Justice Scalia: Strive to retain Catholic identity

Justice Scalia: Strive to retain Catholic identity September 25, 2011

That was Antonin Scalia’s message to Duquesne University in Pittsburgh on Saturday.  The Supreme Court Justice  spoke at an event marking the school’s 100th anniversary.

From the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

Scalia’s 20-minute address to about 1,200 people in the A.J. Palumbo Center, Uptown, included a defense of religion in the public life and of an approach to constitutional law that he helped pull into the mainstream of legal thought.

“Our educational establishment these days, while so tolerant of and even insistent upon diversity in all other aspects of life seems bent on eliminating diversity of moral judgment — particularly moral judgment based on religious views,” Scalia said.

As examples, he cited attempts to sue a religious university in Washington, D.C., for offering only same-sex dorms and other attempts by a law school association to bar schools that discriminate against homosexuals.

“I hope this place will not yield — as some Catholic institutions have — to this politically correct insistence upon suppression of moral judgment, to this distorted view of what diversity in America means,” Scalia said.

Scalia’s interpretation of the Constitution, which holds that the meaning of the document’s words doesn’t change over time, has shifted the country’s legal landscape during his quarter-century on the court. During a panel discussion after his speech, he defended that approach against those who say his approach is too ideological or rigid.

“The Constitution is not an empty bottle. It says some things and doesn’t say others. … What is a moderate interpretation of the Constitution? Halfway between what it really says and what you want it to say?” Scalia said.

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24 responses to “Justice Scalia: Strive to retain Catholic identity”

  1. “This Court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is “actually” innocent. Quite to the contrary, we have repeatedly left that question unresolved, while expressing considerable doubt that any claim based on alleged “actual innocence” is constitutionally cognizable.”
    Justice Antonin Scalia, In Re Troy Anthony Davis, No. 08-1442, dissenting opinion (8/17/09).

  2. Scalia is my absolute favorite Justice. He and Clarence Thomas (both Catholics) are the towering pillars of the Supreme Court. Alito and Roberts – also Catholics – are getting there as well. Catholics are well represented on the Supreme Court. Actually all five of the Conservatives (Kennedy) are Catholics! It should say something about where Catholics are culturally.

  3. HMS – This is a quote taken from Justice Scalia’s dissenting opinion – yes he wrote it and it is his legal opinion that the United States Constitution does not prohibit the government from executing an innocent man as long as the man had a “fair” trial.

  4. Manny, the justices you name are among the worst ever to serve on the court. They are firmly in favor of destroying the United States as a place where decent people would want to live.

  5. Every body is entitled to their opinion. But we should not demonize people either from the right or from the left. I am sure these judges do not want to destroy the United States, just as the liberals don’t want that either. Each side is pursuing their vision of the application of laws and the Constitution.

  6. @ HMS (and Barbara)

    It is a mistake to conflate Justice Scala’s constitutional jurisprudence (or “legal opinion” as Barbara calls it) and his moral judgment. To hold that the U.S. Constitution does not address a matter is not to say that it is right or wrong, moral or immoral, or even that it is (or should be) legal or illegal. It is simply to acknowledge that the answer to those questions is not to be found in the Constitution, and the Supreme Court should not be fashioning constitutional law on the basis of considerations drawn from outside that document.

  7. John V:

    Agree. I posted my comment more as a statement than a question (??).

    I know that he is known for interpreting the Constitution according to its original context.

    What was going through my mind was the thought that maybe he might have a conflict with his moral beliefs and his interpretation of the Constitution,
    like pro-choice Catholic politicians.

  8. Clarification:

    To the best of my knowledge of Supreme Court decisions in the past decades, Justice Scalia has not made any decision contrary to the Church’s position on pro-life but I wonder if there had been any other decision of his that has been in conflict with Church teaching.

  9. “To hold that the U.S. Constitution does not address a matter is not to say that it is right or wrong, moral or immoral, or even that it is (or should be) legal or illegal. It is simply to acknowledge that the answer to those questions is not to be found in the Constitution, and the Supreme Court should not be fashioning constitutional law on the basis of considerations drawn from outside that document.”

    especially since governors of states and the US President have pardon power to prevent unjust executions.

    Scalia is very big on separation of powers. If the Constitution vests descisionmaking in some entity other than the Supreme Court or the court system in general, Scalia is pretly much in favor of leaving that decisonmaker with the final word. He’s not 100% consistent, but he is fairly reliable.

    It is also his general opinion that the Constitution is not an expression of natural law. It is more in the nature of a revisable contract. With respect to the abortion issue, for example, a federal statute restricting or permitting abortion could be constitutional, depending on its langauge. Scalia has already indicated that he believes almost all state statutes permitting or restricitng abortion are constitutional.

    His position is consistent with his view that the Constitution contains an amendment process which should be the preferred route to constitutional change.

  10. Gotta say: I’m amazed when people who are generally inclined to term themselves pro-life are willing to give a pass to a sitting SC justice who actually has it within his powers to prevent a potentially innocent person from being executed. Justice Scalia’s stance seems to me not all that far removed from that of Pilate: It is none of my business; bring the water that I may wash my hands of this matter. Nothing in that atittude that is in the least bit in tune with church teaching.

  11. @ Steve

    You miss the point. According to Justice Scalia’s interpretation of the Constitution, it’s not within his powers to prevent a potentially innocent person from being executed. In order to acheive that result, he would have to usurp powers that the Constitution does not give him. How is that attitude at odds with church teaching?

  12. The “conservative” justices like Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, et al consistently favor the power of the state and big business over that of the individual. Everyone is entitled to their opinions and interpretation of the Constitution. However, it is always a mistake, and I hope sincerely that this is the case here, to equate Conservative with Catholic (just as it would be to equate Liberal with Catholic.) I’m disturbed in recent years that in the Catholic media (ie EWTN, etc.), conservative and catholic are often seen to be one and the same.

  13. Meh. The one thing Scalia says that I may incline my ear to doesn’t wipe out the gazillion things he’s said that make me scream at my monitor.

  14. John V, Justice Scalia (along with several other Reagan/Bush appointees) had no problem finding enough elasticity in the Constitution to command an end to the recount in Florida in 2000. I can’t recall that the Constitution said that SCOTUS could determine that a state’s vote count could and should be interrupted when some counties had been recounted and others had not been. Yet they managed to do that, somehow.

    Here, however, you have Justice Scalia asserting that it would be an abuse of his constitutional powers to intervene in a state taking the right of a man who may very well have been innocent. (That’s the proposition he was entertaining–even in the case of an INNOCENT man, if the fellow received a “fair” trial, the proper role for me is to walk away let his life be taken.) Let’s hope Justice Scalia finds a greater pro-life, pro-human rights impulse in his soul (and in the Constitution) if you someday are the one who has perhaps has been wrongly convicted and are about to have your life unjustly ended by the state. He shouldn’t save his judicial reach, his covert “activist judge” instincts, only for those occasions when he can use them to put a conservative presidential candidate in the White House.

  15. @Michael #15

    “I’m disturbed in recent years that in the Catholic media (ie EWTN, etc.), conservative and catholic are often seen to be one and the same.”

    Why are you surprised? There is one side of the political divide that is consistently anti religion, completely enforcing a secularized society, consistently in league with the atheists, consistently in league with the planned parenthood and other abortionists, consistently for “gay rights,” consistently forcing contraceptives down our children’s throats, consistently in league with divorce lawyers, and so on.

    That side of the political spectrum is the left side, if you haven’t noticed. There is a reason that all of the conservatives of the Supreme Court are Catholic. Catholic for the most part does today equate with the right side.

  16. Steve
    This isn’t a constitutional law blog so I won’t get into a discussion of the 2000 election case. However, the “elasticity” that allows a justice to read into the constitution rights that aren’t there is the jurisprudence that gave us Roe v. Wade. If it’s a choice between sticking to the principles straight down the line-with the result that the justices can’t intervene to spare me though I’m innocent-and giving them freedom to mold the constitution as they see fit-with the result that nobody is permittefd to intervene to save 55,000,000 innocents-I’ll go with the former.

  17. Wow, I find it amazing that so many here put out such venom on Scalia especially on the issue of Catholic and the death penalty. It seems very clear, that a justice who looks to the actual text of the constitution as a firm rule would rule as he did in this case. He is stating that the Constitution gives the power of pardon to the President and governors (some governors have limited pardon powers as in Texas where a board has the power) and it is not in the constitution to allow judges to grant pardons. They have to rule on the laws as written, not on what may be a political decision. Those convicted who receive the death penalty in the US have huge numbers of appeals and support from lawyers at our expense which I fully support. I think the average is over 10 years of legal wrangling to try to make sure that one convicted is guilty. I do not want to see a judge stepping in and without the basis of case law trying to usurp the powers given to those we vote for to pardon.

    Sad that some think so little of the Constitution that they want judges to take away our liberties and distort the very meaning of the Constititution. We have congress and the amendment process to make changes and should never have judges finding words not there or meaning not there or amendments for one purpose being hijacked for other uses. Every time this happens, we lose a little more liberty. These folks are not elected and appointed for life and for that reason, the Constitution gave them restricted powers calling on them to “preserve, defend and uphold the Constitution.” Not sure how inventing new rights using words not there and interpretations of private letters of a president in any way preserves the constitution as happened in the “separation” big lie. I note the anger of justice Scalia and others such as Thomas, Roberts, and Allito, but nothing being said about those who have not upheld their oath of office. One day, should the court go fully conservative and those justices decide to rule like the liberals seem to desire, I bet we would hear screams on how they were inventing words and meaning and taking away our liberties. They will of course have brought it on themselves for cheering the cases where judges ruled outside the text and meaning to get the liberal desired outcome rather than use the congress or the amendment process.

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