Dowd on the evils of a Catholic Supreme Court

October 3, 2011 • 8:45 am

Maureen Dowd’s columns are usually too twee and cutesy  for my taste, but her piece in yesterday’s New York Times, “Cooperation in Evil” is serious: it’s about the Catholic-ization of the United States Supreme Court and all the ill it bodes for our country.

The problem of course, is that religion poisons everything it touches, for the faithful think they not only have a handle on truth, but that they get that truth straight from God. This makes them more assured, and hence more dangerous, than those who get their opinions from secular reason.

At any rate, the odious Antonin Scalia, who seems to show no shame about parading his pro-religion prejudices in public, said this at a speech at Duquesne University:

“Our educational establishment these days, while so tolerant of and even insistent on diversity in all other aspects of life, seems bent on eliminating the diversity of moral judgment, particularly moral judgment based on religious views,” the devout Catholic said.

I didn’t realize that not only six of the nine Justices are Catholics, but they go together to a traditional Mass at a nearby Cathedral.  Well, going to Mass is their right, but going together makes a statement about religion that, to a country ruled by the First Amendment (freedom of religion), is pretty clear.

As the Supreme Court gets ready to go into session on Monday, its six Catholic justices were set to merge church and state by attending the traditional first-Sunday-in-October Red Mass at St. Matthew’s Cathedral. (It’s hard to believe there’s no Protestant on the Supreme Court.) Through the years, the presiding clergy have aimed their homilies against abortion, gay marriage and “humanism.” Justices of other faiths have attended; but as Dahlia Lithwick wrote in Slate, “Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg stopped attending the Red Mass altogether after hearing her very first homily, which she has described as ‘outrageously anti-abortion.’ ”

As Dowd relates, Pope John Paul II was opposed to the death penalty, and even Pope Ratzi sent a letter to the state of Georgia asking, unsuccessfully, for a stay of execution of Troy Davis.  So maybe the Church has it right on this one, but Scalia dissents:

In his Duquesne speech, Scalia said: “If I thought that Catholic doctrine held the death penalty to be immoral, I would resign. I could not be a part of a system that imposes it.”

Well the Church sort of has, and Scalia’s butt is still on the bench.  Dowd wonders, rhetorically, whether Scalia is “cooperating in evil.”  The answer is yes, and it’s a sad situation when on some issues the American Supreme Court is even less moral than the Catholic Church.

37 thoughts on “Dowd on the evils of a Catholic Supreme Court

  1. To be fair, at least Scalia’s position on capital punishment is arguably Constitutional.

    Obama, on the other hand, just had a natural-born American citizen openly assassinated without even pretending to give due process — let alone a trial by jury, or even an indictment supported by oath or affirmation.



    1. Obama, on the other hand, just had a natural-born American citizen openly assassinated

      How do you know Al-Awlaki was a natural born American — have you seen his long-form birth certificate?

    2. There is some precedent for Obama’s action. Lincoln did not send lawyers or marshals with arrest warrants to the South to take care of the insurrection, he sent soldiers with guns who killed roughly 100,000 Americans. The Confederacy was not recognized and no war was declared. Those that died were American citizens with constitutional rights.

      So, during hostilities against the U.S, traitors can and should be dealt with by force.

  2. If I thought that Catholic doctrine held the death penalty to be immoral, I would resign.

    So basically now his job security now depends on Scalia believing that the death penalty is moral. Sweet.

    1. Or did he mean that as an argument in favor of the death penalty? “It’s moral, because I wouldn’t support it if it wasn’t”?

    2. Actually, it seems to me a piece of good news for the left. It’s possible that someone could induce his resignation by pointing out that under Catholic Doctrine, the US application of the death penalty is immoral under the post-Evangelium Vitae Catechism (item 2267).

      “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 definitely 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.'”

      But I’m not holding my breath.

  3. By the way, this needs quoting here too:

    As he wrote in a religious journal in 2002, he does not find the death penalty immoral, and he believes that as the “minister of God,” government has powers to get “revenge” and “execute wrath.”

    I wonder where in the Constitution Scalia thinks it says any of that…

  4. Just noted in passing, I guess, Duquesne U is just down the road from me; their official name is Duquesne University of the Holy Ghost. On the other hand, for at least the last maybe 5yrs they’ve had an annual Darwin Day. I heard Judge Jones speak at one of those & maybe a dozen yrs ago heard Stephen Jay Gould speak there too.

    1. I attended the event, thanks (?) to my professor at a different Pittsburgh University, and it was definitely an interesting experience..

      Almost comical how hypocritical the Justice was..I couldn’t stop face palming walking back to my car after the event.

      Was also fun when the event opened up with a prayer..

  5. It seems a confusing issue that goes to the core of Christianity. Gospel Jesus was a victim of the death penalty, but if he wasn’t, there would be no forgiveness of sins. So even though his death was an immoral travesty of justice, doesn’t the end it accomplish make it a moral necessity? If people had treated Jesus well and listened to him, none of our sins would have been forgiven and we’d have all been damned forever! If anything, people should have killed Jesus sooner! And that’s without even getting into the magic cannibalism, that is none the less, a good thing.

    And this is why we shouldn’t get our moral centers from myths that don’t function by any sort of human reasoning.

    1. His death was all a sick joke anyway because he can’t really be killed. It just gave the christians an excuse to lynch the Jews – for all we know the early christians nabbed the newly resurrected Jesus and lynched him too. The prophecy of the Second Coming was fulfilled and they never knew it. Jesus never came back after that since the dying schtick was getting a bit old.

      1. Wrong direction, I think.

        Start with your specific moral intuitions about what’s happening in the here and now, then firm up your conjecture by anchoring it to relevant points that your Church confidently asserts about the divine.

        Then all conflicting ethical positions seemingly flail in the wind because they aren’t sufficiently fastened to the best possible understanding of G-dness.

        Catholics in particular needn’t tackle earthly questions by reasoning forwards and backwards because their Church is miraculasly deriving morality from YHVH = INRI. Don’t ask to see their working out. There be dragons.

    1. Scalia, for years, has been a critic of the use of “Legislative History” for determining the “Original Intent” of the legislators w/r to statutes that they have passed.(Not without having significant influence on Appeals Courts either!)

      Strange for one who is so enamored of religious doctrine and dogma formulated millenia ago and his continued attempts to impose it on everyone in the U.S.

  6. Thanks, Jerry, for this. I don’t read Dowd for the same reasons you don’t — although I’ll also add my anger that Dowd’s superficial snarky style has taken over the tone of the entire NYT — but I do read all about the Supreme Court and failed to pick up Dowd’s column yesterday. So I’ve posted your entire post in mine today. Including the kitteh.
    When I was re-writing the Dec of Inde, the Constitution and all the amendments in an effort to invent a whole new country after Nov 2004, I picked up a number of horrifying quotes from Scalia regarding his faith. If anybody can explain why he is always called “brilliant,” please let me know.

    1. “MAYBE it’s the Mario Lanza in him. But Nino Scalia relishes being operatically imprudent.”

      Why? Because both happen to be Italian?

      That’s a typical example of Dowd’s snarkiness.

      Just how “operatically imprudent” was Mario Lanza? 4 3/7%? Sqr rt of -1%?

      Why not make a comparison to her own “journalistic imprudence”?

    2. …although I’ll also add my anger that Dowd’s superficial snarky style has taken over the tone of the entire NYT…

      I SO agree! (Tho my biggest beef with them is still their blindered support for the Iraq war.)

  7. Christians who are against the death penalty often argue from scripture, the scene where Jesus purportedly prevents the woman accused of adultery from being stoned to death by saying: “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”. The inference is that there is no-one who fulfills that requirement (being without sin, ‘cos, y’know Adam and that apple) so therefore no human has the right to take life away.

    Curiously the Vatican, when it made it’s anti-death penalty speeches, chose to couch it in the secular language of “inalienable right to life”.

    It has not, however, changed it’s catechism which states:
    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.”

    It’s a wonderful example of fence-sitting.

    1. That nice story of “Let he who is without sin throw the first stone” is a complete forgery, inserted into the Gospel at some point in the 300s or 400s, since its not present in earlier works. So perhaps that’s why the Vatican doesn’t mention it at all.

      Really though, life was so much more cheap in Jesus’s time, I’m starting to feel that we shouldn’t take his advice on anything.

  8. “… bent on eliminating the diversity of moral judgment, particularly moral judgment based on religious views”

    You say that like it’s a bad thing, Scalia. How would you reconcile that diversity with equality under the law?


    1. Precisely.

      Claiming that your personally preferred brand of crazy should rightly serve as arbiter of all things moral for everybody is an odd approach to achieving “diversity.”

    2. Everyone has an equal right to be judged by Jesus Christ and his anointed representative on Earth, Antonin Scalia.

  9. For anyone who has followed Scalia’s career on the USSC, there simply has to be a sense of lingering questions about his objectivity when it comes to various religious issues;and his errant public statements on matters that may very well come before the Court do nothing to ameliorate the sense of foreboding.

    Scientists and lawyers have quite a bit in common when it comes to the question of not allowing one’s personal feelings and/or ideologies to impinge on the objective investigation of scientific and legal matters respectively. Neither scientist nor lawyer should ever place him/herself in a position that can result in that objectivity being seriously questioned.

    1. “Neither scientist nor lawyer should ever place him/herself in a position that can result in that objectivity being seriously questioned.”

      True, but most people want to hire lawyers who will vigorously advocate for and can win their clients’ cases. That is, do whatever it takes to win.

  10. We need more Jews in the US Supreme Court. Even if they were religious I can’t imagine them pushing evil justified by religion into the law as Scalia has demonstrated over the years. Even when Scalia makes a decision I agree with, his reasons are frequently bizarre and I get the impression that the good decisions are merely accidental. Once in a very rare while he’ll make the sort of decision which does exemplify the way judges should decide – but that seems to be blind luck like a first-time golfer getting a hole in one.

    1. I had a dictionary long ago that gave the origin of “cretin” as “chrestin” an old swiss word for “christian”. Makes sense to me

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