Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
January 23, 2006
LAW/RELIGION: Saint Thurgood?

A group of Episcopalians wants to make Thurgood Marshall a saint. Via Bashman. Now, Marshall was a fine litigator who did a lot of good in his years as a practicing lawyer, and for the most part I wouldn't hold against him, in this particular context, the fact that he was a poor judge, as he was in most cases a well-intentioned one. But I do wonder about sainthood for a man who joined Roe v. Wade and, so far as I can tell, never repented of it.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:34 PM | Law 2006-08 • | Religion | Comments (18) | TrackBack (0)

I'm not Episcopalian, nor am I even Christian, so obviously what I say should be seen in that context. But the article says that MLK & Florence Nightengale, too, are saints in this denomination.

So the man who played a towering role in integrating the schools of the South should not be considered because he voted "yeah" on a the opinion granting American women the right to make decisions about their own bodies, or whether they're up for the serious task of raising an unwanted child? Huh?

As to repenting, why should he repent for something that was obvious good? Maybe he should've repented for not encouraging Blackmon to write a better opinion, but as to how he voted, why should he have?

Funny how the same folks who always cry "litmus test" seem to use one in every walk of life (or death).

Posted by: Mike at January 24, 2006 5:34 AM


I don't think Crank was proposing a litmus test. However, sainthood isn't the same as giving someone the keys to the city or writing a proclamation in their honor. Before reading this I didn't even know anyone besides the Catholics elevated people to sainthood. So, I don't know how Episcopalians handle things. Having said that I assume it is the ultimate honor of their religion. I don't know of any religion that doesn't condemn the practice of infanticide. I'd say give this guy all the secular honors you want but I wouldn't associate anyone involved with abortion with religion. Kind of oxymoronic.

Posted by: LargeBill at January 24, 2006 8:38 AM


Fair enough. I see your point.

Posted by: Mike at January 24, 2006 8:55 AM


Although I have to point out, I'm unaware that Marshall ever said or did anything suggesting that he supports "infanticide."

In fact, I'd bet everything I own that Marshall, like everyone I've ever met, was against "infanticide."

Abortion is the killing of a fetus. Fetuses are unborn.

Infanticide is the killing of an infant. Infants have been born.

Big difference.

You oppose the killing of fetuses. I respect your opinion. But please don't take the language we share and twist its words into new shapes to support your personal views.

Posted by: Mike at January 24, 2006 9:01 AM

For the record, he's also a reasonably decent airport. At least he will be once construction is finished.

Posted by: Attila (Pillage Idiot) at January 24, 2006 9:34 AM

Perhaps Crank could serve as "devil's advocate" at Marshall's canonization inquiry, assuming of course, it mirrors Rome's process. That'd be interesting.

Posted by: seamus at January 24, 2006 9:35 AM


Is that the origin of the term?

Posted by: Mike at January 24, 2006 9:41 AM

Not all religions consider abortion a sin, although I'd be surprised if the Episcopal church is one that does not. If it does, than I would think the case for Marshall's sainthood would be problematic.

Posted by: Jerry at January 24, 2006 9:50 AM

It is. Part of the canonization procedure is, or at least used to be, having someone present the case against the candidate's sainthood- the devil's advocate. Sly sense of humor the Vatican has.

The most recent, relatively high profile, devil's advocate was Christopher Hitchens against Mother Theresa. I would have paid to be in that room.

Posted by: seamus at January 24, 2006 9:52 AM


You may believe a fetus is just a glob of cells, which makes it okay for you to honor him. Most religions don't share that opinion. What I questioned was the probity of a religion honoring someone of Marshall's ilk.

Posted by: LargeBill at January 24, 2006 9:53 AM


I think you're arguing w/ Mike. abortion is a very strange issue. i confess that I really don't know what I think, ultimately. I think its facetious to distinguish betw/ an infant and a fetus. Of coiurse its a human being. I wonder, however, at the advisability of state interference in what seems to me a matter of personal sovereignty. until the baby's born, Mom's the sovereign. I may not like her choice, neither may the state, but I wonder whether its wise, or possible, to forbid her to do it. I think Roe's a terrible decision, of course, and should be overturned. More than being poor jurisprudence, its inflamed and exacerbated the abortion debate in America and has contributed to the bebasement of our political discourse. Ultimately, state legislatures should be writing abortion laws, or not. I cannot honestly whether or not I would vote for a state legislator who would support an abortion ban. V/, v/ difficult.

Posted by: seamus at January 24, 2006 10:02 AM

They also named the federal courthouse here in NY after Marshall; I have no gripe with that.

I myself hadn't known that Episcopalians had saints. I also did not know the origins of "devil's advocate". Interesting. A title Hitchens would wear with pride, I assume.

Posted by: The Crank at January 24, 2006 10:16 AM

Oh yeah, Hitch would *love* it!

Posted by: Mike at January 24, 2006 10:23 AM

The devil's advocate was not an official title but the popular name for the "Promotor of the Faith." This was a more or less permanent position-- each candidate did not have their own Promotor Fidei. It was the Promotor's job to marshal all the evidence against a particular candidate for sainthood, generally in opposition to the postulator, the official responsible for shepherding the candidate through the process and marshaling all the relevant evidence. Now, the postulator is supposed to more or less play both roles but tends to be someone sympathetic to the cause. There is also a panel of 9 within the Congregation for the Causes of Saints that votes on each candidate, based on the evidence presented by the postulator.

As one might guess from the official title (which he would wear much less comfortably than the popular nickname), Hitchens was not the devil's advocate appointed by the Church in Mother Theresa's case. Indeed, by the time Blessed Theresa of Calcutta's process began in 1997, Pope John Paul II had eliminated this position, as part of a streamlining effort in the early 80s.

Hitchens did write a book and a number of articles that were highly critical of Mother Theresa. Most of them came out while she was alive, I think. I'm sure he reprised his arguments in light of all the positive attention showered upon her when she died. No doubt he will be heard from against upon her canonization, which is likely within the next couple years (just waiting for that miracle!).

Posted by: MTM at January 24, 2006 2:58 PM

I'll bow to MTM's superior knowledge regarding the office itself, but will go to bat for Hitchens as Mother Theresa's devil's advocate. He went to Rome, at the Vatican's invitation, to argue against her canonization. Perhaps it was more in the role of witness in service of the process than advocate managing the process.

I don't think he's reprised his arguments much. Not long ago he was heard to comment that amongst the biggest regrets of his career was acceding to his editor's suggestion that his book on Mother Theresa be titled THE MISSIONARY POSITION. His working, and preferred, title was SACRED COW.

Posted by: seamus at January 24, 2006 4:21 PM

MTM & Seamus-

Great stuff. Thanks.

Posted by: Mike at January 24, 2006 4:28 PM

Man, I always thought it was named after Keanu Reeves for his role as Al Pacino's attorney. Geez, who knew?

Posted by: jim at January 24, 2006 5:26 PM

re; thurgood marshall being a saint in the episcopal church

well, Justice Marshall was a fine man, but he is hardly a saint; he used a lot of salty language and was not what one could call a fasting, abstemious man oblivious to worldly pleasures in the service of the lord. He ate too much, he cursed a lot and he smoked to excess. He's just not the 20 years in the desert type or the doesn't speak on mondays type like Ghandi we associate with sainthood whatever the religion, although Marshall was a groundbreaking figure in the history of civil rights both as a litigator and as a justice.

Regarding his abortion vote, first we have to examine what the church says about abortion. Abortion is only made illegal by the Seventh Ecumenical Council; the same Council also holds that priests can marry and has several other holdings that the Orthodox and Catholic churches diametrically are in opposition on, including the filioque creed issue, though this has been negotiated in recent years. The Orthodox and Catholic churches agree that abortion is a sin.

However, this does not mean that a justice issuing a ruling that a woman deciding to have an abortion is a private matter between her and her MD outside the reach of criminal or civil laws due to the penumbras of privacy of the 14th and related amendments of the Bill of Rights.

The petitioners in the original case in 1967 were, signficantly, the Fellows of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, of which my late father was a distinguished member as well as a dues paying and very religious orthodox christian.

AMCOG's position on abortion was necessitated by the fact that they did not want doctors placed in the position of being either civilly or criminally liabile for the peformance of abortions which they, the doctors, deemed therapeutically necessary to the health of the woman or which the woman needed for personal reasons, such as the fact that the woman was too young to carry a child, the victim of a rape, etc.

The classic case in bioethics theory is this; the patient is a diabetic type 1. If she carries the baby, there is a 90% chance she will go blind. A thereapeutic abortion is indicated. However, she can carry the baby to term without loss of life, only loss of sight.

Here, clearly, any rational physician would advise termination of the pregnancy.

Other bioethic situations include termination of the pregnancy for the reasons that the fetus has been tested and found to be defective chromosome trisomy 21, defective trisomy 13, defective tay sachs disease, etc. No one would advise carrying such a child which is doomed to die to term.

Thus, the abortion is ethical, which it may not be the religiously correct thing to do.

The legal ruling is correct, because in this case, the issues of morality and ethics are at variance with any one established rule set forth in the seventh ecumenical council of the ancient church of the 8th century AD; instead, they are a private matter to be determined between patient and doctor.

The justice making such a ruling has not committed any sin because clearly, the justice has not been party to any abortion nor has the justice made it any easier or harder to have an abortion.

There is no evidence that Roe v. Wade increased or decreased the number of abortions, since the people having abortions would have gone to those states where it was legal prior to 1973, e.g. California and New York City, to get the abortions.

Even if Roe is repealed, absent a national ban, abortion will likely be legal in New York and all throughout new england, CA, and Canada, and Mexico or the caribbean may legalize it as a tourist trade.

So the numbers will stay the same. Maybe a few more poor black or poor hispanic children will be born that would otherwise have been aborted.

It's not much statistically or ethically or morally.

This is like the debate over temperance and prohibition, which was also religiously driven, which by the way I agree with far more than I do with the anti-abortion movement, since alcohol is a far greater social and medical harm than abortion.

Once the anti-temperance movement succeeded, it was thought that drunk husbands would stop beating their wives, and that a host of social benefits would ensue.

Instead, we had the rise of the mafia and bootlegging in every major city, and counter-intuitive responses to a well-intended law.

Chicago, NYC, Boston, all were "wet" cities and eventually, the issue ended up being the demise of the Republican party when the "wet" issue drove ethnics and city dwellers into the arms of the Democrats along with the stock market in 1932; Al Smith had run on a "wet" platform in 1928 and done reasonably well prior to FDR.

Analogously, running pro-choice today attracts votes in urban centers and among certain classes of voters. If combined with one other issue, such as a bad economy or a bad war in Iraq, Republicans could see hard earned gaines eroded in the mid-term elections this coming year.

--art kyriazis, philly (republican)

Posted by: art kyriazis at June 23, 2006 12:10 PM
Site Meter 250wde_2004WeblogAwards_BestSports.jpg