On Faith: Lessons from an American Believer
Publisher: Crown Forum
Publication Date: April 9, 2019
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On Faith is an inspiring collection of the late Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia's reflections on his own Catholic faith, on the unique challenges that religious believers face in modern America, and on the religious freedoms protected by the Constitution. Featuring an insightful and personal introduction by Justice Scalia's son Father Paul Scalia, this book will enrich your understanding of this legendary justice.
Antonin Scalia was a brilliant man and reflected deeply on matters of religion. He shared his insights with many different audiences over the course of his remarkable career through lectures and speeches. As a Supreme Court justice for three decades, he vigorously defended the American constitutional tradition of allowing religion a prominent place in the public square. As a man of faith, he recognized the special challenges of living a distinctively religious life in modern America, and he inspired other believers to meet those challenges.
This volume contains Justice Scalia's incisive thoughts on these matters, laced with his characteristic wit. It includes outstanding speeches featured in Scalia Speaks and also draws from his Supreme Court opinions and his articles. In addition to the introduction by Fr. Scalia, other highlights include Fr. Scalia's beautiful homily at his father's funeral Mass and reminiscences from various friends and law clerks whose lives were influenced by Antonin Scalia's faith.
Included in the book are all sorts of interesting tidbits like the fact that Scalia was an avid fan of the traditional Latin Mass. He was one of those dads who would drive a good distance every Sunday to have his family attend what he considered to be a decent liturgy.
I remember during my first year of law school I would always try to find something that Justice Scalia said that was wrong...and I failed every time. Now, as a law school graduate, I thought I may have found found an error in his theological analysis. After combing through "On the Roman Pontiff" by St. Robert Bellarmine; translated by Ryan Grant (also available on Tumblar House; void where prohibited) I discovered to my unfortunately accustomed shame that Justice Scalia was correct and I was wrong, once again. A fount of knowledge and much needed humility, as usual, by a learned Son of the Church.
I wanted to read this book for many reasons: 1.) Scalia always striked me as a feisty Italian, like many of my relatives 2.) I have enjoyed his sharp, outspoken words in some crucial Supreme Court decisions 3.) I wanted to see how in the world a faithful Catholic can maintain his beliefs and reconcile them with the American judicial system, being so high up, when it seems that the price you have to pay to rise to the top is to renounce your faith!
As it turns out, there's even more interesting background to Scalia. He was an avid Latin Mass goer, despite being educated at Harvard, and also by the Jesuits at Georgetown, neither of which have the greatest track record when it comes to churning out devout Catholics.
In other words, I read this truly out of biographical curiosity rather than to learn and study the wisdom of Scalia. I have somewhat different views from him, but despite that, I enjoyed the common ground we had, particularly when it came to his attacks on the insane liberal logic of some of these tragic Supreme Court decisions.
He absolutely embraces a Catholic counter-culturalism, which was very refreshing. Being a "fool for Christ". And furthermore, he even recognized that smart men like Jefferson, made huge errors when it come to the denial of the supernatural and miraculous in the Bible. It seems that he recognized the Founding Fathers were flawed men, but nevertheless accepted the sort of Eisenhower approach that America must be a very vague albeit devoutly religious country. He seems to see the moral decay of the country as an unnatural happening whereas to me, a deist Enlightenment approach possesses the seeds of its own destruction.
Nevertheless, Scalia proudly defends the traditions of America in terms of its built-in religiosity and moral character. His arguments regarding the death penalty were also fascinating and enlightening. He did not like Pope Francis's amendment to the catechism at all when it came to the death penalty.
I highly recommend the book for all those interested. It's a quick and easy read, and you do learn a lot about the unique challenges and approach of a judge who is devoutly Catholic. You can't simply can't impose your faith as an opinion You have to abide by the constraints and framework of the law, and it was fascinating to see the ways Scalia attempted to do that.