Antonin Scalia: America's Thomas More
“In every interaction you have with people, you can either give them life or take some away.” -Toby Mac
The passing of Justice Antonin Scalia is a great tragedy. Although all things are done in God’s time, I, along with many others, selfishly wish that he could have been permitted to remain with us longer. His death raises many interesting lessons that we can apply to our lives. Truly this was a man who lived the haunting words of Christ, “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you (falsely) because of me.”
Justice Scalia was truly America’s Thomas More. A well-read scholar of the law, he understood the wisdom of the Church and carried his faith with him to work each day. Combining his faith with reason, logic, and knowledge of the law, he followed his conscience regardless of the winds of social and peer pressure. He wrote boldly despite the vicious attacks that he faced in the media, among pundits, and from everyday Americans. This was the life of Thomas More. More lost his head and Scalia lost his reputation. This is the mark of a martyr: unwavering proclamation of truth in the face of power.
Justice Scalia has nine children, one of his sons is a priest of the Diocese of Arlington. I was grieved by the fact that almost immediately, his enemies began to publicly celebrate his passing. The chance to nominate a Supreme Court justice is one of the most lasting impacts of a presidency, but the sinister nature of celebrating the death of one man for the gain of one’s own objectives is both revolting and deeply sad. In this way, I think that Justice Scalia had one more lesson to share with us.
In evaluating my own responses, I was deeply ashamed to realize that if one of my enemies were to die, I would feel a sense of relief. This deplorable reaction is beyond selfish and is a betrayal of what it means to be human. We must consider that there are two sides to every event. While enemies may celebrate, one’s family is in mourning. How callous to dance on the grave while a family is grieving. We’ve lost the ability to divorce one’s actions from one’s personhood and dignity. This is the exact challenge of the Christian life, the call from Christ Himself to love our enemies calls us back to this point. People are not the enemy, actions, decisions, and sin are the enemy. Christ wasn’t calling us to be best friends with our enemies, but rather to recognize that behind the course of action they were pursing was a child of God, created as we are in God’s image and likeness, who has innate dignity regardless of their actions or affiliations.
Our success in the Christian life is based on more than just our personal actions. The things and the people that we surround ourselves with is just as important as the actions we take. Less than 12 hours after the news broke of Justice Scalia’s passing, one of my favorite websites, The Onion had a disparaging headline about the man. They are doubtless a comedy organization and their mode of operation is to push the limits, but by running the headline, I realized just how insensitive they are. I unsubscribed. They took some of my life away and I refuse to give them any more web traffic which can be leveraged into advertising dollars.
The legacy of Justice Scalia is clear. One’s faith should not be left out of the workplace, even the most complex problems can be solved with logic, and the likelihood of being martyred by one’s country should not dissuade us from relentlessly pursing truth. Justice Scalia was a brilliant legal mind, a devout Catholic, and a brave American who would upheld the principles that our Nation was built upon. He was truly our Thomas More who humbly went about his work for the American people. He will be deeply missed.