2003-09-14 The Book of Acts records the many legal wrangles that involved Saint Paul...
September 14, 2003
The Book of Acts records the many legal wrangles that involved Saint Paul. His brilliant mind more than held his own in the courts. While the Roman judges were bewildered by what he had to say about Jesus, they acted justly according to their standards. A case in point is the judge Gallio, a half-brother of the Stoic philosopher Seneca (Acts 18:11-12).
Elements of our government are lapsing into neo-paganism, which shares the ignorance but lacks the dignity of the classical pagans. The Senate Judiciary Committee has begun to indicate that “people of faith need not apply” when it comes to federal bench appointments. The submission of public officials to a religious test is a flagrant violation of constitutional freedom. Miguel Estrada recently withdrew his presidential nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit, after it had been filibustered because of his moral beliefs. The distinguished attorney general of Alabama, William Pryor, has been nominated for the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and is being opposed by members of the U.S. Senate. He is a devout Catholic who is pro-life and he is being thwarted by the unsightly combination of our own senior senator, Charles Schumer, with senators who claim to be Catholic but oppose the moral teaching of the Church.
When the religious convictions of public officials clash with the positive laws of the civil government, their formed consciences face a dilemma. Pryor showed how one can maintain one’s principles while upholding established law, as he did in the instance of Alabama’s partial-birth abortion ban of 1997. His jurisprudence in matters such as frivolous lawsuits has gained the respect of Republicans and Democrats alike, including the chairman of the Alabama Democratic Conference, and former Governor Donald Siegelman. He, and others like him, are nevertheless being shunned for not subscribing to a secularist agenda.
At a recent meeting of the New York Guild of Catholic Lawyers, the distinguished lawyer and author and head of the Battery Park City Authority, James Gill, explained that the president’s right to nominate federal judges must not be thwarted by senators whose obligation is to ascertain the character and integrity of the nominees but who exceed their bounds when they make religious belief or moral philosophy a litmus test. In the seventeen years that I have been spiritual director of the Guild, I have been impressed by the steady increase in its membership and awareness that Christians must take a stand. The Guild meets on the First Friday of each month here in the parish following the 8:15 Mass, to hear speakers address increasingly important issues of law and justice. In addition, a Young Lawyers Committee has formed to guide young men and women in reforming the collapsing structures of our legal system according to the high principles that once guided our nation. Some details are in this bulletin.
Fr. George W. Rutler