“You believe in heaven and hell?” the interviewer asked. “Oh, of course I do,” U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia answered. “Don’t you believe in heaven and hell?”
The interviewer said she didn’t. “Oh my,” Scalia sighed. The interviewer was about to move onto another topic when Scalia leaned forward and interrupted her, whispering, “I even believe in the Devil.”
As you may have heard by now, Justice Scalia was found dead in a hotel room early February 13th, 2016, apparently having died of natural causes. He was 79 years old. Most people know him as one of the most influential conservative U.S. Supreme Court justices in recent memory. Depending on your politics and morals, that makes him either a hero or a villain.
What isn’t as well known about him, though, is that he was a life-long faithful Catholic, and one who, though reaching the heights of worldly success in his field, took seriously even those doctrines which are held in the most contempt by the modern world.
“This kid was a conservative when he was 17 years old. An archconservative Catholic,” a high school friend said about him. “He could have been a member of the Curia. He was the top student in the class. He was brilliant, way above everybody else.”
Perhaps the time he most opened up about his Catholic faith publicly was in a wide-ranging interview he did with New York Magazine in 2013, from which the exchange at the beginning is from.
“Yeah, he’s a real person,” Scalia continued, speaking of the Devil. “Hey, c’mon, that’s standard Catholic doctrine! Every Catholic believes that.”
The interviewer asked if Scalia had ever personally seen evidence of the Devil.
“You know, it is curious. In the Gospels, the Devil is doing all sorts of things. He’s making pigs run off cliffs, he’s possessing people and whatnot. And that doesn’t happen very much anymore.”
“What he’s doing now is getting people not to believe in him or in God. He’s much more successful that way. […] He got wilier.”
Scalia sensed the interviewer was taken aback by his literal belief in the Evil One.
“You’re looking at me as though I’m weird,” Scalia said. “My God! Are you so out of touch with most of America, most of which believes in the Devil?”
“I mean, Jesus Christ believed in the Devil! It’s in the Gospels! You travel in circles that are so, so removed from mainstream America that you are appalled that anybody would believe in the Devil! Most of mankind has believed in the Devil, for all of history. Many more intelligent people than you or me have believed in the Devil.”
The world was given another peak into his traditional Catholic faith in a private talk he gave (without a fee) to a local Knights of Columbus group in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 2005.
“To believe in traditional Christianity is something else,” he’s reported as having said. “For the son of God to be born of a virgin? I mean, really. To believe that he rose from the dead and bodily ascended into heaven? How utterly ridiculous. To believe in miracles? Or that those who obey God will rise from the dead and those who do not will burn in hell?”
“God assumed from the beginning that the wise of the world would view Christians as fools … and he has not been disappointed.”
“If I have brought any message today, it is this: Have the courage to have your wisdom regarded as stupidity. Be fools for Christ. And have the courage to suffer the contempt of the sophisticated world.”