The case was Virginia's involuntary sterilization of the mentally retarded. 8 of the justices upheld the statute, with a majority opinion written by Holmes, an opinion that appealed largely to utilitarian concerns. MM comments:
There was a lone dissenter in the case, who happened to be the only Catholic justice on the court, Pierce Butler. With the benefit of hindsight, we look back in horror at this decision. It was a naked appeal to moral relativism, an exercise in callous utilitarianism. Nowhere did it acknowledge the God-given human dignity of the person in question. And yet, the Catholic justice stood alone. Perhaps he was the subject of anti-Catholic attacks for his dissent. Did he see something the others could not?