Catholics throughout the United States need to lobby the White House to appoint Justice Scalia’s successor from among practicing Catholics engaged in juridical activities. Scalia’s death reduces the number of Catholics currently serving at the Supreme Court to five justices. This number of Catholic justices is the highest number of Catholics serving as both Chief Justice and Associate Justices in the history of the United States. Traditionally, Catholic Justices represent a mediating factor when the High Court makes decisions, other Justices tend to be conservative in their rulings. At this time, the remaining Catholic justices serving on the court are judicial moderates. Strong consideration by President Obama is recommended to anchor the Supreme Court with a Catholic Conservative in the same interpretive manner as the late Justice Scalia.
As the Supreme Court now remains, five Justices are Catholic, two are Jewish and one is a Protestant.
Catholic influence on the Supreme Court was not always so apparent, until the presidency of Ronald Reagan, It should also be noted that it was during the presidency of Ronald Reagan that the United States established full diplomatic relations with the Holy See for the first time since the inception of the United States. Catholic representation on the nations highest court is commensurate with not only the large demographics of Catholics in the United States, but also is reflective of the great moral and ethical implications that the Supreme Court debates daily. Judge Scalia’s conservative interpretation of the United States Constitution was not rooted in theocratic thought, but the actual textual interpretation of what the Founding Fathers intended at the time that the Constitution was written. His personal Catholicism did not directly influence his role in the judicial decisions of the Supreme Court. His legal decisions were based on the objective norms of juris prudence, guided by textualism, the strictest interpretation of the U.S. Constitution that guided his vote at the Supreme Court.
Americans have lost a giant in the judicial world with the vacancy on the Supreme Court created by the death of Justice Scalia. Catholics have lost a towering example of a Catholic that not only practiced his Catholic faith but integrated it into his daily personal and professional activities as a lawyer, judge and finally as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court.
A penultimate advocate regarding the overturning of Roe vrs Wade was a personal Crusade for Justice Scalia. Sadly, despite all of his attempts over the years, Scalia was unable to convince his fellow justices to concur with his strong convictions regarding the sanctity of human life.
The popular press is indicating that it will be difficult for President Obama to put forward a nomination that will effectively pass the Senate’s scrutiny and muster. Collectively, as Americans we need to lobby that an appropriate replacement for Scalia be presented and confirmed post haste. The proper day to day actions of the Supreme Court are not well served by political acrimony over the appointment of a new associate justice of the court. Split decisions 4/4 will not only increase social and legislative confusion and backlog the docket of the high court. Government, all three branches need to function fully and effectively in this contentious year leading up to the presidential election in November. While Justice Scalia personally might have been amused with his passing as the cause for another Catch-22 between the White House and the United States Congress; his juridical persona would not consider a vacancy on the high court a jocularity.
The United States Supreme Court usually functions under the political radar, elevated from the mundane functioning of the Federal Government on a daily basis. The Founding Fathers intended for the Supreme Court to have such an aura of distance and mystery because the Nine Wise Men (and Women) as they used to be called ponder the nuances that distinguish our American Republic as the most unique expression of government the world has yet to experience. Their isolation at the Parthenon of American justice safeguards our rights as citizens as expressed through natural law and embodied in the Constitution. A vacancy among their bench is similar to Sede Vacante, when the Holy See is vacant, the daily operations go on but the important decisions are delayed until a new Pope is elected. Associate Justice Scalia was not a Pope, but he was a critical part of the judicial arm of American Government, and his replacement should be considered wisely, quickly and ratified by the Senate for the effective continuity of the United States government.
As previously stated, only eleven Catholics have served on the Supreme Court since the American Revolution. They are listed below, not merely for the sake of listing them, but to illustrate the critical importance these men represent as Catholic voices on the Supreme Court and advocates for Catholic moral and ethical principles of faith.
|Appointed by||Reason for
|Roger Brooke Taney||MD||1777||1864||1836||1864||Jackson||death|
|Edward Douglass White||LA||1845||1921||1894||1921||Cleveland (associate)||death|
|Frank Murphy||MI||1890||1949||1940||1949||F. Roosevelt||death|
|William Joseph Brennan, Jr.||NJ||1906||1997||1956||1990||Eisenhower||death|
|Antonin Gregory Scalia||VA||1936||2016||1986||2016||Reagan||death|
|Anthony McLeod Kennedy||CA||1936||living||1988||incumbent||Reagan||—|
|Clarence Thomas||GA||1948||living||1991||incumbent||G. H. W. Bush||—|
|John Glover Roberts, Jr.||MD||1955||living||2005||incumbent||G. W. Bush||—|
|Samuel Anthony Alito||NJ||1950||living||2006||incumbent||G. W. Bush||—|
Prayers for the soul of Justice Scalia and the Scalia family during this time of personal loss. Prayers for the nation, that the process of all three branches of the Federal Government will work together to appoint and approve a worthy successor to Justice Scalia.