Scalia was ‘deeply rooted’ in his faith

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WASHINGTON - Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who died of apparent natural causes Feb. 13, was the longest-serving member of the current Supreme Court. He was 79.

Scalia was nominated to the high court in June 1986 by President Ronald Reagan and confirmed by the Senate that September. With his death, there are now five Catholics among the remaining eight justices.

Widely regarded as an "originalist," Scalia said the best method for judging cases was examining what the Founding Fathers meant when writing the Constitution.

According to media reports Feb. 16, Scalia's body will lie in repose in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court building Feb. 19 from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. A funeral Mass will be offered Feb. 20 at 11 a.m. at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.

Scalia and his wife of nearly 56 years, Maureen McCarthy Scalia, were longtime members of the Arlington Diocese. In addition to his wife, Scalia is survived by the couple's five sons and four daughters as well as 36 grandchildren. Their son, Father Paul Scalia, was ordained a priest of the Arlington Diocese in 1996. He has been episcopal vicar for clergy and director of the diaconate formation program in October 2015.

"The sudden and unexpected death of a person we know always catches us off guard," said Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde in a statement issued Feb. 14. "This is all the more so when that person, so suddenly and unexpectedly taken from our midst, is a man so deeply rooted in his faith, so brilliant in the law and in jurisprudence, so clear and precise in his judicial statements, so wholly committed to his family, so engaging with colleagues and friends, often with great humor.

"We are all deeply saddened by the sudden and unexpected death of Justice Antonin Scalia," the statement read. "His presence among us encouraged us to be faithful to our own responsibilities whether familial, religious or vocational. His wisdom brought clarity to issues. His witness to truth enabled us to seek to do the same.

"God's timeline is not ours," the bishop continued. "We had hoped to enjoy Justice Scalia's presence and to benefit from his insights for a much longer time. We now commend him to the saving mercy of our God Who is compassionate and full of mercy and love.

"We offer our profound sympathy and the pledge of prayer to his beloved wife, to his nine children and many grandchildren, to all other family relatives and friends. We offer as well our sympathy to the Chief Justice and the justices of the Supreme Court and to all those who worked with him and shared life with him. We will continue to work together, seeking the truth and living in love, as Justice Scalia so faithfully endeavored to do."

Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl said of Scalia: "I admired his strong and unwavering faith in the Lord and his dedication to serving our country by upholding the U.S. Constitution." He noted that every year, Scalia attended the Red Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington. The Mass is celebrated to invoke God's blessings on those who work in the administration of justice.

Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese of the Military Services said Feb. 15 that Scalia "was a brilliant jurist who contributed much to the country and I mourn his passing. We are all poorer, because he no longer walks among us, but richer, because of the gifts he shared with us."

According to an AP story, Scalia's body was flown on a private plane from Texas to Virginia, arriving late the night of Feb. 14.

Scalia was found dead in his room at Cibolo Creek Ranch south of Marfa, Texas. The justice was part of a group of 30 or so guests on a hunting trip. Ranch owner John Poindexter told reporters that the justice seemed his usual self at dinner Feb. 12 but also noted Scalia had told his group he was tired and had turned in early. When Scalia didn't appear for breakfast the next morning, Poindexter and another staff member went to check on him and found the justice in "in complete repose" in his room.

By mid-afternoon Feb. 13, Judge Cinderela Guevara of Presidio County, Texas, determined he had died of natural causes. Before making her ruling, she said, she consulted with sheriff's investigators, who were on the scene and who said there were no signs of foul play. Guevara said she also talked with Scalia's physician in Washington; a few days before his hunting trip, the jurist told his doctor he was not feeling well.

The Scalia family felt a private autopsy was unnecessary and requested that his body be returned to Washington as soon as possible, according to Chris Lujan of Sunset Funeral Homes in El Paso, Texas.

Scalia once said in an interview that while he took his Catholic faith seriously, he never allowed it to influence his work on the high court.

"I don't think there's any such thing as a Catholic judge," Scalia told The Catholic Review, Baltimore's archdiocesan newspaper, in 2010. "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 wasn't his job to make policy or law, but to "say only what the law provides."

On the issue of abortion, for example, he told the Review that "if I genuinely thought the Constitution guaranteed a woman's right to abortion, I would be on the other (side)," said Scalia, who long held that abortion is not guaranteed in the Constitution. "It would (have) nothing with my religion," he said. "It has to do with my being a lawyer."

"My burden is not to show that originalism is perfect, but that it beats the other alternatives," he said in a 2010 lecture.

Born in Trenton, N.J., March 11, 1936, and raised on Long Island, Antonin "Nino" Gregory Scalia was an only child. His father, Salvatore, was an Italian immigrant from Sicily, who worked as a clerk and was a graduate student when his son was born. Salvatore eventually became a college professor. Antonin's mother, born in Trenton to Italian immigrant parents, was an elementary school teacher.

In 1953, young Antonin graduated first in his class from Jesuit-run Xavier High School in the New York borough of Manhattan. He graduated from Jesuit-run Georgetown University in 1957, and went on to Harvard Law School, where he graduated in 1960.

Scalia moved to Cleveland, practicing law there with the firm of Jones, Day, Cockley and Reavis until 1967. He then joined the faculty of the University of Virginia School of Law in Charlottesville. He took a leave in 1971 when President Richard Nixon appointed him general counsel for the Office of Telecommunications Policy.

He left the university in 1974, when he was appointed assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel at Department of Justice. In 1977, Scalia returned to teaching. He was on the faculty at the University of Chicago Law School. He also was a visiting professor at the law schools of Georgetown and Stanford University.

In 1982, Reagan nominated him to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, where he served until being named to the Supreme Court.

In a Feb. 15 statement, Catholic University called Scalia "a man who loved his family, his faith, his country and the Constitution that established it."

"He insisted that there is no such thing as a Catholic judge, only good and bad ones," the university said. "But in his 30 years on the Supreme Court, he offered a model for American Catholics of how we might serve both God and country."

Catholic University honored Scalia with the James Cardinal Gibbons Medal, given for service to the nation, the Catholic Church or the university. In 1999, the university gave Scalia an honorary degree.

Scalia was one of the keynote speakers at the 2014 Men's Conference sponsored by the Arlington Diocese. In his talk "The Catholic Layman in Today's Society" he said that reason and intellect should not be set aside when matters of faith are concerned. He encouraged the men to look at St. Thomas More, the patron saint of the Arlington Diocese, as an example of someone they can emulate.

In a question and answer session following his talk, Scalia talked about the de-Christianization of Western civilization and encouraged the men to protect themselves and their families from the culture. He said the sacrifices and hardships endured in this life are worth it because the payoff is eternal life.

Michael F. Flach, George P. Matysek Jr. and Carol Zimmermann contributed to this report.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016