A Promise Kept

For those who watched even short selections of the Senate Judiciary Hearings last week, one had to be impressed with Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s acumen and competency. Her opponents certainly had their work cut out for them. While needing to avoid a repeat of the travesty that surrounded the hearings for Justice Brett Kavanaugh, how were they to confront someone who should be considered an icon of sorts?

Here we have a woman with a quite accomplished law and judicial career, evidently qualified for the nomination, highly educated, and this all amidst being happily married with seven children, essentially a modern woman who “has it all.” They should have been proud to be in the presence of yet another who has overcome the odds and broken through the barriers our “oppressive patriarchal society” has imposed for so long.

It could not be so with them.

Like the Pharisees who prefaced their attack on Christ with hollow platitudes (cf. Mt. 22:16), with coy remarks of respect they sought to ensnare Barrett, drawing her into debates about how she would rule, to “radicalize her” through their questioning in the hope of making it obvious to everyone in the room that she was somehow untrustworthy to hold such an influential position.

But they were also in another bind.  Having touted religious freedom all these years (although ultimately as a device for freedom from religion), they could not directly express their concerns (alarm) over her deep commitment to Catholicism. They had to keep a cool head about this and pretend that it was a non-issue, lest they betray their hand.

And they could not. No one could.

As the hearings progressed, the situation started to resemble in some ways a most famous trial that happened two thousand years ago.

Back then, our Lord stood before His judges and maintained a calm composure, completely self-possessed to the point that, in the case of the Sanhedrin, it increased their aggravation and hatred, and in the case of Pilate, it increased his admiration and wonder.

Christ answered legitimate questions only from those who held legitimate authority; otherwise, He maintained His peace, even when His character was dragged through mud and His teachings unto everlasting life were twisted and maligned.

We can wonder if Barrett reflected upon this in the days leading up to her hearings.

Her calm demeanor throughout the four-day process was impressive. She prudently avoided answering questions on how she would rule, as such questions were beyond the scope of the hearings. After all, Justices Ginsburg and Kagan did the same in their hearings. As the frustration of her opponents mounted, they repeated the same questions in different ways, to which she gave the same answer.

Unable to cajole her to talk about all the rulings they wanted and pin her down, especially on abortion, they resorted to foolish questions. And although she did give answers to those, and usually brief ones, her composure said far more than her words.

That is how Christ turned the tables on Pilate at every instance; while Pilate had the authority, he knew Christ was in charge of the narrative.

Judge Amy Coney Barrett seems to have accomplished the same, and her witness indeed gave proof to our Lord’s promise, from which we all can take heart and strength: Lay it up therefore into your hearts, not to meditate before how you shall answer. For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to resist and gainsay (Lk. 21:14-15).

Let us pray for her confirmation to the Supreme Court.

October 23, 2020