Perhaps the most moving words uttered during Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearings were spoken by Sen. Lindsey Graham, the chairman of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.
“I have never been more proud of a nominee than I am of you,” Graham told Judge Barrett. He emphasized that with her nomination the American public were witnessing an unprecedented moment in U.S. history. “And, this is history being made, folks. This is the first time in American history that we’ve nominated a woman who’s unashamedly pro-life, and embraces her faith without apology.”
Graham realized that this historic moment will not be celebrated by mainstream media or cultural elites, whose ideological inclinations have seldom (if ever) been pro-life or religiously oriented. However, he knew that this reality does not in any way diminish the exceptional significance of this momentous achievement.
“But in many of our worlds this will be celebrated,” he said. “This has been a long time coming. And we have arrived.”
It has been a long time coming indeed. Certain social groups, Graham stressed, “conservatives of color and women conservatives” have had a difficult time getting ahead in American society because there has been an effort among liberal elites to “marginalize their contribution” if they do not agree with the established narrative of liberal orthodoxy on crucial issues like abortion.
Sen. Josh Hawley, who gave an impassioned opening statement on day one of the hearings wherein he lambasted the anti-Catholic bigotry that Barrett has had to endure from both Democratic senators and media commentators, offered a poignant conclusion on the second day of the hearings, telling Barrett: “There’s nothing wrong with confirming to the Supreme Court of the United States a devout Catholic pro-life Christian, and it will be my privilege to vote for you.”
Both Sens. Graham and Hawley were signaling in on an important point: the fact that, in the past, any Supreme Court nominee who has wanted to be confirmed has had to, if they are pro-life, hide their opinion on abortion — in essence, being shamed for having a pro-life position. As if having a pro-life position is an unacceptable perspective to hold for a potential justice on the Supreme Court.
If a Supreme Court nominee were pro-choice, on the other hand, the promise to uphold Roe v. Wade, despite its infamously impoverished legal reasoning — a fact that many liberal, pro-choice legal scholars acknowledge — would suffice for confirmation.
It is well known, however, that Barrett did sign a petition when she was a law professor at Notre Dame, claiming respect for the dignity of human life from the moment of conception to natural death. It was a petition that also directly made reference to the “barbaric legacy” of Roe v. Wade.
It is also well known that Barrett is a devout, charismatic Catholic who takes the faith and moral values of her Christianity very seriously and sincerely. The fact is, as both Graham and Hawley expressed, that she should not need to — nor should any potential judicial nominee need to — be made to feel shame for these deeply meaningful and sacred realities, her religious and moral values.
Notwithstanding, Democratic senators and media commentators have certainly tried to shame Barrett with a number of bigoted attacks against her faith. It began in 2017, when, as a law professor coming before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Barrett was subjected to some of the most notorious treatment of anti-Catholic bigotry from public officials in recent American history while trying to get confirmed as a federal court of appeals judge.
Whether it was Sen. Dianne Feinstein expressing concern that “the dogma lives loudly” within Barrett or Sen. Dick Durbin questioning Barrett on whether she is an orthodox Catholic, the ugly reality was clear: prominent Senate Democrats questioned an accomplished woman’s suitability for being a judge because of written evidence that she is a devout Catholic.
It was unarguably one of the most shameless and infamous episodes of discrimination against a Catholic in contemporary American political life. And what added to the scandal is that this reprehensible treatment was not promulgated privately by private citizens, but on a public scale by some of the most recognizable and known political leaders in our country.
Such shameless anti-Catholic treatment continued the following year in November 2018 from Sens. Kamala Harris and Mazie Hirono, both of whom questioned the suitability of Brian C. Buescher as a judicial nominee because of his membership in the Catholic organization the Knights of Columbus. Harris and Hirono found issue with the Knights because of the organization’s opposition to abortion and gay marriage, Hirono calling their views “extremist” and asking Buescher whether he would end his membership with the Catholic organization if confirmed.
Both senators, like Feinstein and Durbin during Barrett’s 2017 hearings, violated Article Six of the Constitution, which states that there is to be no religious test as a qualification for public office.
Very appropriately, during Judge Barrett’s Supreme Court hearings, Sen. Hawley adamantly called out his Democratic colleagues, emphasizing the need to end this discriminatory treatment of judicial nominees.
“When you tell somebody that they’re too Catholic to be on the bench,” Hawley exclaimed, “when you tell them that they’re going to be a Catholic judge, not an American judge, that’s bigotry. The pattern and practice of bigotry from members of this committee must stop. And I would expect that it be renounced.”
This time around, Democratic senators have gotten the message, deciding to steer away from the subject of Barrett’s religion, realizing perhaps that their attempts to shame a woman of faith backfired and only brought shame upon themselves for their bigotry.
A historic moment is about to be achieved, the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court, an openly pro-life and devout Catholic woman with traditional Christian moral values who makes no apologies for her faith.
As Sen. Graham acknowledged, it’s been a long time coming.
Fr. Daniel Maria Klimek, T.O.R., is an assistant professor of theology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. He is the author of Medjugorje and the Supernatural: Science, Mysticism, and Extraordinary Religious Experiences (Oxford University Press, 2018). His writings have been published in the Federalist, Aleteia, and Crisis Magazine.