More on Sotomayor’s Faith

Sonia Sotomayor visits her alma mater, Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx.
Sonia Sotomayor visits her alma mater, Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx. (photo: CNS/Reuters)

As William Donohue points out, Judge Sotomayer’s Catholicism seems less a concern in the media than Roberts’ and Alito’s did.

Here’s the take of The New York Times regarding the Catholic background of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor:

There are indications that Judge Sotomayor is more like the majority of American Catholics: those who were raised in the faith and shaped by its values, but who do not attend Mass regularly and are not particularly active in religious life. Like many Americans, Judge Sotomayor may be what religion scholars call a “cultural Catholic” — a category that could say something about her political and social attitudes.

Interviews with more than a dozen of Judge Sotomayor’s friends from high school, college, law school and professional life said they had never heard her talk about her faith, and had no recollection of her ever going to Mass or belonging to a parish. Her family did not return phone calls for comment.

A White House spokesman, speaking on background, put it this way: “She currently does not belong to a particular parish or church, but she attends church with family and friends for important occasions.”

A clearer way to situate Sotomayor’s Catholicism properly, borrowing from this Daily Blog post by Tom Hoopes, might be to describe it as “way-less-than-bare-minimum Catholicism.” Characterization of a person who does not appear to believe she is obliged to heed any teachings and disciplines of the Catholic Church as a “cultural Catholic,” merely because she occasionally goes to Church for what she judges to be “important occasions,” seems a generous application of the term.

Actually, the Times article gives an indication of what is really meant by its categorization of Sotomayor as a “cultural Catholic.” That is, Sotomayor adheres faithfully to the tenets of left-wing politics, whether or not those political tenets coincide or conflict with Church teachings.

“Many of Judge Sotomayor’s friends and colleagues also said they believed that her expressed commitment to social justice and community service is a reflection of her Catholic upbringing,” the Times reports.

This is not to dismiss the Times article. While it certainly tilts toward sympathy with Sotomayor’s perspectives, it provides useful background regarding the divide between the views of regular Mass-attending Catholics and absentee Catholics like Sotomayor on issues like abortion. As it notes, “Studies have consistently shown that the 57% of Catholics who rarely or never attend Mass are far more liberal on political and cultural issues than Catholics who attend weekly or at least once a month.”