The Power of Nonconforming Women

Genevieve Kineke

The recent confirmation hearing of Amy Coney Barrett, a Law professor at Notre Dame who has been nominated to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, has revealed that many take exception to her remarkable path to professional distinction. In the time allotted to her, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California commented acerbically: “When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you.”

Now as much as the statement “the dogma lives loudly within you” has been ballyhooed on social media (memes and t-shirts are already in the works) one must consider what the phrase really means. Senator Feinstein later pointed to the nominee’s address to the 2006 graduating class of Notre Dame’s law school, in which she said: “Judges cannot—nor should they try to—align our legal system with the Church’s moral teaching whenever the two diverge. They should, however, conform their own behavior to the Church’s standard. Perhaps their good example will have some effect.”

So since the nominee stressed that she had no intention of stepping beyond America’s legal framework for her rulings, it remains that the “good example” must have sent up the red flag. In this regard, as a mother of seven, Professor Barrett has given a tremendous witness to the ability to share her gifts with the world without sacrificing her motherhood in any way. This cannot have been an easy path, since both children and careers are tremendously taxing, but she found a way to do it—and that is what incenses the sexual left.

Most feminists preach that family and careers posit a zero sum game for women, and that has been their greatest argument for access to abortion in the modern age. In the 1992 Supreme Court case, Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania vs Casey, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote in the majority opinion: “The ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives.” And further: “An entire generation has come of age free to assume Roe’s concept of liberty in defining the capacity of women to act in society, and to make reproductive decisions.”

And yet, the fact that Professor Barrett used her freedom to combine motherhood and career undermines the prevailing myth, as have the lives of countless women who have found ways to successfully juggle the demands of work and family. Here we discover by the animus on display in the hearings that “Roe’s concept of liberty” was not meant to be actual freedom for women, but simply an opportunity to conform to the given template of sacrificing children (through contraception and abortion) on the altar of “economic and social life.”

It need not be so. In Mulieris Dignitatem, Saint John Paul II praised women who walked the challenging path of faith by which the world benefits greatly: “The Church gives thanks for each and every woman … for women who watch over the human persons in the family, which is the fundamental sign of the human community; for women who work professionally, and who at times are burdened by a great social responsibility ... as they assume, together with men, a common responsibility for the destiny of humanity.”

In the document, he expands greatly that list of women who exhibit what he called the feminine “genius,” whose selfless creativity has been key to the flourishing of families and communities throughout the ages. Sadly, we see that it is this very creativity that many modern minds find entirely unacceptable. Indeed, the “good example” that Professor Barrett encouraged in her remarks has had a far more powerful effect than she could have ever imagined, proving that witness is more powerful than words. May the “dogma live loudly” in our own lives, for that will be sufficient to lay countless hearts bare—beginning with our own.

Mrs. Kineke is a parishioner of Our Lady of Mercy in East Greenwich, and can be found online at