“I couldn’t get it, and I was there an hour and a half before they gave up and finally said, ‘You just got a blockage. You just have to work on your sin and be more open, ”she says.
The 41-year-old had a rebellious spirit and left People of Praise when she was 18. It took decades of therapy and hard work to overcome the intense feelings of shame and fear of damnation that she said marked her childhood. The South Bend, Indiana-based Christian faith group dominated all aspects of her youth, she said.
Next week, Amy Coney Barrett, a conservative appeals court judge who is a prominent member of the 1,700-member People of Praise, will sit before the Senate Judiciary Committee to answer questions about her judicial philosophy as part of his controversial confirmation to take a seat on the Supreme Court. A successful nomination, replacing liberal Ruth Bader Ginsburg, will cement a conservative dominance over the powerful body.
Democrats have previously said neither Barrett’s Catholic faith nor his membership in the People of Praise – which has never been publicly discussed or disclosed, but has been scrutinized in the press – will be raised in their questioning of the candidate.
Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader who seeks to confirm Barrett by the end of October, nonetheless said media reports and some remarks by Senators about a recently uncovered public statement by Barrett in opposition to Roe v Wade were “disgusting attacks”. on faith. He said they risked a return to the “tropes of the 1960s,” as some anti-Catholic fanatics feared John F. Kennedy was acting in the best interests of the Pope instead of the United States.
“Our coastal elites are so out of touch with their own country that they treat religious Americans like strange animals in a menagerie,” McConnell said in a press release.
But Powers, who is one of a handful of former People of Praise members who contacted the Guardian to describe their difficult experience in the group (using his marriage name), and some religious scholars who have studied Christian communities charismatic, say that Barrett is a member of that specific religious community raises legitimate questions. They want to examine how views that are integral to the group’s core beliefs – from its treatment of women to the separation of church and state – might influence it. They are also distinct from most traditional Catholic religions.
In the fortnightly and hour-long meetings that defined the infancy of Powers, intense prayers and discussions centered on obedience and sin hunting. Powers, who does not know Barrett, frequently saw people speaking in tongues and frantic calls for the expulsion of evil spirits, episodes which usually led to exorcisms.
Within the strict hierarchy exercised by the group, Powers’ parents were often asked to welcome other members into their homes, even though his own family used food stamps to fend for themselves. As a child and teenager, Powers’ father served as his spiritual “leader” and held several jobs, including tending to the lawns of community property free of charge.
Married women, like Barrett, count their husbands as their “bosses”.
“We were Catholics, but Catholicism was on the side. Our life, all our friends, all the vagaries that lived in our house, were the [People of Praise] community. It was God, ”she said. “Brainwashing and group thinking, female submission to be there to serve and listen to your spiritual head. It was so demeaning. For me, it instilled such problems.
The experiences of the powers are in accordance with a manual titled The Spirit and Purpose of the People of Praise, which was obtained by the Guardian and confirms that those seeking to be members of the group are prayed for the release of “charismatic gifts. – specifically speaking in tongues and the gift of “prophecy”. He also states, “Obedience to authority and submission to leadership are active responses to the gifts of God.”
Although Barrett did not discuss the matter, there is evidence that the former Notre Dame law professor served as a trustee for a school affiliated with the group; lived in the house of a prominent co-founder while in law school; and announced the birth of her children in People of Praise magazine, which has removed references to Barrett and her family since joining the federal bench in 2017.
The Washington Post reported this week that Barrett had served as a “servant” until 2010, a leadership position for women in the community, according to a directory.
Barrett’s father Mike Coney, who has held a leadership position in The People of Praise, described his own decision to join the group in a 2018 testimony at his Catholic church, describing how he initially attended a charismatic seminar as a young man. . “When we prayed with for a greater outpouring of the Holy Spirit, nothing happened. Then later that night I started speaking in tongues. More importantly, I was filled with an insatiable appetite for reading the scriptures and spiritual books, ”he wrote.
Thomas Csordas, a professor of anthropology at the University of California at San Diego who has studied issues around communities like People of Praise, said it was wrong to focus on whether the group could be considered as a “cult” in the mind of Jim Jones. Temple of the peoples. It was much more appropriate, he said, to examine what he called the “intentional community” of people of praise and its “conservative, authoritarian, hierarchical and patriarchal” nature.
“I think they are potentially more dangerous and much more sophisticated [than a cult], ” he said. “This is not the kind of group where submitting women to men means they have to stay barefoot and pregnant. Instead, they must be lawyers and judges and submissive to men at the same time. They must be able to have a career and seven children at the same time.
Far from being inspired by the people of praise, Csordas said, Barrett’s biography showed that she was not a “stupid devotee” to a cult, but rather a part of the elite of the community. intentional charismatic alliance, reflecting her previous status as a servant and trustee of the school and her father’s leadership role.
“Unlike a situation where people might be concerned, her husband might tell her what to think or tell her. Being this far in the community means, no, that she’s going to teach other people. She already “knows” what to think due to the patriarchal structure in which she was raised, which reflects the conservative Catholic views and the views of her forensic mentor, Antonin Scalia.
Massimo Faggioli, professor of theology at Villanova University, said that although senators refused to question Barrett about his faith, the questions deserved to be broadcast in other forums because groups like People of Praise, have he said, reject a secular view of separation. between Church and State.
“I don’t think we should judge his Catholicism, but the conservative Catholic legal movement is putting liberalism on trial. They want to change a certain understanding of the liberal order of individual rights, and that comes from the religious worldview of Catholic groups, ”he said.
“Maybe not in the Senate, but in the public square.”
A spokesperson for People of Praise said it would be inappropriate to discuss Barrett. He also said the organization was an ecumenical community that strives to enable men and women with “a wide variety of political and religious views” to live together in harmony.