Fr. John's Letter Archives

Enjoy re-reading Fr. John's weekly bulletin letters for the past year.

Supreme Reflections

07-19-2020Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

It’s that time of year when the Supremes sing once again, and this year they hit several high notes. And proof that you “Can’t Hurry Love” many of the decisions were issued in July. Some of the rulings had an unusual bit of syncopation in them. Let’s start with Sister Act Part III, that is the Little Sisters of the Poor third appearance before the Court regarding the Affordable Care Act Contraception Mandate. Yes, seven years later and it’s still not done being litigated. In the ruling, the Court ruled in favor of the Little Sisters by stating that the requirement for health insurance to pay for contraception was an administrative rule and not part of the original legislation. Oddly enough, Justice Kagen concurred with the ruling but was quick to state that while this current Administration is free to rescind the rule, another Administration is free to reinstate it. All that means is that the Court will probably see the Little Sisters once again if a new Administration changes the rule. So, the “contraception mandate” lives to die another day, albeit right now it is in a judicially induced coma. According to Kagen, for the Court and the Little Sisters, it’s “Someday We’ll Be Together”.

In another case which asked the question as to whether the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which forbade discrimination based on race, creed, or sex, included sexual orientation and gender identity. In an amazing sleight of hand, Justice Gorsuch wrote yes it does for the majority decision. The much hyped “originalist” and Scalia replacement makes me wonder, “Where Did Our Love Go?”. The Justice wrote that even though in 1964 the Congress never intended to include sexual orientation/ gender identity, the proof of which is that since 1964 Congress has on several occasions tried to amend the law to include those categories but failed, the law nevertheless as written actually did include those categories. (The Congress must have used invisible ink.) A disappointing bit of sophistry from a usually incisive thinker. In his dissent “You Keep Me Hangin On”, Justice Alito reminded the Court that they now opened the door for an avalanche of lawsuits particularly against religious employers.

But so that religious organizations need not panic about the ruling and whether or not we would run afoul of the new anti-discrimination ruling, in yet another case about whether two Catholic schools discriminated in not renewing contracts with some staff members, in a 7-2 decision the Court carved out a large space for religious organizations to hire according to their mission and religious beliefs. In this ruling it seems like Gorsuch and Roberts are trying to mitigate the impact of their previous ruling on religious employers. I guess the two jurists are letting religious people know that you’re “Back in My Arms Again.”

In yet another case about state scholarships/tax credits/ vouchers to private religious schools the Court ruled in favor of those scholarships. The case involved a Montana law, known as a Blaine Amendment, which many states have, that was a 19th century law that targeted Catholic schools and state support. While the ruling doesn't affect us much in Arizona, since our Tax Credit for Private Schools has already passed muster at the Supreme Court twice, it does allow for an expansion across the country of school choice and helps remove a vestige of anti-Catholic bias still lingering in many states’ laws. Some might be thinking, does this mean Church and State, “I Hear a Symphony?”. Not at all. It simply means that laws like Montana’s can’t deny religious schools tax credits or vouchers when they offer them to other private schools. But the ruling does remind us that these tax credits and vouchers and scholarships live or die by the will of the state legislators. So, caveat voter.

And yes, there was an Abortion Case this year and the Chief Justice sang, “I’ll Try Something New”. The case actually had little to do with abortion and more with the protection of women. The revolved around a Louisiana law that required abortionists to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. Seems reasonable enough. A similar law in Texas was struck down by the Court a few years ago and in that case Chief Justice Roberts dissented. So, Pro-Life advocates thought they had enough votes with the new make-up of the Court to bring the Louisiana law before the Court. But in an unexpected turn of events, Roberts changed his mind and ruled with the majority to strike down the Louisiana law. Go figure. It seems like with the Supreme Court it is abortion forever and ever. This case shows once again, there “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” the Court won’t climb to keep the twisted logic of Roe intact, even it if involves keeping women safe during and after the abortion procedure. Nothing but heartaches. No “Baby Love” in this ruling.

Some June day, hopefully, when it comes to abortion, the Court will sing, “Stop! In the Name of Love.” I guess you “Can’t Hurry Love”.


Fr. John B.