Catholic Social Science Review

Volume 25, 2020

Ryan J. Barilleaux
Pages 121-139

Justice Pierce Butler’s Catholic Jurisprudence

Justice Pierce Butler was a devout Catholic who is best remembered for his dissenting vote in Buck v. Bell (1927), in which the Supreme Court upheld Virginia’s eugenic sterilization law. Butler is often misunderstood by critics who look only to the consequences of his opinions and not to the reasoning behind them. An analysis of Butler’s personal faith and opinions provides evidence that his jurisprudence reflects the principles of Catholic social doctrine. Finally, two cases in which Butler’s Catholic Faith likely influenced his votes are reviewed. The article concludes that Butler needs to be better understood.