no communion for judges, part 2

NO COMMUNION FOR JUDGES, PART 2….Ramesh Ponnuru and Stephen Bainbridge both take umbrage at my suggestion that Catholic judges might be vulnerable to the same sort of pressure that Catholic politicians are. Of course, saying that the two of them disagree with me is about as remarkable as saying that the sky is still blue, but I’d like to respond to a few of their points because they’ve been gracious enough to assume that I’m a blithering idiot when it comes to knowledge of the Catholic Church and theology.

Ponnuru says that the important difference between politicians and judges is that judges don’t cooperate in “willing injustice,” they simply respond to what the law is, even if they wish it weren’t so. Bainbridge, however, allows for the possibility that a judge could see his participation in a case as “formal cooperation with evil.” The remedy in such a situation, Bainbridge says, would be for the judge to recuse himself.

So, if an abortion case came before a Catholic judge, and he determined that the legal precedent for the case was sound and he would have to uphold the legality of abortion, and yet he did not recuse himself, wouldn’t that be–in the words of the bishops–a situation in which “a Catholic public official…disregard[ed] church teaching on the inviolability of the human person [and] indirectly collude[d] in the taking of innocent life”?

Perhaps I truly am “simplistic” and “elementary” in my thinking. But according to the explanations of Bainbridge and Ponnuru, Catholic judges could and should be pressured to recuse themselves from cases that would require them to “commit formal cooperation with evil” (at least as determined by Catholic teaching). To overlook their participation in “leading others into serious sin” would put bishops in the position of picking and choosing which Catholic public officials to denounce, a kind of…oh, what’s the phrase I’m looking for?…”cafeteria Catholicism,” you might say. And we certainly can’t have that.

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