Skip to comments.Antonin Scalia’s Catholic Priest Son Doesn’t Like Being Called a Conservative [Catholic Caucus]
Posted on 05/03/2017 9:50:11 AM PDT by BlessedBeGod
Paul Scalia was a teenager when his father, the late Antonin Scalia, was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Ronald Reagan in 1986. By then, the younger Scalia had already begun to feel a pull toward the Catholic priesthood. A decade later, he would be ordained at St. Catherines, his familys parish in Great Falls. He has served in the Diocese of Arlington ever since.
But following his eloquent homily at his fathers funeral Mass last year, Father Scalia has become more visible. He was recently named vicar for clergy by Arlingtons new bishop, and in March a collection of Father Scalias writing on his faith, That Nothing May Be Lost, was published by Ignatius Press. We talked with him about growing up Catholicand growing up Scalia.
Well, first of all, in the outpouring of prayers, Mass cards, and condolences that came from Catholics and Christians and people of other faiths from throughout the world, because they knew him to be a man of faith, and not necessarily their own faith. You take it for granted growing upthats Dad, and we go to Mass because thats what we dobut his faith had an impact that I had not perceived. It makes me value more deeply the things he communicated.
I dont think my siblings and I have been so grateful for each other as in the weeks and months after his death. We were right there for one another, with a sense of that faith.
I was assigned to St. John the Beloved in McLean for just over four years, and soon after I arrived, he started coming. Hed be there every Sunday when he wasnt traveling. Id like to think it had to do with me, too, but it had a lot to with the traditional Latin Mass we offered.
I dont have any indications of that. [Laughs.] Shortly before he died, we revisited an old argument about the difference between a homily and a sermon. He didnt like the word homily, typically a commentary on Scripture. He preferred the word sermon, which is a talk on faith or dogma. I like to think I brought him along a little.
[Laughs.] Break it to them! Its not like they were disappointed. I was going into my senior year at the College of the Holy Cross. It was uneventful because they saw it before I did.
Right, one less wedding! But youre rightits an openness to life that my parents clearly lived. When it comes to artificially limiting family size, many families are going to hold back on nourishing a vocation. Theyll say, Gosh, I want my son or daughter to have a family.
Those changes are more prevalent in the Northeast Catholic centers. Its only in the last 30 or 40 years that the Church has boomed in Northern Virginia. There wasnt the institutional structure. We have some high schools, but we have no hospitals, no nursing homes, so the culture is not what it is in other places. So if youre going to be Catholic, you have to be more deliberate about it. You have to choose it. I think thats a blessing. You dont want a culture that enables people to take faith for granted. You want a culture that elicits from you a personal commitment to be Catholic and not just lets you coast.
Right, the biggest change that Ive seen is the change that anyone here sees, which is growth. Theres been an enormous increase in the Hispanic population. Some parishes are now half Hispanic. But its not only the Hispanics. We have a Vietnamese parish, a Korean parish. We have an Eritrean community, a Ghanaian community. Weve got all of these groups who have come to the area over the years. Thats the most significant change.
I dont like the term conservative. Thats a political category. I guess you could say traditional, but then every Catholic is traditional, or ought to be, because we have to be rooted in the tradition of the Church. So I dont like those categories, because it sounds like tradition is an option. It feeds into stereotypes. The fact of the matter is that if youre adhering to the Churchs teachings, theres always going to be someone who thinks you are too traditional or not traditional enough.
I was 15. You have to understand, this was before the court took on the enormous role it has now in public life. I think my father would be the first to say that it should not have the enormous role it has now, that its a distortion of its purpose. The court should have a more modest role. When he was appointed in 86, I was in high school with the children of senators and congressmen and governors, and they were the better-known names. Later, the name got to be better known, but it wasnt a big deal. He was dad, and the lawn better be mowed and youd better not be late for dinner.
That wasnt consciously from my dad. It was just as much my mom. Shes a very well-read woman and is always reading.
I actually started writing in college, where I started a newspaper, the Fenwick Review. It was to get some good discussion going on campus about things, focused on the faith, to discuss it and write about and get into those issues.
[First Things founder] Father Richard John Neuhaus had seen a letter to the editor Id written, and he asked me to write for him. His book The Catholic Moment had a strong effect on me in college in terms of my vocation to the priesthood.
They were people I know well personally and those who have had some influence on me. Mary Ellen Bork, the widow of Judge Robert Bork, was a parishioner in McLean and a friend of the family.
Faith is a big enough topic.
Faith is not disconnected from that. If we speak about faith, we have to talk about the public living of it. It can never be a private matter. It always has to be lived out in the public square.
This has been a discussion since the Pharisees, since Our Lord said, Give to Caesar what is Caesars and give to God what is Gods. Saint Ambrose addressed this with the emperor; Thomas More addressed this with Henry VIII. What are the lines, and what are the limits?
The role of the Church is to inform the conscience, not to draft legislation. But we have a right to live out our faith publicly. It cant be confined to the Church or schoolthus far, no further. That doesnt comport with our human freedom.
I dont feel that. My purpose is for the care of souls. My concern is for the care of souls as a priest. That may step into the national conversation, but thats only in pursuit of the care of souls. Thats not an end in itself. There are plenty of people who do that, and its fine, but as a priest my concern is not to be a cultural commentator or an observer of the national scene.
I hope that for those Catholics who read it, their faith will be renewed and deepened. And I hope any non-Catholics read it and become intrigued by the faith, look into the faith, and come to it. That would be wonderful.
Wow, a priest who actually knows what his job is. Too bad the bishops don't.
Fr. Scalia for bishop!
Father Scalia is right. There is no such thing as “conservatism” in the Catholic Church - its tradition. Very nice interview.
Why did you make this "Catholic Caucus"? I think some of our non-Catholic brethren and sistren might have some positive contributions to make here.
A misleading headline to say the least. Typical.
Sometimes even the most innocuous Catholic threads end up in a brawl, and I’m tired of it. So, I’ve been making every thread that I can a Catholic Caucus thread.
"The Diocese of Arlington has a reputation of being rather conservative. Was that true as long as you can remember?"
"I dont like the term conservative. Thats a political category. I guess you could say traditional, but then every Catholic is traditional, or ought to be, because we have to be rooted in the tradition of the Church. So I dont like those categories, because it sounds like tradition is an option. It feeds into stereotypes. The fact of the matter is that if youre adhering to the Churchs teachings, theres always going to be someone who thinks you are too traditional or not traditional enough."
The headline is misleading.
The article itself shows he knows very well that the words “conservative” and “liberal” are political flags, especially in Northern Virginia which is filled with Fed.gov nomenklatura
He smartly seems to want to stick to standard Catholic dogma and tradition
I wonder if, since your fathers passing, people are looking to you to say more. Do you feel the need to address bigger topics?
Faith is a big enough topic.
Fr. Scalia took advantage of a singular moment, the sudden death of his father, to compose a magnificent sermon for the Mass of Christian Burial. I have saved it and distributed it to many people who have asked me about the essentials of the Catholic Faith.
Your Eminence Cardinal Wuerl, Your Excellencies, Archbishop Viganò, Bishop Loverde, Bishop Higgins, my brother priests, deacons, distinguished guests, dear friends and faithful gathered:
On behalf of our mother and the entire Scalia family, I want to thank you for your presence here, for your many words of consolation, and even more for the many prayers and Masses you have offered at the death of our father, Antonin Scalia.
In particular I thank Cardinal Wuerl, first for reaching out so quickly and so graciously to console our mother. It was a consolation to her and therefore to us as well. Thank you also for allowing us to have this parish funeral Mass here in this basilica dedicated to Our Lady. What a great privilege and consolation that we were able to bring our father through the holy doors and for him gain the indulgence promised to those who enter in faith.
I thank Bishop Loverde, the bishop of our diocese of Arlington, a bishop our father liked and respected a great deal. Thank you, Bishop Loverde, for your prompt visit to our mother, for your words of consolation, for your prayers.
The family will depart for the private burial immediately after Mass and will not have time to visit, so I want to express our thanks at this time so that you all know our profound appreciation and thanks. You will notice in the program mention of a memorial that will be held on March 1st. We hope to see many of you there. We hope the Lord will repay your great goodness to us.
We are gathered here because of one man. A man known personally to many of us, known only by reputation to even more. A man loved by many, scorned by others. A man known for great controversy, and for great compassion. That man, of course, is Jesus of Nazareth.
It is He whom we proclaim. Jesus Christ, son of the father, born of the Virgin Mary, crucified, buried, risen, seated at the right hand of the Father. It is because of him. because of his life, death and resurrection that we do not mourn as those who have no hope, but in confidence we commend Antonin Scalia to the mercy of God.
Scripture says Jesus Christ is the same yesterday today and forever. And that sets a good course for our thoughts and our prayers here today. In effect, we look in three directions. To yesterday, in thanksgiving. To today, in petition. And into eternity, with hope.
We look to Jesus Christ yesterday, that is, to the past, in thanksgiving for the blessings God bestowed upon Dad. In the past week, many have recounted what Dad did for them. But here today, we recount what God did for Dad, how he blessed him.
We give thanks first of all for the atoning death and life-giving resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our Lord died and rose not only for all of us, but also for each of us. And at this time we look to that yesterday of his death and resurrection, and we give thanks that he died and rose for Dad.
Further, we give thanks that Jesus brought him to new life in baptism, nourished him with the Eucharist, and healed him in the confessional.
We give thanks that Jesus bestowed upon him 55 years of marriage to the woman he loved, a woman who could match him at every step, and even hold him accountable.
God blessed Dad with a deep Catholic faith: The conviction that Christ's presence and power continue in the world today through His body, the Church. He loved the clarity and coherence of the church's teachings. He treasured the church's ceremonies, especially the beauty of her ancient worship. He trusted the power of her sacraments as the means of salvation as Christ working within him for his salvation.
Although one time, one Saturday afternoon, he did scold me for having heard confessions that afternoon, that same day. And I hope that it's some source of consolation, if there are any lawyers present, that the Roman collar was not a shield against his criticism.
The issue that evening was not that I had been hearing confessions, but that he had found himself in my confessional line, and he quickly departed it. As he put it later, "Like heck if I'm confessing to you!"
The feeling was mutual.
God blessed Dad, as is well known, with a love for his country. He knew well what a close-run thing the founding of our nation was. And he saw in that founding, as did the founders themselves, a blessing, a blessing quickly lost when faith is banned form the public square, or when we refuse to bring it there. So he understood that there is no conflict between loving God and loving one's country, between one's faith and one's public service. Dad understood that the deeper he went in his Catholic faith, the better a citizen and public servant he became. God blessed him with the desire to be the country's good servant because he was God's first.
We Scalias, however, give thanks for a particular blessing God bestowed. God blessed Dad with a love for his family. We have been thrilled to read and hear the many words of praise and admiration for him, for his intellect, his writings, his speeches, his influence and so on.
But more important to us and to him is that he was Dad. He was the father that God gave us for the great adventure of family life. Sure he forgot our names at times, or mixed them up, but there are nine of us.
He loved us, and sought to show that love. And sought to share the blessing of the faith he treasured. And he gave us one another, to have each other for support. That's the greatest wealth parents can bestow, and right now we are particularly grateful for it.
So we look to the past, to Jesus Christ yesterday. We call to mind all of these blessings, and we give our Lord the honor and glory for them, for they are His work. We look to Jesus today, in petition, to the present moment, here and now, as we mourn the one we love and admire, the one whose absence pains us. Today we pray for him. We pray for the repose of his soul. We thank God for his goodness to Dad as is right and just. But we also know that although dad believed, he did so imperfectly, like the rest of us. He tried to love God and neighbor, but like the rest of us did so imperfectly.
He was a practicing Catholic, "practicing" in the sense that he hadn't perfected it yet. Or rather, Christ was not yet perfected in him. And only those in whom Christ is brought to perfection can enter heaven. We are here, then, to lend our prayers to that perfecting, to that final work of God's grace, in freeing Dad from every encumbrance of sin.
But don't take my word for it. Dad himself, not surprisingly, had something to say on the matter. Writing years ago to a Presbyterian minister whose funeral service he admired, he summarized quite nicely the pitfalls of funerals and why he didn't like eulogies.
He wrote: "Even when the deceased was an admirable person, indeed especially when the deceased was an admirable person, praise for his virtues can cause us to forget that we are praying for and giving thanks for God's inexplicable mercy to a sinner."
Now he would not have exempted himself from that. We are here then, as he would want, to pray for God's inexplicable mercy to a sinner. To this sinner, Antonin Scalia. Let us not show him a false love and allow our admiration to deprive him of our prayers. We continue to show affection for him and do good for him by praying for him: That all stain of sin be washed away, that all wounds be healed, that he be purified of all that is not Christ. That he rest in peace.
Finally we look to Jesus forever, into eternity. Or better, we consider our own place in eternity and whether it will be with the Lord. Even as we pray for Dad to enter swiftly into eternal glory, we should be mindful of ourselves. Every funeral reminds us of just how thin the veil is between this world and the next, between time and eternity, between the opportunity for conversion and the moment of judgment.
So we cannot depart here unchanged. It makes no sense to celebrate God's goodness and mercy to Dad if we are not attentive and responsive to those realities in our own lives. We must allow this encounter with eternity to change us, to turn us from sin and towards the Lord.
The English Dominican, Father Bede Jarrett, put it beautifully when he prayed, "O strong son of God, while you prepare a place for us, prepare us also for that happy place, that we may be with you and with those we love for all eternity."
Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever,.
My dear friends, this is also the structure of the Mass, the greatest prayer we can offer for Dad, because it's not our prayer, but the Lord's. The Mass looks to Jesus yesterday. It reaches into the past reaches to the Last Supper, to the crucifixion, to the resurrection and it makes those mysteries and their power present here on this altar.
Jesus himself becomes present here today under the form of bread and wine so that we can unite all our prayers of thanksgiving, sorrow and petition with Christ himself as an offering to the father. And all of this with a view to eternity, stretching towards heaven, where we hope one day to enjoy that perfect union with God himself and to see Dad again and, with him, rejoice in the communion of saints.
It doesn't reflect a Christian ethos permeated by grace.
Agreed. Make them all a Caucus thread
I agree with you.
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