People of Praise: Amy Coney Barrett’s affiliation with religious group raises questions

As judge Amy Coney Barrett faces more questions From senators Wednesday to the third day of hearings for his Supreme Court appointment, his religion has become a point of contention.

Barrett’s faith is a key part of his appeal to Tory supporters, as well as a source of concern among those who oppose his appointment. Barrett is Catholic, but she is also affiliated with People of Praise, a small, charismatic Catholic group that has drawn criticism from former members who say he treats women as subservient to men.

Francois X Rocca, Vatican correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, examined the “So-called alliance community”, which began in the Catholic charismatic renewal of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The Catholic charismatic movement has embraced certain principles of Pentecostalism, a Protestant Christian movement that believes in salvation, spiritual gifts, and baptism.

People of Praise, a tight-knit group, has around 1,750 members, says Rocca. Over the years, it is known that they sometimes live together, he says, adding that they normally meet once a week and contribute 5% of their income to the group.

People of Praise was born in 1971 in South Bend, Indiana, where the University of Notre Dame is located. Similar to Pentecostalism, members are said to embrace physical forms of worship, such as speaking in tongues, faith healing, and baptism.

“These are gifts of the Holy Ghost,” they say. And so there is this attempt in the 20th century, first among Protestants and then also among Catholics, to recover that, ”he says.

Members also pledge to uphold the community’s covenant – something past members have spoken out against, saying husbands are imposed as heads of households, or “chiefs.”

A former member wrote a book criticizing the group’s gender roles, claiming that women were seen as secondary to men, Rocca says.

“If you talk to the members now, they’ll say that’s not true. They will say that it is true that they believe in the biblical idea that the husband is the head of the family, ”he said.

In practice, members say that means final family decisions are with the husband, he says, but only after things have been settled through dialogue with both spouses.

The leaders of People of Praise, formerly called “towels” according to the biblical description of the Virgin Mary, are responsible for caring for the other women in the group. They changed their terminology after the dystopian TV series “The Handmaid’s Tale” gained popularity in 2018, he says.

Women leaders act as counselors to other women members, he says. Since the group thinks that “everyone has a head,” even husbands, they see the concept of a head as a mentorship, Rocca explains.

People of Praise are no strangers to political scrutiny. Democrats asked Barrett about his faith and ability to make decisions in previous hearings. At Barrett’s 2017 Court of Appeal confirmation hearing, Senator Dianne Feinstein said Barrett’s cleric “Dogma lives loudly inside” her.

This time around, in Supreme Court nomination hearings, senators might make it a little easier, as many Americans feel faith is part of life. The caveat about this is when faith can be adopted into policy or make laws – the goal of the Supreme Court.

Barrett has never publicly disclosed his affiliation. She was pictured in the group’s “Vine and Branches” magazine in 2006, reports the Wall Street Journal.

During the ongoing nomination hearings, Senators have asked Barrett about issues that may conflict with his Catholic faith, such as his position on Roe v. Wade and abortion rights.

Based on Rocca’s conversations with members of People of Praise, he says Barrett would argue that she will make her own decisions based on the law, not on the advice of a leader.

“These are the people you talk to about life decisions with and they try to help you discern what God wants for you,” he says. “He wouldn’t be the type of person who would tell the person they are advising on how to do their job.”

Chris Bentley produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Tinku Ray. Serena McMahon adapted it for the web.