U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, next to U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT).
U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, next to U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT).

Rev. John I. Jenkins, the President of the University of Notre Dame, sent a letter to U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) after the confirmation hearing for Notre Dame Law School professor Amy Coney Barrett, who was appointed to United States Circuit Judge for the Seventh Circuit by President Donald Trump. Feinstein, along with other Democratic Senators in the Senate Judiciary Committee, expressed concern about Barrett’s Catholic faith. We reported at Caffeinated Thoughts last week how U.S. Senator Al Franken (D-MN) questioned her judgment for speaking at an event sponsored by Alliance Defending Freedom, a group labeled a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Jenkins told Feinstein that the possibility that a person is considered disqualified because of their faith “chilling.”

Here’s his full letter below:

Dear Senator Feinstein:

Considering your questioning of my colleague Amy Coney Barrett during the judicial confirmation hearing of September 6, I write to express my confidence in her competence and character, and deep concern at your line of questioning.

Professor Barrett has been a member of our faculty since 2002, and is a graduate of our law school. Her experience as a clerk for Judge Laurence Silberman of the U.S. Court of Appeals and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is of the highest order. So, too, is her scholarship in the areas of federal courts, constitutional law and statutory interpretation. I am not a legal scholar, but I have heard no one seriously challenge her impeccable legal credentials.

Your concern, as you expressed it, is that “dogma lives loudly in [Professor Barrett], and that is a concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for years in this country.” I am one in whose heart “dogma lives loudly,” as it has for centuries in the lives of many Americans, some of whom have given their lives in service to this nation. Indeed, it lived loudly in the hearts of those who founded our nation as one where citizens could practice their faith freely and without apology.

Professor Barrett has made it clear that she would “follow unflinchingly” all legal precedent and, in rare cases in which her conscience would not allow her to do so, she would recuse herself. I can assure you that she is a person of integrity who acts in accord with the principles she articulates.

It is chilling to hear from a United States Senator that this might now disqualify someone from service as a federal judge. I ask you and your colleagues to respect those in whom “dogma lives loudly”—which is a condition we call faith. For the attempt to live such faith while one upholds the law should command respect, not evoke concern.


Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.


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