Swans Commentary » swans.com March 27, 2006  



US Supreme Court And Catholic Church Dogma


by George Beres





(Swans - March 27, 2006)  Many citizens have growing concern over an emerging theocracy because of increased influence on the Bush administration by fundamentalist, evangelistic Christians. Among those rightly concerned are Catholics -- but they may need to look into a mirror.

That's because of the irony of an even deeper threat to separation of church and state that may be posed by Catholic members of the Supreme Court. The approval of Samuel Alito gives the highest court a majority of Catholic Justices, five of nine -- in itself, no problem. The difficulty comes if Catholic Justices are threatened with excommunication for rulings not consistent with church dogma.

That evokes memories of alarms raised when the nation's first Catholic president, John Kennedy, ran for the office in 1959. Foes proclaimed he would be unduly influenced by teachings of his Church. During his brief tenure, that never was the case.

So why's the issue now over Supreme Court Justices?

While there have been no such public threats directed toward the Court, concern comes from the experience of the 2004 presidential election, when some bishops told John Kerry he risked excommunication if he supported issues contrary to Catholic dogma. Once the threat is made to the executive branch, it becomes just as real for the judicial.

One of my Oregon senators opposed Alito for lacking an impartial viewpoint on executive power, abortion rights, and legal precedents. But he and other senators failed to raise another unsettling issue about influence of the church on a presumably devout communicant.

Until that question was asked -- and answered satisfactorily -- Alito should have been denied approval. It also should be asked of four Catholic Justices already on the Court -- Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas. If any can't disavow the influence of Catholic dogma on decisions, he should be removed.


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About the Author

George Beres on Swans (with bio). (The writer served 25 years with Charles Porter on the Wayne Morse Historical Park Board.)



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Swans -- ISSN: 1554-4915
URL for this work: http://www.swans.com/library/art12/gberes10.html
Published March 27, 2006