Friday, August 07, 2009

Sonia Sotomayor makes US Supreme Court 2/3 Catholic

Sonia Sotomayor (a Catholic), who was selected by Barack Obama to be the next Supreme Court Justice, will replace David Souter (an Episcopalian), to make the Supreme Court of United States two-thirds Catholics, or 6 Catholic and 3 Non-Catholic Judges. This is good news, but only to a certain extent. If these 6 judges followed Catholic moral reasoning and enacted and sustained laws which reflected Catholic beliefs, there would be a lot of healing and advancement in US law. But if these judges do not adhere to Catholic teaching and violate it on issues of gay marriage, abortion, fertility issues, embryonic stem cell reaserch, and cloning, then things will probably remain similar or become worse. But I would not lose hope. I believe there is a reason why so many of the Supreme Court Justices are Catholic. The Catholic religion has a long history of jurisprudence. Over the centuries, canon law was always seen as more important than civil law, because civil law deals with temporal earthly issues, whereas canon law deals with eternal issues of salvation.

Thomas Aquinas, the 13th century Dominican, was famous for writing his Summa Theologica. In it, he expounds on virtually every religious topic from the nature of God, to the nature of sins. He goes into great detail to explain how we ought to live and what we ought to do, as well as what she ought to believe and why. This tradition has continued. There has always been an understanding of law that could only come from the Catholic Church. We  believe in true right and wrong, in objective moral standards, in the law of non-contradiction. Other religions believe two contradictory statements can both be true. Our legal system would be doomed if this was the prevailing thought. Prostitution could be at once considered good and evil. Laws would go nowhere. Everything would be up to a personal decision each time. Another religion, Islam, sees moral laws as complete will of God. The only reason they believe something is as it is is because God is currently willing it to be that way. Therefore, moral laws for them could potentially change. Judaism has an understanding of God's divine law, and it's not surprising that 2 of the justices are Jewish. The remaining justice is Protestant. Protestantism does not have a thoroughly developed canon law, especially the more recent forms of it. For example, many will say all sins are equal. With no distinction between stealing a candy and murdering a family, you would be forced to violate your religious beliefs in order to enact laws which carry heavier sentences for certain crimes. There is no such dichotomy in Catholic teaching, where there is the concept of venial and mortal sins. Even within these sins, some are seen as greater than others. Pride is considered more serious than lust. This view of sin is very compatible with lawmaking. One could argue that serious sins cannot correspond to crimes. For example, someone could be the proudest person in the world, but they could not be convicted of pride. A person could be a major glutton, but they could not be sent to prison for that. This may be true, but we acknowledge that ultimately sins are between the person and God, and that punishment may come as a result of gluttony or pride, even if the state does not mete it out. Crimes which hurt society would be punished on a scale consistent with the crime.

Let us pray that these judges, whose profession is what it is largely because of the developments in the legal system by the Catholic Church, seek their Catholic roots when making decisions that affect all of our lives.

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