Amid speculation regarding Barrett’s possible appointment, numerous media reports focused on the People of Praise, the Indiana-based ecumenical charismatic community to which Barrett reportedly belongs.
The group was characterized by some pundits as a cult, falsely reported to be the inspiration for a dystopian novel, and erroneously reported to require members to adhere to a secret agreement, which is in fact posted on its website.
People of Praise was also criticized by some pundits because it does not disclose its membership, which defenders say is a common policy among religious organizations.
In that context, sources told CNA that the group’s membership database was hacked, which Connolly confirmed Tuesday night.
While the People of Praise declined to speculate about who might have been responsible for the hack, a source with knowledge of the situation told CNA that some “community members were contacted by national media outlets within 36 hours of the [database] incursion,” which the source called an “alarming coincidence.”
Connolly told CNA that “steps were immediately taken to address the incident, including notifying appropriate federal law enforcement and our members.”
“We take the security and privacy of all members of our community seriously,” he emphasized.
People of Praise was founded in 1971 as part of the era's “great emergence of lay ministries and lay movements in the Catholic Church,” Bishop Peter Smith, who belongs to an affiliated association of Catholic priests, told CNA in 2018.
The group began with 29 members who formed a “covenant”- an agreement, not an oath, to follow common principles, to give five percent of annual income to the group, and to meet regularly for spiritual, social, and service projects.
Covenant communities- Protestant and Catholic- emerged across the country in the 1970s, as a part of the Charismatic Renewal movement in American Christianity.
While most People of Praise members are Catholic, the group is officially ecumenical; people from a variety of Christian denominations can join. Members of the group are free to attend the church of their choosing, including different Catholic parishes, Smith explained.
“We're a lay movement in the Church,” Smith told CNA. “There are plenty of these. We continue to try and live out life and our calling as Catholics, as baptized Christians, in this particular way, as other people do in other callings or ways that God may lead them into the Church.”
(Story cotinues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
Barrett’s Senate confirmation hearing and a Senate vote on her nomination to the Supreme Court are expected to take place at the end of October, shortly before the Nov. 3 presidential election.
Correction: The People of Praise originally told CNA the date of the hack was Sept. 23. A spokesman contacted CNA after the publication of this story to say he had spoken in error, and the date of the hack was Sept. 21. CNA has amended this report to reflect that date.