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The five grumpy old Catholic men now sitting on the U.S. Supreme Court have embarked on a war on American women, by deciding the Hobby Lobby and other recent cases which reduce their freedom of choice regarding control of their own bodies. These five humans with penises have also shown less sympathy for the rights of workers, voters, minorities, the elderly, the environment, the poor, and most criminal defendants. They are increasingly out of step with the American people, and bring back memories of the "Nine Old Men" whom FDR railed against in the 1930s. Will there be another "switch in time that saved nine"?

Catholic Supreme Court Justices

The five Catholic Supreme Court Justices are: Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Anthony Kennedy. Recently appointed Justice Sonia Sotomayor is also a Catholic, but predictably has joined Justices David Breyer, Elena Kagan and Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the liberal wing of the Court, the fourth vote in what has been a raft of 5-4 decisions that have changed the lives for the worse of many Americans over the past decade.

These five old Catholic men, largely due to their cloistered upbringings, have consciously or subconsciously let their strong religious beliefs bleed into their legal opinions and have cheapened the separation of church and state on which the Constitution was based. Here is their history:

"Archie Bunker in a High-Backed Chair"

That is how Columnist Maureen Dowd characterized Antonin Scalia, the most Catholic of the Justices. The only child of Sicilian immigrants, Tony was born in Trenton, New Jersey, in 1938, making him now 78 years old. He attended Jesuit-run Xavier High School in New York City and Jesuit-run Georgetown University before Harvard Law School. He married Maureen McCarthy in 1960 and has nine children (one now a Catholic priest). A high school classmate recently said "This kid was a conservative when he was 17 years old. An arch-conservative Catholic, he could have been a member of the Curia [the central governing body of the Church]."

Scalia strongly believes there is no Constitutional right to abortion, and has repeatedly tried to get the Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. Regarding the 2007 Gonzales decision, which banned partial birth abortion, University of Chicago law professor Geoffrey Stone (whom I know well), a former colleague of Scalia on the Chicago faculty, criticized the Gonzales decision, stating that religion had influenced the outcome as all five justices in the majority were Catholic, whereas the dissenters were Protestant and Jewish. Scalia's response: refusing to speak at the University of Chicago until Stone retires. He has not been missed.

Scalia sneaked onto the Supreme Court in 1987, a Reagan appointee nominated on the same day as Justice William Rehnquist was nominated to be Chief Justice. Rehnquist's nomination took most of the political heat.

Scalia sneaked onto the Supreme Court in 1987, a Reagan appointee nominated on the same day as Justice William Rehnquist was nominated to be Chief Justice. Rehnquist's nomination took most of the political heat, and was confirmed 67-33, compared to the 98-0 confirmation vote for Scalia. Clearly, Scalia did not receive adequate scrutiny. In Scalia's 1957 commencement address at Georgetown, he urged his classmates not to separate their religious beliefs from their intellectual life: "If we will not be leaders of a real, a true, Catholic intellectual life, no one will…The responsibility rests upon all of us whatever our future professions."

Scalia insists on attending Catholic masses preached in Latin, not English, and recently stated that "In order for capitalism to work, in order for it to produce a good and stable society, traditional Christian values are essential." At President Obama's second inauguration in 2013, Scalia wore a replica of the hat worn by Saint Thomas More, who was beheaded for refusing to sanction the divorce of English King Henry VIII from Catherine of Aragon so he could marry Anne Boleyn. Thomas More, from whom I am remotely descended, is Scalia's hero.

The House Republicans, some of whom are talking about impeaching Obama for "high crimes and misdemeanors", ought to focus their ire on this guy.

"Long Dong Silver"

In his 1991 Supreme Court confirmation hearing, it came out that Clarence Thomas loved this pornographic movie, as well as the famous pubic hair in his Coke can. Thomas was confirmed by a razor-thin 52-48 vote in the Senate, and has largely sat silent on the Court ever since, often following Scalia's lead in how he votes.

Born to a Southern Baptist mother in abject poverty in Georgia, he was raised a Catholic by his grandparents, and at age 16 considered entering the priesthood, becoming the first black student to attend St. John Vianney's Minor Seminary on the Isle of Hope. He later attended Conception Seminary College before entering the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, graduating in 1971. He then graduated from Yale Law School in 1974, where he began his habit of saying nothing in class (or later in court), according to some of his classmates at Yale whom I know.

His second wife, Virginia Lamp, whom he married in 1987, later became a lobbyist and founder of Liberty Control, an advocacy group associated with the Tea Party. She also became a consultant to the conservative Heritage Foundation, where she received $686,589 in income in recent years, which Thomas failed to disclose for many years on his FEC report on outside income. Speaking of impeachment, "bribery" is also a ground under the Constitution.

scalia laughing

The Swinger

Justice Anthony Kennedy, appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1988, has become the swing vote in the recent 5-4 decisions since the 2005 retirement of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Born in 1938 and raised in Sacramento, California, with a politically-connected attorney father, Kennedy graduated from Stanford and Harvard Law School, and was nominated to the Court by Reagan after his nominations of Robert Bork and Douglas Ginsburg (both University of Chicago Law School graduates) failed. Kennedy had been a Ninth Circuit judge since 1975, and was confirmed 97-0.

Raised a Catholic, he holds to a less separatist reading of the Establishment Clause than did Sandra Day O'Connor. He favors a "Coercion Test" that a town "does not violate the First Amendment's Establishment Clause by opening its meetings with sectarian prayer that comports with America's tradition and doesn't coerce participation by nonadherents." (Town of Greece v Galloway, decided by the Court on May 5, 2014). However, in recent years, Kennedy toyed with the idea of voting to overturn Roe v Wade, but has decided to uphold restrictions on abortion while upholding the Roe precedent. What he will hold next year is unclear.

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Another Trenton Italian-American Justice

Samuel Alito snuck onto the Supreme Court after the 2005 debacle over the George W. Bush nomination of White House Counsel Harriet Miers failed. At his confirmation hearing, he stated that he would look at the subject of abortion with an "open mind" but would not state how he would rule on Roe v Wade if that issue came before the Court. He was confirmed in January, 2006 by a Senate vote of 58-42.

Born in 1950 of Catholic Italian-American parents in Trenton, like Scalia, he graduated from Princeton and Yale Law School in 1975, and had been a Third Circuit judge since 1990 when he was nominated. He has stated that his major influences have been William F. Buckley, Jr., The National Review, Yale Law Professor Alexander Bickel, and the Barry Goldwater 1964 Presidential Campaign. On the Supreme Court, he is firmly in the Scalia camp, and at age 64, he stands to serve many more years on the Court.

The Chief

Chief Justice John Roberts lucked out in getting that position. He was nominated to be an Associate Justice when Chief Justice William Rehnquist, for whom he had clerked, suddenly died in 2005, and he was renominated to succeed him as Chief. He was confirmed by a 78-22 vote.

Born in 1955, at 59 he is the youngest Justice, and was educated at a private Catholic elementary school and at La Lumiere School, a Roman Catholic boarding school, both in Indiana, followed by Harvard College and Law School, graduating in 1979. After service in the Reagan and Bush Administrations, he spent 14 years in private practice at Hogan & Hartson, a large D.C. law firm, where he argued 39 cases before the Supreme Court before being appointed to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2003, a scant two years before he was elevated to the Supremes.

His position on Roe v Wade is unclear: at one point during his government service, he wrote a legal memo defending the Administration policies on abortion, but said he was representing views of the Administration which were not necessarily his own. As a lawyer in the George W. Bush Administration, he signed a legal brief urging the Court to overturn Roe v Wade, and in private meetings with Senators before his confirmation as Chief Justice, he represented that the case was settled law, and had some weight as precedent, but that the Court is not bound to uphold it.

alito roberts scalia

Supreme Court Justices Scalia, Roberts, and Alito

He married Jane Sullivan, also a Catholic, in 1996, and has three adopted children. His wife is a trustee, along with Clarence Thomas, at their alma mater, Holy Cross, and he has had two seizures of what may be epilepsy, and has a 60% chance of a third seizure.

On the Court, he has agreed 94% of the time with Justice Alito. Notably, he parted company with the other four grumpy old Catholic men to uphold most of Obamacare, but voted with them to cut back the Civil Rights Act voter procedures.

What to Do?

It seems inevitable that the next abortion case coming before the Supreme Court may result in the overturning of Roe v Wade, making abortion, and perhaps even contraception, illegal in the United States. This is the formal Catholic position, the five men are Catholics, and they clearly would place their religious beliefs above their duties as Supreme Court Justices, charged with adhering to settled law, if they did this. And they would have declared war on all American women and those of us who are not Catholic, and many who are.

When FDR was confronted with the "Nine Old Men" on the Supreme Court who had partially destroyed his New Deal by finding unconstitutional the NRA and AAA, after he won a huge reelection victory in 1936 he proposed to "pack" the Court by increasing to up to 15 the number of Justices, if they refused to retire at age 70. The public reaction was not favorable, and he was punished in the 1938 Congressional election, and dropped his plan. But Justice Owen Roberts, one of the Nine Old Men, switched his vote to find constitutional the Wagner Act and Social Security, "the switch in time that saved nine", and over the next four years FDR got four liberal appointments to the Court as the Old Men retired.

On the present Court, Scalia, Thomas and Alito are beyond hope, but Kennedy is squishy, and might swing the other way on major issues such as overturning Roe v Wade. And Chief Justice Roberts, interested in protecting his legacy as the head of the Court, might vote with the liberal Justices, as he did in the 5-4 decision upholding most of Obamacare.

Some of those liberal Justices are old (Ginsburg is 81, and Breyer is 75) and might retire or die in the next few years, but it seems unlikely that Obama would be able to get anyone through the Senate in the remaining 2.5 years of his Presidency, particularly if the Republicans obtain a Senate majority following the 2014 elections.

So the future of this country, especially as seen by progressives, is dependent on these liberal Justices remaining on the Court until the next President is inaugurated, who hopefully will be a Democrat, backed up by a Democrat-controlled Senate and a more evenly divided House. In 2016, there are 24 Republican Senators up for reelection, and only 10 Democrats, so the likelihood of a more liberal Senate backing up a liberal President is on the horizon. And if the Tea Party keeps terrorizing the country with extreme candidates, there could even be a Democrat-controlled House. Happy Days would be here again…

ted vaill

Ted Vaill