Do Catholic judges have specific moral and legal obligations because they are Catholic? Frank-Paul Sampino argues they do not :

In light of the 2004 debate over whether pro-abortion politicians could receive Holy Communion, and whether ordinary Catholics could vote for such politicians in good conscience, confusion about the moral obligations of Catholic judges is understandable.

The Church has by no means offered definitive answers to these questions. Indeed, there has been precious little discussion of this problem even among lay Catholic intellectuals. Thankfully, though, the Church does offer some principles by which we can begin to outline possible answers.

Generally speaking, a Catholic judge’s moral obligation is no more, and no less, than to apply the civil law as he understands it, regardless of the outcome of particular cases. I maintain that a Catholic judge need not recuse himself, or resign, or stretch the law to achieve a morally acceptable outcome. With rare exceptions, he may simply decide the case as he believes the appropriate civil laws require.


The reasons Sampino gives seem moderately persuasive. What do you think?

Articles by Joe Carter

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