Op-Ed by William Deatherage, Chief Executive of Clarifying Catholicism. Note: the opinions in this editorial do not reflect the views of the Clarifying Catholicism staff.
Imagine a world where you are judged because of the way you were born: because of factors you could never control. Imagine a world of pressure, anxiety, and struggle, where not only are expectations sky high, but you are also blamed for all of society’s failures. Now imagine a world where the judgments of both ordinary people and courts are based on these uncontrollable factors.
Here in the United States, this has been a reality for many minority groups, who continue to struggle. Women, African Americans, Native Americans, and even Catholics have felt the sting of bigotry for decades. Today, however, we are faced with a greater awareness of our nation’s past wrongdoings. But because of our newfound enlightenment, our situation is rapidly shifting to a different extreme. Suddenly, our righteous sense of justice is distorted into seeking revenge for past transgressions. Christ tells us that two wrongs never make a right. He, Himself, was subject to the most brutal torture and execution imaginable, yet he never retaliated unjustly.
This post is not a theological argument, nor is it a political endorsement of any President, judge, or Senator. This is a call to action. This is a cry for help. This is a desperate plea. As a male Politics and Theology student, I am on my knees begging for mercy and cultural change. A new movement is gaining traction, and I have felt the flames of a cause whose noble ambitions have morphed into a new kind of bigotry that directly affects me. Over the course of this article, I will explain to you where this sense is coming from, the conclusions I draw from it, and what we can do to change a landscape of toxicity that threatens the core of our society today.
For those of you who have not been following the Supreme Court Justice story, please allow me to catch you up to speed. Several months ago, Brett Kavanaugh was nominated by President Trump to fill Justice Kennedy’s seat as a Supreme Court Justice. A conservative Judge, Kavanaugh’s appointment was derided and dismissed by the left, as they believe he could overturn Roe v. Wade, among other rulings. Weeks afterward, high level Democrats were given information about an alleged incident where Judge Kavanaugh sexually assaulted a young woman during high school more than three decades ago. This information was never brought forward until literal days before the vote to confirm him. Last week, the Senate held hearings where Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Christine Ford, the accuser, gave testimonies regarding the alleged encounter: Judge Kavanaugh, of course, denied that such an event occurred.
There is hardly any substantial evidence that such a sexual assault happened. Dr. Ford does not know where the party was held, how she got there, or how many people were involved in the alleged assault. All names she has given have, as of now, denied even attending such a party. The only information that points to any credibility is a therapist’s document from 2012, in which Dr. Ford revealed she was allegedly assaulted sometime during the 1980s. While Dr. Ford’s testimony was harrowing and heartfelt, there remains little concrete factual corroboration to suggest the misdeeds of the accused. In the American justice system, innocent until proven guilty has been a staple of how we evaluate the character of others, both inside and outside the court. So why is it that, during the hearings, it felt like Judge Kavanaugh was guilty?
During the hearings of both stories, the Democratic panel offered little questioning of Dr. Ford’s narrative, instead commending her for her bravery in exposing the injustices of the American “patriarchy.” They addressed her as a victim, not an accuser. When it came time for Judge Kavanaugh’s moment in the spotlight, the Democrats hinged on details incredibly minute and obscure, such as his high school yearbook. They pointed out every single possible character flaw they could find; by the end of the testimony it seemed the only person befitting the Supreme Court could be Jesus, Himself. The trending hashtag on Twitter was #BelieveWomen.
Shifting gears, let’s talk about the past. Historically, women harbor a hefty spot in a gallery of minorities who have faced social disadvantages, due to majority-imposed conditions. Because of this, women have been faced with the challenge to rectify their status as equal children of God. The past century in American history has been marked by great milestones for women. Contrary to what you may think, I eagerly await the first woman president of this country. From a perspective of equality, women should be believed just as much as men. But above all things, we humans, regardless of background, search for truth in the world. This unites us in a collective quest to better our species and souls, and it means that truth belongs neither women or to men. Truth is determined by facts, and to distort this idea is to endorse a form of relativism. While the #BelieveWomen movement has noble intentions, addressing the inequalities of the past, it should never replace our justice system that is innocent until proven guilty.
Leftists will say that I am exaggerating the graveness of this situation. They will tell me that Kavanaugh faces no criminal charges and that #BelieveWomen merely uplifts women. To this, I must ask a series of questions: if this train of thought plays a role in determining the highest justice throughout the land, why wouldn’t it set a precedent for future appointments? Why wouldn’t this spill over into hiring processes, or workplace evaluations, across the nation? And if enough people endorse this point of view, why wouldn’t it permeate into our justice system, delivering leverage into the hands of several minority groups? Lastly, what goodhearted man would ever want to risk his good name, or family’s safety, if he is to expect such treatment by the constituents he serves. This is what I am afraid of: the precedent. And perhaps my fear comes from a knee-jerk reaction to what I see, but I cannot deny the nervousness I feel. I am sure my counterparts on the left can empathize with me, as my anxiety mirrors what they must have felt after the 2016 election.
This post is not meant to endorse Kavanaugh. For all I know, he could be guilty. I do not have enough facts to make a judgment; it seems that no one does. However, regardless of the outcome, I will still stand by my opinion that the manner in which he has been treated throughout the process is despicable and shameful. I will find it hard to forgive some of these politicians, who only have their own political ambitions in mind, and have convinced good citizens to take up mantles of good causes, only to manipulate such mantras as #BelieveWomen into something far more sinister. Lives were ruined, and not just Kavanaugh’s family. As Senator Lindsay Graham highlighted, Dr. Ford’s family was also horrifically impacted because of this situation. Even if new evidence surfaces, one cannot deny the questionable treatment of Kavanaugh on the day of his hearing, when there was little to no evidence to support his guilt.
How does this affect me? And how does this set a bad precedent going forward? I must say that as a man entering the field of politics, I am utterly terrified. This last week has left me feeling incredibly stressed and anxious about my future in the field. I question whether or not I want to enter a field in which one person’s word can bring down my entire life’s work with a push of a button, regardless of truth. A good friend of mine had an anxiety attack last week, as he is becoming increasingly paranoid about the treatment of men by the media. Men’s support groups, such as the Boy Scouts, are fading away to this idea that men don’t need any attention, since they dictate the culture wars. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, men die by suicide 3.53x more than women. White males accounted for 70% of suicides in 2016. This, of course, is before the advent of this #BelieveWomen movement. I fear that this number will only increase. Men already feel responsible for the wellbeing of their families, as the stereotypical breadwinners; now, I feel that we are being punished for injustices we have no control over.
On a macro level, I worry about our values as Americans. I am Republican. I never hide that. My political party has a plethora of problems that I am more than happy to call out and expose. I voted for Trump. Because of this, I am frequently called a “fascist.” I find this ironic, as the idea that certain groups of people have greater credibility over others seems quite fascist to me. Again, I must stress that the #BelieveWomen movement never started out with such intentions. As with all vices, the extremist view that the media seemingly endorses is a distortion of a beautiful virtue.
One final point I would like to make is a call for greater awareness. Let me ask this. If the Democrats on the judicial committee really cared about the truth, why did they sit on this information for weeks? If they cared for Dr. Ford’s safety, why was her identity leaked? And of course, me just asking these questions makes me a crazy conspiracy theorist, as Senator Feinstein so gladly explained. If anything, this dismissal of legitimate questions seems ironic, if after all I am the fascist one. St. Paul tells us to question everything and retain what is good. I question both sides of the political aisle. I question our Holy Father. A world without questioning leads to empty pews and kangaroo courts.
What does this have to do with Catholicism? Why is this on the Clarifying Catholicism blog? My reasoning is quite simple: I wish for the Church to be the forefront of social change. Throughout American history, from ending slavery to pioneering women’s rights, religion has been a key player in securing social justice. While at times it may have felt like a trial, the Kavanaugh situation was never a criminal prosecution. There are no charges being pressed, rather this process has been an evaluation of his character. Likewise, I seek no formal political change. I want cultural change: one that strives for true equality and justice, regardless of background or biological status. I want to #BelieveFacts. And, as I stated earlier, facts come not from men or women, but from God, Himself, who manifests truth in our surroundings every day.
People tell me all the time that faith should be kept entirely separate from politics. I disagree. Our faith is what should shape our outlook and worldview. And when it comes to making decisions, I can think of no better place to act on faith than the political sphere. This does not mean we should parade Jesus’s name in the courtroom or insist on imposing traditional values in secular wedding ceremonies. We are called to speak through action alone, using words only when necessary, according to St. Francis. Certain religious leaders will often post without thinking, instead preferring to manipulate scripture to political ends. This must stop. It’s time for Catholics to raise our voices in support of a reasonable, logical, and truth-filled equality.
I am nervous. Even if Kavanaugh is appointed, this whole process has given me nothing but anxiety for the future. The initially virtuous outlook of equal rights has become so distorted that it dizzies me to the point of nausea. I am a man. I am met with certain expectations that have been imposed upon me by evolution, biology, and often society. I never wished for any injustice to any woman, ever. Why then, am I the one who is sexist? Why is it my fault that women are mistreated around the world? Why can I expect to be punished for the crimes of ancestors who didn’t know any better? Why is my word worth less than a woman’s? This is heartfelt plea. Please, believe facts and believe in Christ.