Assuming that Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s appointment to the Supreme Court of the United States will be confirmed by the United States Senate, it will be of more than a little interest to Catholics to watch and see to what extent, if any, her Catholic background will influence her decisions. Only God knows to what extent she is really a Catholic.

Laurie Goodstein, writing in the New York Times on 30 May 09, said:

“Sotomayor Would Be Sixth Catholic Justice, but the Pigeonholing Ends There
If Judge Sonia Sotomayor is confirmed for a seat on the Supreme Court, she will be the sixth of the nine justices who are Roman Catholic
Four of the Catholics on the court are reported to be committed attenders of Mass, and they make up the court’s solid conservative bloc — Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. The fifth Catholic, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, often votes with them.
There are indications that Judge Sotomayor is more like the majority of American Catholics: those who were raised in the faith and shaped by its values, but who do not attend Mass regularly and are not particularly active in religious life. Like many Americans, Judge Sotomayor may be what religion scholars call a “cultural Catholic” — a category that could say something about her political and social attitudes.
Interviews with more than a dozen of Judge Sotomayor’s friends from high school, college, law school and professional life said they had never heard her talk about her faith, and had no recollection of her ever going to Mass or belonging to a parish. Her family did not return phone calls for comment.
A White House spokesman, speaking on background, put it this way: “She currently does not belong to a particular parish or church, but she attends church with family and friends for important occasions.”
After her father died, Judge Sotomayor was brought up in the Bronx by her mother. She attended Cardinal Spellman High School, an academically rigorous Catholic school, in an era when boys and girls were segregated.
At Princeton, where Judge Sotomayor belonged to a Puerto Rican student group, a group of Latino students attended Mass every week, but she was not among them, a former classmate recalled.

Judge Sotomayor married her boyfriend from high school, Kevin E. Noonan, in a small chapel at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City in the summer of 1976, after both graduated from college, according to a friend of Judge Sotomayor. But within seven years they were divorced, and it is not known whether she obtained a marriage annulment from the church. She has not remarried and has no children.”

So, in the view of The New York Times, Sotomayor is a “cultural Catholic.”
Others would call her a lapsed Catholic.
The world is full of lapsed Catholics. It is easy to identify a lapsed Catholic when that person joins a church (Baptist, Methodist, etc) or another religion (Muslim, Judaism, etc), or embraces agnosticism or atheism.

Sometimes a person will not identify their beliefs, but their words and actions clearly demonstrate that they have abandoned the Catholic Faith. In the case of some of the worse criminals in history, such as Adolph Hitler and Fidel Castro, the phrase first used by Pope Saint Gregory the Great, corrputio optimi pessima, immediately springs to mind. The best translation of the Latin phrase would be: the corruption of the best is the worst of all.

For Catholics, a person living the fullness of the Catholic Faith is a saint. Obviously, since the Church authorizes the inclusion of the name of a saint in her Liturgy, the Church considers such a person as belonging to the optimi, the best. And, consequently, when a person abandons the faith and promotes evil in the world, such a person (Hitler, Castro) belongs to the pessimi, the worst.

Justice Brennan, of Roe v Wade fame, surely belonged in the categoy of the pessimi. One has only to think of the millions and millions of children who have been killed by being aborted to realize the horror that has been perpetrated on the world. Similarly, when one looks at the record of so many of the Catholics who have served, or who are presently serving in Congress, who have promoted evil in the world through their support of legislation in conflict with the natural or divine positive law.

One can only hope and pray that Judge (Justice) Sonia Sotomayor, if she does get to serve on the United States Supreme Court, will be acknowledged by history as belonging to the optimi rather than the pessimi.

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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