buruma189_ Brooks Kraft LLCCorbis via Getty Images_supremecourtcatholicpriest Brooks Kraft/LLC/Corbis via Getty Images

Catholics v. the Constitution

More and more in the United States, the secular left and the religious right are engaged in a culture war, revolving around sexuality, gender, and race, where politics is no longer negotiable. When that happens, institutions start breaking down, and the stage is set for charismatic demagogues and the politics of violence.

NEW YORK – According to a Pew Research Center survey in March of this year, 61% of Americans believe that abortion should be legal in most cases. Even so, the US Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to abortion established in its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

No wonder the reaction has been fierce. One Democratic congresswoman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, called for two Supreme Court justices to be impeached for lying under oath during their Senate confirmation hearings. Panicked commentators warn of the end of democracy in the United States. Others blame misogyny and “theatrical masculinity.”

Less attention is paid to one important element in America’s abortion debate: the steady ascendancy in American public life of a deeply reactionary strain of Catholicism. Of course, Catholics are no less divided than anyone else on many issues, including the right to abortion. Liberal Catholics, such as President Joe Biden and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, as well as many of the roughly 50% of Catholics who voted for Democrats, support a constitutional right to abortion. The same is true of Justice Sonia Sotomayor, one of the three liberals on the Supreme Court. But five of the nine Supreme Court justices adhere to an ultra-conservative brand of Catholicism which holds that even an embryo has a soul and thus is sacrosanct.