If you follow Catholic news and social media, you have probably heard about the Senate confirmation hearing for Amy Coney Barretta nominee to the 7th Circuit Appeals Court, at which she was grilled about her Catholic faith. (If you missed the story, there is a very good op-ed piece from The New York Times, written by a Catholic convert, which gives the facts and also defends Ms. Barrett. You can read it here.) While several Democratic senators questioned Ms. Barrett’s ability to serve in this capacity due to her devout Catholicism, Diane Feinstein took it the farthest, telling Ms. Barrett, “…the dogma lives loudly within you, and that is of concern.”
The Catholic twitter-sphere blew up, news articles appeared, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops came out with a statement strongly condemning this display of anti-Catholic bias and religious intolerance. (You can read it here.) All these reactions are much-needed, and as a nation and a Church we should take a hard look at what this disturbing trend means for our future. My purpose in writing about this is slightly different, though: I’d like to point out the silver lining in the situation.
First of all, women of faith, and Catholic women in particular, have been blessed with Ms. Barrett as a model of a successful, courageous, and devout woman in the public sphere. Nowadays, being “pro-woman” more and more is seen as being anything but Catholic, or even devoutly religious, and many of us are hard-pressed to find a highly placed example of the kind of woman we are striving to be. Until last week, most of us had probably never heard of Ms. Barrett. I think that God, in His infinite mercy, has used this outrageous display if intolerance to accomplish a greater good. And I think it is no coincidence that it was another woman who pressed Ms. Barrett the strongest. Perhaps God wants us to see this juxtaposition of two very different sorts of women in order to help us see more clearly the choice we have before us: we can put our feminine genius to work in the service of truth, or we can use our talents to stifle truth.
The second point I’d like to make is that God has a great sense of humor. I’m sure the last thing Ms. Feinstein wanted to do was complement Ms. Barrett, but in her blindness, that is exactly what she did. By “dogma,” I assume she meant the authoritative teachings of the Catholic Church. As Catholics, we believe that these teachings are true, and they lead us to God, who is Truth. What better compliment could you give someone than, “The truth lives loudly within you!”? God is perfectly capable of using our words in ways we never meant them to be used, and, frankly, I think He probably gets a kick out of doing this. Yes, let’s stand strongly against intolerance and anti-Catholic sentiment, but let’s also embrace what God is trying to tell us through these words and allow Truth to shine in our hearts and actions. Today, while you are waiting in line for coffee or standing at the bus stop, pray: “Lord, let Your dogma live loudly within me!”