Fired up by remarks of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to 7th Circuit Court of Appeals nominee Amy Coney Barrett, Philadelphia lawyer Christine Flowers used logic and humor in her talk Friday night, Oct. 27 to more than 250 young adults at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.
Flowers spoke on “The Dogma Lives Loudly in You” at the seminary’s Theology on Tap event hosted by seminarians for young people to listen to a distinguished speaker and to enjoy food, drinks and live music performed by the St. Charles band.
“She was making everybody crack up in the audience,” said Andrew Auletta, a seminarian in his second year of pre-theology studies. “She really portrayed a good image of what the Catholic faith is supposed to be — lively, joyful, engaging — and it was a really good witness to see how to live the dogma in your life.”
Feinstein was widely criticized in the Catholic community (including by Archbishop Charles Chaput) during Sept. 6 testimony of Barrett, a practicing Catholic, before a Senate committee. Feinstein had questioned Barrett about the upholding of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that made abortion legal.
Feinstein said when she read speeches by Barrett, “the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you,” the senator said. Critics argued Feinstein had implied that because Barrett is Catholic, she can’t be trusted to dispense justice impartially.
Flowers, a local Catholic and columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com, has worked as an immigration attorney for more than 20 years. Working in a field imbued with secular ideals and values, Flowers stands steadfast in her Catholic faith.
“She showed us that you can actually take something like law and turn it into a religious vocation and do it for the Kingdom of God,” said David Buffum, a St. Charles seminarian in third theology.
In her work with immigration law and the media, Flowers has witnessed firsthand the evolution of how religion and morality are dealt with publicly. Flowers argued that tolerance has become “the new black,” and it’s a special kind of tolerance.
Many people, she said, will tolerate others as long as they agree with them. At the same time many choose not to speak up about their beliefs for fear of offending others.
People may say, “Personally, I would never do a, b, c, d, e, or f, but I would never ever prevent someone from doing that because I don’t want to impose my views,” Flowers said. “Could we put owning a slave in that sentence? ‘Personally, I would never own a slave, but I don’t want to tell anyone else how to live their lives.’ When you put it like that, it’s a cop out.”
Flowers graduated from high school at Merion Mercy Academy then attended Bryn Mawr College. At the time, she said, radical feminism and the pro-choice movement swept across campus. Flowers quickly realized where she stood.
“I was strong willed, I knew what I wanted, but I didn’t agree with what they were saying about being pro-choice,” she said.
Flowers recalled having these conversations with other students on campus; she found her voice by asserting the sanctity of human life.
“It took for me to leave that enveloping Catholic, warm atmosphere of being with people like me,” she said, “to realize how important my faith is to me.”
Today, Flowers’ work as a lawyer reminds her that many people let the dogma live loudly within them, yet they have much at stake. Flowers has worked with clients who were tortured with electrical wires because of their Christian faith. She worked with a woman from Kenya who was raped because of her Christian faith and a man from El Salvador who after watching his cousin gunned down on their walk to church being told, “You’re next.”
Flowers understands what her clients experience. It shames her, she said, to speak about living her faith in the public square when the biggest risk she faces is an inbox full of misfired hate mail.
“I get really mean emails, but I can walk to church, and no one will shoot me, rape me or silence me,” she said.
Flowers emphasized that Catholics must let the dogma live loudly within them in proxy for people facing persecution.
“My Catholicism is very, very important to me,” she said. “I don’t hide it under a bushel. I shout it out from the mountaintops because to do otherwise, to neutralize it, would make me much less the person God wanted me to be.”
Jeffrey Tomczyk, another seminarian in Pre-Theology II, thought Flowers’ talk was “a very powerful witness. I think she really shows all of us — seminarians (and) lay people included — how to really live our faith in our day-to-day lives regardless of who we’re interacting with.”
The evening ended with eucharistic adoration, an address by seminary rector Bishop Timothy C. Senior, night prayer and benediction in St. Martin Chapel.
According to Nicholas Chapman, FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) missionary at West Chester University, “Events outside of Mass, like St. Charles’ Theology on Tap, are a great way for Catholics to connect, build necessary community, and learn more about their faith. We need more faith-based events like this!”