Probing the judge's root system

prezvpsotomayorIt's official. Judge Sonia Maria Sotomayor is a Catholic, or a "Catholic," or something like that. Maybe. I mean, The New York Times has already included her in an info-graphic demonstrating the rising influence of Catholics on the U.S. Supreme Court. Then again, its entry in the probing-the-judge's roots contest makes this observation about her childhood:

Roman Catholic schools of that era were embraced by many working-class Puerto Rican parents who saw the public schools as too rowdy and dangerous. The Sotomayor family, which is Catholic, was among them. Judge Sotomayor attended Cardinal Spellman High School in the Northeast Bronx, which opened in 1959 and earned a reputation as a school for high achievers. She graduated as valedictorian in 1972.

So her "family" is Catholic. Thus, it may be assumed, the judge attends church attends family events that involve the church? This would fit most scholars' definition of a "cultural" Catholic.

Whatever the reality is, her faith is clearly not in President Barack Obama's talking points. It might pay to keep your eyes here and here in the days ahead.

Over at the Los Angeles Times, this is all that we get:

Her parents had arrived in New York from Puerto Rico during World War II, and Sotomayor had grown up in a close-knit world where Spanish was the spoken language. She didn't grow comfortable with English until after her father's death.

By then, her mother, Celina, a nurse at a methadone clinic, was working day and night on a mission to send Sotomayor and her brother, Juan, now a doctor, to a private Catholic high school in the Bronx. "Sonia's mom bought the only set of encyclopedias in the neighborhood," Obama noted.

In the wake of the University of Notre Dame drama, there must be some reason for this silence on the Catholic issue. Over at Time's "Swampland" bog, evangelical-Democrat activist Amy Sullivan has a logical explanation. The key is this Vatican discussion of a quote from Pope Benedict XVI:

His Holiness took the opportunity to speak of the requirements of the natural moral law and the church's consistent teaching on the dignity of human life from conception to natural death which enjoin all Catholics, and especially legislators, jurists and those responsible for the common good of society, to work in cooperation with all men and women of good will in creating a just system of laws capable of protecting human life at all stages of its development.

Sullivan notes that this could put the White House on yet another collision course with Rome:

While it will be very difficult for Sotomayor's opponents to characterize her as someone who is hostile to religion, her own faith could become an issue. It's not yet clear if she is a practicing Catholic. But if she is, that would not only bring the total number of Catholic justices on the Court to six, it would also undoubtedly make her the latest target of those who believe that Catholic politicians and judges must oppose abortion rights (see previously: John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi, Kathleen Sebelius).

Ah. She is Obama's kind of Catholic. The question for the press is whether to dig into this story now, or wait for official word from on high (a large white building here in Washington, D.C.) that this religion ghost is relevant.

Stay tuned.

PERSONAL NOTE: I am out the door to Kiev, where I am speaking to a group of Ukrainian journalists about religion, news and the Oxford Centre book "Blind Spot: When Journalists Don't Get Religion." Wifi may be iffy, but I will try to stay plugged in, once I recover from the flight.

Photo: From White House press office.

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