"I know for a fact there are both registered Republicans and Democrats as well as independents in the People of Praise," said Smith.
There are an estimated 2,000 adult members of People of Praise. The organization has priest members in two dioceses, and operates three schools in the United States.
Barrett's Catholic faith came under scrutiny in 2017, when she was nominated for the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. During a confirmation hearing, she was asked by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) if she was an "orthodox Catholic" who believed in the Church's teachings. Feinstein also said that "the dogma lives loudly" in Barrett- that phrase has become which a rallying cry of sorts among many Catholics. #DogmaLivesLoudly has even become a popular hashtag.
Some former members of the People of Praise allege that leaders have exerted undue influence over family decision-making, or pressured the children of members to commit to the group before being able to make that decisions with maturity.
One critic, philosopher Adrian Reimers, has written that the group has made "serious errors" in its theological approach.
People of Praise does not publicy disclose its membership, and declined CNA's request for comment.
One former member of the group acknowledged the criticisms the group has faced, and said groups like People of Praise can develop unhealthy dynamics without careful attention. But he told CNA that "the rank and file People of Praise members are very, very good people, wholeheartedly dedicated to the Lord," he said.
Bishop Smith rejected the idea that there is anything out of the ordinary or inappropriate about People of Praise. If affiliation with the group were something to be concerned about, he said, he would not have been made a bishop.
"When one becomes a bishop, they check your background out very, very closely," Smith said. "My People of Praise affiliation was very clear in my consideration for appointment as bishop, so the Holy Father Pope Francis appointed me bishop, knowing full well my involvement with People of Praise."
"If this was a nefarious group, I certainly wouldn't be part of it, and I certainly wouldn't be in the position that I'm in as well."
A version of this story was first published in July 2018, when Barrett was first on the shortlist for a Supreme Court seat. It has since been updated.
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