Lawsuits from Catholic entities challenging the constitutionality of the contraception mandate in President Barack Obama’s health overhaul are headed straight for the Supreme Court – right when Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in the most personal terms, is revealing her hostility toward the Church’s authority.
Dozens of First Amendment-based legal challenges have been brought against the Obamacare mandate requiring Catholic institutions to provide free contraceptive coverage, including abortifacient drugs and sterilization procedures.
The Obama administration has been trying to placate these groups, but private businesses owned by Catholics or others whose religious beliefs would be violated have also filed suit, and they have run into divided rulings from federal circuit courts. Since the mandate will take effect this summer, this huge dispute will land in the lap of the Supreme Court, likely within months.
Obamacare: Massive New Rules Revealed for 2013
The high court, as it has been for many years, is narrowly split along ideological lines, with Justice Anthony Kennedy the powerful swing vote, lately found mostly in the conservative camp. Six of the court’s members are Catholics: Chief Justice John Roberts, Kennedy, Sotomayor — who was appointed by Obama in 2009 as the first-ever Hispanic Supreme Court justice — and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.
But none of her fellow Catholic justices ever has made public the kind of bitterness toward the institutional Church found in Sotomayor’s just-published New York Times No. 1 bestseller “My Beloved World.” According to The New York Times, Sotomayor says she modeled the book “after President Obama’s ‘Dreams From My Father,’” another bestseller.
The main source of the hostility is that as a child, her local Irish priest, a Father Dolan, failed to pay a visit to her grief-stricken Puerto Rican mother after the death of Sotomayor’s alcoholic father. “His refusal,” Sotomayor writes, “enraged me, all the more so because of the reason: my mother didn’t go to church on Sunday.”
Sotomayor concedes, “It was true, but she did send her kids to church and always with money for the offering basket. And she worked long hours at the hospital so we could go to school at Blessed Sacrament,” her Bronx parish and elementary school. “Shouldn’t Father Dolan be forgiving if she needed help? Even if he thought she wasn’t Christian enough, I reasoned, shouldn’t he be more Christian?”
According to Sotomayor, “My reaction was of a piece with the frustration I felt when he stood there at the altar during the Mass, with his back turned to us, as priests did in those days before Vatican II. Show us what you’re doing up there! I always thought. Now when he turned his back on us, it felt like just what it appeared to be: rejection. I was delighted when, a few years later under Pope Paul VI, the Church turned its priests around to face the congregants.”
When Pope Paul visited New York City in 1965 “I wanted more than anything to be included” in a student trip another priest was arranging – especially because “Paul VI wasn’t just any pope,” because he favored “ending the war in Vietnam and using the money from disarmament to help poor countries” as well as other progressive positions.
“So I was especially upset and disappointed at not being allowed to see him – though not surprised: only kids who had attended church regularly were included,” Sotomayor recalls. “Ever since Father Dolan had refused to pay a call on my mother in her misery, my Sunday attendance at Blessed Sacrament Church had faltered.”
But after asking classmates who did get to go see the Pope, Sotomayor writes, “It was a relief to learn that I hadn’t missed much.”
Sotomayor also scoffs at the sisters who taught her. “The nuns at Blessed Sacrament,” Sotomayor wrote, “had their own theories about the dangers television posed to impressionable minds. They could tolerate Ed Sullivan but not ‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,’ a godless Russian spy in the role of a good guy being too great a threat to the received cold-war narrative.”
Beyond her endorsement of Pope Paul’s “disarmament” ideas, lifelong-progressive Sotomayor’s memoir, bound in bright red, reveals few details of her own views of the decades-long U.S.-Soviet struggle.
Obamacare: Massive New Rules Revealed for 2013
She concludes that “The Sisters of Charity,” the order that taught her, “helped to shape who I am, but there was much that I wouldn’t be sad to leave behind.”
Sotomayor’s resentment of the Catholic Church is long-standing and deeply emotional. President Obama chose her as someone with the “quality of empathy … as an essential ingredient for arriving at just decisions and outcomes.”
Her memoir suggests that Sotomayor’s empathy will come down squarely on the side of Obamacare in the coming religious liberty cases, not Catholic business owners seeking to follow their church’s teachings and avoid sin.
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