Barrett’s earlier questioning, if it were focused directly on her Catholicism, would look worse for Democrats. In reference to a speech Barrett gave to conservative legal groups and an article she co-authored about Catholic judges in the ‘90s, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein said, “the dogma lives loudly within you.” Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, a practicing Catholic who opposes anti-choice abortion policies, asked Barrett if she was an “orthodox Catholic”—a term she had herself used in her writing. Critics condemned the question as one of anti-Catholic bigotry.
Since Ginsburg died and speculation began about a potential replacement, no Democratic legislator has said anything about Barrett or any other potential nominee that could be termed anti-Catholic. There are a number of reasons some on the right might be drawn to such hypothetical offenses. It preemptively offers protection to Barrett on tough questions about her judicial philosophy. It may be a cynical ploy to attract votes from Catholics—including Latino Catholics—in the election. Or they may be acting on truly held, but misplaced, beliefs: there was a real history of anti-Catholic discrimination in the U.S. But when the Democrats do begin questioning Barrett during the confirmation process, it’s clear what will happen if any of them ask about the People of Praise or reference her faith-based beliefs. The right already has its response ready to go.