The Catholic Thing

Some critics question whether John Roberts should be confirmed to the Supreme Court because he is Catholic. He should be confirmed because he is Catholic.

Like Roberts, I went to Catholic school as a lad — or, to be more precise, I survived it. I fondly remember how my 2nd grade nun, Sister Mary Brass Knuckles, swatted my hands with a steel ruler every time my homework was incomplete.

I doubt Roberts ever came to school without his homework complete, but he surely witnessed daily torture and humiliation at the hands of unbridled power. You'd think his experience with the nuns would ingratiate him with liberals, as it could make him more sensitive to the plight of detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

Like all Catholics, Roberts has surely been to Confession. This sacrament forces a man to look inside his own heart. There is nothing more humbling than kneeling down before another human being and saying out loud all the stupid things you've done.

Not only can this take some time — I usually hand out sandwiches and refreshments to the folks waiting behind me — but it also results in penance. Usually the penance involves a prayer or a charitable deed, though I think it was over the top that Father made me purchase a fleet of Acuras for the sisters. I also think that particular sin was worth it.

In any event, Roberts surely learned important lessons from going to Confession. He learned humility, that there is an overriding truth, and that it is his job as a human to root out his own conceits so that he may better understand and align himself with that truth.

Isn't such humility the most important quality we'd want in any justice? Don't we all want a justice who will use his position not to advance his own agenda, but to understand the meaning of our laws?

Roberts is said to be a witty fellow, and this may also be attributed to his faith. Catholics tend to have a good sense of humor. We love jokes, such as the one about the nun who bumps into an old student after many years.

“So what are you doing with your life, Susie?” says the nun. “Sister, you will not like this but I must tell you the truth. I am a prostitute.”

The sister becomes very angry and lectures the young woman on her poor decision. As the girl attempts to defend herself, the nun becomes greatly relieved.

“Prostitute!” says the nun, “I thought you said Protestant!”

A sense of humor is badly needed in Washington, DC, particularly at a time when so many folks are taking themselves so seriously. A lack of a sense of humor can blind a person, make him get lost in the narrowness of his own ideas.

Where there is humor, there is honesty and humility, and where there is honesty and humility you'll find people who seek to understand other people's ideas, not impose their own.

There are numerous reasons why being Catholic is excellent preparation for serving on the Supreme Court. A devoted Catholic is someone who works hard to avoid all the sins common to mankind in general (pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed, sloth) and Teddy Kennedy in particular.

A devoted Catholic is someone who prays and fasts and listens, someone who hopes to attain grace. Grace is what opens up his heart and mind, so that he may be more courageous, prudent and just.

Some critics worry that a devoted Catholic could take a narrow-minded approach to issues such as abortion and gay marriage, but I'll bet he'd go the opposite direction.

I'll bet he'd be more likely to serve humbly to advance something greater than himself, the law itself. I'll bet he'd be less likely to twist and contort the law to achieve a desired outcome.

If he tried such a thing, one of his old nuns will track him down and whack him on the knuckles with a ruler.

Tom Purcell, a free-lance writer, lives in Mt. Lebanon, PA. Email him at You can also visit him on the Web at

(This article previously appeared on the website of Jewish World Review and is used by permission).

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