Father Matt Malone: Why America magazine called for the withdrawal of Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination

(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

As of this morning (Oct 2), an F.B.I. investigation is underway of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation of a sexual assault when she was a high school student by Brett M. Kavanaugh, now President Trump’s nominee for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. It is unlikely that the F.B.I. will discover new, dispositive evidence. In the absence of such, “evaluating the credibility of these competing accounts,” America’s editors wrote in a recent editorial, “is a question about which people of good will can and do disagree,” adding that “the editors of this review have no special insight into who is telling the truth.”

America released that editorial online on the evening of Sept. 27, after the public testimony of Dr. Blasey Ford and Judge Kavanaugh but before the Judiciary Committee reversed its position and requested an F.B.I. investigation. Based on the information available at the time, the editors argued that Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination should be withdrawn. In the days following the release of this editorial, many readers wrote to ask critical questions about its timing and the motivations of the editors in releasing it when we did. We always welcome such questions. The trust of our readers is our most cherished possession. I am taking this opportunity, then, to address these concerns.

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First, America has a longstanding editorial interest in the U.S. Supreme Court. We have weighed in for more than a century about matters pertaining to the court, including recommending, or not, the confirmation of specific nominees. America’s editorial board, therefore, was not doing something novel by commenting on the current nominee. Second, the recent editorial was a focused argument about the future credibility of the U.S. Supreme Court as an institution. The editors did not, directly or indirectly, assess the credibility of the allegations. The editorial decision to withdraw support for Judge Kavanaugh was based on the fact that he no longer had the confidence of a significant part of the U.S. citizenry. That lack of confidence would be damaging to the authority of the court in the years ahead if he were confirmed.

Third, America had endorsed Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination last July, before Dr. Ford’s allegation was made public. When new information that might change the opinion expressed in an earlier editorial statement comes to light, the editors are obligated to inform our readers. To do otherwise would be to act in bad faith. At the conclusion of the testimony of Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh last Thursday, the Judiciary Committee was scheduled to vote the very next day, without any further investigation. Our editorial board, therefore, was placed in what ethicists call a “forced option” situation, one in which to do nothing is to do something. For the editors to say nothing would effectively have left our earlier recommendation on the table. Since our assessment of the situation had changed (the reasoning for that is laid out in the editorial), to say nothing would have been disingenuous.

That Judge Kavanaugh was educated at a Jesuit institution and has supported Jesuits throughout his career are facts that made our editorial deliberations particularly painful. But we could not allow Mr. Kavanaugh’s Jesuit ties to be dispositive. People can argue that the editorial misinterprets Catholic social teaching, or exaggerates the divisiveness of the situation, or fails to appreciate that any candidate will be divisive in the present political climate. Those are matters about which people of good will can disagree. The editors make no claim to infallibility.

The trust of our readers is our most cherished possession.

What we could not do, however, without undermining our editorial integrity or sliding toward a form of Jesuit nepotism, is to allow Mr. Kavanaugh’s ties to the Society of Jesus to predetermine our opinion in the matter. If we had done that, we would have failed in our duty to offer a fair and balanced opinion to our readers, no matter the cost.

In seeking to fulfill our obligations to the reader, there was no course of action available to us that would not cause pain and division. Yet that fact is but one modest dimension of the national nightmare we are all living through. The present zero-sum game being played in our national politics produces only losers. “Since the administration of government is inescapably political,” the editors of this review wrote in the late spring of 1968, “so is the United States Supreme Court. It follows that partisan politics are relevant to nominations to the Supreme Court, insofar as partisan politics are directed to the great constitutional and political issues of our time.”

It is what follows that last phrase, “insofar as,” that is most notably missing right now from the public discourse. Yet America will continue to pursue that goal in all our reporting and commentary. We won’t always get it right, but we’d rather lose than lie.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Bernadette Edens
2 months 2 weeks ago

Respectfully, you may couch your argument in whatever terms you like, but in effect, you have broken the Eighth Commandment. By calling for the withdrawal of Judge Kavnaugh’s nomination, you implied he was guilty and not one shred of evidence has been presented to corroborate the stories of any of his accusers. How do you know he has lost the support of a large number of citizens? Did you take a poll or was this simply your assumption after reading a few social media sites. Judge Kavanaugh never lost the support of my Catholic household. You should indeed have kept silent until such time as it was proven he was not telling the truth.

Jose A
2 months 1 week ago

Well said

mona snider
2 months 1 week ago

Yes, well said.

Randal Agostini
2 months 1 week ago

Thank You

Anthony Ireland
2 months 1 week ago

I can't help but agree!

JOHN GRONDELSKI
2 months 1 week ago

No doubt, Jesuits will masterfully "discern" the moral norm away.

K Byrne
2 months 1 week ago

I believe this comment is more profound, and more insightful than may be apparent at first glance. Today's Jesuit mantras wrap St Ignatius of Loyola into decidedly "progressive" half-baked political agendas. Moral imperatives are abandoned in favor of moral relativism and specific leftist political solutions rather than thinking about smart, acceptable alternative solutions to implement theological requirements. Jesuits of America, please consider whether you have lost your way. Can you find it in your hearts to abandon your misguided championing of specific political agendas (Ceasar over God. Not good!) over simply recognizing and pursuing theological mandates? Or are you too wedded to pursuing pathetic political statements? For example, is the "Jesuit" solution to immigration issues really more important than pushing consciousness of abortion reform? Is it unChristian to protect your society AND provide reasonable help to immigrants? Why don't you open ALL Jesuit facilities to the millions of illegal immigrants? If you have not, why are you expecting the United States as a country to do the same? Please, get real! Why have you abandoned caring for the lives of the unborn rather than offering solutions? (Please do not cite your half baked, excuses of "championing" abortion reform. If you spent 1/10 the time and money on abortion reform (just one example) that you spend on leftist issues, you still would be ahead of the game! You have truly discerned your moral norms away. Thank you, John Grondelski. Well said!

M Dolan
2 months ago

K Byrne: very well said. As the mother of a son starting the high school search process, I was excited to explore a reputable Jesuit high school. But the Kavanaugh chaos has really caused me to wonder if that is the right high school choice based on our values. I have heard that the Jesuit high school is more “progressive” than other Catholic high schools. This is not a selling point to me and the Jesuits adoption of liberal talking points during the Kavanaugh confirmation process has further eroded my confidence that a Jesuit education is worth the investment.
I was sorry to see the Jesuits withdraw their support for Kavanaugh on faulty logic.
I am glad that Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court.
I hope he is the 5th vote to reverse Roe v Wade (and to be clear, I fully believe that the allegations against him were a desperate attempt to preserve Roe at any and all costs).
And I hope that the Jesuits reconsider their priorities.

Carol Witmer
2 months 1 week ago

You are so right...extremely disappointed in America magazine.

K Byrne
2 months 1 week ago

I am afraid that your complete reliance on the Washington Post (a stalking horse for "progressive" socialist Jeff Bezos, who masquerades as a capitalist) is an example of result-based emotion and a failure to objectively assess the evidence based on basic principles of fairness. No one is saying Dr. Ford did not suffer a trauma. However, her belief must be weighted by objective analysis because, as you seem to forget, she could be wrong! The politicized #MeToo movement demands a "survivor" be believed no matter what. 500 years of experience and learning says that is not right. Please reassess your view to this issue -- it could be that you are result based.

Judith Jordan
2 months 1 week ago

One does not have to read any publication to know that Kavanaugh perjured himself before the Senate Judiciary Committee. If you watched his entire testimony, as millions of Americans and I did, then you know he lied. Nor do you have to focus on his statements about Dr. Ford since there were so many collateral issues he lied about. I have always supported evidence based on basic principles of fairness. Unfortunately, the Republicans are not permitting the FBI to follow their normal procedures for a thorough investigation concerning the issue of Dr. Ford. This is a blatant breach of basic fairness.

No one is saying that Dr. Ford did not suffer a trauma? I recommend you watch Trump’s recent rally in Mississippi where his supporters cheered while he mocked Dr. Ford. Despicable.

I am stunned that anyone can be indifferent about Trump and his obvious lies, corruption, and casual cruelty. I am always mystified that anyone who cares about ethics could support Trump.

Ann Hicks
2 months 1 week ago

Trump just said what was the truth and was what many were thinking but not saying-nothing backs up her statements, not even her best friend! I think he may have deliberately said this-because it was the truth!

Mary Nasta
2 months 1 week ago

Proof is required, not mere uncorroborated accusations, no matter how much we may disagree with his politics.

Lisa M
2 months 1 week ago

:)

E & J VAUTHEY
2 months 1 week ago

Bernadette Edens, well said.

Mary Nasta
2 months 1 week ago

I completely agree. There are many more who support the rule of law as reflected in due process as well.

Lisa M
2 months 1 week ago

Agreed. The most painful part of the decision to withdraw support was that basic Catholic teaching was not applied. It requires us to see a person in the best possible light, as was, and should have be given Dr Ford, but was not applied to Judge Kavanaugh (we do not ignore exculpatory evidence: no support by the 'witnesses, little time available to have been at a party according to the calendar, no pattern of sexually deviant behaviour according to his peers during that time). We apply reason in our decision making (the withholding of this claim until after the hearings when they had the opportunity to bring it forth weeks earlier is suspect); to avoid slander (destroying a man who has lead a life completely absent of this behaviour). How incredibly painful this must be for Judge Kavanaugh, a man for others. As a mother of a son who recently graduated from a boys Jesuit school, strength and courage were also lessons instilled in him that I so appreciate. I hope time does not strip him of that, as it appears the case here. Standing up for what is right must always take precedent over political views. Sometimes that requires supporting the other side. That is why Catholicism belongs to neither political party. It is clear to me who has shown their true faith in this most difficult time.

John Borgia
2 months 1 week ago

B.E., Thank you, well said.

AM Garcia
2 months 1 week ago

Here's the latest sports results
Georgetown Preppies: 2
Jesuit America United: 0

Sandy Hamilton
2 months 1 week ago

I completely agree....you did not have to "rush" to take back your endorsement....my guess is you have some liberal editors that rammed this out without going through proper channels. Where is your retraction? Now that the FBI has found nothing and Dr. Fords credibility is dwindling, you should do the right thing and retract.

charles specht
2 months 1 week ago

Yes double "well said". Matt, you are just wrong on this one.

james mueller
2 months 1 week ago

right on! Bernadette

J Cosgrove
2 months 1 week ago

This is a new low in egregious behavior and the Democratic Party and the press have been all in on the character assassination. Now America, the magazine, follows suit.

Polls are meaningless as indicators of anything when the press is so one sided. Maybe the editors blow with the wind. God help us!!!

A Fielder
2 months 1 week ago

If we are concerned about protecting the standing of the court to be impartial and nonpartisan, than polls might actually help identify polarizing outliers like the current nominee.

J Cosgrove
2 months 1 week ago

Nonsense. When the press is almost entirely negative on Kavenaugh they are distorting perceptions and the result will be anything but impartial and non partisan. What happened to Kavenaugh would have been done by the Democrats to any candidate nominated.

Mike Bayer
2 months 1 week ago

Mr. Cosgrove, Did you hear Chris Wallace's analysis of Dr. Ford's testimony on Thursday? Did you judge Kavanaugh's testimony later that day. He was hostile, belligerent, disrespectful, and partisan. He showed poor judgment and lack of discretion. He demonstrated his unfitness for the high Court. The Federalist Society gave Trump 20 candidates for nomination. Move on to the next name.

J Cosgrove
2 months 1 week ago

Mr. Bayer,

Kavenaugh is a respected and qualified judge from the second highest court in the country and has served over a decade on it. Anyone who just been accused of a gang rapist by senators would be supremely pissed off. He saved his candidacy by his performance and honest emotions. I suggest you read other news sources to broaden your perspective. You are repeating Democratic talking points.

J Cosgrove
2 months 1 week ago

To suggest that Trump move on to the next candidate is another disingenuous remark. There is no time and anyone making that point is not being honest. Besides the Democrats will do the same thing to anyone else.

Judith Jordan
2 months 1 week ago

Democratic talking points? Mr. Cosgrove, one does not need to read the press or follow Democratic talking points. One need only watch Kavanaugh’s complete testimony.

The Democrats will do the same thing to anyone else? Then why didn’t the Democrats do that to Justices Roberts, Alito, or Gorsuch?

Ann Hicks
2 months ago

Because they were replacing a like-minded justice. Kavanaugh was replacing swing-vote Kennedy and would tilt the Court to a conservative bent for years to come. High stakes. That’s why Schumer said he would do anything in his power to stop this nomination. It would have been the same for any conservative. It’s just politics—ruining a person and his family.

MJ Painter
2 months 1 week ago

J Cosgrove writes: "To suggest that Trump move on to the next candidate is another disingenuous remark. There is no time and anyone making that point is not being honest. Besides the Democrats will do the same thing to anyone else."
-------
That's nonsense. First of all. the GOP left Scalia's seat open for 400+ days. They weren't in a rush then to have 9 on the court; there's certainly no rush now. (Except for their fear that they lose control of the Senate.) Secondly, the Democrats did not object in this way to Gorsuch's nomination. It's not guaranteed that this would repeat.

K Byrne
2 months 1 week ago

My Mr. Bayer! Quite the indictment. I'm sorry - it sounds like you have been in a similar situation (wrongly accused of attempted rape) and behaved in a very subdued manner -- thereby giving you a special insight into proper reaction to a smear campaign. I think your conclusion above reflects an ignorance of history (typical) and a void of cognizance of what judicial unfitness really is. Go back and look at Justice Thomas' reaction in testimony before the senate judiciary committee and he makes Kavanaugh look like an altar boy. You obviously never observed the late Justice Scalia questioning counsel from the bench. Nor do I suspect you ever observed Justice William O Douglas -- whose temper was legendary. I understand how easy it is to get caught up in the Soros-financed opposition rhetoric, but maybe knowledge, thought and judgment may give you a little more basis before you presume to judge adequate judicial temperament.

lurline jennings
2 months 1 week ago

Character assassination was not called for. This man should have been considered to have a presumption of innocence until proven guilty. He has been destroyed, his family is in turmoil and hurt. You accept the statement and allegations of a woman who claimed she couldn't get on a plane and yet it has been shown she flys all over the place. She is too broken to live a normal life yet acquires a graduate degree. Her husband in a very recent interview stated she was on medication for her mental problems but failed to take her meds. She had no one substantiating nor corroborating her claims. She went upstairs knowing the two boys were there. No one took her up there screaming and being dragged.
She can't remember the time, place, date etc. What a stretch. I won't go on but your jumping to an early conclusion before the judge could be fully heard is certainly anything but a Christian action. Where did AMDG go? Is it only applied to selective persons and groups? As stated previously we will withdraw our funding from all Jesuit charities and American Magazine. Perhaps you might like to return to a good Jesuit Examen. Obviously, you are collectively overdue.

Edward Delaney
2 months 1 week ago

If polls were correct, Hillary Clinton would be the President. I think Jesus would have stood with the falsely accused...Judge Kavanaugh.

A Fielder
2 months 1 week ago

If polls are irrelevant, why are so many people expressing their opinion here in an attempt to persuade the editors to reverse course?

J Cosgrove
2 months 1 week ago

An absurd remark. Trying to change editor's and authors minds is nothing like a poll. Are you saying that their writings are based on polls? Editors and authors have to live with their writings and often show a remarkable lack of knowledge and insight. Trying to correct this is completely unrelated to a poll.

Judith Jordan
2 months 1 week ago

A Fielder, excellent observation.

K Byrne
2 months 1 week ago

Oh, I see. Another fake news poll. Please, get real. Mobs rule, I suppose?

Ann Hicks
2 months 1 week ago

Is the SC now a popularity contest?

Ann Hicks
2 months 1 week ago

Is the SC now s popularity contest?

Edward Carthew
2 months 1 week ago

Dear Fr. Matt,
Do you think that the opinion of the citizenry has anything to do with the incredible left wing media bias against Judge Kavanaugh? Breathless charges about yearbooks and high school drinking and every form of mud imaginable have an effect over time.

You got it wrong, just say so. When you are in a hole, stop digging. I'd respect that a lot more!

Carol Witmer
2 months 1 week ago

Yes...please, Fr. Matt...NO ONE should have to go through what Judge Kavanagh and his family have. He is an honorable brilliant man and his opening statement was perfect...Not in the least suggesting temperament unworthy of a judge, but showing his real character, his real work ethic, and his honest assessment of his own character assassination from some members of Congress. I am appalled that his speaking of his enjoyment of beer has been used as evidence by some that he is an alcoholic? Nonsense! Must only absolutely PERFECT non-Catholics need apply?

Lisa M
2 months 1 week ago

Right on Carol!

Sandy Hamilton
2 months 1 week ago

Amen to that!

Fred Fastiggi
2 months 1 week ago

A weak CYA attempt to counter comments from your readership which were overwhelmingly negative on your initial editorial. Still no recognition or mention of the well planned hatchet job by the left-leaning members of the legislature, funded by entities who would on the surface have very little correlation with Catholic doctrine. After awhile the Jesuit's attempt to play the role of enlightened contrarian becomes tiresome, diminishing whatever academic credibility that your predecessors built up over centuries. My hope is that it is just the lunatic fringe of the Jesuits who compose these editorials and that they are not representative of your general membership.

M Dolan
2 months ago

Well said, Fred! I fear the Jesuits are devolving to something akin to the crazy Nuns on the Bus! They are abandoning their principles and becoming mouthpieces of the loony left. And people wonder why church membership is declining!

quiggles61@gmail.com
2 months 1 week ago

I agree that Judge Kavanaugh should withdraw, and I would not take it as an admission of guilt of anything. It's a King Solomon thing. Seems like at a certain point we see the country being subjected, children and all, to the most vile and disgusting accusations, and more and more innocent people are getting slimed. I think it could be argued that the person who cares deeply about the country would sacrifice his/her own wishes for the sake of the common good. Both parties have demonstrated a willingness to tear us to pieces in order to get their way. We can't count on either of them to get to the truth.

Scholastica Cooney
2 months 1 week ago

Hear, hear! Exactly. All of it.

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