by: Johnny Golden
On a recent fall day in September 2020, President Donald J. Trump officially nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett as the replacement for jurist, trailblazer, and liberal icon, Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Ms. Barrett’s record suggests that she is a staunch conservative and indeed, she is on record as describing herself as being in lock step with her mentor, former, now-ceased, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia – the first – and only – high court justice of Italian descent and an unabashed devotee to constitutional conservatism.
Justice Barrett’s nomination gave rise to a long-standing conundrum in American politics and social life – religion; specifically, Catholicism. When the Catholics fled England under the heat of religious persecution many of them eventually wound up here in the state of Mary-land. The fertile, fecund territory established by the Calvert’s of Ireland was laid claim to and soon the welcoming shores were readily deemed as home.
Shortly afterwards, concomitantly you might say, the Puritans also arrived. The clash was on! To keep the peace a 140 mile line of division was established whereby the Protestants would assume the wooded territory of the north (Pennsylvania - ‘sylvania’ means land of woods) and the Catholics would remain south of it in Md. Today, we know this dividing line as the Mason Dixon Line.
Fraught with constant contests and drama, the Puritans, it seems. weren’t so ‘Pure” after all (see Salem Witch Trials of Massachusetts, 1692) , nor were the Catholics all that comprehensive and encompassing.
The annals of history are replete with the records of conflict between faiths; and though, internecine they are, they nonetheless litter the religious topography. (Many of the newcomers had recently fled from the the Thirty Years War from 1618 – 1638, principally between German Catholics and Protestants.
So virulent and ingrained was the bias against Catholics that of the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence in July of 1776 only one of them was a Catholic, He was Charles Carroll of Maryland – his cousin, John Carroll, would be become the first bishop of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States 24 years later in the state of Md.
In 1960, Senator John F. Kennedy’s entry into the presidential foray caused quite a stir. The question for Kennedy was “where would his ultimate allegiance lie? In times of civic or religious crisis or conflict would he side with the Vatican in Rome or the Constitution of the United States?
What hypocrisy! Twelve years later, ‘Tricky Dick’, Richard Nixon, would prove that his Protestant Quaker upbringing served him no better as in the estimation of some he was the poster child of moral turpitude and considered to be one of the worst persons to serve as president of the republic in modern history.
A war hero groomed by his father for the presidency, Kennedy’s one ‘wretched’ flaw of Catholicism continually dogged him. Prevailing against incumbent vice-president Nixon, Kennedy would become the first – and only – Catholic to sit in the Oval Office as president.
To wit, now we speak of Ms. Barrett’s nomination. A charismatic Catholic reportedly having adopted some Pentecostal practices of speaking in tongues, a belief in prophecy, and in divine healing her political leanings, her gender and her faith are under the historical microscope.
So, what shall we say then, America? Should Ms. Barrett be banished to the judicial hinterlands due to our modern-day mindset and politic or should we embrace her form of worship as normative? For some, no doubt, the jury’s still out. What say ye?