Posts Tagged ‘Supreme Court’

MY ANTONIN

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016

 

Antonin_Scalia_Official_SCOTUS_Portrait_crop

Justice Antonin Scalia

I want to begin by suggesting that every class in homiletics given in the seminary should include as a model approaching perfect that given by Father Paul Scalia at this father’s funeral Mass last Saturday. At the Shrine Basilica of the Immaculate Conception and on national television, Father Scalia gave a textbook homily which combined very sound death/resurrection theology with artful application to his dad and did so with total control of his emotions under what any priest will tell you is a difficult setting and situation – the funeral Mass for one’s parent.

I had two opportunities in my life to be in close proximity with Justice Scalia. The first occurred during my first year as General Secretary of the NCCB/USCC, 1989. The Apostolic Nuncio at the time, Archbishop Pio Laghi had invited Justice Scalia and his wife to lunch at the Nunciature and somehow he also invited myself. When I arrived the Scalia’s were already present and Archbishop Laghi and the judge were engaged in some classic Italian boasting. A simple Irish monsignor could do nothing else but shut up and listen and hope it would end soon.

At the table, somehow the conversation managed to turn around to the pastoral letters on the economy and justice and peace and Justice Scalia articulated clearly and concisely that he was not a fan of either and was not looking forward to the third part of the triptych which was to deal with the role of women in society and the Church. As the rhetoric became a little more heated, the Nuncio, realizing for the first time that I was at table said, “Monsignor Lynch, what do you have to say to the judge?” Before I could answer Scalia piped up and said, “Don’t give me the line that those pastoral letters are really written by bishops. They are the work product of staff.” To which I responded, “and much the same way, Your Honor, as the decisions of the Supreme Court are written start to finish by the nine of you. You too have clerks.” There was muffled laughter from the others at table, including Mrs. Scalia, and the judge simply smiled and said, “touché.”

The second time was in St. Petersburg at the annual Federal Bar dinner. Apparently the Federal Bar dinners had fallen into some desuetude and the Chief Judge of the Federal District Court of Florida, Judge Elizabeth Kovachevich hoped to restore some pizzazz. She called me up one day and asked if I would be willing to write to Judge Scalia and ask if he would be willing to come to Tampa to give the principal address at the annual banquet. He responded affirmatively (I also wrote similar letters to Justices Thomas, Alito and the Chief Justice, William Rehnquist and all accepted the invitations and the number of lawyers attending the bar dinners dramatically increased). Judge Scalia arrived at the table and it was clearly evident that he was not in a good frame of mind. Testy might be a better word. It seemed that he came under the impression that he would be speaking to a mostly Catholic gathering of lawyers and was surprised to find that there was nothing distinctly Catholic about the event. Unhappy, he said that he would not deliver the speech he had come prepared to give but instead gave his stock speech on originalism. It was fine, well-received with a standing ovation, but he could not sit down fast enough. I was not blamed in any way but I wish I had been sitting at another table.

I was mostly an admirer of his intelligence and view of the role of law even if I would occasionally grimace the verbal attack on his colleagues, most often in the majority but occasionally in the minority. I also thought his positions on the framer’s wisdom on the death penalty and some social justice issues was nowhere as intelligent and thoughtful and committed Catholic as he should be. I need not add my insignificant name to the list of those who will miss him on the court, as I know his family will miss him in life. I am not proud at this moment of the Republican majority in the Senate who say they will not even interview any candidate proposed by the President. No one can tell how a person called to serve on the court might ultimately turn out: in my lifetime Justices Brennan, Souter, and Kennedy have been somewhat surprising. The Republicans recall the punches they took on the Bork nomination and they have always wanted to pay the Democrats back for that ugly moment. Imagine the punches they may have to take again after this debacle if they lose control of the Senate. Antonin Scalia was a master of statesman craft and I would hope that those we have elected to advise and consent might rise to this occasion with wisdom, magnanimity, and courage.

+RNL

ONE POPE, FIVE JUSTICES, ONE NATION UNDER GOD

Thursday, July 9th, 2015

The recent weeks have been momentous in many ways but also quite predictable in other ways. In the following thoughts I hope to demonstrate that both perceptions are possible within a single fortnight.

Chronologically first out of the block was the papal encyclical letter, Francis’ first, Laudato Si. Most of my readers were quite in accord with the Holy Father’s brilliant and prophetic support for the moral equation to be found in the environment and our responsibility for caring for it. There were some strong voices to be heard objecting to the Holy Father entering the realm of science and suggesting he should stay in the realm of theology (these people I suspect did not read the encyclical in its entirety) as well as fewer still who thought the interlocking rationale between finance, business and ecology was a step too far. But almost two weeks later, my sense is that those who took the time to plough through the encyclical in its entirety were proud once again of their Pope, his amazing teaching ability and his constant focus on the vulnerable – human and environmental. While there can, will, and perhaps always should be scientific debate about something like global warning, Pope Francis’ invitation to the world community to join in a discussion of how best to protect and save creation is worth a read, worthy of discussion, and a source for continual prayer for saving creation. There is more than enough moral theology in the encyclical letter to qualify the Holy Father’s concern.

Then came the Supreme Court decision on a small but very important aspect of the Affordable Care Act, the majority opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts. I was both thrilled by and grateful for the upholding of the device most recently used to help the poor gain access to health care. The bishops of the United States in general and this bishop in particular have long been in favor of universal access to health care which has been achieved in some part by the aforementioned act. Health care is a right of every one of God’s children and the ACA is but a first step in achieving that Gospel goal. While I have troubles with certain aspects of the Affordable Care Act and their requirements upon employers like ourselves, the larger goal is now more guaranteed by the recent SCOTUS decision and that’s good. The Chief Justice wrote well in his majority opinion in this case.

Next in order came the establishment of a new constitutionally situated “right” to marriage and this time the Chief Justice was even more eloquent, albeit in dissent. He said several things which I fully embrace: five lawyers should not be rewriting the constitution to create a new right never before seen in over two hundred years as that is the task belongs to the people of the nation; then the Chief said that if you love the Constitution and look for this new right to be found therein, guess again – it is not to be found there, anywhere. The Chief’s dissent was measured, respectful of the majority even in disagreement with them and he even intimated a respect for the dynamic, which is sweeping the country in equality for all regardless of sexual orientation. The reaction to this decision from our Church has run the gamut of emotion and words from outrage to sadness that it has all come to this. Everyone should have seen this coming. We Florida bishops have known for some time that the constitutional amendment passed by our state electorate in 2008 would for sure not pass in 2016.

For many gays and lesbians, for many other people and for the majority of the Supreme Court, the issue is one of denial of equality with married people in basic rights – inheritance, health care benefits, etc. The only avenue, in their minds, to equality quickly, was the courts and the hope that a “constitutional right” could be found guaranteeing equality of treatment. Some predict further challenges to the Church as we assert time and time again that our definition of sacramental marriage is between one man and one woman. That’s not going to change. What needs to change is that as a community of faith, we as Church must become more tolerant of the many different ways people choose to live their lives, put an end to painful language like “perverse”, be loving, caring and compassionate towards all.

If gays and lesbians adopt, the children they have chosen to raise are God’s children and they will be loved by God and their parents. We already see this in a number of our elementary schools where Johnny or Jane has two mothers, or two fathers. I strongly dispute any claim that they can not be loved, raised and cared for. We have decades of intolerance, painful language, and abusive behavior to work to overcome and our Church should be an agent able to, in the words of St. Francis, “change those things which can be changed.” For me a marker has always been how Jesus (and now the Holy Father especially) dealt with those whom others saw as sinners. Recall the story of the woman caught in adultery who Jesus approached first publicly and asked her in the presence of others “has anyone condemned you? . . . .Then neither shall I.” Privately, out of earshot, he encouraged her “to go and sin no more.” The same approach can be seen and heard in the conversation of Jesus and the woman at Jacob’s well. May we as a Church be full of love, not hate; of welcome not exclusion; of forbearance and forgiveness not denunciation and character assassination. As Archbishop Blasé Cupich of Chicago said last week, we must learn how to use and live with culturally shifting mores while gently, quietly, and lovingly sharing the truth we have received.

Finally, I wished to withhold this blog until I had learned the outcome of the Court’s decision on lethal injection. I only wish Justice Breyer could have found one more vote because I too believe that the death penalty is an assault on life inconsistent with the will of the Creator. Believe me, good reader, its days are numbered. One state after another has abolished it in capital crimes, and the fifty states joined with the federal government are now an anomaly among the world family of nations throughout the whole world who view it as barbarism.

Just as among the nine, unelected Justices of the Supreme Court there are many minds and many voices, so true also is it of the Church. I know there will be some Scalia’s among the respondents to this post, as I know there will be some Breyers and Roberts type voices. I just ask our faith community to think and pray with civility as we try to fashion ourselves as a Church and nation of mercy and compassion.

 

+RNL

SCOTUS, POTUS AND HOCUS POCUS

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

Just a few thoughts about the Supreme Court ruling a week ago today, being neither a lawyer nor  court watcher, so my thoughts tend to be those of an extremely interested observer. I was happy that the court found the concept of universal coverage for health care constitutional. 55 million uninsured and many with no access to health care was a national shame. Even with the so-called “Affordable Care Act,” there would remain about 20 million uninsured with no access to health care, many of whom would be undocumented. Our diocesan Catholic Charities knows firsthand the reality of the horror many of these people face when they desperately need medical attention and assistance but are too afraid to approach the avenues which are open to most other people. Thank God for the dedicated doctors, nurses, and volunteers who help with La Clinica Guadalupana in Clearwater and the Catholic Mobile Medical van which visits the migrant camps in eastern Hillsborough County. How the Court arrived at its decision and why is interesting, always, but the reality is that the concept itself is not so weak as to be unconstitutional.

The Administration still has not played its hand yet in how it will respond to the deep problems which all Catholics should have in the HHS regulations implementing the Affordable Care act. It is my understanding that there will be some “fix” and that it will be satisfactory. Time will tell and the sand in the hour glass is rapidly emptying. One would think that if there was the genuine good will toward “conscience protection” of which President Obama spoke two years ago at Notre Dame, it would not be taking this long, but, alas, this is an election year and one can only suppose that someone is delegated with the challenging task in the re-election committee of counting votes gained and lost depending on what they do. Sounds cynical I am sure, but I would bet it is not far from the truth if not the truth. Some said that it would need to await the judgment of the Supreme Court in the case before it, but that argument is now hocus pocus.

Finally, yesterday concluded the “Fortnight for Freedom” observance in many of the parishes and institutions of the diocese and throughout the Church in this country. I have heard of many of our parishes doing clever and appropriate things throughout the fortnight. Interestingly, St. John Vianney parish in St. Pete Beach has a bell tower but no bells so the parishioners there were encouraged to come to Church yesterday at noon with their own bells which they rang at the suggested tolling moment. There were many holy hours and prayerful observances throughout the diocese. I would go to the bank that not every parish did as much as they might and that not every pastor was himself convinced enough that this was a matter of pastoral importance. Sometimes, I am asked if that bothers me, and my answer is “yes” and “no.” “Yes” in that I have asked for very little in things like this during my time as bishop and when I do it means that I believe deeply in it. “No” in that I know that this matter like some others cuts close to the political around which there can be a divergence of opinion. All my priests know that we preach and talk ideas and issues and do not instruct how to cast votes come election day. That I would not like. Sometimes I get letters complaining about individual pastors who seem not to be cooperating. You can blame me if you wish (it happens in a lot of other things and is part of the job description of being a bishop) because my men know at the end of the day, they too were given a brain and have a pastoral sense so they are quite capable of deciding that which is appropriate or will work. I know that if this was a matter in which I would gladly die in the ditch for, they would be there for me and for the Church. My sense is that in the case of the fortnight for freedom, they used their best judgment and most did beautifully.

Finally, I shall long remember the full St. Paul (Tampa) church for our diocesan Mass of commemoration on the Solemnity of the Feast of SS. Peter and Paul. It was simple but the Church at its best at prayer. Thanks to the over 1100 who came and listened and prayed.

+RNL