Brett Kavanaugh's Church Community Reacts

Oct 7, 2018
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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're going to start the program trying to bring some understanding to the very emotional and divisive events of the past couple of days. In a few minutes, we'll speak with two individuals who've given a lot of thought to how the country gets beyond the tribalism they see at the heart of so many conflicts in the country at the moment.

But first, one more word about the fault lines and how people have been trying to navigate them at a place you might not expect - a church, specifically the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament here in Washington, D.C. That's where the newly sworn-in Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh worships with his family. Washington Post religion reporter Michelle Boorstein found that parishioners there have been having some painful conversations in recent days, and she's here to tell us more.

Michelle, thanks so much for joining us.

MICHELLE BOORSTEIN: Sure.

MARTIN: First of all, how did you get the idea to do this piece? I mean, how did you realize that the church was a bit torn about what was going on with Brett Kavanaugh?

BOORSTEIN: Well, actually, some people from the church had reached out to me to say, we're really struggling with this.

MARTIN: So talk to me a little bit about what some of those issues were that it's bringing up. What were some of the conversations that people had been having about this?

MARTIN: Before the allegations - Dr. Ford's allegations - came up, people were saying they had already - were already kind of struggling. How do they keep in this kind of spiritual community - or, you know, keep it a community when they were - already had political issues with some of the things that were coming out about Judge Kavanaugh, whether it - you know, maybe things they hadn't paid attention to before - you know, some of his writings about torture or other things like that?

Once the sexual assault issues came up, then it kind of laid another series of things, including people who thought, well, this seems like it's connected to this other massive sexual abuse topic that we are wrestling with together as a faith and people who thought those are completely unconnected - the Catholic clergy sex abuse scandal and the idea of these women bringing forward allegations. It'll be interesting to see how they are going forward now that he's been confirmed.

MARTIN: How do people see church there?

BOORSTEIN: I think Blessed Sacrament is typical of a lot of Catholic churches in that it doesn't make political positions kind of central. I mean, there is at Blessed Sacrament, like, smaller groups where you have people who are a little bit more like-minded who might be completely focused on dealing with immigration or the Muslim ban or LGBT rights. But when they all get together, I think people who go to Blessed Sacrament often kind of - I don't know if the right word is brag, but they love the fact that they have different types of people of different political persuasions. You know, it's an escape for a lot of people, a break from, you know, the intense politicking. But, right now, it's landed right in the middle of their parish.

MARTIN: You mentioned in your piece that the priest there hasn't been addressing the elephant in the room directly. And I wonder, how is that going over? How did people feel about that?

BOORSTEIN: Catholic priests, I think - I mean, I don't have the science to back this up, but my sense is that people who hear homilies or sermons in Catholic churches are accustomed to hearing the news avoided more than maybe people who go to Protestant churches, evangelical churches, Baptist churches, synagogues, etc.

And in the story we mentioned - that people were reading into some of the homilies - like the pastor had given a homily last week about privilege, and a couple of people I talked to said they took some comfort in that because they felt that he was indirectly trying to address, like, a warning to the community about privilege. But then when I talked to the priest, he said, no, that's not really what I meant.

MARTIN: That's Michelle Boorstein. She's a religion reporter with The Washington Post.

Michelle, thanks so much for talking to us.

BOORSTEIN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.