Anti-Catholicism: the last acceptable prejudice in America

Anti-Catholicism has been called “the last acceptable prejudice.” Tragically, it was on display at the Senate Judiciary Committee’s confirmation hearing for Amy Coney Barrett, nominated to be a federal appellate judge.

Barrett, a professor at Notre Dame Law School, is a constitutional law expert who has clerked for appellate and Supreme Court judges. She is eminently qualified.

A Catholic at a Catholic university, she has helped law students and others understand how to reconcile being a good Christian and a good judge.

This should not be a problem. Article VI of the Constitution requires judges and other public officials “to support this Constitution.”

It also demands that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

Professor Barrett clearly subscribes to the first of these clauses. As she said at the senate hearing: “It’s never appropriate for a judge to impose that judge’s personal convictions, whether they derive from faith or anywhere else, on the law.”

But some Democrats on the committee seemed not to have heard of the second clause.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-California, expressed a concern to Barrett that, based on her past speeches, “the dogma lives loudly within you.”

(This strange accusation has created a wonderful backlash, as the sale of “The dogma lives loudly within me” T-shirts becomes a cottage industry among Catholics.) Feinstein implied that believers who accept their church’s moral teachings are un-American.

Then came Senator Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, whose 100 percent approval rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America may make him a Catholic that Senator Feinstein can accept.

He grilled Professor Barrett on a 1998 law review article she co-authored as a student with law professor John Garvey (now president of The Catholic University of America).

That article discussed the dilemma of someone with moral or religious objections to something he or she is asked to do as a judge.

For example, authorizing an abortion for a minor girl or imposing a death sentence could present a conflict of conscience for an “orthodox Catholic” (by which, the authors explained, they simply meant someone who believes Catholic teaching on the point at issue). Continue reading

  • Richard Doerflinger worked for 36 years in the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
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