Sotomayor was the only Catholic on the Supreme Court who supported affirmative action in the recent ruling. Roberts as well as Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett — all of whom are Catholic — sided with the majority.
Yet the response to Thursday’s ruling from Catholic institutions in the U.S. has been largely negative, albeit limited. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has not issued any type of statement on the ruling.
Eduardo Peñalver, president of the Jesuit Seattle University, called the ruling “disappointing” in a Thursday statement, saying that it “will likely hinder the ability of many universities to achieve a diverse student body.”
Peñalver further said that the decision may particularly impact Seattle University’s operations as a Catholic institution.
“Our foundation in the Jesuit educational tradition makes us different from other institutions of higher learning,” Peñalver said. “Today’s decision leaves unanswered important and unsettled questions about how the court’s restrictions on the consideration of race in admissions interacts with our constitutional right to the free exercise and expression of our Jesuit, Catholic values.”
“We are actively exploring the implications of today’s decision for those questions,” Peñalver said. “In the meantime, we will make every effort to continue to recruit and retain students who reflect the diversity of the world we are preparing our students to lead.”
Santa Clara University, a Catholic university in California, also criticized the ruling in a statement by President Julie Sullivan that said the decision “places a substantial burden on our freedom to recognize aspiring and current students as ‘whole’ human beings.”
Patricia McGuire, president of Trinity Washington University in Washington, D.C., released an official statement as well in which she said: “The Roberts opinion is utterly devoid of cultural context or even acknowledgment of the legacy and still-real presence of racial injustice in our society.”
In a statement on its website, Mount St. Mary’s University in Los Angeles said: “We are disheartened by this decision and stand with other Catholic colleges and universities in our concern about the impact of these rulings on students across our country.”
The University of Notre Dame released a more measured response. President Rev. John Jenkins said the university will “study the Supreme Court’s decision and consider any implications for our admissions process as we strive to fulfill our distinctive mission.”
“At Notre Dame, our Catholic mission compels us to build a class reflecting the diversity of experiences and gifts of the human family,” Jenkins said. “We undertake a comprehensive assessment of applicants, admit talented students with interests and aspirations consonant with our mission, and provide opportunities for a wide range of young people. These commitments are as meaningful today at Notre Dame as they were yesterday.”
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