To redeploy a phrase from President Ford, our “long national nightmare”—in this case, the semi-permanent presidential campaign—will be over in eleven months, or at least suspended for a year or so. It’s not been an altogether edifying show to date; one may hope that, as the fields get winnowed down, a measure of the serious debate that befits a great republic might emerge. With a view to encouraging that, here are two suggestions for what Catholics in America might ponder before November 8.
(1) The most important numbers to keep in mind between now and Election Day are “78,” “80,” and “83.” Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer will be 78 by November 8; Justices Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy will be 80 by then, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will be 83. If the actuarial tables mean anything, those numbers suggest that the next President of the United States is likely to get two, perhaps three, and just possibly four, nominations to the Court.
This demographic reality creates an opportunity, unprecedented since the disaster of Roe v. Wade, to make significant advances in rebuilding the structure of legal protection for human life from conception until natural death in the United States. It also creates the possibility of reversing more than a half-century’s jurisprudential malpractice in the matter of Church-and-state and reaffirming the truth about the First Amendment, which is that “no establishment” serves the goal of “free exercise.” And it just might mean getting the question of what “marriage” is, and who may “marry” whom, reconsidered as a matter of constitutional law, not public policy preference.
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