Religious Left Catholics on Judge Barrett

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Editorial Note: While Catholics are typically associated with neoconservative and Republican Party politics, there is also a viable strand of Catholicism that has been opposed to empire, racism, the death penalty, and other state crimes for generations. This American form of Liberation Theology has included in its ranks the Berrigan Brothers, Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, and members of the Catholic Worker movement. We corresponded with several veterans of this movement that seeks to live the Gospel they hold dear to their heart through radical activism about Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett. We welcome further correspondence from others of a similar mind in the comments section below. Special thanks to Sam Husseini for his support in this story.

Mark Colville is based in New Haven as part of the Catholic Worker movement.
Mark Colville/Image: Amistad Catholic Worker House

As a lifelong Roman Catholic, my first reaction to these developments is to cringe. Not because I almost uniformly disagree with the political views of Judge Barrett, but because those views are being trumpeted as congruent with Catholic belief and teaching. Judge Barrett subscribes to extremist legal and political views which are hardly derived from Catholicism, and to contend that they are is to ignore literally centuries of Catholic social teaching, going back to Thomas Aquinas. She has had membership in very cultish, very wealthy and very secretive Catholic groups which are far afield from the mainstream, and have even run afoul of the official Church leadership, yet her views are generally being presented in the media as those held by its majority. Opus Dei, for example, is an ancient Catholic secret society rooted in long-since discredited forms of thought and practice such as self-flagellation; misogyny, hatred of the body, and theological views which have been roundly condemned by the Church since the Second Vatican Council. As such, Opus Dei has repeatedly been coopted throughout history by fascist movements seeking support from the Church and collaboration from the Catholic faithful, i.e. Spain in the 1930s. So it is hardly surprising, yet no less painful for me, to watch that ugly history repeat itself in the current moment, under the watch of a man whose public life couldn’t possibly appear more antithetical to Catholic belief and devotion.

Paul Magno is based at Baltimore’s Jonah House and worked with Philip Berrigan.
Paul Magno/Image credit: Jonah House website

I’d describe myself as a progressive Catholic, and particularly rooted in the outlook of the Catholic Worker movement, valuing the sacramental life of the Church devotionally and the works of mercy as how we actively practice faith in the world. I see Amy Coney Barrett as an almost typical conservative Catholic, whom I could attend Mass with but wouldn’t want determining social policy generally. Her outlook yields too uncritically to the rightist bent of the Federalist Society and the high authoritarianism of Opus Dei. I say ‘almost typical conservative’ because this People of Praise group she has been part of for a long time feels like a word hybrid of Traditionalist Catholicism and Evangelical Christianity. I find the group’s emphasis on women’s deference to male authority really worrisome in a Supreme Court Justice, for example.

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