Justice Antonin Scalia gave a talk at Duquesne University Law School recently, a Catholic school, and made some rather odd claims.
“I hope this place will not yield, as some Catholic institutions have, to this politically correct insistence upon suppressing moral judgment, to this distorted view of what diversity in America means.” …
A devout Catholic who came from humble beginnings in New Jersey to graduate with honors from Georgetown University and Harvard Law School, Justice Scalia said faith and morals are vital complements to an educational environment.
“This has nothing to do with making students better lawyers, but everything to do with making them better men and women,” he said. “Moral formation is a respectable goal for any educational institution, even a law school.”
I certainly agree that moral formation is not only a respectable goal, it’s an absolutely necessary one for any university. Moral reasoning is one of the most important things one learns about in the process of becoming a decent and rational human being. But the Catholic church is pretty much the last institution that ought to be teaching anyone about morality under any circumstances.
Really? I’m supposed to learn how to treat my fellow human beings from the church that spent centuries declaring anti-Semitic pogroms in country after country? That supported slavery? That formed the various inquisitions? That continues to turn a blind eye to the child molesters in its ranks? Sorry, I’ll look elsewhere for my moral reasoning. And so will Scalia, by the way, but only when it comes to one of the few areas where the Catholic Church is actually right on a moral issue:
The justice’s appearance, however, was not without its controversy as nine people outside the Palumbo Center carried signs and handed out material opposed to the death penalty. The Rev. Gregory C. Swiderski, who organized the group, said he did not expect to influence Justice Scalia; he hoped to reach some of those who came to hear him.But Justice Scalia said he did see them and told the audience that he was aware of their position. Still, he said, he found no contradiction between his religious views and his support of the death penalty.
“If I thought that Catholic doctrine held the death penalty to be immoral, I would resign,” he said. “I could not be a part of a system that imposes it.”
But the Catholic Church itself vehemently opposes the death penalty. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has an entire campaign to abolish the death penalty in America. Perhaps Scalia missed it because of the ambiguous title: Catholic Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty. In a 1999 visit to the United States, Pope John Paul II called on the US to end the death penalty:
“I renew the appeal I made most recently at Christmas for a consensus to end the death penalty, which is both cruel and unnecessary,” he said. “Modern society has the means of protecting itself, without definitively denying criminals the chance to reform.”
Funny how he considers the church’s moral teaching so vitally important and necessary — unless he disagrees with it, then it suddenly disappears.