Should Antonin Scalia resign because his support of the death penalty contradicts the teaching of the Catholic Church?
Scalia: Catholicism at Core of My Judicial Ethics (2011)
“I am sometimes asked if my beliefs as a Catholic – I would rather say my nature or my identity as a Catholic – affects my legal decision. My response is ‘I certainly hope not.’” Scalia said.
“The laws that I apply have a fair meaning. And that meaning is no different for a Catholic than it is for a Jew, any more than it is different for a woman and a man, or a white man and a black.”
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for a Catholic law school education, said Scalia. The beliefs and morals of a Catholic education are important in the writing of laws and formulating legislation.
Scalia said that while he can be a judge and be a Catholic, his beliefs as a Catholic are still of upmost importance.
Referring to protestors against the death penalty that he encountered on his way to the presentation, Scalia said, “If I thought that the Catholic doctrine held that the death penalty to be immoral, I would resign.”
Scalia explained that while he doesn’t make his judicial decisions based on his religion he wouldn’t work with a judicial system that was counter to the laws of Catholicism.
Catechism of the Catholic Church
2263 The legitimate defense of persons and societies is not an exception to the prohibition against the murder of the innocent that constitutes intentional killing. "The act of self-defense can have a double effect: the preservation of one's own life; and the killing of the aggressor. . . . The one is intended, the other is not."65
2264 Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one's own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow:
- If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful. . . . Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one's own life than of another's.66
2266 The efforts of the state to curb the spread of behavior harmful to people's rights and to the basic rules of civil society correspond to the requirement of safeguarding the common good. Legitimate public authority has the right and duty to inflict punishment proportionate to the gravity of the offense. Punishment has the primary aim of redressing the disorder introduced by the offense. When it is willingly accepted by the guilty party, it assumes the value of expiation. Punishment then, in addition to defending public order and protecting people's safety, has a medicinal purpose: as far as possible, it must contribute to the correction of the guilty party.67
2267 Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.
If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.
Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm - without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself - the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not practically nonexistent."68
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