Steven Waldman

Steven Waldman


This Just In… Sotomayor IS Catholic. (Will We have a SCOTUS “Wafer Watch”?)

posted by swaldman

Evidence of Sonia Sotomayer’s religion has been hard to come by, but a White House official just confirmed to me that she, in fact, Catholic.
UPDATE 2:10 pm.: Another White House official elaborated slightly, “Judge Sotomayor was raised as a Catholic and attends church for family celebrations and other important events.”
As David Gibson points out, that would mean six of the nine justices would be Catholic.
Why does it matter if she’s Catholic?
Politically, it’s tougher to be a pro-choice Catholic than a pro-choice Protestant, as the former will be cast as not only wrong on the issue but, in effect, a bad catholic. Remember how some bishops argued in 2004 that John Kerry shouldn’t receive communion, prompting reporters track whether, on any given Sunday, Kerry would be denied the sacrament (this became known as the “wafer watch”)
If they’re consistent, the conservative Bishops will surely have to argue that Sotomayor should not receive communion. Will we have a SCOTUS Wafer Watch for Sotomayor?
Of course if she only goes to church on holidays, she may be able to avoid a wafer watch (while no doubt drawing complaints that she’s not religious enough).
And…we don’t actually no for sure that she even is pro-choice.*
Randall Terry of Operation Rescue put it this way: “It will be an uphill battle, but if the GOP will honor its platform, and Catholic Bishops will obey the directives of John Paul II, we could keep Sotomayor off the court.”



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John K.

posted May 26, 2009 at 1:12 pm


Wait a second. So far the only decision that has come out related to abortion was one in which she upheld the Mexico City Policy against abortion rights activists. There is nothing so far to indicate a pro-choice record. There is no reason that I’m aware of for the bishops to consider withholding communion from her. Also, let’s please keep Randall Terry out of this. I’m from South Bend, and I’ve recently seen his people in action. They are hurting the pro-life movement more than anyone right now.



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RC

posted May 26, 2009 at 2:00 pm


AMEN, John K.



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Telisa

posted May 26, 2009 at 3:50 pm


If Sotomayor is Catholic, she’ll be glad to see that today’s marriage ruling in CA gives justice to children, minorities, and democracy. See: http://tiny.cc/Lp2KY



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Rev. Martin Fox

posted May 26, 2009 at 3:51 pm


A couple of points…
1. I think Mr. Waldman’s post misunderstands, or fails to appreciate, the distinctions the Catholic Church carefully makes between the moral responsibilities of a legislator (note, not just Catholic legislators) regarding defense of all human life, and the moral responsibilities of a judge, who must evaluate and interpret laws enacted by legislators.
A Catholic judge is in no way obliged by the Church to uphold or strike down laws based on desired outcomes, but is expected to uphold ones oath and act in accordance with the law. Has Mr. Waldman never seen or heard of “A Man for All Seasons”? He might find this exchange enlightening:
“What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? … And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you – where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s, and if you cut them down — and you’re just the man to do it — do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!”
I am aware of many people having only a caricatured understanding of Catholic thinking on these issues, but I would hope the editor in chief of Beliefnet would aim a little higher; or are my expectations regarding Beliefnet too high?
2. While I’m aware that “wafer watch” was a phrase used frequently in 2004, Mr. Waldman and Beliefnet may like to know that this sort of talk is offensive, to me at least, and I suspect to many other Catholics. For your consideration.



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John B.

posted May 26, 2009 at 4:04 pm


Another words she is a nonpracticing Catholic. Thus a non Catholic.



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Anonymous

posted May 26, 2009 at 4:36 pm


“I would hope the editor in chief of Beliefnet would aim a little higher; or are my expectations regarding Beliefnet too high?”
Steven usually does a great job in his blogs. What I do not understand is why Beliefnet allows Blabbing Chicks, which is based on far right wing haters like Limbaugh, hotair, and Fox.



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PMcGrath

posted May 26, 2009 at 7:42 pm


The one and only Uncle Diogenes had this to say about the White House’s comments above:
Questioned about the religious affiliation of President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court, the White House replied: “Judge Sotomayor was raised as a Catholic and attends church for family celebrations and other important events.”
Some of us think of Sunday Mass as an “important event.”
Actually some of us think of Sunday Mass as a family celebration, too.



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Turmarion

posted May 26, 2009 at 9:10 pm


Just a small point, Steve. While I think the point is valid, and that you intended no harm or disrespect, I find the term “wafer watch” as a reference to Holy Communion a little bit flip and inappropriate. It would be tantamount to calling a Passover seder a “cracker meal” or some such. Difference in faiths isn’t a license for disrespectful terminology.



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John Henry

posted May 26, 2009 at 9:14 pm


As Fr. Fox noted above, Mr. Waldman’s speculations are unfounded. Catholics understand quite well that judges have different responsibilities than legislators; judges have a responsibility to uphold the Constitution and the laws passed by Congress, not rewrite them. Legislators have a different responsibility as they write the laws.
Justice Scalia does not take the position that Roe should be overturned because of his Catholic faith; he believes Roe was wrongly decided as a legal matter, as he has stated quite clearly on numerous occasions. Moreover, there has been no talk of denying Communion to Justice Kennedy, who provided the fifth vote in Casey, which upheld Roe. I am frankly not sure where Mr. Waldman got the idea that Communion would be denied; it would be better if he did some research before engaging in this type of speculation (and, yes, the term ‘wafer watch’ is flippant and somewhat offensive for Catholics).



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Steven Waldman

posted May 27, 2009 at 10:09 am


Fair point about “wafer watch.” I’ve long viewed the term “wafer watch” as irreverent too, but i like to use it because it captures the total circus-like atmosphere of inspecting whether a candidate has been offered a sacrament or not. But the way I wrote the headline, it definitely looked like I was joining in the irreverence rather than commenting upon it. I’ve put the phrase in quotes, which I hope gets the nuance right.
As for the question of whether judges and lawmakers have different obligations as Catholics, please see my new post (inspired by the discussion here)
http://blog.beliefnet.com/stevenwaldman/2009/05/do-catholic-judges-and-catholi.html



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Marlene

posted May 27, 2009 at 10:44 am


i think it fascinating that people make government decisions such a hotbed for religious points of view when the constitution has taken great lengths to seperate church and state.



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vincent kish

posted May 27, 2009 at 12:15 pm


what catholic church does sonia attend? any comments from her priest and fellow catholics? does she serve with any church groups?



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Howard

posted May 27, 2009 at 1:02 pm


Marlene: Quite apart from the fact that the Constitution does not mention “separation of church and state” — let alone go to “great lengths” to keep them separate — even if it did, that would be saying that state unilaterally determines the relationship between church and state, and has chosen that they remain separate. This is a possible position, but certainly not an unassailable one.



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Rev. Martin Fox

posted May 27, 2009 at 1:15 pm


Marlene:
There are two places Constitution touches on church and state. One is the “no religious test” clause in Article VI:
“The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”
The other is the First Amendment, which never talks about “separation” at all, rather it actually says:
“Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
I’m not clear what connection you are making between these passages and this thread, however. Could you say more please?



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Gerry

posted May 27, 2009 at 7:56 pm


Sorry to say, poorly researched posts are more the rule on the exception on this site – at least involving the Catholic Church. A minute of online research and you would know that a judge has no duty to apply Catholic teachings in interpreting law.



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Rev. Martin Fox

posted May 27, 2009 at 11:55 pm


Gerry:
Yes, this has proven to be a real disappointment.



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Natch Greyes

posted May 28, 2009 at 8:45 am


I think this is an important question and one which I have addressed on my blog. I think this will frame the debate around Sotomayor’s confirmation and, whether he wants to or not, President Obama will be drawn into this, the most divisive of issues in American politics.



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