With Amy Coney Barrett getting confirmed to the Supreme Court by a 52-48 Senate vote, she became the fastest nominee in U.S. history to make it through Congressional hearings. Her confirmation also means that two-thirds of the nine justices in the highest court of the land are Catholic.
Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan are both Jewish. Neil Gorsuch was raised in a Catholic home, but he is reportedly an Episcopalian.
What is remarkable about this statistic is that most Republicans identify themselves as Protestants, which means there is often a negative view of the Catholic faith from their perspective.
Catholics Started Focusing on the Legal Profession in the Early 20th Century
Although it took almost a century for the first Catholic to reach the Supreme Court and 58 years for the second justice to serve, this faith group now over-represents the general population. Only 20% of Americans say that they belong to the church.
This trend to appoint Catholics developed over the last century as Protestants moved away from legal careers. Evangelicals often see a divide between worldly and spiritual governing that takes them away from the profession.
Catholicism sees justice and the legal profession as a natural bridge between God and man.
There is also the fuel of perceived or real religious prejudice against Catholics that encourages them to enter the legal profession. It is an easier way to protect their rights.
Religion Is Only One Way to View the Court
Although having Catholics on the Supreme Court is an unusual note, it is important to look at it through another lens. This governmental branch rarely reflects the actual composition of America’s population.
Several groups, including Unitarians, Presbyterians, and Episcopalians, have all had moments where they were significantly over-represented.
Most Supreme Court justices went to an elite private school at some point during their education. Eight of the nine justices attended either Harvard or Yale law school. Barrett got her J.D. from Notre Dame.
The court’s purpose is to settle conflicts found in the lower courts and to determine constitutionality. Who we trust for that process changes through the years, and right now, the U.S. is trusting Catholics.