At the Senate hearings this past week, Missouri Republican Josh Hawley tried his hand at pontificating and pandering—maybe panderificating? At any rate, he said "When you tell somebody that they’re too Catholic to be on the bench, when you tell them they’re going to be a Catholic judge, not an American judge, that’s bigotry.”
Well Josh, nice try. And even, in some situations, true. But Amy Coney Barrett is not mainstream anything, especially Catholic, unless we are speaking of a Catholicism that has been largely abandoned in the past hundred years—a draconian sub-sect the likes of which have always been there but which has become less tenable since the beginning of...well...time.
Practicing Catholics still attend mass, still receive the sacraments, and still support their faith, as do practicing Lutherans, Methodists, Jews, Muslims, Baptists, and the dozens of other religions registered in the United States. But there are sub-sects of each—not necessarily sanctioned by the religion itself—that often exist on the fringes. One of these is Ms. Barrett's personal darling, the charismatic and nondenominational People of Praise. If there is any truth to their website, they are a group steeped in piety and charity, and they seem to be decent people.
But then there's the patriarchy.
It should be a deal breaker, even for the religious cheerleading of Josh Hawley, though his allegiance to Trump—like Republicans in general—eclipses what's proper. Even when a threat to women becomes palpable, when oppression becomes policy, politics predominates.
But still...there's that patriarchy.
The People of Praise do consider women equal to men, but to borrow from George Orwell, men are more equal. It is men who serve as final arbiters in the decision-making process for the community or the family. The gender dynamics are inimical not only to modern society, but even to modern Catholic philosophy. In a broad sense the People of Praise are to Catholicism what the Michigan’s Wolverine Watchmen are to law enforcement.
This is not to say that Ms. Barrett is a bad person or that People of Praise are an evil organization, but the fact that they have been around for 39 years and comprise only 1750 members speaks more to their draconian tenets than their exclusivity. They maintain a similarity to Pentecostalism, embracing physical forms of worship, such as speaking in tongues and faith healing. That sort of thing has its adherents, but has always existed on the fringe, sometimes bordering on cultism.
If we cut to the chase, though, it's Roe v. Wade that concerns most Americans, women and men, and it's Roe v. Wade whose demise Ms. Barrett has been pegged to accelerate. We're not stupid, nor is Ms. Barrett. She knows—if anyone does—that in a hypothetical voir dire for a case where a woman claims harassment or assault, she would never make the final cut for the jury. Her belief in the subjugation of women, implied or explicit, would disqualify her. It should similarly disqualify her from any inclusion in Roe v. Wade deliberations or decisions. I doubt if it will.
Just an aside—apparently the female members of People of Praise were once called handmaids but dropped the designation when too many outsiders associated them negatively with Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel The Handmaid's Tale. Seems to me the term was derogatory long before Atwood's novel was published. And before you remind me that the mother of Jesus referred to herself as the handmaiden of the Lord (Luke 1:38), let's remember Luke's gender may have provided a certain slant to the narrative. The number of women contributors to the Bible is very limited—less than one by most accounts.
It's that patriarchy again.