Game, Set, and Match to Father Jenkins
Father Jenkins’s censure of Senator Feinstein for her questioning Notre Dame law school Professor Amy Barrett’s qualifications to serve as a federal judge because of her Catholic faith was spirited and telling and a credit to the university.
NOTRE DAME, IN – Good for Father Jenkins! His indictment of Senator Diane Feinstein (D. Cal.) for her odious challenge to the qualifications of Notre Dame law school professor Amy Barrett to serve as a federal judge because of her Catholic faith did him and the university credit. Just as Professor Barrett, an outstanding nominee who will be an ornament to the court, will do Notre Dame and the Law School credit.
We reproduce Father Jenkins’s letter below. Here’s the background, briefly:
This distasteful episode, which occurred on September 6 during the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing on President Trump’s nomination of Professor Barrett to the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, has received wide, and widely unfavorable, publicity. Senator Feinstein told Professor Barrett in effect that her writings reflecting her Catholic faith showed she couldn’t be trusted with issues like abortion.
“The dogma lives loudly within you,” Feinstein said. “And that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for for years in this country.”
You’re controversial because many of us who have lived our lives as women really recognize the value of finally being able to control our reproductive systems, and Roe entered into that, obviously.…You have a long history of believing that your religious beliefs should prevail.
Dogma and law are two different things. I think whatever a religion is, it has its own dogma. The law is totally different.
Senators Dick Durbin (D. Illinois) and Mazie Hirono (D. Hawaii) were not much better (Durbin: “Do you consider yourself an Orthodox Catholic?” Hirono: “I think your article is very plain in your perspective about the role of religion for judges, and particularly with regard to Catholic judges.”)
In the later committee discussion that preceded the committee’s October 5 party-line 11-9 vote to send Professor Barrett’s nomination to the full Senate, Chairman Chuck Grassley (R. Iowa) observed that the Democrats’ questions “strongly implied that she was too Catholic for their taste” and that this “is heading down a dangerous road.”
Among the many criticisms that have been leveled at this malignant anti-Catholic excrescence is an especially illuminating essay by Richard W. Garnett, one of Notre Dame Law School’s most gifted professors. And one of the most perverse of the few articles supporting Feinstein & Co. is by Professor Cathleen Kaveny, a former colleague of Professors Barrett and Garnett at Notre Dame who is now at Boston College. (In a second article, Kaveny advanced the daft notion that another Notre Dame law school professor should not have endorsed her colleague since she had not praised a previous nominee for that judgeship.)
We leave the refutation of Professor Kaveny and her few allies to Professor Garnett. We took note of Professor Kaveny while she was at Notre Dame and say now simply that we are glad that Professor Garnett is at Notre Dame and that Professor Kaveny is not.
Other welcome statements came, for example, from Archbishop William E. Lori, the chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Religious Liberty, and Dr. Christopher L. Eisgruber, the President of Princeton University. But it is Father Jenkins’s letter to Senator Feinstein that has gotten the most publicity. The Wall Street Journal reprinted it in full in an editorial, declaring,“Fr. Jenkins is no conservative but he can spot an attack on religious belief.”
Here is Father Jenkins to Senator Feinstein:
Professor Barrett has been a member of our faculty since 2002, and is a graduate of our law school. Her experience as a clerk for Judge Laurence Silberman of the U.S. Court of Appeals and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is of the highest order. So, too, is her scholarship in the areas of federal courts, constitutional law and statutory interpretation. I am not a legal scholar, but I have heard no one seriously challenge her impeccable legal credentials.
Your concern, as you expressed it, is that “dogma lives loudly in [Professor Barrett], and that is a concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for years in this country.” I am one in whose heart “dogma lives loudly”, as it has for centuries in the lives of many Americans, some of whom have given their lives in service to this nation. Indeed, it lived loudly in the hearts of those who founded our nation as one where citizens could practice their faith freely and without apology.
Professor Barrett has made it clear that she would “follow unflinchingly” all legal precedent and, in rare cases in which her conscience would not allow her to do so, she would recuse herself. I can assure you that she is a person of integrity who acts in accord with the principles she articulates.
It is chilling to hear from a United States Senator that this might now disqualify someone from service as a federal judge. I ask you and your colleagues to respect those in whom “dogma lives loudly”—which is a condition we call faith. For the attempt to live such faith while one upholds the law should command respect, not evoke concern.
Respectfully, Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.
Game, set, and match to Father Jenkins!
Let us add the hope that this bracing letter may foreshadow a change in leadership policy at Notre Dame respecting defense of unpopular Catholic teaching in these darkening times. The “dogmas” of Catholicism on marriage, sex, abortion, and gender are increasingly in disfavor. Institutions and individuals in whom these dogmas “live loudly” are increasingly under pressure to yield.
We have catalogued those instances at Notre Dame in which, if some of these dogmas have “lived loudly in the heart,” they have lain dormant in the will, but this is an occasion to look to the future, not to the past.
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput’s comments on the Feinstein/Barrett episode are, as usual, instructive:
A great many faithful Christians still do let their convictions “live loudly” in their hearts and actions. It’s called witness. What it takes is a little courage. So maybe they—and all the rest of us who seek to follow Jesus Christ—should turn up the volume.
Student Anti-Pornography Program
From October 22 to 27, the Notre Dame student organization SCOP (Students for Child-Oriented Policy) will host a series of anti-pornography events. (As we reported at the time, in the spring of 2014 the administration refused to grant official status to SCOP, an opponent of same-sex marriage, only to reverse that decision in the fall in the wake of a wave of adverse publicity.) SCOP thus joins White Ribbon Against Pornography Week, a national campaign against pornography. The SCOP program will include a panel of three speakers impacted by the pornography industry; a dinner discussion led by Rev. Terrence Ehrman, C.S.C.; and an interactive presentation focused on hyper-sexualized images that have become normalized in the media. The Tuesday and Thursday evening events are open to the public. Go here for details.
Sycamore Trust is a contributing sponsor. Should you wish to contribute, send a check payable to the University of Notre Dame and marked “for Students for Child-Oriented Policy” to “University of Notre Dame, Development Office, 1100 Grace Hall, Notre Dame, IN 46556.” Tell the president of SCOP, Shaun Evens (email@example.com), that you have made the gift and ask him to verify and let you know.
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