The Story Behind Amy Coney Barrett’s Little-Known Christian Group People Of PraiseBreaking News
tags: Supreme Court, religious history, Catholic history, Amy Coney Barrett, People of Praise
This article was originally published in 2018, when Amy Coney Barrett’s name was first floated as a potential nominee to the Supreme Court. In light of her recent nomination to replace the late justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, an updated version is being published.
Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump’s latest Supreme Court nominee, is a hero of some religious Americans, but others view her connection to a little-understood faith group with deep suspicion.
Barrett, 48 — a circuit court judge who has been endorsed by every clerk with whom she has worked, as well as the entire faculty of Notre Dame Law School, where she taught — is affiliated with People of Praise, a tightknit, mostly Catholic group of about 1,700 adult members nationwide.
Some view People of Praise — which calls for members to seek guidance in many aspects of their lives from a personal spiritual guide — as having a potentially inappropriate sway over a judge’s decision-making. Even Pope Francis in 2014 warned lay-led groups such as Barrett’s about “usurping individual freedom” and delegating “important decisions about their lives to others.”
But others view the inquiries about People of Praise as simple bias against the very religious, Catholics, in particular.
Any Christian is welcome in the group, but it is largely composed of Catholics. It emerged in the late 1960s in South Bend, Ind., the home of Notre Dame, where Barrett was a law professor before her judicial appointment last year.
People of Praise appeared after the Second Vatican Council, when in an effort to accommodate diversity and globalization, the church for the first time encouraged lay-led groups that had different styles of prayer. Generally what the groups shared was a desire for a more intense, more experiential faith.
Some of these lay-led groups have tens of thousands of members, such as Focolare, which focuses on interfaith dialogue, and Communion and Liberation, which emphasizes that Christians must take their faith outside the private sphere.
Massimo Faggioli, a church historian and theologian at Villanova University, a Catholic school, studies these lay-led movements — also called “renewal” groups — that began popping up since Vatican II. They are, he says, considered both engines of innovation and energy within the Catholic Church but also potentially of concern, because in some cases they lack transparency and can be “very militant. They are like Christians of the second and third century. They devote everything to the mission.”
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