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Catholic lawyers urged to seek common ground

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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 Richmond.

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 homily.

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.








© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016