Scalia on Faith and the Nation
The Supreme Court justice holds forth on why believers aren't 'simple-minded' and why they should embrace the ridicule of the world.
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (CNS) — Although the sophisticated may deride them as simple-minded, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said committed Christians should have the courage to embrace their faith.
Scalia spoke to members of the St. Thomas More Society of Maryland who gathered Oct. 21 at the Westin Hotel in Annapolis following the 52nd annual Red Mass, held at nearby St. Mary Church. The liturgy, celebrated by Baltimore Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien, marked the beginning of the judicial year.
During a hotel banquet, the St. Thomas More Society honored Scalia with its “Man for All Seasons Award,” given to members of the legal profession who embody the ideals of St. Thomas More.
Scalia outlined a long list of Christian beliefs that he said are greeted with derision by the worldly — dogmas including Christ’s divinity, the virgin birth and Christ’s resurrection.
“Surely those who adhere to all or most of these traditional Christian beliefs are regarded in the educated circles that you and I travel in as, well, simple-minded,” Scalia asserted.
The Catholic justice cited a story in The Washington Post that described Christian fundamentalists as “poorly educated and easily led.”
“The same attitude applies, of course, to traditional Catholics,” Scalia said, “who do such positively peasantlike things as saying the rosary, kneeling in adoration before the Eucharist, going on pilgrimages to Lourdes or Medjugorje and — worst of all — following indiscriminately, rather than in smorgasbord fashion, the teachings of the pope.”
Scalia said believers should embrace the ridicule of the world.
“As St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians,” he said, “we are fools for Christ’s sake.”
Scalia noted that Christ described his followers as sheep and said no one will get into heaven without behaving like “little children.” Scalia warned, however, that reason and intellect must not be laid aside where matters of religion are concerned.
“Assuredly, a faith that has no rational basis is a false faith,” Scalia said.
In a sarcastic reference to cult leader David Koresh, he added: “That is why I am not a Branch Davidian.”
It isn’t irrational to accept the testimony of eyewitnesses to miracles, Scalia said.
“What is irrational,” he said, “is to reject a priori, with no investigation, the possibility of miracles in general and of Jesus Christ’s resurrection in particular — which is, of course, precisely what the worldly wise do.”
Scalia cited the 10-year-old case of a priest in the Washington archdiocese who was said to have the stigmata. Statues of Mary and the saints appeared to weep in his presence. Reporters for The Washington Post did a story and were unable to find an explanation for the strange phenomena.
“Why wasn’t that church absolutely packed with nonbelievers,” Scalia asked, “seeking to determine if there might be something to this?”
The answer was obvious, he said with disdain: “The wise do not investigate such silliness.”
While he may take his personal faith seriously, Scalia told The Catholic Review he doesn’t allow it to influence his work on the high court.
“I don’t think there’s any such thing as a Catholic judge,” Scalia said in an interview with the newspaper of the Baltimore Archdiocese. “There are good judges and bad judges. The only article in faith that plays any part in my judging is the commandment, ‘Thou Shalt Not Lie.’”
Scalia said it isn’t his job to make policy or law, but to “say only what the law provides.”
“If I genuinely thought the Constitution guaranteed a woman’s right to abortion, I would be on the other way,” said Scalia, who has held that abortion is not guaranteed in the Constitution. “It would do nothing with my religion. It has to do with my being a lawyer.”
Scalia never thought he would see a time when there were six Catholic justices on the high court.
“But, as I say, it doesn’t make any difference,” he asserted. “I don’t think there’s such a thing as a Catholic justice. There’s a justice who happens to be Catholic and there are some Catholic justices who have been on the other side of the abortion thing. (Former Justice) Bill Brennan was the initiator of the whole thing.”
He was referring to the late Justice William J. Brennan, who was considered a key architect of the court’s decisions legalizing abortion on demand, including the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision. saw a clear constitutional right to legalized abortion. Brennan’s vote in favor of the Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion.
Asked whether he and the other Catholic justices ever discuss or share their faith with one another, Scalia smiled wryly.
“No,” he said. “We don’t have a Bible study.”