U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia speaks during the 2009 annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)
WASHINGTON (CNS) — Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, the longest-serving justice on the Supreme Court, died of apparent natural causes at a resort in West Texas Feb. 13. He was 79.
Scalia, a Catholic, was appointed in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan. Five of the remaining eight justices also are Catholic. In a statement, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called Scalia “a man of God, a patriot and an unwavering defender of the written Constitution and the rule of law.” “He was the solid rock who turned away so many attempts to depart from and distort the Constitution,” he said in a statement in which he promised to keep the Scalia family in his prayers.
In 1992, Scalia told a group of high school students at Washington’s Georgetown Visitation High School that, as Catholics, they might feel out of step with the rest of the world, but they should learn to accept it and take pride in it. He said he was raised a Catholic when the religion was not in the mainstream.
“When I was the age of you young ladies, the church provided obtrusive reminders that we were different,” he said, referring to meatless Fridays and Sunday morning fasts before receiving Communion. These practices “were not just to toughen us up” but to “require us to be out of step,” he said. Scalia noted the sense of “differentness” should have enabled Catholics “to be strong enough on bigger issues” such as abortion, contraception and divorce. He also spoke of what he called the necessary distinction between church and state. “The business of the state is not God’s business,” he said.
In 1994, he was honored by The Catholic University of America with the James Cardinal Gibbons Medal, given for service to the nation, the Catholic Church, or the university. He was born in Trenton, N.J., March 11, 1936. In 1953, he graduated first in his class from Jesuit-run Xavier High School in Manhattan. He then attended Georgetown University and Harvard Law School.