Duck and cover: She may be Catholic

Just what the U.S. Supreme Court needed -- another Roman Catholic. This would make six out of nine, for those keeping track.

So prepare for more headlines about Catholics taking over our nation's legal discourse.

Not.

It does not appear that many people on the cultural and religious left are worried about today's headlines, when it comes to fearing the rising tide of theocracy. In fact, I am having trouble -- in the first wave of coverage -- finding any information about the status of Judge Sonia Sotomayor's faith.

The word "Catholic" does not appear in the first report from the Washington Post, as one might expect. We get this, as a sample biography paragraph:

If confirmed, Sotomayor, 54, would be the first Supreme Court justice of Hispanic descent and only the third woman ever to sit on the panel. She grew up in a Bronx housing project, went on to Princeton University and Yale Law School, and has stirred controversy by saying that judges' legal findings are informed by their own life experiences as well as their legal research.

Obama, too, has said jurists' life experiences are a key part of their legal makeup, and he cited Sotomayor's compelling personal story as one of the motivations for his choice.

There's a similar gap in the early coverage over at The Politico and at The Los Angeles Times. Was I supposed to be searching for something other than "Catholic"? Is "Hispanic" now code language? Then again, the word "Catholic" is not in the early Washington Times report, either. Maybe the White House didn't include this in her background materials (which is interesting). After all, we would have to ask what kind of Catholic she is. That could get complex.

Over at the Pontifications blog at Beliefnet.com, David Gibson is asking a blunt question about Sotomayor, who is divorced and has no children: Is she a Catholic? You could also put it this way, perhaps: Is she still a Catholic?

However, the New York Times should get some credit for at least hinting at what will surely be one of the most discussed elements of the judge's nomination -- which is a done deal, short of some personal scandal emerging.

As the various stories keep saying, Sotomayor has an "inspiring personal story." The bible of American journalism, thus, included this small detail:

Judge Sotomayor's father died when she was 9 years old, and her mother worked six-day weeks to earn enough money to send her and a brother to Catholic school. She got into Princeton University, where she once said she felt like "a visitor landing in an alien country," but graduated summa cum laude.

Although she grew up in modest circumstances, the judge said, "I consider my life to be immeasurably rich." ... Judge Sotomayor has said her ethnicity and gender are important factors in serving on the bench, a point that could generate debate. "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life," she said in a 2002 lecture.

So her life story will be a big part of the upcoming mini-debates about her appointment. Here is my question: If she was a pro-life woman, from a Hispanic background, do you think that the word "Catholic" would be appearing higher in these early (I repeat, EARLY) reports about her life and work?

Just saying.

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