Alioto said to be the pick
Word is that the nominee will be Judge Sam Alioto of the Third Circuit.
Over on the Volokh Conspiracy, David Bernstein points out an interesting fact: if he is confirmed (and he certainly sounds qualified) the Court will now have a majority of Roman Catholics (five) and two Jews. With the Catholic majority having been created by a very Protestant president. We've come a ways from the days when JFK had to worry about reassuring people that he wouldn't follow the Pope's commands.
(PS--the revolution is set for Guy Fawkes Day, right after Benedict canonizes the martyr on the steps of the Capitol. I understand he'll then take back 15,000 Marines to reinforce his Swiss Guard, and so if any future dictator sneers "The Pope? How many division has the Pope?" he can reply "One more than the Premier has plenary indulgences.")
I'm not to surprised. Traditional catholicism bore great resemblance to the American legal system.
1) It's run by a hierarchy, which establishes rules and regulations. The rules stretch back for centuries. There are commentators and training for canon lawyers. There is lots of room for debate, and centuries in which to do it. Major doctrines were traditionally hammered out at church councils.
2) At the higher levels, there is something very close to stare decisis. The hierarchy can admit something is wrong (unless it is the Pope, speaking ex cathedra, which I think he last did in the 1870s, thus leaving lots of wiggle room) BUT it hates to do so. Thus earlier "precedent" is adjusted by distinguishing it, or narrowing it, or reinterpeting it. The doctrine in the 19th century was that people can only achieve salvation through the church. In the 20th (and before, internally) this came under major criticism. A saintly fellow like Gandhi cannot get into heaven? How about Moses, who was around before there was a catholic church? The solution was to reinterpret the rule. The rule only said "through" the church. So, okay, good people will get into heaven thru the RC church. We never said they had to *belong* to the church to do so.