Why Trump picked Brett Kavanaugh over ‘folk hero’ Amy Coney Barrett

On Monday, President Donald Trump nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court. He will fill the seat vacated by Justice Anthony Kennedy, for whom Kavanaugh once served as a clerk.

“The motto of my Jesuit high school was, ‘Men for others’,” Kavanaugh said during his acceptance speech. “I’ve tried to live that creed.” In the drama surrounding this nomination, mention of the Jesuits seems loaded with meaning.

Kavanaugh’s principal rival for the appointment was Amy Coney Barrett. The devout Catholic and mother of seven entered the public eye last September during her confirmation hearing for the 7th Circuit Court. “When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you,” Senator Diane Feinstein told her. “And that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for years in this country.”

“The dogma lives loudly within you” became a sort of battle cry for religious conservatives. She became a folk hero among Catholics, who (with good reason) fear the political establishment is becoming increasingly intolerant of orthodox believers.

Kavanaugh, though undoubtedly conservative, was also seen as more moderate and establishment-friendly. The sense of disappointment among conservative Christians is palatable. So, was Kavanaugh attempting to console Barrett’s supporters by signalling his Catholic upbringing? Or did he name-drop the progressive Society of Jesus to reassure his audience that he wasn’t a “dogmatist” like her?

​How to continue reading…

This article appears in the Catholic Herald magazine - to read it in full subscribe to our digital edition from just 30p a week

The Catholic Herald is your essential weekly guide to the Catholic world; latest news, incisive opinion, expert analysis and spiritual reflection