The Dogma Is Strong With This One

By John Zmirak Published on September 8, 2017

Is Senator Dianne Feinstein auditioning to take the job of James Earl Jones? She’s certainly doing her best to sound like Darth Vader in the Senate. The Daily Wire reports:

Despite the fact that the Constitution forbids a religious litmus test for judicial appointments, Senator Dianne Feinstein attacked University of Notre Dame law professor Amy Coney Barrett, a Catholic mother of seven children and a nominee for the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, by accusing, “The dogma lives loudly within you.”
Feinstein said to Barrett, “When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws, is that the dogma lives loudly within you. And that’s of concern. When you come to big issues, that large numbers of people have fought for for years in this country.” That seemed to be a loud hint referencing Feinstein’s fanatical devotion to Roe v. Wade.

As if to double down,Senate minority whip Dick Durbin slammed Barrett’s use of the term ‘orthodox Catholic,’ which wasn’t surprising because Durbin himself is a Catholic who is no longer pro-life.”

Can Christians Serve As Judges in America?

In fact, as Barrett’s former law professor, Catholic University President John Garvey writes, abortion was not even the issue that raised these anti-Catholic hackles. Rather Barrett

was grilled on Wednesday by Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee about an article she and I wrote together in 1998 when I was a law professor and she was my student. In that article we argued that the death penalty was immoral, as the Catholic Church teaches. … We went on to say that a Catholic judge who held that view might, in rare cases, have to recuse herself under 28 U.S.C. § 455. That is a federal statute that asks a federal judge to step aside when she has conscientious scruples that prevent her from deciding a case in conformity with the facts and the law.

In fact, even the current Catechism allows for the death penalty where it is necessary to protect society. But that’s not the issue here. What’s interesting is that Amy Barrett wrote that judges should not seek to impose sectarian religious beliefs on the law. They should recuse themselves. You’d think that would be music to the ears of the Senators who grilled Barrett.

But it wasn’t. Everyone knows what this is about: abortion. And these liberal Senators are smart enough to know that Catholic views on abortion aren’t matters of private dogma, but natural law. So Amy Barrett would not feel the need to recuse herself on cases related to abortion.

Pro-life pioneer Jerome Lejeune offered the last word on this subject. I noted last year:

The great medical researcher Dr. Jerome Lejeune once said that if the Catholic Church embraced abortion, he would leave the Catholic Church. And he was right. We know, in the cold light of reason, that unborn children are human and that they’re alive. Any church that told us otherwise would earn our absolute contempt.

That’s not private dogma. It’s natural law. That’s really the issue here.

Natural Law: The Issue

Nobody cares where Amy Barrett goes to church. No senator wonders whether she accepts specifically Catholic dogmas like the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. We Catholics accept those based on faith in apostolic tradition, and don’t expect outsiders to assent to them them. We’d certainly never try to legislate based on them. Barrett could accept all those dogmas and more, for all they care. She could collect little pieces of saints and make annual pilgrimages to Fatima. Pro-choice “Catholics” like Joe Biden and Tim Kaine like to hobnob with tame Jesuits. They even go to Mass, and receive Holy Communion in defiance of church law. It reminds voters that they’re Irish.

What Feinstein and Durbin are trying to impose via their questions is really a “natural law” test. Barrett must renounce natural law and all its works. That’s the price of admission as a citizen. They are treating belief in natural law as if it were membership in the Communist Party. And these were the 1950s. And they were Joseph McCarthy and his allies.

What matters is that Barrett imitates them on one key issue. She must reject natural law. That’s because it’s religiously neutral, universal, and hence a legitimate source of legislation in America. In fact, the Declaration of Independence invokes “nature’s God” and the natural rights he grants us. Nothing specifically Catholic about that.

What Feinstein and Durbin are trying to impose via their questions is really a “natural law” test. Barrett must renounce natural law and all its works. That’s the price of admission as a citizen. (Maybe we should add it to the Naturalization Oath.) Indeed, they are treating belief in natural law as if it were membership in the Communist Party. And these were the 1950s. And they were Joseph McCarthy and his allies.

The Nihilist Party

In one sense they’re right. The official ideology that governs the U.S. today is radically opposed to natural law. In fact, it scoffs at reason. If we take as official the current Supreme Court’s reading of the U.S. Constitution, we live in a country that isn’t Christian. In fact, it’s neither natural nor lawful.

No, we’re ruled by the nihilist teenager’s fantasy that Justice Kennedy (another lousy Catholic) cooked up in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992). The key passage is this: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” At the moment, that’s the creed of the American government. And it will be, until and unless we get better justices onto SCOTUS.

That’s not the liberty our Founders thought they were protecting. It’s nihilism.

Yes, we Catholics happen to be more often pro-life than Mainline Protestants. We track with evangelicals and orthodox Jews. But our opposition to abortion is not a private matter of Catholic teaching. It’s the result of our reflection on the natural law, which is religiously neutral. We hold that the universe is orderly. That reason can yield stubborn truths. It exists outside the mind of the individual, like the axioms of math. It raises us above the other animals. It binds us. It tells us that we may not kill our young with impunity, like crazed apes.

We are not Harambe. And that’s the truth Sen. Feinstein is afraid of. A rational faith that reaches across church lines is a powerful Force indeed. Let us hope, pray, and work to see that it blows up the Death Star that Justice Kennedy helped to finish. It has already claimed 60 million American lives — as many people as live today in California and Florida combined. A high price to pay for an adolescent’s idea of liberty.

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  • Bob Adome

    Ginsburg and Sotomayer should have recused themselves from Obergefell v. Hodges. Is not McCarthyism a supposed republican construct”? Dixiecrats are the first ones to accuse those who oppose them of it?

  • Craig Roberts

    Justice Kennedy was the product of Catholic education. Hmm. Just sayin’.

    • Zmirak

      He’s mostly the product of Bushies lying to President Reagan. Also of Catholics wanting to assimilate at any price.

      • Craig Roberts

        Thank you for the response. Presumably the combination of a Catholic education and participation in the sacraments would inoculate him from manipulation and capitulation. I guess the god of his own ambition was too hard for him to resist. Now he sits in a great seat of honor, towering over society, helping decide the laws of our land.

        Tragically for us (but fortunately for him) he is blithely unaware that his feet are made of clay. What a sad and sobering realization it will be to discover that for all your good intentions and hard work, in the end, you did more harm than good.

  • Craig Roberts

    “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”

    Sorry Justice Kennedy, but the belief that you have the “right” to just “define” your own reality is not at the “heart of liberty”. Although it is (obviously) at the heart of INSANITY.

  • Tom Rath

    I drove my karma over her dogma.

    • Vincent J.

      I see what you did there: Car-ma, dog-ma. Bravo!

  • Jennifer Hartline

    Bravo once again, John.

  • John

    Jean-Paul Sartre drove the same reasoning in France under the banner of existentialism, and look at the consequences today. There is now a law in France preventing civil society from counseling women seeking abortion to consider alternatives. You are free to determine your own meaning of life and values with total disregard for natural law.

  • James

    Natural Law is a powerful idea. Unfortunately, what is called “Natural Law” is often religious doctrine wrapped in bad philosophy in a poor attempt to disguise its true origin and appear neutral.

    • Zmirak

      Well, take a look at “What We Can’t Not Know” for instance. Solid and coherent.

      • James

        If there is Natural Law of morality, then it can be discovered by natural means, like the physical laws of nature. Bad theories can be disproven, new theories advanced, etc.

        Yet “Natural Law” advocates simply recite medieval philosophy and call the issue settled. There is little idea of experimentation and discovery, but instead a reproving of that what was already believed.

        You believe what you believe because God said so. Don’t pretend you are being either neutral or secular about it.

        • Shaquille Harvey

          Please tell me how do atheists determine the natural law, what it is and where it comes from? How do they determine and verify it using the scientific methodology?
          How there be a natural law in a materialistic universe?

          • James

            There are certain patterns of human behavior that lead to flourishing and other patterns that lead to failure. Human behavior can be studied, just like the behavior of any other animal. What is beneficial and what is harmful can be learned from observation. This is far more effective than the pontificating of philosophers or dictates from on high.

          • Shaquille Harvey

            Yes human nature can be studied but again;
            What if the particular behaviour that leads to flourishing is destroying a particular group ?
            If humans are predetermined creatures then where can the natural law if not morality as a whole fit ?
            Please note also philosophy and philosophical understanding have had a great significance in the sciences and understanding the impact on human behaviour.

          • James

            The historical evidence shows that the most successful cultures assimilate others while adopting the best features of the culture as their own. The Romans did not eliminate the Greeks, but turned the Greeks into Romans (who kept the the Empire running for 1000 years after the fall of Rome). So the hypothetical is a bit of a moot point.

        • Jay W. Richards

          What books on the subject have you read? And if you’ve read them, show us you understood the arguments by summarizing them accurately. Nothing in your comments above betrays any knowledge of the subject.

          • James

            What am I wrong about?

  • PilgrimGirl

    The problem is the legislation, not the judges. Amy Coney Barrett is strongly pro-life yet abortion is legal. It would be beyond her scope as a judge to legislate from the bench to contradict or change that. The law itself is flawed and, hence, the actual problem. Perhaps she should become a candidate for the legislature, not the bench.

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