Amy Coney Barrett and the Devoted Catholic

Thomas Griffin (10/13/20)

The runner-up to Justice Brett Kavanaugh in the race for the last Supreme Court Justice was Amy Coney Barrett. Most major news outlets summarize her in a similar vein to these opening lines from a recent Associated Press piece: “A devout Catholic mother of seven, she is a favorite of religious conservatives and considered a strong opponent of abortion.” This line is more of an accusation than a statement. Barrett is viewed as a problematic choice because she is serious about what her Catholic faith teaches which is expounded in the fact that she has a large family and refuses to bow down to the altar of abortion.

Those against Amy Coney Barrett are ominous at best and bigoted at worst, especially due to the fact that five of the sitting Supreme Court Justices, the current first lady, and the Democractic nominee for the president of the United States are all Catholic. The point of contention is not that she is a Christian or a Catholic, but that she doesn’t discard from Catholic doctrine the beliefs which are condemned by contemporary culture. Religion isn’t ultimately a problem unless you hold your religion to be true. 

Behind the outcry against this nominee is one of the only accepted forms of bigotry still prevalent in our country: anti-Catholicism (specifically towards Catholics who actually believe what the Church proclaims). Many believe she should be disqualified simply because she is a practicing and devout Catholic. She prays, attends Sunday Mass, and believes that what the Church teaches is actually true and that following it will lead to human flourishing. Being a devout Catholic means certain things are held to be true, no matter what. 

The now famous line made by Sen. Dianne Feinstein at Barrett’s confirmation hearing for the 7th circuit rings loud and clear, but its entirety is often neglected: “When one reads your speeches, the conclusion that one draws, is that the dogma lives loudly within you and that is of concern when it comes to big issues which large numbers of people have fought for year in this country.” From Barrett’s family, career, and life one can draw the conclusion that she is faithful. Feinstein viewed this as a danger because Barrett’s beliefs did not line up with hers.

Barrett’s response was that “It’s never appropriate for a judge to impose that judge’s personal convictions, whether they arise from faith or anywhere else, on the law.” While the senator from California desires to impose her beliefs (abortion, anti-Catholicism, etc.) on the judge, the judge will not answer in the same manner. She vows to always view the case and details before her with an objective eye towards what is right and just, not what merely coincides with her opinions.

The issue here is wrapped up in the understanding of relativism and subjective truth. Moral relativism and subjectivism ascribe to the position that there is no one objective (actual) truth in regards to moral action. Truth is determined by what the individual holds to be true. In common parlance: “I have my truth and you have your truth, but please don’t impose your truth on me.” Morality is viewed as a private affair which is not open to judgment by others. With Roe vs. Wade we had the inevitable conclusion of this theory brought to its logical end. Some may view abortion as wrong, but they do not have the right to tell others it is wrong or that they cannot end the life in their womb. If moral relativism is valid then abortion should remain legal.

Barrett’s faith, along with five of the Supreme Court Justices and Joe Biden, teaches that abortion is morally evil in all cases, no matter what. The circumstances which surround a pregnancy (lack of funds, rape, unplanned, etc.) cannot cancel the scientific fact, not opinion, that a fertilized egg contains the full DNA makeup of a human person at the moment of conception. Abortion is either right or wrong. If morality is determined on how one feels or thinks about a topic, then there is no morality. 

While Feinstein and the pursuing mob against Barrett would never allow for her to tell them what is right or wrong, they are perfectly content with telling her what is right and wrong. Their position is that abortion should be legal because no one has the right to tell someone else what they should do with their body, or the right to judge their action as morally good or evil. As Catholics, if we truly believe that the Church is guided by the Holy Spirit and contains the fullness of the truth as revealed through the Bible, Tradition, and Jesus Christ then we should view Barrett’s nomination as a victory because the good and the true will influence her work. 

The victory is not a matter of her being on “our team” but her being for objective truth and against moral relativism. Her faith does guide everything she does, but it is easy to see that the Church does not simply believe abortion is wrong because it is what she teaches, but that abortion is wrong because the evidence (now scientific) tells us so. So let her judge and may God grant her and our nation a light to dispel the darkness. 

Thomas Griffin teaches Apologetics in the religion department at a Catholic high school on Long Island and lives with his wife and son. He received a master’s degree in theology and is currently a master’s candidate in philosophy. He writes for several Catholic media outlets.

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