Amy Coney Barrett’s “Cult”

 

When Notre Dame law professor and possible Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett was nominated for the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, her affiliation with a religious group called People of Praise raised red flags. It was some sort of cult, they implied. Sen. Dianne Feinstein famously reproved the nominee by intoning that “the dogma lives loudly within you and that’s of concern.”

It was an echo of the kind of anti-Catholic bigotry that characterized American life for centuries. When the Democrats nominated the first Roman Catholic for president, Al Smith in 1928, opponents warned that all Protestant marriages would be annulled and all Protestant children declared bastards if the Catholic were elected. Republicans circulated pictures of Smith posing before the almost-completed Holland Tunnel with a caption declaring that instead of emptying into New Jersey, it really led 3,500 miles under the Atlantic Ocean to the basement of the Vatican. After his loss to Herbert Hoover, Smith was reputed to have quipped that he had sent a one-word telegram to the Pope: “Unpack.”

But Feinstein’s comment and others’ insinuations that her religion is somehow creepy or suspicious reveals a broader anti-religious bias.

Barrett and her family are reportedly members of a religious group called People of Praise. The New York Times implied that the group, most, but not all of whose members are Catholic, departed from mainstream Catholic ideas and doctrines. My EPPC colleague Ed Whelan disposed of those suggestions.

Curious, I looked at their website. I suppose it’s possible that the benign image they attempt to convey to the world is mere window dressing. But then again, Pope Francis appointed one of their members as an auxiliary bishop in Portland, Oregon. It seems doubtful, bordering on impossible, that he would have conferred that honor on a cult member.

Founded in 1971 as part of the lay Catholic ministries movement, People of Praise provides spiritual community, support for those in need, prayer and counseling, and guidance for successful marriages, among other things. More than 1000 couples have completed their Marriage in Christ program that instills habits of prayer and – this is shocking – conversation to improve relationships.

The first thing you see on the People of Praise website is a Louisiana picnic attended by a notably inter-racial group. One might have thought that such membership groups are far too rare – especially in the current climate. As Dorothy Anderson, an older African American woman put it, “In almost all of his speeches, Martin Luther King spoke about blacks and whites living together in unity. I didn’t think I’d live long enough to see it, but I saw it last Thursday night at the barbecue.”

People of Praise is ecumenical, with Lutheran, Methodist, Anglican, and other Christian members in addition to the Catholics. It contains both Democrats and Republicans, rich and poor. Like churches, they send missions to needy communities in the United States. More than 100 members have helped to build and renovate homes, run summer camps for thousands of kids, and found schools.

As for Barrett herself, it seems that she lives her faith. She and her husband have seven children including one with special needs and two adopted from Haiti. Her former colleagues on the Notre Dame law school faculty, many of whom have disagreements with Barrett, unanimously endorsed her nomination to the Circuit Court, describing her as “brilliant” and also “generous” and “warm.” They wrote: “She possesses in abundance all of the other qualities that shape extraordinary jurists: discipline, intellect, wisdom, impeccable temperament, and above all, fundamental decency and humanity.”

If Barrett is a glazed-eyed cultist, she’s done an incredible job of hiding it. She fooled her fellow clerks on the Supreme Court when she worked for Justice Antonin Scalia. Dozens of clerks, including some who worked for Justices Ginsburg and Breyer, endorsed her previous nomination, calling her a “woman of remarkable intellect and character.” She fooled her students, hundreds of whom signed an endorsement reading in part “Our religious, cultural, and political views span a wide spectrum. Despite the many and genuine differences among us, we are united in our conviction that Professor Barrett would make an exceptional federal judge.” And she fooled all of the Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee along with three Democrats, who voted to approve her nomination.

The words “people of praise” raise hackles among secularists. Considering their charitable work and trans-racial, trans-class appeal, they deserve at least the benefit of the doubt. And that Barrett is reportedly a member is the best testimonial of all.

There are 42 comments.

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  1. Freesmith Inactive
    Freesmith
    @Freesmith

    George Townsend (View Comment):

    Freesmith (View Comment):
    Today, America needs conservative judicial activists, not umpires.

    You are so wrong as to provoke anger in me.

    First of all, the rulings from the Supreme Court lately have been going our way. Granted, by a very slim margin. But, if we do things your way, what guarantee do we have that once we get another president like Obama (and we might even do worse, with some of the Democrats out there today), we will not get a bunch of lefties on the Court that will rule all kinds of Leftist policies into law. If we ask how can we allow this to happen, they will have the perfect right of saying, “Because back when Donald Trump was president, people like Freesmith told us that, since this is not a perfect world, we have every right to politicize the Court, and make it rule the way we want it to.”

    This Trump era has made people like you react on a purely emotional basis to something that should not be emotional. The fact that the Court has been too emotional since FDR’s time is one of the reasons why we are in the fix we are today. If we don’t get to the idea that the Constitution is our lodestar, and we have to live under the rule of law, not emotion, we are finished as a country. Please rethink your dangerous attitude?

    George, has anybody ever told you that you’re cute when you’re angry?

    • #31
  2. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    Freesmith (View Comment):

    cdor (View Comment):

    @cdor Worrying about unintended consequences is a luxury when the consequences that one is actually living with are so antagonistic to the kind of society a traditional American conservative would prefer.

    Ideally, I do have a problem with politicizing the Supreme Court; but we don’t live in that ideal world, do we? I won’t, therefore, be overly inhibited by the dreams of philosophers and the siren songs of utopians.

    You’re a bright guy, so I’m sure you’ve noticed that one of the most common synonyms for progressive jurists is that they are judicial activists. They do things. They push the envelope, move the Overton Window, make things happen, set the pace. There’s a lot to admire about that attitude in law, in sports, in battle, in romance and in life. To my way of thinking, it beats the opposite.

    Today’s conservatives don’t seem to care for activists. With an air of sweet reason they proudly proclaim another stance: standing athwart history yelling “Stop!” Perhaps that’s your preference – standing, yelling…

    Getting run over.

    We are losing the America we love, the America we had. It will not be regained by standing in place. Ground needs to be taken from the forces who have been advancing for decades. Force needs to be met with force (figuratively speaking). The alternative is continuing decline.

    Metaphorical attackers have to be driven back. Ideological bullies have to get their theoretical noses broken. Major Molyneux needs to get run out of town on a rail. Yes, it’s hard, dirty work. It’s exactly the kind of fighting that’s called partisan, but if you shy away from doing it, then the work simply won’t get done, despite the pretty promises offered you by the writers with the soft hands and comfortable sinecures.

    Amy Coney Barrett is a nice professor and probably a good judge. But not for today. Too much has been sacrificed. Today, America needs conservative judicial activists, not umpires.

    There are a lot of moldering progressive Supreme Court decisions that require less deference and more than fine-tuning – they need reversing. Let’s start pushing as hard as we can for that every chance we get.

    Like the liberals who have been winning for 50 years, let’s stop negotiating with ourselves before we ever get to the bargaining table.

    Let’s start thinking like winners and acting like winners.

    MAGA!

    So who do you like, @freesmith? Name me some names. I am not saying Amy Barrett is the only choice…maybe not even the best. She seems to be very good. We could do much worse.

    • #32
  3. George Townsend Inactive
    George Townsend
    @GeorgeTownsend

    Freesmith (View Comment):

    George Townsend (View Comment):

    Freesmith (View Comment):
    Today, America needs conservative judicial activists, not umpires.

    You are so wrong as to provoke anger in me.

    First of all, the rulings from the Supreme Court lately have been going our way. Granted, by a very slim margin. But, if we do things your way, what guarantee do we have that once we get another president like Obama (and we might even do worse, with some of the Democrats out there today), we will not get a bunch of lefties on the Court that will rule all kinds of Leftist policies into law. If we ask how can we allow this to happen, they will have the perfect right of saying, “Because back when Donald Trump was president, people like Freesmith told us that, since this is not a perfect world, we have every right to politicize the Court, and make it rule the way we want it to.”

    This Trump era has made people like you react on a purely emotional basis to something that should not be emotional. The fact that the Court has been too emotional since FDR’s time is one of the reasons why we are in the fix we are today. If we don’t get to the idea that the Constitution is our lodestar, and we have to live under the rule of law, not emotion, we are finished as a country. Please rethink your dangerous attitude?

    George, has anybody ever told you that you’re cute when you’re angry?

    You are the first! Please don’t let it happen again?!!

    • #33
  4. Ontheleftcoast Member
    Ontheleftcoast
    @Ontheleftcoast

    George Townsend (View Comment):
    But, if we do things your way, what guarantee do we have that once we get another president like Obama (and we might even do worse, with some of the Democrats out there today), we will not get a bunch of lefties on the Court that will rule all kinds of Leftist policies into law.

    You have to be joking. Any Democrat likely to run in the foreseeable future (cue Yogi Berra) will appoint Leftists at every level of the judiciary. Hillary would have done so. When you look at the currently serving Democrat appointees (Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan,) Breyer is the “moderate.” Reagan was only 2 for 4 in appointing Constitutionalists. Do we want another Souter or Kennedy to keep the mean Democrats from being mad at us? And guess what? It won’t.

    Whatever Trump’s appointees do or don’t do will not make that better or worse. @freesmith is correct that a preemptive grovel will be counterproductive.

    Adam Smith famously said “there is a lot of ruin in a nation;” and the Left is going to keep giving it the old college try. Hillary Clinton, Dianne Feinstein, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and thousands upon thousands of lesser vermin and rent seekers have found it quite lucrative to try to ruin the U.S.A. There is a rising new generation on the Left that wants a piece of the action.

    Sure, corruption of any ultimately degrades what’s left of the Republic. But that’s ordinary decent crime. The Left’s leadership wants what you and I call ruin – so long as they can make out like bandits. They think of it as doing well by doing good.

    Remember Bill Buckley’s quip? “The problem with capitalism is capitalists. The problem with socialism is socialism.”

    The wellspring of ideas on the Left is always even farther to the left. Don’t mistake tactics (screaming about Trump’s appointees whoever they might be) with the strategic goal: Permanent Leftist rule. Open borders, income redistribution are stations along the way. So is the Supreme Court if they get their hands on it again.

    • #34
  5. Leslie Watkins Member
    Leslie Watkins
    @LeslieWatkins

    Really enjoyed this piece. Barrett seems very solid. A side note. As someone who in her youth toyed with a collectivist lifestyle, I can attest that groups with goals very different from those of the culture at large are usually wildly misrepresented by newspaper and other media accounts.

    • #35
  6. George Townsend Inactive
    George Townsend
    @GeorgeTownsend

    Ontheleftcoast (View Comment):

    George Townsend (View Comment):
    But, if we do things your way, what guarantee do we have that once we get another president like Obama (and we might even do worse, with some of the Democrats out there today), we will not get a bunch of lefties on the Court that will rule all kinds of Leftist policies into law.

    You have to be joking. Any Democrat likely to run in the foreseeable future (cue Yogi Berra) will appoint Leftists at every level of the judiciary. Hillary would have done so. When you look at the currently serving Democrat appointees (Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan,) Breyer is the “moderate.” Reagan was only 2 for 4 in appointing Constitutionalists. Do we want another Souter or Kennedy to keep the mean Democrats from being mad at us? And guess what? It won’t.

    Whatever Trump’s appointees do or don’t do will not make that better or worse. @freesmith is correct that a preemptive grovel will be counterproductive.

    Adam Smith famously said “there is a lot of ruin in a nation;” and the Left is going to keep giving it the old college try. Hillary Clinton, Dianne Feinstein, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and thousands upon thousands of lesser vermin and rent seekers have found it quite lucrative to try to ruin the U.S.A. There is a rising new generation on the Left that wants a piece of the action.

    Sure, corruption of any ultimately degrades what’s left of the Republic. But that’s ordinary decent crime. The Left’s leadership wants what you and I call ruin – so long as they can make out like bandits. They think of it as doing well by doing good.

    Remember Bill Buckley’s quip? “The problem with capitalism is capitalists. The problem with socialism is socialism.”

    The wellspring of ideas on the Left is always even farther to the left. Don’t mistake tactics (screaming about Trump’s appointees whoever they might be) with the strategic goal: Permanent Leftist rule. Open borders, income redistribution are stations along the way. So is the Supreme Court if they get their hands on it again.

    Whose groveling? This is one of the most nonsensical arguments I ever participated in on Ricochet. As much I as dislike Trump, he has done pretty well in several things. And Gorsuch is possibly his finest contribution. What you and Freesmith propose is anarchy. We need Law. Thank God you are nowhere near power. We’d have another Civil War. And for what?

    • #36
  7. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    cdor (View Comment):
    So who do you like, @freesmith? Name me some names.

    Ann Coulter, apparently. Named by Freesmith earlier in the thread. 

    • #37
  8. Ontheleftcoast Member
    Ontheleftcoast
    @Ontheleftcoast

    George Townsend (View Comment):

    Ontheleftcoast (View Comment):

    George Townsend (View Comment):
    But, if we do things your way, what guarantee do we have that once we get another president like Obama (and we might even do worse, with some of the Democrats out there today), we will not get a bunch of lefties on the Court that will rule all kinds of Leftist policies into law.

    […]

    Whatever Trump’s appointees do or don’t do will not make that better or worse. @freesmith is correct that a preemptive grovel will be counterproductive.

    […]

    The wellspring of ideas on the Left is always even farther to the left. Don’t mistake tactics (screaming about Trump’s appointees whoever they might be) with the strategic goal: Permanent Leftist rule. Open borders, income redistribution are stations along the way. So is the Supreme Court if they get their hands on it again.

    Whose groveling? This is one of the most nonsensical arguments I ever participated in on Ricochet. As much I as dislike Trump, he has done pretty well in several things. And Gorsuch is possibly his finest contribution. What you and Freesmith propose is anarchy. We need Law. Thank God you are nowhere near power. We’d have another Civil War. And for what?

    I hate to break it to you but to the Left, Scalia was, Thomas is, and Gorsuch promises to be (wait 15 or 20 years to be sure) rabid judicial activists and  Sotomayor and Ginsburg are moderate.

    Whether Trump does things your way or @freesmith‘s way is irrelevant if, heaven forfend, the Democrats win again. My gut says that at that point it will be game over. I’m elated at what Trump has done to curb the regulatory state. I fear that it is already too late, that the cancer is too metastatic, and the rent seekers who feast on the necrosis are too numerous for the Republic’s metabolism. 

    What may prevent what is likely to be a Balkanesque civil war is civic nationalism and a growing economy. The latter is beginning to peel off formerly reliable blocs from the Democrat coalition, so a growing economy is a threat to them. I believe the calculation has been made on the Left that better the mob than another Republican coming to the White House after Trump. That is true whoever Trump puts on the Court. I’m thinking of Trump’s choices as like Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus.

    I commend this video analysis of the Russians in Ukraine to your attention.

    It’s not all applicable to our situation, but the early stages are. The Dems don’t need the spotters that the Russians infiltrated into Ukraine, but they have them. They don’t need them because… Facebook, Google, etc. could do it by themselves, and these companies are SJW converged to the point of being enemies.

    • #38
  9. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake (View Comment):

    cdor (View Comment):
    So who do you like, @freesmith? Name me some names.

    Ann Coulter, apparently. Named by Freesmith earlier in the thread.

    He was just kidding, wasn’t he…wasn’t he?

    • #39
  10. George Townsend Inactive
    George Townsend
    @GeorgeTownsend

    cdor (View Comment):

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake (View Comment):

    cdor (View Comment):
    So who do you like, @freesmith? Name me some names.

    Ann Coulter, apparently. Named by Freesmith earlier in the thread.

    He was just kidding, wasn’t he…wasn’t he?

    I’m afraid not. Pathetic, isn’t it?

    • #40
  11. George Townsend Inactive
    George Townsend
    @GeorgeTownsend

    Ontheleftcoast (View Comment):

    George Townsend (View Comment):

    Ontheleftcoast (View Comment):

    George Townsend (View Comment):
    But, if we do things your way, what guarantee do we have that once we get another president like Obama (and we might even do worse, with some of the Democrats out there today), we will not get a bunch of lefties on the Court that will rule all kinds of Leftist policies into law.

    […]

    Whatever Trump’s appointees do or don’t do will not make that better or worse. @freesmith is correct that a preemptive grovel will be counterproductive.

    […]

    The wellspring of ideas on the Left is always even farther to the left. Don’t mistake tactics (screaming about Trump’s appointees whoever they might be) with the strategic goal: Permanent Leftist rule. Open borders, income redistribution are stations along the way. So is the Supreme Court if they get their hands on it again.

    Whose groveling? This is one of the most nonsensical arguments I ever participated in on Ricochet. As much I as dislike Trump, he has done pretty well in several things. And Gorsuch is possibly his finest contribution. What you and Freesmith propose is anarchy. We need Law. Thank God you are nowhere near power. We’d have another Civil War. And for what?

    I hate to break it to you but to the Left, Scalia was, Thomas is, and Gorsuch promises to be (wait 15 or 20 years to be sure) rabid judicial activists and Sotomayor and Ginsburg are moderate.

    Whether Trump does things your way or @freesmith‘s way is irrelevant if, heaven forfend, the Democrats win again. My gut says that at that point it will be game over. I’m elated at what Trump has done to curb the regulatory state. I fear that it is already too late, that the cancer is too metastatic, and the rent seekers who feast on the necrosis are too numerous for the Republic’s metabolism.

    It’s not all applicable to our situation, but the early stages are. The Dems don’t need the spotters that the Russians infiltrated into Ukraine, but they have them. They don’t need them because… Facebook, Google, etc. could do it by themselves, and these companies are SJW converged to the point of being enemies.

    I’m through with this lunacy. Neither of you understand the true greatness of this Republic. And nothing I can say will penetrate. ‘Tis a pity (sigh)!

    • #41
  12. Ontheleftcoast Member
    Ontheleftcoast
    @Ontheleftcoast

    Mona Charen: But Feinstein’s comment and others’ insinuations that her religion is somehow creepy or suspicious reveals a broader anti-religious bias.

    On rereading this post, I don’t think it’s fair to say that Feinstein has an anti-religious bias. The syllogism is simple:

    • Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s: That comes from religion.

    • Everything in the State

    • Nothing outside the State (except for the rewards due to the favored kine such as Pelosi and Feinstein and their families that tread out the State’s grain)

    • Nothing against the State

    So long as religion knows its place, Feinstein is all for religion.

    • #42
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