Some years ago I published a piece at Catholic Thing about the conversion of Robert Bork to the Catholic Church. I recall on that day, which I was honored to attend, Father C. J. McCloskey said Bork had run almost the entire gamut of sacraments; baptism, first confession, first communion, confirmation, and had his marriage sacramentalized.
Five years ago, Robert Bork was baptized into the Catholic faith. Accompanied by his saintly wife Mary Ellen, in a chapel bursting with friends, Bork nearly ran the table of sacraments. He got five that day: baptism, confirmation, first confession, first Communion, and his marriage was regularized according to the Church. All that was missing were last rites and priestly ordination.
At the time of his Senate hearings, according to Bork himself, he was an atheist. And here is what I wonder. Would Bork have journeyed to Rome had he served on the Supreme Court? While Mary Ellen’s example and influence would have remained present either way, other influences certainly would have been brought to bear, namely, power, and our tendency to attach ourselves to it. The rich young man went away because he was too attached to his things. How much more alluring is power? How heady is it to be in the very thick of the most important questions of our time; questions that affect hundreds of millions of lives and that reverberate through time even unto a kind of immortality? Wouldn’t the danger of hubris and the Olympian nature of the Supreme Court make such interior considerations difficult, if not even impossible?
There is another puzzling question. With Bork on the court, Roe might have been overturned in 1992. But on the court Bork might not have found God and the Church. I don’t even know how to think about that except in light of the shepherd who left the ninety-nine sheep to find the single lost one. The Church teaches that a single soul is worth more than the whole universe. Figure that one out, Christopher Hitchens.
A more pleasant thought: Is it possible that Robert Bork lost the whole world—the court and all that meant—but gained his soul?
Rest in peace, Judge Bork.