The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

Scalia: “There is no such thing as a ‘Catholic judge'”

Recently, Clarence Thomas has been making headlines with his new autobiography. Now, another Supreme Court Justice has stepped into the limelight — and he’s talking about faith:

Devout U.S. Catholics like himself may stand apart from much of the nation on abortion, homosexuality, and embryonic stem-cell research, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia told a packed audience at Villanova University yesterday, but he insisted “there is no such thing as a ‘Catholic judge.’ “


“The bottom line is that the Catholic faith seems to me to have little effect on my work as a judge,” he declared.

Invited to speak to that very question – “the role of Catholic faith in the work of a judge” – the famously opinionated justice rendered his decision just three minutes into his keynote lecture at Villanova Law School’s annual Scarpa conference on law, politics and culture.

“Just as there is no ‘Catholic’ way to cook a hamburger,” he said to a murmur of laughter, “I am hard-pressed to tell you of a single opinion of mine that would have come out differently if I were not Catholic.”

Nonetheless, he continued, his Catholic faith obliges him to abide by two “commands” in his life and his work as a judge.


” ‘Be thou perfect as thy heavenly Father is perfect.’ And ‘Thou shalt not lie,’ ” he said.

Those principles, he said, call him to be a strict constructionist of the law, one who does not “distort prior cases” or the Constitution in order to assert that certain rights are guaranteed under law.

As a result, he said, “I see no constitutional right to an abortion, just as I see nothing in [the Constitution] criminalizing or prohibiting abortion.”

He then cited the example of Richard Casey, a judge of the Southern District of New York, and a Catholic.

During a 2004 trial on the constitutionality of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003, Scalia said, Casey had interrogated lawyers for the National Abortion Federation in excruciating detail, obliging them to describe the “brutality” of the procedure to the fetus’ skull.


And yet despite all the gruesome details that Casey entered into the record, Scalia noted, Casey ruled he did not have the right to overturn the act because the U.S. Supreme Court had previously allowed partial-birth abortion.

While “there is no such thing as a ‘Catholic judge,’ ” he continued, “by reason of his being a Catholic, Dick Casey may have been more disposed to be perfect.”

He then asked the audience to remember Casey, who died in March, “in your prayers.”

There’s more up at the link — including a few thoughts by Scalia on the death penalty.

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posted October 18, 2007 at 9:42 am

I think G.K. Chesterton might disagree with the Judge as it was Chesterton who said, “There is a Catholic way to do everything.” Chesterton would propose that there is a Catholic way to cook a hamburger, and to be a supreme court judge.

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