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The recent Committee hearings in the Senate on the nomination of Justice Samuel Alito brought out an interesting conflict.
Judge Alito is Catholic. So are three others already on the Supreme Court:
1. Chief Justice John Roberts
2. Justice Antonin Scalia
3. Justice Clarence Thomas
There were also four Catholic Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, all of whom opposed Samuel Alito's nomination:
1. Sen. Patrick Leahy
2. Sen. Ted Kennedy
3. Sen. Joe Biden
4. Sen. Richard Durbin
The four Catholic justices now sitting on the Supreme Court are all known to oppose abortion. The four Catholic senators on the Judiciary Committee are all known to favor abortion.
It all goes to show that the Catholic Church is not a unified religious group of people. The Catholic Senators are obviously "protestants" in the traditional sense, in that they oppose and disagree with the official Church doctrine and the views of the popes. But the traditional Protestants today--who oppose the Catholic Church and do not believe in the Pope's infallibility--are really quite "Catholic" in their view on the Abortion issue.
There is a long-term re-alignment shift going on in the religious world. It centers largely on the abortion issue, but it is broader than that. The traditional Protestants are moving closer to the Catholic Church, especially now that the Catholic Church has stopped burning dissidents at the stake. But there is also a Neo-Protestant revolt going on that pits so-called "liberal" philosophy against so-called "conservative" philosophy. The main lightning rod issue is abortion.
The same disagreement appears also in the various Protestant groups, some of which are quite liberal, and others conservative. But that is not real news. We all know about that.
What is fascinating to me is that the Roman Catholic Church's official teachings (representing conservative Catholicism) have more in common with conservative Evangelical groups than with the liberals within its own ranks. This really began, strangely enough, with Vatican II, which was a "liberal" move, but it also relaxed the grip of the Church on the lives of the people. The moment it allowed some fresh air into the Church, Vatican II paved the way for the "Charismatic Renewal" that soon spread to Pentecostal groups. This put more common ground between these traditional enemies.
Given enough time, we could see this re-alignment split and unite both Protestants and Catholics into their respective conservative and liberal churches.