The recent U.S. Senate confirmation hearing for Amy Coney Barrett, who has been nominated for service on the nation’s 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, became the context for an unexpected exchange on the relationship between faith and public service. Senator Diane Feinstein (D – California) snidely remarked that, in light of Coney Barrett’s very public adherence to the teachings of the Catholic Church, it was clear that “the dogma lives loudly” within her, and that was a matter “of concern.”
Leaving aside the unconstitutionality of such an obvious religious test for public office, the irony is in Feinstein’s blind adherence to the less rationally justifiable dogma of the political left. That dogmatic worldview, which admits of no shade or variation, demands acquiescence to certain moral claims that until very recently in human history would have been considered almost universally abhorrent.
At least Coney Barrett’s work has revealed a carefully reasoned and faithful understanding of how a person of deep Catholic faith can still fulfill his or her public duty, especially when it might impinge upon his or her conscience. Ultimately, the question is not one of dogma, but of correct dogma. Feinstein’s unbending and ideological dogmatism ran against Coney Barrett’s presumed embrace of the dogma of the Catholic Church.
The difference, though, is that reasonable and thoughtful Catholics do not believe Church dogma merely because they have been told to do so by Church authorities, but because they believe them to reflect the deepest truths about reality. Members of political parties advance their party’s platform out of party loyalty, or in deference to their loyal voting base. That kind of dogmatism is far more troubling than an embrace of truth, expressed in dogmatic formulation or otherwise, however unpopular it might be.