Catholics who faithfully follow the law — both of church and
state — are doing what the Lord wants them to do, but they need to keep their
focus on seeking the common good for all society.
Father Paul D. Scalia, delegate of the apostolic administrator
for clergy, delivered this message at the annual Red Mass for members of the
legal profession Nov. 10 at Mary Mother of the Church Benedictine Abbey in
As one of nine children of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin
G. Scalia, Father Scalia was born in Charlottesville and spent most of his childhood
in Northern Virginia.
"Let us pray that practitioners of the law seek the common
good and the higher good of the Lord's call," Father Scalia said in his
Lawyers and judges are part of a profession that seeks "a
stable, peaceful and just society so we can respond to what God wants us to
do," he said.
He encouraged people who "live a simple day-to-day life of
stability" to be looked upon as having sense of duty and service. But he
acknowledged there is always the temptation of some "to go off and pursue
other things." He cited the words of C.S. Lewis who is known to have said
that "we grow tired of the same old thing." Father Scalia credited
St. Benedict with instilling the vow of stability and said that those who are
inclined to leave current things behind to pursue some different need would not
always find what they are seeking.
The Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesus' time were a major part of
Father Scalia's address at the dinner following Mass.
"The Lord had more in common with the Pharisees," he
said. "They took the law of Moses seriously. They took their faith
seriously ... At the end of the day we're all Pharisees."
Father Scalia said the Sadducees could be characterized as those
followers of Jesus who were interested in maintaining their political power.
They showed more interest in their own power than they did in faith.
They did not have the same sense of duty to the law as the
Pharisees and would be likely to say things such as "I'm personally
opposed but ... " and then dissent from the law.
"The law is good," Father Scalia said. "The
Catholic view of the law is that it is good and is to serve the human person. We
are meant to live in relationship with one another and live our lives as human
persons," he said.
"We know how we should act, but what we're getting into
today is a certain lawlessness, a disrespect of the rule of law,” he said. "We
have in a sense lost what it means to be human. Law is written in your
conscience to avoid evil and do good."
"The law is not all there is," Father Scalia said.
"That was the problem with the Pharisees." They wanted to strictly
obey the law, "but the Lord wanted something more," he said.
In a sense, many Catholics today are guilty of the same thing
because they see themselves as diligently obeying church laws, but don't go further
by promoting the common good.
"All of us are guilty," Father Scalia said, using the
example of Catholics who "punch their ticket at Mass," then feel they
have fulfilled their Sunday obligation, which is enough to please God.
"That's not enough," Father Scalia said. "Our
lives as citizens should be much broader."
Father Scalia suggested that the government's intrusion into
private matters of society happened because too many Catholics did not give
public witness to their faith. He said his father felt it was important to give
witness to his Catholic faith.
"All of this that we've been through (in the recent
presidential campaign) should prompt us to ask 'where did the government get
the idea to intrude on us?' It is perhaps because we weren't willing to speak
up," he said.
He strongly asserted the duties of Christ's followers.
"We should not cut corners on who we are and what we
believe," he said.
Neill is editor of The Catholic Virginian.