Democrats might be smart enough to avoid this trap. National media outlets, on the other hand, seem bound and determined to treat fifty million Catholic voters as weirdos — despite not having actually changed their tenets for two millennia. Today it’s Politico’s turn to warn America about Amy Coney Barrett’s participation in People of Praise, a charismatic ecumenical group, and endorsed views that “appears to have been at odds with American law.”
That’s utter nonsense, but so is the entire People of Praise thread. Politico’s Adam Wren wrote about the Barretts’ commitment to the group and its private education:
The Barretts’ five oldest children attended Trinity School, founded in 1981. Trinity operates two other private schools, in Eagan, Minn., and in Falls Church, Va. (Though the institution was founded by People of Praise, now Trinity Schools, Inc. and the People of Praise are separate 501 (c)(3) corporations.) Group membership isn’t required to work there; faculty members, however, must be Christian and “assent in good faith to the tenets of the Nicene Creed,“ according to the Trinity cultural statement.
The school publishes a “cultural statement” laying out its views on social issues. It articulates a clear, conservative Christian set of values, including discouraging sex before marriage and cautioning students who experience same-sex attraction from “prematurely interpret[ing] any particular emotional experience as identity-defining.”
Discouraging sex before marriage isn’t exactly a conservative Christian value. Rather, it’s a basic Christian value, one that has explicit scriptural support. Much of that comes from Paul’s epistles, to be sure, but Deuteronomy 22:28 makes the proscription on premarital sex plain as well. For that matter, the Nicene Creed is basic Christian doctrine too, which makes it hardly remarkable for a Christian church to require a good-faith effort to embrace it. Catholics, Orthodox churches, and most Protestant denominations profess the Nicene Creed, and private Christian schools would certainly want to hire people who believe in the Nicene Creed’s tenets. More to the point, a unanimous Supreme Court ruled that Christian schools have the right to that expectation in Hosanna Tabor.
What about contradicting American law? Here’s the argument:
It also appears to have been at odds with American law while Barrett served on the board: A version of the statement from the 2018-19 school year, provided to POLITICO by the parent of an alum, says: “the only proper place for human sexual activity is marriage, where marriage is a legal and committed relationship between one man and one woman.” “Homosexual acts” are said to be “at odds with Scripture.” A spokesperson for the school said the language changed around the 2018-19 school year, meaning it would have been in place during Barrett’s tenure as a board member from 2015-17—and well after the Supreme Court decision Obergefell v. Hodges, which in 2015 legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.
There is no conflict between this belief and American law. Americans are still free to believe, as most Christian denominations teach, that marriage is intended for one man and one woman. Churches are free to restrict its recognition of marriage to that specific form, too. The Catholic Church teaches that this is the only model for sacramental marriage, and that homosexual acts (like all extra-marital sexual acts) are “at odds with Scripture.”
Reporters like Adam Wren and media outlets such as Politico seem confused that Obergefell didn’t revise Christian or Catholic dogma. The Supreme Court itself never took the absurd position that this teaching would be “at odds with American law,” in fact. In his controlling opinion on Obergefell, Justice Anthony Kennedy explicitly defended religions and their institutions in teaching their own definition of marriage:
Finally, it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered. The same is true of those who oppose same-sex marriage for other reasons.
As for being “extreme,” there is nothing in that statement of beliefs that differs in either substance or emphasis from the Catholic Church’s catechism or from the tenets of other Christian denominations. “Under no circumstances can [homosexual acts] be approved,” states paragraph 2333 of the Catechism. Sex outside of marriage is called “fornication” (pp 2353) and “gravely contrary to the dignity of persons and of human sexuality.” Even those who are engaged to marry are called to “chastity in continence” (pp 2350). And, needless to say, the Catechism emphasizes its fidelity to both the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed, and in fact is patterned on both (pp 194-196).
So … what exactly is the complaint here? If People of Praise are extremists for adhering to and teaching these tenets, then so is the Catholic Church and nearly all of Christendom — not to mention other religions. If Democrats and media outlets want to make that argument, they should feel free to do so — but realize that they are dismissing tens of millions of Americans, and perhaps hundreds of millions of Americans, as weirdos and freaks. At that point, it might become obvious to everyone else who the extremists actually are.
Addendum: This part of Adam Wren’s analysis had me laughing out loud:
What’s difficult to understand outside South Bend, however, is just how deeply integrated this group is into the local community. Though the group has only a few thousand local members, and keeps a low profile as an organization, its influence and footprint in the city are significant. That influence, and its resistance to liberal changes in the wider culture, are likely to arise as issues in her Supreme Court nomination hearings, expected to begin Oct. 12.
People of Praise includes several prominent local families, including real estate agents and local financial advisers, who act as a sort of professional network for families in the group and provide considerable social capital to its members. In South Bend mayoral elections, campaigns have been known to strategize about winning over People of Praise as a constituency, given the fact that they live close together in several neighborhoods.
Say, who was South Bend’s most famous mayor anyway? Pete Buttigieg, who made headlines as a gay progressive candidate in the Democratic presidential primary last year. Buttigieg won two terms as mayor, the second after coming out as gay. His successor, James Mueller, worked in Buttigieg’s administration. The most recent Republican mayor of South Bend was Lloyd Allen, who last served in … 1972. It seems any influence People of Praise has in South Bend doesn’t have much to do with politics.
There may be a religious organization in South Bend with significant political influence, but isn’t it much more likely to be the one with a golden dome and the greatest college football team ever? No disrespect intended toward the Trinity Titans’ soccer teams, but ….
Update: One more point. Wren wrote this about Barrett’s position on abortion:
A White House spokesperson said Barrett had no involvement in crafting the statement, but it aligns with her public views on the subject:sheco-signed a letter to Catholic bishops, dated three months after the Obergefell decision, affirming that marriage is the “indissoluble commitment of a man and a woman.” In a 1998 article “Catholic Judges in Capital Cases,” she referred to abortion as “always immoral.”Barrett has also said these views would not impact her jurisprudence. “It’s never appropriate for a judge to impose that judge’s personal convictions—whether they derive from faith or anywhere else—on the law,” she said during her 2017 confirmation.
Wren doesn’t mention anything about People of Praise’s position on abortion, but the Catholic Church’s position is both well known and explicit (pp 2270-72):
2270 Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person—among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.72 (1703, 357) Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.73 My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth.74
2271 Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law: You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish.75 God, the Lord of life, has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves. Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.76
2272 Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life. “A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae,”77 “by the very commission of the offense,”78 and subject to the conditions provided by Canon Law.79 The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy. Rather, she makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society. (1463)
So yes, abortion is “always immoral” in the Catholic Church and not just People of Praise. In fact, that’s so well known that it’s curious that it even comes up in a discussion about supposed extremism regarding People of Praise.