Justice Sonia Sotomayor's recent ruling, issuing a stay on the fines for the Little Sisters of the Poor, struck some people in violent ways. One blogger, Jamie Stiehm writing for U.S. News, seems to think that Sotomayor outed herself as that most crass and small minded of people: a Catholic! This was certainly not a predictable outcome in the minds of those progressives who celebrated the elevation of the first "wise Latina" to the highest court in the land. She was supposed to stay on the reservation, of course, voting reliably to uphold the foundations of liberal orthodoxy, whenever they were threatened.
In the progressive worldview, contraception and abortion are to women what breathing and eating are to men: absolute necessities of life. Waivers are being handed out right and left for Obamacare victims, but no waivers for nuns. And if Justice Sotomayor stands up for the religious liberty of these noble women, well "she's just a good Catholic girl," in the snarky tone of Stiehm's blog post. In her opinion, that court is now the "Catholic Supreme Court," and it hates women.
In a rant of old fashioned anti-Catholic bigotry, of which there is a long history in the United States, we learn several scary things. "Catholics often try to impose their beliefs on you, me, public discourse and institutions. Especially if 'you' are female." And that when Thomas Jefferson championed the separation of church and state, he was "thinking particularly of pernicious Rome." Rome remains pernicious, apparently. The Little Sisters, who, by the way, take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience in order to slave their lives away taking care of the indigent elderly, are terribly wily, and "seemingly innocent." And the big bad Catholic archbishops have painted a bullseye on the foreheads American females: "Their principal target for years on end has been squelching women and girls."
The kind of contempt the author spreads on the heads of Catholics, if written about any other group, would have her immediately barred from polite society, and justifiably. In her mind, there is a noble sisterhood, comprising at least her and Nancy Pelosi. Women who disagree with them are not sisters, though they may be nuns. As a wise Latina myself, I feel very sorry for Justice Sotomayor. She thought she was being celebrated for herself and her achievements in the face of societal barriers that should have kept a Hispanic woman down. It turns out she was just a token after all. Now that she has sided with religious liberty over liberal pieties, she has been unceremoniously dumped from the sisterhood.
I think that Justice Sotomayor understands something that Ms. Stiehm may never get. Governments that wish to preserve a truly pluralistic society must act with great delicacy and even tenderness when it comes to the conscientious scruples of its citizens. It is not necessary to share those scruples or even understand them. Progressives believe with all their soul that women's sexual liberty, untrammeled by copays or unwanted children, trumps any other "good," including religious freedom. They are free to propose that idea in the public square, and they do so with all the power of Hollywood, MTV and higher education behind them. They have the administration on their side, most newspapers and most TV stations. But they don't have most of the citizens of this country, they don't have the Catholic Church and they may have lost Justice Sotomayor.
Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie
Member of the Catholic Association Advisory Board