Catholic League to Durbin: Ever Questioned Faith of Non-Catholic Nominees?

Michael W. Chapman | September 7, 2017 | 12:50pm EDT
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Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) and

judicial nominee Amy Coney

Barrett, Sept. 6, 2017. (Screenshot.) 

( -- In response to the grilling by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) of Appeals Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett about her Catholic faith during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday, the Catholic League sent public letters to the senators asking if they have probed the faith of non-Catholic nominees in a similar way and, if so, to provide information on those exchanges.

Barrett, a constitutional law professor at Notre Dame Law School who clerked for Justice Antonin Scalia at the Supreme Court, was nominated by President Donald Trump for the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Indiana.  

During the hearing, Sen. Feinstein pressed Barrett on her Catholicism and said, "When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you." Sen. Durbin repeatedly asked Barrett to explain what she meant by "orthodox Catholic" in a college article she wrote 20 years ago. 

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) (Screenshot: 

Catholic League President Bill Donohue said in his public letter to Durbin, "Let me help you with this: the term means a Catholic who accepts the teachings of the Catholic Church. That would not include those who reject the Church's teachings on abortion, for example, because the Church regards the intentional killing of human beings to be 'intrinsically evil.'"

Durbin, a Catholic, supports abortion and gay "marriage," both of which are contrary to Catholic moral teaching. 

Donohue continued, "What you were really getting at is more important and more disturbing, than this." He then noted that Professor Barrett told the committee, "It is never appropriate for a judge to apply their personal convictions, whether it derives from faith or personal conviction."

Barrett could not have been more clear, said Donohue. "She said it was never appropriate to impose her religious convictions on cases before her."

"So why did you probe her about the orthodoxy of her Catholicity?" Donohue asks Durbin in the letter. "Do you similarly probe prospective federal judges who are not Catholic about the orthodoxy of their religious beliefs?"

"Have you ever probed the faith of a non-Catholic for the federal bench?" said Donohue to Durbin. "If so, please share the information with me. If not, try treating Catholics -- especially orthodox ones -- as equals."

He ends the letter, "I would appreciate a response to the serious issues I have raised. What you did comes perilously close to applying a religious test to Professor Barrett, and that is explicitly unconstitutional."

7th Circuit Court of Appeals nominee Prof. Amy Coney Barrett. (Notre Dame Law School.) 

Article VI, Section 3 of the Constitution states, "... but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."

Donohue's letter to Sen. Feinstein is similar to the one sent to Durbin. 

As the Catholic League states, "No one was fooled by your question" to Prof. Barrett. "Why didn't you come right out and ask her if she takes her judicial cues from the Vatican? That would have been more honest."

The letter continues, "Do you, as a matter of course, probe the propriety of having a person of deep faith on the court who is not Catholic? If so, please share that information with me. If not, try treating Catholics as equals." 

The two letters can be read here

Video from the hearing is here


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