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Faithful Catholics Hold Diverse Views; Supreme Court Must Protect Right of Individuals to Hold and Practice Differing Beliefs

July 20, 2005

Statement of Frances Kissling, president, Catholics for a Free Choice

WASHINGTON, DC— President Bush’s nomination of Judge John Roberts to the Supreme Court is an important one. Supreme Court justices have a great duty to protect and defend the rights of all people under the constitution. Recent nominations to the federal courts have generated substantial scrutiny and generated unwelcome and inappropriate references to religiosity. Some have claimed that the standard used to judge Catholic nominees to federal courts have constituted religious discrimination. These claims are based on the assumption that a faithful practicing Catholic is obliged to follow church positions on issues like abortion, contraception, access to reproductive health services, end of life decision-making, the death penalty and gay rights. These assumptions are unfounded. Faithful Catholics hold a wide range of views on what the constitution demands, regardless of their personal religious views about the morality of these issues.

We make no assumption regarding John Roberts’ personal adherence to liberal or conservative interpretations of the morality of these issues. We fully understand that regardless of those views, an educated Catholic knows that they have a personal right to dissent from church positions and even stronger responsibility to protect the right of all Americans to follow or disregard the teachings of their denominations on these issues. Modern Catholic social thought accepts and supports a legitimate distinction between church and state.