As in the world of news, you're only as good as your last story, so in the world of politics, you're only as good as your last gaffe — and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), for all her legislative achievements, will be remembered for one thing: her anti-Catholic bigotry summed up in the phrase "The dogma lives loudly within you."
Who can forget the way she badgered Catholic Amy Coney Barrett during her 2017 judicial confirmation hearings?
"Dogma and law are two different things," Feinstein lectured. "When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you, and that's of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for years in this country" (code word for abortion).
"The dogma lives loudly within you. Translation: in Senator Feinstein's mind, faithful Catholics make for problematic judges," non-profit Alliance Defending Freedom noted.
Senator Dick Durbin (recipient of a chummy phone call/photo op from Chicago's Cdl. Blase Cupich urging him to protect DACA) displayed the same animus.
"What's an 'orthodox Catholic'?" Durbin scoffed. "And do you consider yourself an 'orthodox Catholic'?"
And Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii scolded, "I think your article is very plain in your perspective about the role of religion for judges, and particularly with regard to Catholic judges."
"Bigotry pure and simple," USA Today columnist Kirsten Powers tweeted.
"It is chilling to hear from a United States Senator that this might now disqualify someone from service as a federal judge," said Fr. John Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame, in a public letter to Feinstein. "I ask you and your colleagues to respect those in whom 'dogma lives loudly' — which is a condition we call faith."
Jewish author Yair Rosenberg, in an article titled "Jewish Senators Need to Stop Subjecting Non-Jewish Nominees to Religious Tests," wrote, "The framers of the Constitution, many of them refugees from religious persecution themselves, were well aware of the temptation to use religious beliefs to exclude qualified individuals from office, and so they explicitly forbade such tactics."
He went on to quote Article VI of the Constitution: "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."
The Anti-Defamation League rebuked Feinstein, Jonathan Greenblatt tweeting, "yes we need church/state divide, but hard/soft religious litmus tests for pol candidates or judicial noms = wrong."
yes we need church/state divide, but hard/soft religious litmus tests for pol candidates or judicial noms = wrong https://t.co/n5h1qU0Vvd— Jonathan Greenblatt (@JGreenblattADL) September 8, 2017
Even the reliably left-leaning New York Times took Feinstein to task, author Sohrab Ahmari noting that the line of questioning exposes the "long, sordid history" of anti-Catholic animus in America.
"The notion that Catholics are so beholden to Rome as to be incapable of rendering independent judgment in public office has a long, sordid history," he wrote. "It was a mainstay of 19th-century nativist propaganda, and it would dog John F. Kennedy in the following century."
The LA Times, also liberal, criticized Feinstein for crossing the line.
"Is Sen. Dianne Feinstein an anti-Catholic bigot?" Michael McGough bluntly begins his article, saying that "she went too far in raising doubts about whether Barrett would allow her religious views to affect her rulings as a judge (particularly about abortion rights, Feinstein's priority when it comes to judicial nominations)." McGough called on Feinstein to apologize.
Feinstein did not apologize, initially doubling down on her remarks — until the sustained backlash forced her to backtrack.
"I have never and will never apply a religious litmus test to nominees — nominees of all religious faiths are capable of setting aside their religious beliefs while on the bench and applying the Constitution, laws and Supreme Court precedents," she averred.
But saying it's so doesn't make it so. Whatever her promises, Feinstein (and her Senate cronies) clearly applied a religious litmus test, and concerns are they'll do it again.
In addition to Barrett, Catholic Brett Kavanaugh is among Trump's favorites to name to the Supreme Court. With no public record on abortion, Senate Democrats will surely ferret his opinion out of him one way or another — but no one should let them get away with a line of questioning that masquerades as concern over judicial impartiality but is in fact anti-Catholic bigotry, "pure and simple."