It came as no surprise when a dear friend, Andy V. of Minnesota, wrote me concerning a comment Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia made during an interview with Leslie Stahl on 60 Minutes on April 27. Since I never watch network programming, which is, I presume, a blessing, I simply had no idea what the Catholic Scalia had said.
Perhaps you did, but in case you are uninformed, the following is from the transcript of that interview:
"What is the connection between your Catholicism, your Jesuit education, and your judicial philosophy?" Stahl asks.
"It has nothing to do with how I decide cases," Scalia replies. He then continues:
My job is to interpret the Constitution accurately. And indeed, there are anti-abortion people who think that the Constitution requires a state to prohibit abortion. They say that the Equal Protection Clause requires that you treat a helpless human being that's still in the womb the way you treat other human beings. I think that's wrong. I think when the Constitution says that persons are entitled to equal protection of the laws, I think it clearly means walking-around persons. You don't count pregnant women twice.
If this shocks you, stay tuned – there’s more!
Paul Benjamin Linton, an attorney for a preeminent pro-life legal organization, Americans United for Life, pointed out years ago – six years ago to be exact – in an article published in First Things:
No present or past justice has ever taken the position that the unborn child is, or should be regarded as, a "person" as understood in the Fourteenth Amendment, including the late Justice White, perhaps the most eloquent critic of Roe v. Wade. And in the Carhart case, the Court refused even to consider Nebraska’s argument that a partially born child is a constitutional person. That question was rejected for review without dissent. So much for the naive notion of "forcing" the Court to take on the personhood issue.
But there is more than silence to indicate the justice's views. Dissenting in Casey, Justice Antonin Scalia stated, "The states may, if they wish, permit abortion-on-demand, but the Constitution does not require them to do so."
Clearly the bandied about statement that Justice Antonin Scalia is "pro-life" is not only false but misleading to the core.
Whether we examine Scalia’s stated position in light of his alleged Catholicism or in light of his personal opinion of the yet-to-be-born individual whose life begins at the point he is created – whether through the union of human sperm and human egg or some type of reproductive technology – the justice errs.
One might wonder why it is, then, that legal scholars like Clarke Forsythe, Americans United for Life president, insist that those who support personhood for the preborn are wrong and Scalia is somehow more accurate! Oh yes, my friends.
In his recent article, "A Lack of Prudence," Forsythe writes about those who took issue with Scalia’s agreement in the recent Supreme Court decision dealing with the Partial Birth Abortion law, Carhart v. Gonzales. He suggests that we do not respect the justice nor do we treat him with the charity that is due him. While I guess that might be the perception in some quarters, I have to ask how much respect Scalia is showing the teachings of his own Church when he makes it patently clear that it’s wrong to think that we should treat human beings in the womb in the same way we treat other human beings who, thank God, have escaped the womb!
Where is the respect for those lives that Scalia dismisses as if they were simply unworthy of consideration?
Not only is Scalia’s comment on 60 Minutes flip and downright ridiculous, as a matter of fact, it is heretical.
Yes, I said his comment was heretical and I do know what that word means. I am not calling the Justice a heretic, I am simply saying that his comment is a stark departure from the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. If you wish to check for yourself and understand what the Church teaches, see this from Pope John Paul II in his May 24, 1996 address to those who attended the symposium "Evangelium Vitae and the Law:"
While distinguishing between the sciences concerned, and recognizing that the attribution of the concept of person is a philosophical issue, we must assume, as our starting point, the biological status of the embryo, which is a human individual having the qualities and dignity proper to the person.
The human embryo has basic rights, that is, it possesses indispensable constituents for a being's connatural activity to be able to take place according to its own vital principle.
Let’s say you are reading this and have little concern about what the Catholic Church teaches on the identity and status of the human embryo. You are of course entitled to an opinion on that, but what about the scientific evidence? As John Shea, M.D. wrote in his article "The Pre-Embryo Question:"
It was first demonstrated in 1980 by Jean Smith of Queen's College, Flushing, New York, that the human body has a shape from the moment of fertilization. This was confirmed by Richard Gardner, an embryologist at Oxford University, U.K., in 2002. Which side of the microscopic embryo will form the back and head are not left to later development as has been believed by embryologists, but are determined in the minutes and hours after the sperm and egg unite to form a new human being. The "newly fertilized egg has a definite top – bottom axis that sets up the equivalent axis in the future embryo." The early mammalian embryo is no longer a "featureless ball of cells."
The scientific verification of the human embryo as human being is available to anyone who has the desire to study the development of the human embryo and understand that he or she has unrepeatable characteristics from the beginning.
Among the many scientific presentations I have read and understood as a non-scientist, is Professor Dianne Irving’s The Carnegie Stages of Early Human Embryonic Development.
Regardless of your preference – Catholic teaching or scientific fact – when examining the positions taken by a United States Supreme Court Justice who is allegedly pro-life, the above documentation makes it perfectly clear that Justice Scalia does not deserve that title. He may be conservative and yes, he may be a strict interpreter of the Constitution of the United States in the opinion of some, but he is not pro-life.
In fact, having thought about his most recent comments on 60 Minutes, I would venture to say he is one of the preborn child’s worst enemies.