Fr. John's Letter Archives

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

Same Church? Different Pew?

10-04-2020Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

ACB had been nominated to fill the seat occupied by the late RBG. There are two things I find curious about this nomination. If Judge Barrett is seated on the Court, then six of the nine Justices will be Catholic (Roberts, Thomas, Alito, Kavanaugh, Sotomayor). Considering that Catholics make up about a little less than a quarter of the population of the US that would mean that Catholics are way overrepresented on the High Court. How did that happen? Luck of the draw? Were they all just in the right place at the right time? Social Darwinism? Catholic Karma? Is the Pope giving orders to the various Presidents? Or do non-Catholic Presidents have a thing for Catholic justices? Are Catholics just better at jurisprudence than everyone else?

Now if you consider Justice Gorsuch, who was raised Catholic and educated in Catholic schools but most recently attends the Episcopal/Anglican Church, then you would have 7 or you could say 6 1/2 Catholics on the Court. And so just maybe Catholic Education including our Religious Education Programs is part of the explanation for the overrepresentation of Catholics on the Court. The curriculum and teaching methodology in our schools focuses on teaching critical thinking which is essential to the type of reasoning needed for solid jurisprudence. Our catechetical programs use scholastic philosophy, inductive reasoning and logic to teach the faith to children. But in general, our schools have done a superior job of educating students and setting them up for success in a variety of careers, many of which are in public service. But consider this also. With Justices Kagan and Ginsberg on the Court, Jews were also overrepresented on the Court as well in the legal profession, being just 2.2% of the US population. But then again Judaism is a religious legal system based on the Mosaic Law. The Mishnah and the Talmud are really the jurisprudence of the rabbis through the centuries as they thought through the application of the Law. So, it seems right to say that Jews exposed to Hebrew School like Catholics who attend Catholic schools might be more disposed to professions that require critical thinking and reasoning. And maybe more in general, exposure to religious practice and thinking sets a person up for greater success and flourishing, which of course is the whole point of religion in the first place.

The second thing that makes me curious is how differently the media portrays the Catholicism of Judge Barrett and Vice President Biden. Both are Catholics, both part of the same religious denomination, both are regular Mass goers yet Barrett always has modifiers that describe her faith: conservative Catholic, ultra-conservative Catholic, serious Catholic but Biden is just Catholic. What criteria does the media use to make such distinctions? It appears that to many in the media Biden is the good kind of Catholic and Barrett the not so good kind. The media never accuses Biden of trying to impose his Catholic beliefs on the public but Barrett, well she just might make the entire country adhere to Catholic doctrine somehow. I would venture to guess that many in the media don't really think Biden really believes all that the Church teaches but Barrett really does and that concerns many in the media.

But what would give the media the impression that Biden doesn't really believe all that the Church teaches in the same way that Barrett believes it? For most of his career Biden supported the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the use of federal funds to pay for abortions. Though he straddled the fence on the abortion issue, with the “I personally oppose but …” he was pretty consistent on sticking with not using tax payer money to pay for abortions until very recently. During the run up to this current Presidential run he changed his position and now supports repeal of the Hyde Amendment. That change of position makes his Catholicism harmless in the media’s eyes and so no one is going to question him about his faith or if he would ‘impose’ it on the rest of the country. It is just milquetoast as far as the media is concerned.

The Hyde Amendment is one of the last standing bipartisan compromises on abortion. It keeps all of us from having to materially cooperate with the evil of abortion via our taxes. And as you can see from how this Supreme Court Confirmation process is shaping up it is all about abortion. The irony here is that the fears of a new Justice ‘imposing’ her anti-abortion views on the country are only because five justices in 1973 did impose their pro-abortion view on the entire country. Even RBG admitted that much. Which is why the issue remains so contentious today. Repealing the Hyde Amendment will only worsen the divide. It’s way past time to overturn Roe, let the states decide for themselves how to handle abortion and rid the nation of this divisive issue that affects every national election and every Supreme Court nomination.


Fr. John B.