The Mysterious Case of Scalia’s Priest

So the internet rumor and conspiracy mill gets going. I read it all with interest and take it with a hefty pinch of salt. Let’s face it, if someone was going to bump off a Supreme Court judge they could surely have managed it even more secretly and quietly. Would the murderer really have left the pillow over his head? That’s not smart. Was he really discovered with a pillow over his head? How do we know?

I’m ready to pooh pooh the conspiracy theories. The man was nearly eighty. His health was not good.

But then, as a Catholic priest, a curious detail comes up. The reports were that Justice Scalia reported feeling tired at supper and retired for an early night. When he didn’t appear the next morning they knocked on his door and getting no response eventually forced their way in and found the poor man had died in his sleep of natural causes.

All well and good, but the Washington Post reported that the details of Scalia’s death were shrouded in “confusion and chaos”. An early report in the New York Times on Saturday said that a spokesperson for the Diocese of El Paso confirmed that a Catholic priest, Fr Mike Alcuino, had been called to the ranch to give Scalia the last rites.

Here’s what seems odd: If a priest was called to administer the Last Rites, then he must have done so when Scalia was still alive. If he died during the night the priest must have been called sometime on Friday evening, but then why did they say the priest was called on Saturday afternoon? If the judge  was alive, but so sick that they had to call a priest for the Last Rites, then why wasn’t the man rushed to hospital? Did someone call a priest, knowing that Scalia was going to die that night? It sounds pretty sinister and creepy.

This is how conspiracy theories are fed. One piece of the puzzle doesn’t seem to fit and the missing piece raises the suspicion of the already suspicious and makes the whole mystery that much deeper.

Well, take a deep breath. As usual, there are some facts to explain the matter: The priest was called on Saturday afternoon after Scalia was already dead. He didn’t administer the Last Rites. You don’t administer sacraments to a dead person. Instead the priest would have said some set prayers in presence of the body for the repose of the deceased person’s soul. The press (and perhaps the Diocesan Spokesperson) got the wrong end of the stick and said it was “The Last Rites” when it wasn’t.

Deacon Kandra explains the whole thing here.

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