Bench Memos

Law & the Courts

Kate O’Beirne, RIP

NRO has posted a symposium of wonderful tributes to the great Kate O’Beirne from so many of her friends and admirers.  I encourage you to print out the entire set and savor it at your leisure.

I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to contribute this submission:

I can do no better than to endorse the many beautiful tributes to the extraordinary Kate O’Beirne that have already been written, including those by Ramesh Ponnuru, April Ponnuru (above), and Mona Charen. But let me offer a few observations.

When I first entered the outer orbit of the National Review world a dozen years ago, Kate had long been a dazzling star whom I had admired from afar. I might well have been daunted to approach her. But Kate instead generously befriended me. I immediately discovered how delightful, intelligent, and down to earth she was. I’m so grateful that my wife and I had many occasions over the years to talk and laugh with Kate (including at the Ethics and Public Policy Center’s 40th-anniversary gala just last year, which she highlighted with lavishly celebratory remarks punctuated by her wry humor). How I wish for one time more.

Some years ago, I took part in an amazing program in Rome — a sort of deeper look at the Vatican — for a group of twelve or so journalists. (I happily endured the label for the sake of the trip.) Kate was one of the leaders of the program. Over the course of a week, we visited the great basilicas of Rome, toured the Scavi and the Sistine Chapel, met with Vatican officials, had every meal together, and attended Mass each day at sites from the crypt of Saint Peter’s to the catacombs. Although Kate had done it all before, her joy and awe were fresh. She combined a humble reverence for that which deserved revering with a withering irreverence for that which didn’t.

More broadly, Kate’s deeply Catholic sensibility infused her life. The “tough broad” pose she sometimes feigned sheltered her gentle heart. She found and shared amusement in the foibles that we imperfect human beings all have, even as she loved others with (and not merely despite) our many faults. She put her ultimate faith not in the things of this world but in those of the next.

May Kate’s soul rest in peace, and may her beloved husband Jim, their two sons she adored, and her extended family be consoled in their grief.


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