Like so many others, staff members at the Jesuit Catholic magazine America were glued Thursday to the testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, whom the magazine had endorsed, and Christine Blasey Ford, who alleges he sexually assaulted her in high school. Then the magazine withdrew its endorsement, saying in an editorial that the nomination “is no longer in the best interests of the country.” The editorial quickly drew national attention and a flurry of commenters on both sides. PAW spoke with Maurice Timothy Reidy ’97, the magazine’s deputy editor-in-chief, to hear how America came to its conclusion.
Background Initially the editorial board was in favor of the nomination, largely because of Judge Kavanaugh’s opinion specifically around Roe v. Wade. The editorial position of the magazine has traditionally been that this is a question that should be left to the states rather than being legislated from the bench, and that seemed to be consistent with his point of view, too.
We watched the testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Kavanaugh and, like the rest of the country, we wanted to hear these accusations from Dr. Ford to see Kavanaugh’s response. What was immediately clear to us was that she was very credible. It raised a lot of questions for us about how, in light of these allegations, a nominee like Judge Kavanaugh could move forward given the divided state of the country over matters of sexual assault and given how angry he was in his responses. So, basically, what the editorial says is there’s no good solution here. This is what we deem to be the most prudent of a lot of bad options.
The deciding factor We were writing the editorial as it was happening and determining what our opinion was as this was happening, trying to get it out last night, which is a unique challenge to write in the moment. It was mostly Dr. Blasey Ford’s testimony that convinced us.
The reaction Nobody is lukewarm on this question. We received word from a lot of people who were very pleased that we took this step. We also got a lot of angry emails from people. Look, we are published by the Jesuits of the United States, though we do not officially represent the Jesuits as an order — that’s important to make clear. There are those who see us as being that voice. And since Judge Kavanaugh went to a Jesuit high school, since he’s a prominent Catholic in Washington, D.C., circles, I think some people probably saw this as, frankly, a betrayal. We’ll be publishing a long series of letters in our next issue with these responses.
A Catholic perspective As a magazine that writes for American Catholics, we try to cover the church and the world from a Catholic perspective, and I think we’re generally surprised at how this has divided people. We see ourselves as trying to bring people together, or that we try to allow for multiple voices and points of view in our pages, and the fact that, it seems to me at least that the initial response is that there’s very little sympathy for the other side on this issue. That’s worrisome because in the end, our goal is to try to have a civil conversation in our pages, to bring various voices together, have people listen to each other and hopefully learn from each other. And on this particular issue, that’s proving very difficult.
Interview conducted and condensed by Carrie Compton