In Brett Kavanaugh's Church, a Divide over His Supreme Court Nomination
By Michelle Boorstein
October 5, 2018
A couple of weeks ago, the prominent congregation of the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament parish stood united in its shared anger at what its priest, the Rev. Bill Foley called "silence and inaction" on the topic of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church.
Not long after, another kind of sex abuse scandal hit much closer to home - and the response among those in the Northwest Washington parish appears to be one of quiet yet profound division.
The allegations that fellow parishioner Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted a fellow high school student and then lied about the incident as well as about his drinking are causing a rift in the 3,400-household Blessed Sacrament congregation, a politically diverse parish which over the years has been accustomed to politely dodging conversations about divisive current events.
Parishioners love to tout celeb-members from right and left, from liberal commentators Mark Shields and Chris Matthews to conservative politician-writer Patrick Buchanan and former Reagan education official Bill Bennett. The mix survives, they say, through a shared focus on church life, and knowing when not to bring up the latest political controversy.
The tension today, some members say, has been fueled in part by partisanship but perhaps even more so by differences in class and social tribe that Kavanaugh represents, and ideas about what the Catholic faith requires of its adherents.
Those whose children attend the Blessed Sacrament school and belong to nearby elite country clubs are more apt to support Kavanaugh, who travels in the same circles, than are those whose whose children attend local public schools and enjoy somewhat more modest lives, they say. Perhaps the biggest dividing line is between those who see no connection at all between clergy abuse accusers and Kavanaugh's accusers, and those view the topics as inextricably bound together.
"How can this happen in the thick of the church crisis? It just doesn't make sense," said a parent from Blessed Sacrament school who lives in the parish and falls in the latter camp. The man, like some others connected to Blessed Sacrament, spoke on condition of anonymity due to concern about further inflaming tensions.
The fact that parishioners, who have been so united in opposition to clergy sex abuse, can so easily discount victims' allegations against Kavanaugh points up "the tribal nature" of the divisions, he said.