Catholics on the Bench
Robert F. Cochran Jr. points out that in the last 200 years of America’s history there have only been seven Roman Catholics on the Supreme Court, and five of them have been appointed in the last twenty years.
Citing ‘natural law’, ‘subsidiarity’, and ‘religious freedom’, his thesis is that these doctrines found in Roman Catholic theology make the most appealing lawyers to the apparent gaping divide that has become the continuum of American politics. Cochran explains ‘natural law’ as a sort of marriage of special and general revelation, faith and reason, a middle ground between pure secularists and biblical theonomists. ‘Subsidiarity’ (it seems to me) is a social application of the doctrine of the Trinity. Cochran describes the doctrine as a recognition that societies work best were those nearest to the issues can be given freedom to work for their solutions, a middle ground between radical individualism and collectivism. Finally, ‘religious freedom’ a more recent arrival to the Roman Catholic dogmatic scene, but attested to by Vatican II and proclaimed in the words of Pope John Paul II that “the church imposes nothing, she only proposes.” This alleviates fears from liberals and conservatives, athiests and fundamentalists.
Of course Cochran’s point is only an observation, to point out possible connections to the apparent success and credibility of R C lawyers. One wonders of course, which way the wind is blowing in RC dogmatics. Interestingly, fifty years ago, RC politicians were scrutinized for their church’s history of religious tyranny, and now they’re on everyone’s invitation list. Or maybe it’s just this last element of ‘religious freedom’ that’s the real deal-maker for Americans, pluralists that we are.