Local Catholics Honor Scalia

by Patty Gayes, from the Catholic New World, Oct. 15, 2006

    At an Oct. 7 dinner, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia told an audience of 300 that society tends to "accommodate Gospel values to secular trends."

     Similarly, he said, courts have tended to look to spiritual values or historical trends in considering constitutional questions, he said.  In both cases, he said, the truth is found in the words--of the Constitution and of the Bible.  "Once we depart from the Constitution," he said, "just where short of that do we stop?"

     Scalia was being honored by the American Catholic Press, who presented Scalia with its highest acknowledgement, the Gratiam Dei Award, at Flossmoor Country Club.

     Scalia was interrupted by applause frequently as he spoke about constitutional law from the perspective of a Catholic and an advocate of strict textual interpretation of the nation's statutes and Constitution.

     In his 20 years on the Supreme Court, Scalia has been known as a frequent dissenter in the court's opinions, because of his strict interpretations and also because of his convictions that the judicial branch is the protector of separation of powers.

     In his testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1986, he said he considered the most important part of the Constitution to be the system of  "checks and balances among the three branches . . . so that no one of them is able to 'run roughshod' over the liberties of the people."

     In his Oct. 7 speech, Scalia pointed out that citizens have a moral obligation, according to Scripture, to defer to the state's authority.

     "Lawful civil authority must be obeyed--not out of fear, but as St. Paul says, for conscience's sake," he said.  The principle is much more obscured in a democratic government than in a country led by a king or a ruler determined by battle, he added.  "It is not easy to see God's hand at work in PACs" (political action committees) "and in the machinery of our election process."

     "If men were angels, no government would be necessary," Scalia said.  "The more responsible the citizens, the fewer the laws and the freer the society."

  
Professor Emeritus Richard Michael of Loyola University Professor Michael introducing Justice Scalia. Photo by Matthew Grotto/The Star.and Justice Anne Burke, left, greeting Justice Scalia, rightIllinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke introduced Scalia, followed by Father Michael Gilligan's presentation to Scalia of the Gratiam Dei Award.  Gilligan, president of American Catholic Press, said in an interview that Scalia "is a family man, devoted to his family and his Church, a person of integrity . . . who integrates his life and his faith."

   The Master of Ceremonies for the evening was Celia Gamrath, president of The Justinian Society of Lawyers.  Bishop Thomas Paprocki offered grace before dinner.  At the end of the evening, after a sung litany of peace, Father William Killeen, pastor of Flossmoor's Infant Jesus of Prague Parish, offered thanks.  The evening ended with a surprise gift to those present--a copy of Scalia Dissents, a recent compilation of Justice Scalia's opinions.

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