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‘Dogma lives loudly in you’ – Amy Coney Barrett’s 2017 confirmation hearing

By Matt Hadro for CNA

Amy Coney Barrett before the Senate Judiciary Committee Sept. 6, 2017. (Image: Twitter)

Washington D.C., Sep 19, 2020 / 02:25 pm (CNA).- Federal Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a Catholic mother of seven, is on President Donald Trump’s shortlist for a Supreme Court nominee, as the president makes plans to replace on the court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Friday evening.

Barrett was appointed a judge on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017. In her confirmation hearing, the judge faced hostile questions about her Catholic faith, prompting outrage and frustration among some Catholic leaders.

The nominee appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee Sept. 6, 2017.

Questions from some Democratic senators focused on how Barrett’s Catholic faith might influence her decisions in cases involving abortion and same-sex marriage.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), ranking member of the committee, told Barrett directly that her Catholic beliefs were concerning, as they might influence her judicial decisions on abortion.



“Why is it that so many of us on this side have this very uncomfortable feeling that dogma and law are two different things, and I think whatever a religion is, it has its own dogma. The law is totally different,” Feinstein said.

“And I think in your case, professor, when you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you. And that’s of concern.”

Before making that point, Feinstein praised Barrett personally, saying the nominee was “amazing to have seven children and do what you do.”

The senator pivoted quickly, however, to characterizing Barrett as a “controversial” nominee, “because you have a long history of believing that your religious beliefs should prevail” over the law.

“You’re controversial because many of us that have lived our lives as women really recognize the value of finally being able to control our reproductive systems,” she said. “And Roe entered into that, obviously.”

Barrett insisted that as a judge, she would honor binding precedents, and would not let her religious beliefs inappropriately alter her judicial decisions.

In the same hearing, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) grilled Barrett over her use of the term “orthodox Catholic” in an article she had co-authored as a law student. Durbin took umbrage with the term, and suggested that Barrett did not think persons who dissent from Church teaching on marriage to be truly Catholic.

“I’m a product of 19 years of Catholic education. And every once in a while, Holy Mother the Church has not agreed with a vote of mine. And has let me know,” Durbin told Barrett. “You use a term in that article – or you both use a term in that article — I’d never seen before. You refer to ‘orthodox Catholics.’ What’s an orthodox Catholic?”

Barrett pointed to a footnote in the article that admitted it was “an imperfect term,” and that the article was talking about the hypothetical case of “a judge who accepted the Church’s teaching” on the death penalty and had a “conscientious objection” to execution.

“Do you consider yourself an orthodox Catholic?” Durbin asked Barrett, who replied that “I am a faithful Catholic,” adding that “my personal Church affiliation or my religious belief would not bear in the discharge of my duties as a judge.”

Durbin, who was in 2004 prohibited from receiving Holy Communion because of his stance on abortion, next said that “there are many people who might characterize themselves ‘orthodox Catholics,’ who now question whether Pope Francis is an ‘orthodox Catholic.’ I happen to think he’s a pretty good Catholic.”

“I agree with you,” Barrett replied, to which Durbin responded, “Good. Then that’s good common ground for us to start with.”

He also asked Barrett how she would rule on a case involving a “same-sex marriage,” given the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissent from the 2013 Obergefell decision that legalized same-sex marriage.

“From beginning to end, in every case, my obligation as a judge would be to apply the rule of law, and the case that you mentioned would be applying Obergefell, and I would have no problem adhering to it,” she said.

After the hearing, Barrett’s nomination was confirmed, and the former Notre Dame law professor took up her position as a judge.

But Catholic leaders said the questions she faced were disturbing.

“This smacks of the worst sort of anti-Catholic bigotry,” Dr. Chad Pecknold, a theology professor at The Catholic University of America, told CNA in 2017.

Pecknold called the hearing “a religious inquisition rather than an adjudication of legal competence for the bench.”

“I submit that the real dogmatists in the room are the ones mounting an inquisition against one of the nation’s great legal scholars,” he added.

Other Catholic leaders also decried the questions about Barrett’s faith.

“Such bigotry has no place in our politics and reeks of an unconstitutional religious test for qualification to participate in the judiciary. What these Senators did today was truly reprehensible,” said Brian Burch, president of

“Senator Feinstein’s shockingly illegitimate line of questioning sends the message that Catholics need not apply as federal judges,” added Ashley McGuire, senior fellow with The Catholic Association.

After the hearing, the phrase “The dogma lives loudly” became something of a catchphrase among Catholic supporters of Barrett, and appeared as a hashtag, on coffee mugs and on t-shirts. The hashtag is begun to have a resurgence as speculation that Trump might appoint Barrett to the Supreme Court has intensified.

The president is expected to nominate a justice to the court within a week. Also on his shortlist are several federal judges, and three U.S. Senators.

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  1. There can be no doubt that the Supreme Court, in direct violation of the First Amendment, has established [!] Secular Humanism as our national religion.

    How clever is this? The First Amendment innocently provides only that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….” The need to rein-in the United States Supreme Court never occurred to the Founding Fathers (persons, or whatever).

    But not to worry; “equality” is served. With the inventiveness of Roe v Wade (“follow the science?”), Obergefell v Hodges (millennia of natural morality are branded as religiously “homophobic”), and Bostock v Clayton (the super-dogma of gender theory is read into the Civil Rights Act, as king or queen, or whatever)— the public can now hold in equal disdain all three branches of the federal government: executive, legislative, and now especially judicial.

  2. “The dogma lives loudly in you.”
    In other words – she lives by the tenets of her faith – isn’t that what we are supposed to do?

    So – (rhetorical question) – what is the problem with that?

  3. Another intelligent Catholic who ‘can think on her feet;’ the left will have a problem if she is the nominee.

    The Dems had a phone conference Saturday afternoon, they are definitely ‘squirming in their seats’ over our opportunity, but it should not be a surprise considering Judge Ginsberg’s health issues and age. Trump thanked Obama last week while in Wisc for leaving him so many open federal judgeships to fill, when Obama thought Clinton would be elected; he will not squander this blessed opening. Regardless of what the Church leadership thinks of him, we should pray for his (peaceful) success!

    There may be blood shed of the adult population to stop abortion on demand.

  4. Beginning in 1987 the democrats initiated their “Throw …. at the wall and see what sticks” policy when questioning Supreme Court nominees from a Republican President. Also in 1987, led by Senator Kennedy, they were instrumental in the coining of a new verb – to bork.

    The recent hearings concerning nominee Kavanaugh were extensions of this policy, with the addition of character assassination.

    We can expect more of this – MUCH more – in the upcoming weeks.

  5. A case should finally be heard in the Supreme Court to address anti-Catholicism as a criteria for choosing who will serve our Country. This type of racism, that’s right, Racism! Should be outright condemned and punishable by law as Un-Constitutional, actual hate and hate speech.

  6. The Democrats, with America’s enemies, are on a course to destroy America. Hope the Hermit of Loreto’s 1980s premonition is really true: “Donald J. Trump will lead America Back to God”.

  7. The issue is not “dogma” versus “law,” but the philosophy of law to which one adheres. As the solidarist jurist Heinrich Rommen noted in his book on the natural law, there are two basic philosophies of jurisprudence, depending on one’s view of the human person, which in turn is based on the form of “liberal democracy” one follows.

    The Aristotelian-Thomist understanding of natural law, “lex ratio” (law is reason), assumes as a given that right and wrong are determined by human nature, whether or not one accepts that God created man. In this view, each human person is sovereign and has certain inherent (inalienable) rights that are an integral part of human nature, particularly the rights to life, liberty (freedom of association), and private property. While the exercise of life, liberty, and private property is necessarily limited and socially determined (man being by nature a “political animal”), the rights themselves are absolute as part of human nature, hence, “natural law.” These rights may never justly be violated. People delegate certain rights to the collective and allow the exercise of others to be defined, but the source of rights remains the human person. This is the basis of American type liberal democracy as embodied in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

    The “Ockhamist” or Grotian understanding of natural law, “lex voluntas” (law is will) that right and wrong are based on the command of something or someone accepted as a Supreme Being, as Rommen pointed out, ultimately means that “might makes right.” The collective or an élite is sovereign, not each human person. There is no such thing as an inalienable right, as all rights come from “the people” or are handed down from an economic or political élite. Based on a distortion of Duns Scotus’s thought combined with a form of neo-Platonism, lex voluntas leads inevitably to pure moral positivism and finally nihilism. Essentially, in this view of the law, anything goes as long as you can get enough people to go along with it. “The People” or an élite is the source of rights, which are doled out to actual human beings as deemed expedient or necessary, thus an abstraction created by human beings takes precedence over human beings created by God. As Fulton Sheen noted in his doctoral thesis, “God and Intelligence,” the natural order is turned upside-down, collective man is at the top, human beings are in the middle, and God is at the bottom, the servant of man. This is the basis of English type liberal democracy in which an élite is sovereign and leads to capitalism, and European type liberal democracy in which the collective is sovereign and leads to socialism. These usually start to drift towards one another to form what Hilaire Belloc called “the Servile State,” although not quite in the form he envisioned.

    Whether one accepts lex ratio or lex voluntas determines one’s view of the U.S. Constitution and the meaning of “rule of law.” Under lex ratio, the Constitution is a grant of rights from the people to the State, and the courts may not make law, only interpret it in light of the Constitution. This is “original intent.” Under lex voluntas, the Constitution is a grant of rights from the State to people, and the courts may make law any time they like simply by forcing people to go along with something and having the power to do it. This is “the living Constitution.” Ultimately, the only thing that matters is the will or even whim of the court.

    It thus makes perfect sense under the theory of the living Constitution to impose a religious test for public office and to claim that “right” and “wrong” mean different things, depending on circumstances, for moral positivism is simply a way of saying might makes right, and minorities who are not strong enough or that do not have the right views must either remain silent or be eliminated, whichever is most expedient.

  8. I don’t think that she should be a federal judge because I don’t support women in political office. Still less should she be a justice of the Supreme Court.

  9. Article VI of the Constitution says “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

    Seemingly Feinstein hasn’t read it.

    And it is blatant that the dogma is strong in Feinstein and her ilk.

  10. I hope she is voted in. She sounds like she would be a hard worker and a thoughtful jurist. I do believe morality should guide everyones actions. The major religions share agreement on many of those tenets–Stealing, murder, adultery, etc, were all on the “no” list. No person of worth would have ever argued those points. In recent years the general public decided in large part that the murder of babies was ok. As is adultery and all sorts of sexual sins. Society has not been improved by this point of view. I would imagine fewer one night stands and sexual license and the exercise of better self control according to the old “dogmas” would result in fewer abortions.

  11. Surely what is presently most ear piercing is the nominal atheism of Feinstein and the pathological self-loathing of a broad swath of the global Roman Catholic episcopate.
    Amy Coney Barrett would be a refreshing respite for the faithful from the toxins.

  12. The problem is that the modern liberal no longer thinks coherently. If they did, they would quickly come to realize that what they call “dogma” is actually philosophy and science.

    True dogmas are religious concepts such as the Trinity, the Immaculate Conception, and the Incarnation. When has the Supreme Court ruled on such concepts?

  13. Politics and religion don’t mix well. To say that Republican Trump is pro-life is a convenient ploy for the present. Trump is only pro-Trump. Trump has been pro-choice most of his adult life. Trump is not even Republican. How can we say Trump has character when he lies incessantly and in broad daylight? He has morphed my GOP into the DJT party. Biden, a Catholic, has flipped on the subject of the Hyde Amendment and his firm stance against abortion on demand. Instead of assuming that either candidate is free from sin is to be ignorant of the facts. When one really separates the weeds they will be amazed to what they discover. Painting any candidate or party with a broad brush results in back splash. Moreover, can any spiritual voter cast their vote for either? In my opinion if one candidate remains relatively silent the other will self destruct.

    • Please stop these endless and ultimately pointless attacks on Trump. I’m not sure why you feel this constant need to be making comments about Trump and politics on this site, but it’s really unnecessary and inappropriate at this point. It adds nothing substantive and meaningful to the conversation. You may want to direct your efforts and attention to considering the following as it relates to your own conduct:

      “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice.” Ephesians 4:31.

    • Thank you, MorganB! Finally, a cogent analysis. Are Catholics to be wedded indefinitely to the Republican Party? I used to be a Republican, but now I’m an independent!

      • As long as the Democratic Party supports the butchery of babies and the Republican Party opposes it, then yes, I’d say that Catholics should remain “wedded” to the Republican Party so they won’t be complicit with the murder of innocents.

    • So…If he nominates Amy Barrett, who appears to be a solid Catholic and great jurist, you still going to complain that Trump continues on with his mendacity?

    • “President Donald Trump announced Wednesday during the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast he will be signing an executive order that ensures all babies born alive, including those surviving abortion, receive the medical care they need.”

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