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July 25, 2005

Faith - Or Is It Morality? - As Litmus Test

At last. The Left finally comes out and baldly states what I have long suspected: belief in God - in and of itself - is a disqualifier for service on the Supreme Court.

Now before I go into my tirade, let me issue the obligatory disclaimers:

1. I don't attend church.

2. I don't even pray on any regular basis.

3. I am, both by religious affiliation and the due application of Holy Rites, an Episcopalian, which I admit makes me religiously and morally suspect. The Anglican Church is, as I like to joke in my snarkier moments, a sort of Catholic Lite: all of the ritual, none of the guilt. Less spiritually fulfilling, but on the other hand we Piskies tend to keep our girlish figures.

It must, however, be admitted that I have a sneaking suspicion that there is an Almighty and that He will rudely continue to exist throughout the Ages, regardless of my desires or opinions on the matter. My favorite adage is the one Carl Jung is reputed to have had wryly inscribed over the door of his dwelling in Switzerland:

Vocatus atque non vocatus deus aderit

I have asked that it be inscribed on my gravestone. So much for my chances of ever becoming a Supreme Court justice [dusting off hands].

In the LA Times, Jonathan Turley, a law professor, has made a shocking discovery:

Judge John G. Roberts Jr. has been called the stealth nominee for the Supreme Court — a nominee specifically selected because he has few public positions on controversial issues such as abortion. However, in a meeting last week, Roberts briefly lifted the carefully maintained curtain over his personal views. In so doing, he raised a question that could not only undermine the White House strategy for confirmation but could raise a question of his fitness to serve as the 109th Supreme Court justice.

Indeed. Whatever could this be? Has he killed someone? Perhaps he has a drinking problem? We await this judiciary indiscretion with baited breath...

The exchange occurred during one of Roberts' informal discussions with senators last week. According to two people who attended the meeting, Roberts was asked by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) what he would do if the law required a ruling that his church considers immoral. Roberts is a devout Catholic and is married to an ardent pro-life activist. The Catholic Church considers abortion to be a sin, and various church leaders have stated that government officials supporting abortion should be denied religious rites such as communion. (Pope Benedict XVI is often cited as holding this strict view of the merging of a person's faith and public duties).

Apparently Professor Turley hasn't read this statement:

In his defense, Roberts told senators during his 2003 confirmation hearing that he would be guided by legal precedent. "Roe v. Wade is the settled law of the land. ... There is nothing in my personal views that would prevent me from fully and faithfully applying that precedent."

He may also have missed Christ's advice to "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's", but Judge Roberts, being a "devout Catholic" is presumably better-versed in the New Testament than Professor Turley.

But the truly interesting questions here are these: why did Judge Roberts appear nonplussed? And why on earth would anyone not recuse himself from a case in which he truly found himself forced to do something he found morally reprehensible?

As to the first interrogative, I think I can answer that one.

It was rather a stupid question, on the face of it. Judge Roberts has been practicing law for many years now. He is hardly the first Catholic in history to do so. There are few new issues to come before the Court. What strange and tortuous moral issues does Mr. Turley imagine will arise to confuse and perplex Justice Roberts, that have not similarly faced Tony Scalia? Or other jurists of faith? Was the questioner impugning their piety? Or perhaps Judge Roberts' honor? I believe I would have been similarly confused when faced with a question of such stunning idiocy.

Or perhaps it was just the blatant malice that perplexed John Roberts.

But more importantly, does the questioner imagine that only men (and women) of faith have scruples? That only Roman Catholics might find themselves facing questions of conscience? I think most atheists, not to mention Protestants, might find that premise highly insulting.

How is it that we have come to equate Catholicism with unfitness for public office? Or is it perhaps really "strongly-held beliefs" that those with a "flexible urban viewpoint" find make one uniquely unfit to ascend to a higher position?

Are we now willing only to confirm those who affirm nothing? Who have no "settled judicial philosophy"?

Who will rid us of these inconvenient principles?

Posted by Cassandra at July 25, 2005 08:50 AM

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Tracked on July 26, 2005 11:38 AM


Well said.

But more importantly, does the questioner imagine that only men (and women) of faith have scruples? That only Roman Catholics might find themselves facing questions of conscience?

Isn't the real answer this is the group of scruples we don't like? They are just looking for a way to say it that doesn't sound offensive and that appears reasonable as long as you don't actually pay attention to what was said.

Posted by: tommy at July 25, 2005 11:08 AM

I think that's the convenient way of demonizing your opponent. I actually watched a hearing during which Patrick Leahy of VT admitted that being a devout Catholic was, for most Democrats, a disqualifier. When called on it, he bristled and took great umbrage, but that was *exactly* what he said.

I guess, as you say, it's OK to have strong beliefs, as long as they agree with your own :)

Posted by: Cassandra at July 25, 2005 01:25 PM

Ted Kennedy has scruples?

Posted by: spd rdr at July 25, 2005 01:39 PM

Yeah, but he keeps them in a whisky bottle, kinda like the Tequila worms.

Posted by: Masked Menace© at July 25, 2005 02:32 PM

Why are all the men on this blog so incredibly snarky??? :)

Posted by: Cassandra at July 25, 2005 02:52 PM


Posted by: spd rdr at July 25, 2005 03:31 PM

Kind of like shooting fish in a barrel, isn't it mr rdr?

Posted by: Cassandra at July 25, 2005 03:52 PM

Not all of us are; but we who are not tend to the masculine virtue of reticence.

In spite of which, we should delight in hearing more from you, dear Cassandra, on the occasion that you have time to favor us.

Posted by: Grim at July 25, 2005 04:06 PM

Well, this shouldn't be surprising. Catholic Believer was, after all, the only stated objection to William Pryor, now confirmed 11th Circuit Judge.

Posted by: KJ at July 25, 2005 04:10 PM

What is "Vocatus atque non vocatus deus aderit"

It is just mean to throw something like that out and not to define it. I cannot translate it because they only do living languages at the translation sites.

It is mean and it is unfair. Do you feel snide when you do that? Because you certainly cannot be feeling nice and generous when you snarkily go, "Nyah, nyah, nyah... I know what it means and you don't. Nyah Nyah nyah! You are a stupidhead!"

Posted by: Bruce at July 25, 2005 04:36 PM

Bruce, first of all, I apologize.

Second, I pretty much summarized it in my post immediately before I wung (past predicate tense of 'wing') the quote on you:

I have a sneaking suspicion that there is an Almighty and that He will rudely continue to exist throughout the Ages, regardless of my desires or opinions on the matter

But it means,

"Bidden, or not bidden, God is present."

Quite frankly I didn't feel too guilty about not supplying a literal translation because if you Google the phrase, literally the first thing that comes up is:

Wild Goose Studio 9" Vocatus Atque Non Vocatus Plaque
"Vocatus atque non vocatus, Deus aderit" is a Latin inscription meaning "Bidden
or not bidden, God is present."
This wall plaque has an outer shell of pure ...

Posted by: Cassandra at July 25, 2005 04:42 PM

And FWIW, the first time I saw the a photo containing the quote, I didn't "know" what it meant either.

I Googled it, because I was curious. I don't know much Latin at all. That's how I learn things - I look them up in a dictionary or I search for them.

Posted by: Cassandra at July 25, 2005 04:44 PM


I was in mid-response to Grim when I got Bruce's comment by email. I fear I was already a bit flustered (the man tends to have that effect on me, darn it all) and the interruption succeeded in completely disconcerting me.

You do have a way about you, sir. I can imagine few things that would give me more pleasure :)

Posted by: Cassandra at July 25, 2005 05:29 PM

There is a perilous saying of the same type in Latin, one that ought to shiver the bones:

Abyssus abyssum invocat.

This one means, "Hell cries out for hell." But it is stronger than that: invocat is the cognate for "invokes," that old magical formulae.

The saying is most commonly used by academics of Dr. Pape's leanings, who believe that evil brings evil in turn. "The cycle of violence" and its like are the usual modern forms of this sentiment.

But there is an older one, which is the opposite of the formula Cassandra mentions. It is why the characters in Tolkien, written according to these ancient understandings, fear to mention the name of the Enemy. God is present, bidden or unbidden: the Enemy, weaker, slips in where he is invited, usually in moments of weakness.

I think there is wisdom in that.

Posted by: Grim at July 25, 2005 07:36 PM

Then someone had the gall to say that his wife and children were so overdressed at the announcement of his nomination or consideration that they had wrapped themselves in history.

Good for them. That means the man and his family have some values that are bedrock and unchangeable.

As to Roe V Wade, I don't see the inconsistency with what precedent has been set. However, what I find Supremely hypocritical is the SCOTUS legislating from the bench, which no one seems to find alarming, overturning the rights of states and the fifth amendment (is that the one dealing with compensation for property)and liberals afraid that his might legislate Roe v Wade out of existence. Why is that a problem?

Posted by: Cricket at July 25, 2005 11:46 PM

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