WASHINGTON — Longtime friends and associates of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh say he is a sincere Catholic who is committed to living the tenets of his faith.
Last week, President Trump nominated Kavanaugh to serve as an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. In a short speech following the announcement, Kavanaugh highlighted his commitment to his faith and his family.
“I’ve known Brett — Judge Kavanaugh — for 20 years,” Shannen Coffin, an attorney in Washington, D.C., told CNA. “He’s a very smart person, but he’s a regular guy, too. He’s a devoted father and spouse.”
Judge Kavanaugh has spent the last 12 years on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, but despite that formidable judicial record, Coffin says that there are “no airs about” him, and he has a “humility in his approach to judging.”
“He’s also the guy who, after a day of long meetings with senators, you know, and without fanfare, was serving food to the homeless.”
Coffin said that Kavanaugh “views the role of a judge in the constitutional system not as a political job, but as a job of interpreting statutes and interpreting the Constitution.”
On the topic of religious liberty, Coffin was quick to dismiss anyone who had doubts that Kavanaugh would be a staunch protector of religious freedoms.
“I think they’re fools,” he said bluntly. “I don’t have any hesitations in thinking that this is a great appointment for those concerned about religious liberty.”
Kavanaugh is a “vigilant defender of religious liberty,” Coffin said, as evidenced by his line of questioning in the recent court case brought against the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) by the Archdiocese of Washington. While that case has yet to be decided, Kavanaugh’s questions and reasoning made it clear that he thought WMATA had acted illegally by prohibiting religious-themed advertisements.
“What really should impress Catholics is that this is a guy who is committed to the fundamental text of the Constitution and protecting those liberties preserved in the Constitution.”
Msgr. John Enzler, CEO and president of Catholic Charities for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., is another longtime friend of Kavanaugh. Msgr. Enzler told CNA they first met when Kavanaugh was just 10 years old. At the time, Kavanaugh was a member of Little Flower parish in Bethesda, Maryland, where Enzler was serving as a priest.
“He was always a wonderful young guy,” Enzler told CNA.
Kavanaugh attended an all-boys Catholic elementary school before moving on to Georgetown Prep. At Georgetown Prep, Kavanaugh played sports, captaining the basketball team his senior year.
“They weren’t that talented that particular year, but he was still the captain,” said Msgr. Enzler.
Like Coffin, Msgr. Enzler was quick to note that Kavanaugh is “really just a regular guy,” who loves sports and loves being with friends.
Enzler said he did not know that Kavanaugh would be the president’s Supreme Court nominee until about three hours before the official announcement, but it was Msgr. Enzler’s presence at the announcement that tipped off some people that Kavanaugh was Trump’s pick.
“When they saw me, they knew Brett was the guy, because they knew I was a friend of Brett’s,” said the priest. “I kind of blew the cover, by being there for my friend.”
Msgr. Enzler said that when they first discussed Kavanaugh’s possible nomination, the judge was concerned about breaking his volunteering commitments. Kavanaugh asked if he could still come to serve the homeless later that week, saying he said he wanted to do so regardless of the nomination result.
Kavanaugh called Msgr. Enzler on Sunday and said there was a “50-50” chance he would be the nominee and that he would like for him to attend the announcement were he picked.
“By the way, if I’m chosen or not, I’d still want to come on Wednesday night to serve food. Is that okay with you?” he said.
Kavanaugh has been a consistent volunteer at Catholic Charities, coming to serve the homeless about “15, 16 times” over the last few years, Msgr. Enzler said.
“He’s been here a bunch of times and serving, and nobody knew who he was,” said Msgr. Enzler. His volunteerism was “not just a one-time thing.”
After the announcement was made July 9, Msgr. Enzler said he received another call from Kavanaugh two days later, checking if it would still be okay for him to volunteer that evening. On that occasion, the media came, too, and Kavanaugh definitely wasn’t the unknown volunteer he had been before.
“This is the guy next door; this is what he’s like,” said the priest. “He’s not like some intellectual powerhouse you’d never talk to. This is a guy who’s very friendly, very outgoing, very nice, lot of laughter, big smile, wonderful father, wonderful husband, man of faith, lives his faith, goes to church every week.”
While Msgr. Enzler said he was “very happy” for his longtime friend, he is concerned about what his family will face during the nomination proceedings.
“The process is very difficult,” the priest explained. “Your family and you personally take a lot of heat from people who don’t agree with you.”
Most of all, Msgr. Enzler believes that Kavanaugh is a “man of complete integrity and a man of complete honesty” who will make his decisions in court based upon what is best for the nation and what is in line with the Constitution.
“I’m very proud of him,” the priest said. “He will be a superb justice of the Supreme Court.”