Forever combative about the law, the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia will be remembered Saturday as a man whose deeply held religious faith brought him peace.
Rather than a star-studded funeral service featuring judges and politicians, Scalia’s sendoff at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception — the largest Roman Catholic church in North America — will be a traditional Mass of Catholic Burial befitting a true believer.
His son, the Rev. Paul Scalia, episcopal vicar for clergy of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, will lead the service, assisted by the archbishop of Washington, D.C., and a representative of the Vatican. Justice Clarence Thomas, Scalia’s partner on the bench, and Leonard Leo, executive vice president of the conservative Federalist Society, will contribute readings.
Hundreds if not thousands of Scalia’s devoted fans -— his expansive family, current and former Supreme Court justices, nearly 100 former law clerks and guests, including Vice President Biden and his wife, Jill — were expected to fill the medieval-style church for the service.
The court’s longest-serving justice was a month shy of his 80th birthday when he was found dead last Saturday during a visit to a West Texas ranch. His death has touched off a harsh debate between the White House and Senate Republicans over President Obama’s right to nominate a successor in the waning days of his presidency and the Senate’s right to ignore or defeat that nominee.
That battle will resume following Scalia’s public funeral and private burial today. The president, who paid respects Friday as the late justice lied in repose in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court, later was seen carrying a binder with information about potential nominees for weekend reading. Sunday’s weekly news shows will reignite the debate amid talk of the South Carolina and Nevada presidential primaries.
For Scalia’s extended family and followers, however, Saturday loomed as a day to say goodbye to the man who was for many the leader among conservative legal scholars. His defense of originalism — reading the Constitution literally, not expansively — and textualism — reading government statutes the same way — changed the way cases were debated and, in some cases at least, won or lost.
The 79-year-old justice also will be remembered as one of the most gifted writers in the court’s history, and a fierce debater from the bench who changed the nature of oral arguments. His many lectures, speeches and interviews helped to educate and energize younger generations of conservative legal thinkers who will carry on his legacy.
“But the souls of the righteous are in the hands of God, and no torment will ever touch them,” one of Saturday’s Bible readings says. “In the eyes of the foolish, they seemed to have died, and their departure was thought to be an affliction, and their going from us to be their destruction; but they are at peace. For though in the sight of men they were punished, their hope is full of immortality.”
SOURCE: Richard Wolf