Yesterday, recently appointed Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts confirmed Judge Samuel Alito to take the reigns of outgoing Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, thus creating the first Catholic-majority Supreme Court in U.S. history.
Judge Alito now joins fellow Catholics, John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy.
The final vote was unprecedented split along party lines with many observers criticizing the 58-42 vote as being overly partisan.
That fact notwithstanding, the 55 year old New Jersey native was sworn in just hours before President Bush’s regular State of the Union address.
Many Christian and religious groups are praising the confirmation and hoping that a Catholic majority could hold substantial clout in the possible overturning of the Roe vs. Wade decision which legalized abortion in the U.S. in 1973.
The Economist Magazine remarked recently that the possibility of a Catholic majority court “is a remarkable historical turnaround.” It cites Arthur Schlesinger senior, who “once remarked that prejudice against the Catholic Church was ‘the deepest bias in the history of the American people‘”.
Fr. Frank Pavone, head of the group Priests for Life, for his part praised “voters who, in the elections of 2004, were motivated by the desire to change the Supreme Court, particularly on the way it rules regarding abortion.”
“No issue”, he said, “is of greater moral consequence. We expect that the changes on the Court will move us closer to an end to legal abortion in America.”
“We renew”, he added, “our call to voters to make the elections of 2006 and 2008 even greater advances for the protection of the unborn.”
Joseph Cella, president of the group Fidelis, said yesterday that "With his even temperament and respect for the rule of law will, we believe Justice Alito will serve on the Supreme Court with distinction. We congratulate him on his confirmation and wish him well in his continued service to our country.”
He opined that "The state of the union is stronger with Justice Alito on the Supreme Court, and ushers a new era of respect for the rule of law. Without a doubt, Justice Alito’s confirmation is the single biggest domestic victory to date for President Bush.”
Rev. Rob Schenck echoed the sentiments of many other religious leaders in pointing out that "Millions of Americans have prayed for a change on the Court, and this vote is an answer to those prayers.”
“We are hopeful”, he said, that “the confirmation of Justice Alito is the beginning of the end for Roe, that it signifies the preservation of marriage and strengthens our public acknowledgement of God. Now we turn our prayers and work towards the next open seat."