Notre Dame law professor and Obama supporter Cathleen Kaveny tells the Chicago Trib’s Manya Brachear that Sotomayor’s “shows you that you can’t put Catholicism in the U.S. in a box.”

Indeed, whatever the level of the nominee’s practice, she seems to represent an enduring aspect of Catholic thought:

“My guess is she’s very much operating in accordance with the commitments of the Catholic social justice tradition which is emphasizing … inclusion, solidarity, justice to those least among us,” Kaveny said. “It’s strand of American Catholic teaching that is somewhat distinct from other Catholic teaching but not incompatible. People emphasize different aspects.”

“‘Different gifts from the same spirit’ to quote St. Paul,” Kaveny added.

The left-leaning folks at Catholics United give also Sotomayor a big hug. CU head Chris Korzen says, “We admire Judge Sotomayor’s reputation for putting aside political beliefs in order to issue sound legal decisions, her commitment to religious liberty, and her significant federal judicial experience. These are precisely the qualities that Catholics look for in those we trust to interpret the law…We call on other leaders within the Catholic community to join us in welcoming Judge Sotomayor’s nomination and to approach her confirmation hearings with civility and reason.”

Korzen may be somewhat idealistic. And Sotomayor’s “gifts,” in Kaveny’s words, may not be those that another strain of Catholics are looking for. But interestingly, Bill Donohue couldn’t find much bad to say about her (just liberals in general), and took note of his own experience in Sotomayor’s Harlem haunts:

On a personal note, I must say that having spent four years in the 1970s teaching in a Catholic elementary school in Spanish Harlem, I loved working with the Puerto Rican people. Indeed, I feel some of the pride that Puerto Ricans rightly feel today. Good for them–this is their special day.

Good for Bill, too. At Catholic World News, the best Phil Lawler could muster was to say Sotomayor “is apparently a lapsed Catholic.”

Most conservative groups seem a bit muzzled by the lack of a track record on abortion, their preeminent issue.

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