Justice Scalia: 'No such thing as a Catholic judge'

Antonin Scalia has made the point before, but he seemed to be in a particularly expansive mode at a St. Thomas More Society of Maryland dinner on Oct. 21 in Annapolis, following which he was interviewed by The Catholic Review:

I dont think theres any such thing as a Catholic judge, Scalia said. There are good judges and bad judges. The only article in faith that plays any part in my judging is the commandment, Thou Shalt Not Lie. Scalia said it isnt his job to make policy or law, but to say only what the law provides.If I genuinely thought the Constitution guaranteed a womans right to abortion, I would be on the other way, said Scalia, who has held that abortion is not guaranteed in the Constitution. It would do nothing with my religion. It has to do with my being a lawyer.

Interesting words, always worth recalling. And they raise again, for me, the question of the role of Catholic judges and their responsibilities. I have always understood that the church and pro-life lobbies hold judges to a somewhat different standard because legislators are making laws and judges are "umpires" calling balls and strikes. But that seems a bit too neat, because for one thing legal decisions often focus on subjective things like "evolving standards of decency" and "cruel and unusual punishment" and the like.But Scalia's near-indifferentism to the morality of the law is striking to me as well, in that it sounds like he'd be championing abortion rights if he thought they were in the Constitution. (And I believe he has said he has no problem with states passing right to choose laws.) So does morality have a place in the law?PS: Scalia of course has some of his usual quotable quotes on other topics, mainly to demonstrate the scorned status of believers like himself at the hands of the elite, which would seem to include him as well, but somehow doesn't. He has to resort to the infamous 1993 Washington Post quote about the Religious Right to bolster his point, and interestingly he identifies traditional Catholics as those who do such positively peasant-like things as saying the rosary, kneeling in adoration before the Eucharist, going on pilgrimages to Lourdes or Medjugorje and worst of all following indiscriminately, rather than in smorgasbord fashion, the teachings of the pope. Intriguing selection of standards for "traditional," in that Medjugorje has no official sanction from Rome and might conflict with "indiscriminately" following the teachings of the pope -- which does not seem like church teaching anyway.

David Gibson is a national reporter for Religion News Service and author of The Coming Catholic Church (HarperOne) and The Rule of Benedict (HarperOne). He blogs at dotCommonweal.

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