WASHINGTON — Noted law professor Robert George, while serving as
the master of ceremonies for the Catholic Information Center's annual dinner in
Washington Oct. 26, said, "We honor two great men — Antonin Scalia and St.
John Paul II."
The center posthumously honored Justice Scalia with its fifth
annual St. John Paul II Award for the New Evangelization. Scalia was an
associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court from 1986 until his death Feb. 13
at age 79.
The award was presented to Maureen Scalia, his widow, and to one
of their nine children, Father Paul Scalia, a priest of the Arlington Diocese.
"No one in our nation ever had greater fidelity to our
Constitution than Antonin Scalia. ... He was never ashamed of the Gospel or to
speak publicly of his faith," said George, the McCormick professor of
jurisprudence and director of the James Madison program in American ideals and
institutions at Princeton University.
Addressing the more than 400 people attending the sold-out
dinner, George said the unexpected death of the justice eight months earlier
was a tragedy for his family and the nation, but he said that at the award
dinner, they would celebrate the life of "a man who set such an example of
Catholic fidelity for all of us. ... What a hero he was, not only of the Constitution
and our republican (form of) government, but of our Catholic faith as
The Catholic Information Center in Washington offers regular
lectures by noted speakers, a program for the spiritual development of young
professionals, daily Mass and spiritual counseling, and a bookstore.
George praised the center for reaching out with "the love
and light of Christ" to people in the nation's capital.
Thomas Yannucci, a partner in the law firm of Kirkland &
Ellis LLP and chairman of the center's board, said it reflects the vision of
Pope Francis, who said he thinks the Catholic Church should be a "field
hospital" bringing Christ's healing to people.
"It really is a field hospital. That's what the church needs
to do — heal people where they work and live," he said.
In his invocation at the dinner, Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl praised Scalia's
"May his courage to share his faith in the public square be
a model for us in this age of the new evangelization," the cardinal said.
In a video tribute before the award was presented, Noel
Francisco, a partner in the Jones Day law firm, praised Scalia as "the
greatest jurist of the 20th century."
The video included a poignant clip of Scalia giving the June 2015
commencement address at his granddaughter Megan's Catholic high school, Stone
Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda, Md.
"Good intentions are not enough. Being a good person begins
with being a wise person. Then when you follow your conscience, you will be
headed in the right direction," said Scalia.
The dinner's keynote speaker was Edward Whelan, president of the
Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington and a law clerk to Scalia from
"In 'Christifideles Laici,' John Paul II emphasized the duty of the lay faithful
to sanctify the world 'by fulfilling their own particular duties,’ ” Whelan
said, quoting from the pope's 1988 apostolic exhortation. "By faithfully
and courageously living out his professional vocation in the secular world,
Justice Scalia provided a powerful example for the rest of us."
Whelan noted that "as a jurist, Antonin Scalia was an
apostle of textualism. As a man, he was a disciple of the Word. By his example
and quiet counsel, he encouraged those of us who knew him to embrace our faith
more deeply and to strive to live our own lives of moral courage and
The keynote speaker said the impact of Scalia's example could be
seen by "the lines of thousands of mourners who waited for hours in cold
weather to pay their respects as his body lay in repose at the Supreme
Whelan noted the similarities that Scalia had with the justice's
favorite saint, Thomas More. Scalia's official Supreme Court portrait showed a
painting of the saint on his desk.
"Both had great legal minds that carried them to the heights
of governmental power. Both were noted for their wit and their capacity for
friendship. Both were embroiled in controversies over the nature of marriage
and religious liberty. Both were men of faith and of prayer," he said.
Whelan noted that Scalia admired St. Thomas More for being a
"fool for Christ" in the eyes of the world, as that statesman was
executed by the order of King Henry VIII after refusing to publicly support the
king's divorce and second marriage out of fidelity to the pope and Catholic
The keynoter said that Scalia's rulings on cases involving issues
such as abortion, marriage and religious freedom were guided not by his
Catholic faith, but by his adherence to the text of the Constitution, and he
noted that the justice once said, "I don't think there's any such thing as
a Catholic judge. There are good judges and bad judges."
Whelan also praised Scalia as a family man. "We celebrate
Justice Scalia for his 55 years of devoted marriage to his wonderful wife. And
we take delight in the visible fruits of that marriage: their nine remarkable
children — one priest, four husbands and fathers, four wives and mothers, (and)
their 36 grandchildren born so far."
In closing, Whelan encouraged Catholics to emulate Scalia.
"May we all be inspired by his example to live Catholic lives of
integrity. May we see not with the eyes of men but with the eyes of faith. May
we be wise in Christ. And may we, too, have the courage to suffer the contempt
of the sophisticated world."