Community: Questions for the New Supreme Court Nominee

We are talking about Community and the common good. With the nomination of a new supreme court judge, some are being accused of “anti-catholicism” for posing questions about her religious beliefs.*  I think some questions are important:

“Elders’ Art Class.” Photo by Monkey Business, Adobe Stock

1) Since you are a practicing Catholic, have you studied Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment (“Laudato Si“)?  What are your positions on environmental justice?  On climate change?  Are you as passionate about them as you are about opposing abortion?  Are you aware that climate change is currently killing more people (who are fully people) than are abortions killing fetuses?  It has killed 210,000 people in the US alone through coronavirus and thousands more in wildfires and hurricanes and has maimed tens of thousands more and drought and migrations to come will displace and kill millions more.

2) Have you studied Pope Francis’ statements on the “idolatry of money” that dominates so much of our economic system?  Where do you stand on that subject and on unbridled Wall Street power?  And on tax breaks for the very rich?  (Revelations on President Trump’s non-taxes being very relevant to the question.) 

Short video on Dorothy Day and how the Catholic Worker Movement develops communities of radical faith. Originally produced by the Catholic News Service and posted to the CNS YouTube Channel.

3) Where do you stand on the long-standing teaching of the right for unions to organize that are embedded in papal documents dating all the way back to Pope Leo XIII in the nineteenth century? 

4) As for abortion, surely you know the distinction in Catholic philosophy between what makes good law and what makes good morality.  They are not always the same.  Since women are going to have abortions (and not all American women are Catholic, by the way), isn’t it preferable to make abortion as safe as possible than to make abortion go underground?  Roe vs. Wade does not demand that women have an abortion, does it? 

As a woman, do you believe it is preferable to turn decision-making about your body over to zealous male law-makers?  Why would you think that?

Fr. Daniel Berrigan SJ, peace activist, poet, and biblical scholar, sharing how differences help to create community. Originally posted to YouTube by inspirationandspirit.

Are you aware that saint and doctor of the church, Thomas Aquinas, did not believe the fetus was human until very late in its development?  That only then did the fetus receive a “human soul” (it was first a vegetative soul and then an animal soul according to Aquinas.)  And NOTHING in contemporary science has bothered to disprove this teaching (since contemporary science rarely even uses the word “soul”).

“Wake Up” call to get involved in the work of climate justice. Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash.

5) Where do you stand on birth control?  Doesn’t it seem that the swelling of the human population has much to do with rendering other species extinct, who lose their habitats because of human expansion?  Is it wrong to render God’s creation extinct? 

6) Can you call yourself a serious Christian (or even a human being), and seek to end health care for many millions of Americans?  How would you look yourself in the mirror or dare go to church? 

7) Does your version of Christianity support separating children from parents and locking them up in cages?   (See Matthew 25.)  And hiring a white supremacist as an adviser inside the White House?  To be continued

A fuller version of this Public Letter can be found in https://www.tikkun.org/a-public-letter-to-supreme-court-nominee-amy-barrett}


*In E. J. Dionne has written a thoughtful article about the nominee’s religious background in response to right wing yelling about “anti-catholicism.”  Amy Coney Barrett and the GOP’s hypocrisy about religion

See Matthew Fox, Letters to Pope Francis;

Also see Matthew Fox, A Spirituality Named Compassion.

Banner Image: Handshake sealing a partnership. Photo by Cytonn Photography on Unsplash.

Queries for Contemplation

Meditate on the questions above.  What do they say to you?  What other questions would you pose to this supreme court nominee?

Recommended Reading

Letters to Pope Francis

Matthew Fox challenges the new Pope to live up to the promise of his namesake St. Francis and reshape a church that has been mired in corruption and bereft of authentic spirituality and rigorous theological debate. Former Dominican priest Matthew Fox presents a series of heartfelt letters to his brother in Christ about the great challenges facing the church today, drawing from the deep spiritual and theological sources that have been suppressed since Vatican II, and implores him to restore the sensus fidelium (the sense of the faithful) and reshape a church with justice and compassion.

A Spirituality Named Compassion: Uniting Mystical Awareness with Social Justice

In A Spirituality Named Compassion, Matthew Fox delivers a profound exploration of the meaning and practice of compassion. Establishing a spirituality for the future that promises personal, social, and global healing, Fox marries mysticism with social justice, leading the way toward a gentler and more ecological spirituality and an acceptance of our interdependence which is the substratum of all compassionate activity.
“Well worth our deepest consideration…Puts compassion into its proper focus after centuries of neglect.” –The Catholic Register

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7 thoughts on “Community: Questions for the New Supreme Court Nominee”

  1. Avatar

    Excellent questions. I have always maintained that we are a secular nation, and specific beliefs–as opposed to faith–have no place in determining laws, such as those on abortion that certain religious groups are fanatic about. To call criticism of this woman anti-catholic is the same as calling criticism of the president unpatriotic and is a favorite technique of dictatorship.

  2. Avatar

    I so enjoy these questions that Matt is posing for judge Barrett and sure do hope she receives them and even responds!
    However I wish to offer another view than Thomas Aquinas’s view that “the fetus was [not] human until very late in its development”. I share from the perspective, not as a catholic (which I am not) but as a biologist (which I am). One of my very favorite classes in college was embryology. It was so incredibly fascinating and filled me with complete wonder every time I looked in the microscope. I was totally blown over that a sperm and ovum would come together to unite their nuclei into one cell called a zygote which in nine months would become a fully formed human. I studied all the various stages the developing embryo went through on its journey to “humanhood”. How one cell would develop into an eye and another an ear. But if you took that “eye” cell and put it somewhere else, like where a finger was developing, it would become a finger nail, instead of an eye. Wow, how did it know to change its purpose? Anyway, I could go on and on about the utter mystery and joy of developing life. Suffice it to say my study led me to the conclusion that life begins at conception because everything it needs to develop into a human being is amazingly there in that first cell, the zygote. All it needs after conception is time, ie. 9 months.
    Another amazing thing that you might enjoy knowing is that science has recently discovered that the minute the sperm unites with the ovum, sparks fly! Kinda like firecrackers! (It’s actually zinc but that’s another wonderous story. The whole thing makes me giggle!)
    In regards to the soul, I wish to say that even though I am also trained in theology and have a masters from seminary, I still don’t know what a soul is and think the belief in a soul is very problematic as it gives justification for all kinds of cruelty, for example the killing of animals because Christians tend to believe they don’t have a soul. Maybe we could learn from Indigenous wisdom which just concludes all life is sacred and at every moment.
    So, although I am against abortion, I do support women’s right to choice.

    1. Rev. Dr. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Rev. Dr. Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Kristal, thank you for your thoughtful comments. I would however like to reflect on two of your comments: First, I believe that the way Christians have conceptualized the “soul” has resulted in their justification for cruelty to and the killing of animals, because as you say, “Christians tend to believe they don’t have a soul.” And secondly, you say that, “although I am against abortion, I do support women’s right to choice.” I too hold this contradictory position but believe as you suggest that, “Maybe we could learn from Indigenous wisdom which just concludes all life is sacred and at every moment.” Let us think on these things…

  3. Avatar

    In fact, Aquinas taught that animals have souls (animal souls) and plants have souls (plant souls). It was modern philosophers like Descartes who taught that animals don’t have souls and therefore feel nothing, thus opening the door to more human hubris.

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