The announcement of the unexpected death today of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Antonin Scalia will reverberate throughout the United States regarding the Pro Life cause advocated by the Catholic Church. Associate Scalia’s dissent against the upholding of Roe versus Wade coupled with his support for overturning the decision made him a Conservative rarity among the Justices of the Supreme Court. Judge Scalia was a devout and fervent Catholic, his son Paul is a Catholic priest. Justice Scalia regularly attended Mass at his parish Saint Catherine of Sienna in Great Falls, Virginia. The late Associate Justice was also an advocate of a restoration of the commonly called Tridentine Rite, now the Mass of Saint Pope John XXIII which he attended as often as possible in both Washington, D.C. and in Chicago, Illinois. In 1992, Judge Scalia wrote the Supreme Court’s dissent in the case of Planned Parenthood vrs Casey. He stated:
“The States may, if they wish, permit abortion on demand, but the Constitution does not require them to do so. The permissibility of abortion, and the limitations upon it, are to be resolved like most important questions in our democracy: by citizens trying to persuade one another and then voting.”
Scalia repeatedly called upon his fellow justices of the Supreme Court to strike down, Roe vrs Wade. In the 1989 case of Webster v Reproductive Health Services, however the vote fell short by five votes.
Justice Scalia was against programs that fostered racial entitlement, bused upon his strict notion of textualism regarding the intrepretation of the United States Constitution. Scalia felt it was not appropriate for the Federal Government to make up for past actions of discrimination and felt it would set an inappropriate precedent. He maintained:
“To pursue the concept of racial entitlement—even for the most admirable and benign of purposes—is to reinforce and preserve for future mischief the way of thinking that produced race slavery, race privilege and race hatred. In the eyes of government, we are just one race here. It is American.”
Justice Scalia however supported the notion that the death penalty was constitutional, however it should only be applied to individuals that were 18 years of age at the time when the crime was commited.
Scalia was also a firm in his opinion that in order for capitalism to be successful, it should be firmly rooted in essential Christian family values and beliefs.
The death of Associate Justice Scalia is an opportunity for President Obama to appoint a justice that is less of a political and social conservative than Justice Scalia. Such an appointment if it were ratified by the United States Senate would initiate a seismic shift of the Supreme Court’s balances of opinions between liberalism and conservatism. According to some news sources, the Republican leadership in Congress is already calling for President Obama to permit the next elected Chief Executive make the appointment to the nation’s highest court. However, President Obama is not obligated in any manner to heed the calls not to announce his choice to replace Justice Scalia.
Throughout his judicial career, Justice Scalia was a leader in the school of textualism, namely the understanding of the United States Constitution as the Founding Fathers actually wrote the document.
Scalia was an opponent to radical interpretations of the Constitution and was the most consisent vote of dissent when issues regarding matters such as Pro-Choice, Gay Equality and Race Entitlement were presented to the high court for a terminal ruling. His Conservative policies were reflective of his personal beliefs in the right to life and Catholic moral and social teachings. Catholics in the United States will feel a great loss if President Obama fails to appoint a fervent, orthodox Catholic to replace Justice Antonin Scalia. His presence on the Supreme Court over the last 30 years have been a moderating force against political, social and theological interpretations of the United States Constitution that would limit the Catholic Church’s activities that include the Right to Life Movement, autonomy when the Church hires individuals with sexual orientation that is contrary to Church teachings and most import imortantly the continued separation of Church and State in the United States.
Catholics need to lobby the White House for a Supreme Court Associate Justice that maintains the moral and ethical norms Justice Scalia held as both a fervent Catholic and a keenly astute Constitutional scholar. His personal religious values provided him with the proper foundation in religious faith to interpret the judicial obstacles that frequently discriminate against the free practice of many faiths in the United States. We Catholics should be most thankful that Justice Scalia’s faith and juris prudence were rooted in traditional Christian values, based on Catholic theology. We need and demand that his successor reflect the traditional Christian values that the Founding Fathers incorporated into our United States Constitution as the touchstone for our American Republic.