Our editorial last week on the spectacle of Senate Democrats questioning the Catholic faith of Notre Dame law professor and judicial nominee Amy Barrett struck a nerve. Many readers are stunned that politicians would suggest that having “orthodox” religious views could disqualify someone from the American judiciary. Also concerned is John Jenkins, President of the University of Notre Dame. Fr. Jenkins is no conservative but he can spot an attack on religious belief, and on Saturday he wrote to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee who led the assault on Ms. Barrett. Here is the letter in full:
Considering your questioning of my colleague Amy Coney Barrett during the judicial confirmation hearing of September 6, I write to express my confidence in her competence and character, and deep concern at your line of questioning. Professor Barrett has been a member of our faculty since 2002, and is a graduate of our law school. Her experience as a clerk for Judge Laurence Silberman of the U.S. Court of Appeals and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is of the highest order. So, too, is her scholarship in the areas of federal courts, constitutional law and statutory interpretation. I am not a legal scholar, but I have heard no one seriously challenge her impeccable legal credentials. Your concern, as you expressed it, is that “dogma lives loudly in [Professor Barrett], and that is a concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for years in this country.” I am one in whose heart “dogma lives loudly”, as it has for centuries in the lives of many Americans, some of whom have given their lives in service to this nation. Indeed, it lived loudly in the hearts of those who founded our nation as one where citizens could practice their faith freely and without apology. Professor Barrett has made it clear that she would “follow unflinchingly” all legal precedent and, in rare cases in which her conscience would not allow her to do so, she would recuse herself. I can assure you that she is a person of integrity who acts in accord with the principles she articulates. It is chilling to hear from a United States Senator that this might now disqualify someone from service as a federal judge. I ask you and your colleagues to respect those in whom “dogma lives loudly”—which is a condition we call faith. For the attempt to live such faith while one upholds the law should command respect, not evoke concern.
Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.