September 23, 2020

IT DOESN'T SEEM LIKE A HARD CALL:

Amy Coney Barrett, controversial Catholic, re-emerges as potential Supreme Court pick (Jack Jenkins, 9/22/20, Religion News Service)

During her 2017 confirmation hearing to serve on the 7th Circuit Court, some pointed to a 1998 law-review article Barrett co-wrote with John Garvey, then her Notre Dame professor and now president of the Catholic University of America. The two argued that "Catholic judges (if they are faithful to the teaching of their church) are morally precluded from enforcing the death penalty."

This approach potentially challenges a mindset invoked by some Catholic politicians regarding intersections of faith and public policy -- namely, that one's personal faith should not, whenever possible, preclude one from performing a duty that stands to impact the general public. During Barrett's confirmation hearing, California Senator Dianne Feinstein zeroed in on her "previous speeches," insisting that religious dogma is not the same thing as law.

"The dogma lives loudly within you," Feinstein said to Barrett.

Address to the Houston Ministers Conference (John F. Kennedy, 12 September 1960)

I want a Chief Executive whose public acts are responsible to all groups and obligated to none--who can attend any ceremony, service or dinner his office may appropriately require of him--and whose fulfillment of his Presidential oath is not limited or conditioned by any religious oath, ritual or obligation. 

This is the kind of America I believe in--and this is the kind I fought for in the South Pacific, and the kind my brother died for in Europe. No one suggested then that we may have a "divided loyalty," that we did "not believe in liberty," or that we belonged to a disloyal group that threatened the "freedoms for which our forefathers died." 

And in fact this is the kind of America for which our forefathers died--when they fled here to escape religious test oaths that denied office to members of less favored churches--when they fought for the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom--and when they fought at the shrine I visited today, the Alamo. For side by side with Bowie and Crockett died McCafferty and Bailey and Carey--but no one knows whether they were Catholic or not. For there was no religious test at the Alamo. 

I ask you tonight to follow in that tradition--to judge me on the basis of my record of 14 years in Congress--on my declared stands against an Ambassador to the Vatican, against unconstitutional aid to parochial schools, and against any boycott of the public schools (which I have attended myself)--instead of judging me on the basis of these pamphlets and publications we all have seen that carefully select quotations out of context from the statements of Catholic church leaders, usually in other countries, frequently in other centuries, and always omitting, of course, the statement of the American Bishops in 1948 which strongly endorsed church-state separation, and which more nearly reflects the views of almost every American Catholic. 

I do not consider these other quotations binding upon my public acts--why should you? But let me say, with respect to other countries, that I am wholly opposed to the state being used by any religious group, Catholic or Protestant, to compel, prohibit, or persecute the free exercise of any other religion. And I hope that you and I condemn with equal fervor those nations which deny their Presidency to Protestants and those which deny it to Catholics. And rather than cite the misdeeds of those who differ, I would cite the record of the Catholic Church in such nations as Ireland and France--and the independence of such statesmen as Adenauer and De Gaulle. 

But let me stress again that these are my views--for contrary to common newspaper usage, I am not the Catholic candidate for President. I am the Democratic Party's candidate for President who happens also to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my church on public matters--and the church does not speak for me. 

Whatever issue may come before me as President--on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject--I will make my decision in accordance with these views, in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressures or dictates. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise. 

But if the time should ever come--and I do not concede any conflict to be even remotely possible--when my office would require me to either violate my conscience or violate the national interest, then I would resign the office; and I hope any conscientious public servant would do the same. 

If a law is consistent with republican liberty and properly adopted, a judge could well choose not to enforce it because of their Church teachings, but ought to recuse or resign.

Posted by at September 23, 2020 12:00 AM

  

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