Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Scalia the Catholic (?) judge

This story offers an account of a speech Justice Antonin Scalia gave at this event. Here are some snippets:

"The bottom line is that the Catholic faith seems to me to have little effect on my work as a judge," he declared.


"Just as there is no ’Catholic’ way to cook a hamburger," he said to a murmur of laughter, "I am hard-pressed to tell you of a single opinion of mine that would have come out differently if I were not Catholic."

Nonetheless, he continued, his Catholic faith obliges him to abide by two "commands" in his life and his work as a judge.

" ’Be thou perfect as thy heavenly Father is perfect.’ And ’Thou shalt not lie,’ " he said.

Those principles, he said, call him to be a strict constructionist of the law, one who does not "distort prior cases" or the Constitution in order to assert that certain rights are guaranteed under law.

Our friend Jim Stoner was also on the conference program. If he has a take, I’d love to hear it.

Update: MOJ’s Rob Vischer wonders about this, and calls our attention to this paper on prudence and judging for a more extended treatment of Justice Scalia’s similar remarks in the past. Might this be an example of Scalia’s adherence to a kind of natural law that informs his judging--not, I hasten to add, the attribution of a natural law background to the Constitution (a la Justice Thomas), but rather an assertion that judges have universal obligations?

Update #2 Rick Garnett parses Scalia:

To be a Catholic judge -- and Justice Scalia is, whether he likes it or not, a "Catholic judge" in this sense -- is to be a judge in the way a Catholic, like everyone else, should be a judge: To take seriously one’s obligation to decide impartially, to submit to the rule of law, rather than one’s own preferences, and to have an appropriate humility about the task one is charged to perform. Obviously, this is not a distinctively Catholic way of judging....

Discussions - 2 Comments

I can't believe Justice Scalia doesn't know the Catholic way to cook a hamburger!

Excellent comments by Justice Scalia.

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