes recusing themselves on major cultural issues. How do they get business done?