My agenda here is Roman Catholics in the American legal profession, from George Higgins's Jerry Kennedy to Judge Samuel Alito's joining the four other Catholics to make a majority on the federal Supreme Court. (I thought, as I said this in Washington, just before the Senate confirmation hearings in January 2006, that some in attendance may not have thought about this, and may have wanted to leap to their feet and phone their senators.)
Begin with ethnographic narrowing: When I talk about Catholic lawyers in the U.S., I mean to talk about descendants of the late immigrants—that is, people whose ancestors came here between the end of the Civil War and the end of World War I, when Congress stifled European immigration. I am talking, closer to home, about the twenty-five or thirty American law schools that were set up to provide vertical mobility to the children and grandchildren of the late immigrants. There were, to be sure, Catholic lawyers in this country before the late immigrants and the Catholic law schools. Roger Taney was a Catholic, although we don't brag about him much. Lord Baltimore no doubt had a few Catholic lawyers in tow when the Carrolls and the Calverts came to Maryland in 1734. But the immigrants and the Catholic law schools have provided most of the numbers; they are at the heart of the lawyers I am thinking about here. “A people within a people,” as David Gregory puts it.