Thursday, September 24, 2020
Massimo Faggioli, of Villanova University, has a habit, and makes it a practice, of importing into Catholic matters, questions, discussions, etc., the standard (tired?) political/tribal categories and characterizations of "left", "right", "culture warrior", "progressive," etc. Because, according to his map, the lay movement "People of Praise" is "conservative", it follows, apparently, that (like all political things "conservative") it is worrisome.
This mapping is, I suspect, what explains his Politico piece defending the ongoing attacks on/criticisms of Judge Amy Barrett's affiliation with "People of Praise" and his repeated defenses of those senators who asked clumsy (at best) and bigoted (worse) questions about Barrett's Catholicism during her confirmation several years ago. (It should be noted, and regretted, that Politico -- an often valuable outlet -- has been trafficking recently in the completely silly insinuations about some imagined connection between Margaret Atwood's "Handmaid's Tale" and the (utterly innocuous) use, in the past, by "People of Praise" of the scripturally inspired term "handmaid" (See Luke 1:38).
In any event, the piece is misguided. Now, it is true (quoting the headline) that politicians' and nominees' "religious beliefs" are not "off limits" to voters and senators. (If a candidate for office sincerely held a religious belief that some persons did not possess equal human dignity as other persons, that would be a good reason to vote against such a candidate.) What should be off-limits are (a) misrepresenting or wilfully misunderstanding a nominee's or candidate's religious beliefs and (b) applying, without justification or warrant, greater suspicion and skepticism to a candidate's or nominee's sworn testimony because of disagreement with that candidate's or nominee's religous beliefs or affilitations. Several Democratic senators did these things during Barrett's hearings on her Court of Appeals nomination, and too many commentators and activists are doing these things now.
All political leaders, judges, candidates, and nominees have views, commitments, ideals, attachments, loyalties, etc. We can (and do) ask them, "if you come to occupy a position of public trust and responsibility in our political community, will you exercise your responsibility, and fulfil your role, in a way that respects our political community's laws and norms?" If they say, under oath, "yes"; it is wrong -- it is just bigotry -- to say, "well, because you are a 'conservative' Catholic, we don't believe you. 'The dogma lives loudly,' and all that."
It is also, by the way, highly misleading for Faggioli to enlist Pope Francis in support of his anti-"People of Praise" and anti-Barrett insinuations. The Holy Father has praised charismatic renewal as a “current of grace” in the Catholic Church. And, in 2014, he appointed one member of People of Praise as an auxiliary bishop in Portland, Oregon.
A few years ago, a suspiciously timed and oddly sourced piece appeared in the New York Times, which also tried to hamstring Barrett's nomination with various allegations, rumors, and insinuations about "People of Praise." It's too bad that we are already seeing a reprise.