Skip to comments.Scalia Questions Church's Position
Posted on 02/04/2002 8:48:52 PM PST by Lancey Howard
By GINA HOLLAND
.c The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) - Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on Monday criticized his church's position against the death penalty, saying that Catholic judges who believe capital punishment is wrong should resign.
The devout Roman Catholic said after giving it ``serious thought'' he could not agree with the church's stand on the issue.
Scalia questioned the church's opposition to the death penalty late last month at a conference on the subject in Chicago. He was asked about it again Monday at Georgetown University, a Catholic school.
The Vatican under Pope John Paul II has been strongly anti-death penalty, and 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.'' His remarks were transcribed by the event sponsor, the Pew Forum.
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.
Freshman Sean Kiernan said later that he was disappointed that Scalia talked about the importance of his religion, then took a stand contradicting the church. ``I don't think it's correct,'' he said.
``He's got a lot of courage and conviction,'' said Stephen Feiler, the student who organized the event to celebrate Jesuit heritage.
I attended this conference, which was held at the Univ of Chicago. It was kind of like a homecoming for Scalia, who taught here from 81-86, until he was nominated to the SC. I was sitting in the second row, right behind Cardinal Dulles. Scalia went off on the present day Church, accusing the clergy for watering down Catholicism. He dismissed the latest Ecclesiastical Vitae, and said that the present church is the "illegetimate product of Hagel and Freud." Cardinal Dulles got up in protest and left the room. You just had to be there to witness it.
I wonder why he didn't include war. Or the simple act of fatally shooting an armed intruder in own's home. Both are killing. Why would he include some and exclude others in this manner? I say, "in this manner," because while euthanasia, assisted suicide and abortion all target those who are either weak or innocent or both, capital punishment specifically targets those whose capacity and willingness to unjustly inflict harm on others is beyond question. Since the Pope is apparently willing to mix these categories, why would he exclude war and personal self-defense from the "culture of death?"
I applaud Justice Scalia for his convictions, for speaking out about them, and for upholding the Constitution.
P.S.: In response to the lame Inquisition aside: The Inquisition was initially formed to counter vigilante justice imposed on suspected heretics by average citizens. Most people brought before the Inquisition were not tortured or killed, etc. The Inquisition required at least two witnesses to the heresy (so that neighbors couldn't fink on neighbors to acquire their property.) The vigilantes didn't require such legal niceties.
But since the original book on the Inquisition was written by a biased Protestant, and people would rather parrot that book than the historical facts, I guess I should just shut up about it.
As a Protestant of Irish heritage, I could only wish he were one of ours. Scalia is a great credit to the Catholic Church in America.
That's the problem with some freshmen like you Sean, you think. It's time for you to close your pie hole and learn something and find out just exactly what is and what isn't correct and who is and isn't contradicting the Church.
Catechism of the Catholic Church '#2267: Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.
If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity with the dignity of the human person.
Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm - without definitively taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself - the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not practically non-existent."(68)'
68 John Paul II, Evangelium vitae 56.
'56. This is the context in which to place the problem of the death penalty. On this matter there is a growing tendency, both in the Church and in civil society, to demand that it be applied in a very limited way or even that it be abolished completely. The problem must be viewed in the context of a system of penal justice ever more in line with human dignity and thus, in the end, with God's plan for man and society. The primary purpose of the punishment which society inflicts is "to redress the disorder caused by the offence". Public authority must redress the violation of personal and social rights by imposing on the offender an adequate punishment for the crime, as a condition for the offender to regain the exercise of his or her freedom. In this way authority also fulfils the purpose of defending public order and ensuring people's safety, while at the same time offering the offender an incentive and help to change his or her behaviour and be rehabilitated.
It is clear that, for these purposes to be achieved, the nature and extent of the punishment must be carefully evaluated and decided upon, and ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent.
In any event, the principle set forth in the new Catechism of the Catholic Church remains valid: "If bloodless means are sufficient to defend human lives against an aggressor and to protect public order and the safety of persons, public authority must limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person".'
Scalia has not put himself in the position of rejecting the teaching of the Catholic Church.
If Scalia IS going to be hounded about this, let's see some public questioning of the several hundred "Catholic" members of the House and Senate who vote to FUND abortions, and to block every regulation of abortion, and who voted to crush the rescue movement in the early 1990's.
I can sympathize with Scalia's frustration.
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