Justice Scalia Questions Catholic Platform Against Death Penalty

Scalia, a devout Roman Catholic, says he cannot agree with the church's stand on capital punishment.

BY: Gina Holland

 

Feb. 5, WASHINGTON (AP) - Catholic judges who follow their church's teaching that capital punishment is wrong should resign, says U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.



Scalia, a devout Roman Catholic, said Monday that after giving it serious thought, he could not agree with the church's stand on the issue.

It wasn't the first time Scalia has questioned the church's opposition to the death penalty. He took the same position late last month at a conference in Chicago, and was asked about it again Monday at Georgetown University, a Catholic school.

Under Pope John Paul II, the Catholic Church has been strongly anti-death penalty. The pope has personally appealed to leaders to commute death sentences. In 1999, he said capital punishment, abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide are part of a ``culture of death.''

Scalia told Georgetown students that the church has a much longer history of endorsing capital punishment.

``No authority that I know of denies the 2,000-year-old tradition of the church approving capital punishment,'' he said. ``I don't see why there's been a change.''

Scalia, a father of nine, including one priest, attended Georgetown as an undergraduate and later taught there as a visiting professor. He talked about the cultural move away from faith before answering questions from students.

In Chicago on Jan. 25, Scalia said, ``In my view, the choice for the judge who believes the death penalty to be immoral is resignation rather than simply ignoring duly enacted constitutional laws and sabotaging the death penalty.''

Scalia said Monday that ``any Catholic jurist (with such concerns) ... would have to resign.''

``You couldn't function as a judge,'' he said.

Some in the crowd applauded when a female student asked Scalia to reconcile his religious beliefs with his capital punishment votes on the court. Scalia, 65, is one of the court's most conservative members and has consistently upheld capital cases.

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