My main point will be this: The Supreme Court has become the most powerful law-making body in our country, more powerful than congress, and more powerful than the president. It no longer interprets law. It makes law. It ultimately has the final word on what is and what is not Constitutional. With a stroke of the pen, it is done (all it needs is for 5 people to agree). And for that reason, who we elect to it, really, really, matters. Enter Donald Trump. Trump intends to elect a Scalia-like justice on his first day in office. Antonin Scalia: The staunchly pro-life traditional Catholic who wanted to overturn Roe. vs. Wade. To me, this is a tremendous sign of hope for Catholics. If all Trump does while in office is appoint just one Scalia-esque justice to the court (though he could potentially replace up to 4 who are nearing retirement), he will have done more than many past presidents who ran on a pro-life platform. I will speak more about this later.
First, A Little Background
It used to be that we had three branches of government, each carefully limited by the other (as we learned in grade-school, it was a system of “checks and balances”), so that no one body could abuse its powers. Our founding fathers thought this necessary, because, being Christian, they realized the propensity to sin in every human being. They saw that if too much power is given to any one man, eventually that power will be abused. It may not be with the first man, or the second. But eventually down the road, there will inevitably come a wicked-minded man who would abuse his position of power. Our founding fathers knew this; they saw what happened to other monarchies, which eventually became tyrannies. And thus they designed a system that gives all power not to one man, but to the people. It was the people, in the end, who had ultimate power, according to our founding fathers. The fathers gave so much power to the people, in fact, that the governments very existence depends on their continual approval. If the people decide they do not want a government anymore, they have the power to abolish it. Ultimately, the government reports to us, not we to it. This was the original vision of the founders. And this is what we have lost through the years.
As we have said, the Supreme Court as we know it today no longer interprets law. It makes law. Where we once had an equal balance of powers between the three branches of government, it is now weighted heavily toward the judicial branch. A person like Antonin Scalia recognized this; he knew that Roe vs. Wade was bad law, because it was an over-reach of the supreme court’s powers (and it was also based on bad science). Conservatives tend to recognize this fact, and thus tend to be Constitutionalists, meaning, they respect the limits of powers and uphold the intent of the original founders. In other words, since abortion is not mentioned in the Constitution, the Supreme Court is unable to rule on it, and must therefore allow the states to decide for themselves—i.e., let the democratic process decide. After all, it is still hotly debated in America, right? But what the Supreme Court did, instead, was close the debate; it made a moral decision and said “All of you on this side of the room are wrong, and all of you on that side are right.” This is a blatant overreach and abuse of the Supreme Court’s powers. As Scalia once said, “..the Constitution does not say anything about [abortion]. It leaves it up to democratic choice. Some states prohibited it and some states didn’t. What Roe vs. Wade said was that no state can prohibit it. That is simply not in the Constitution.”
Progressive judges on the other hand, tend to believe in a “fluid” (to use Obama’s words) interpretation of the Constitution. It, in other words, can be expanded to include things it never mentions (like abortion), beyond what the original fathers could foresee. And in so doing, they effectively open a door to a slippery slope, giving the judicial branch virtually unrestrained power. The Constitution bends to their will, not them to it. Taken to its ultimate end, the Constitution eventually loses all its force and boundary. It might as well not even exist. Everything five people now agree on, becomes a Constitutional right.
After all, we live in different times now, they say. The founding fathers could not foresee today’s issues, they say. That was then and this is now, they say. And in so doing, they have thrown off our entire system of checks and balances, and failing to respect the anchor of history that has preserved us to this day. Ultimately, progressive judges harbor no reverence for history, and quickly disregard it as an outdated relic of the past. In short, their ideology leads to an abandoning of the principles upon which our country was founded. They may not admit such, and may believe they have good intentions. But this is where their logic ultimately ends. Everything that made America great and the envy of every other country is now obsolete. With the doors wide open to interpretation, then the Supreme Court can now make law on just about every issue today, and claim a Constitution right. As Scalia once lamented, ““You’re allowing five out of nine hotshot lawyers to run the country.”
This is why the Supreme Courts pick should be so important to Catholics during this election season.
And this, ultimately, is what has set Donald Trump apart from his opponent Hillary Clinton.
Donald Trump Gives Catholics Hope
Perhaps one of the most under-reported pieces of new during this election season, was back in May of this year, when Donald Trump provided a list of 12 possible Supreme Court picks, and shortly thereafter announced that he would specifically choose a justice with the same mind as the late Antonin Scalia. There was hardly a stir in Catholic media. It may have received a few minutes air time, a short segment, or brief commentary. But beyond that, nothing. I don’t believe Catholic leaders in our country truly understand what an announcement like this means for Catholics in this country. Otherwise, they would have not been so negligent in giving this story due attention. Antonin Scalia was a champion of pro-life; he was the strongest pro-life justice on the court, who repeatedly sought to overturn Roe. vs. Wade. As a traditional Catholic, he was virtually the sole voice of reason and conscience on the court. His loss, I believe, is more dire than we may realize.
So Donald Trump has effectively given Catholics a way out, a path to save our country (some believe he may even be our last chance). His promise to appoint a Scalia-like justice to the court, was a huge step forward for his campaign. The next president could potentially appoint up to 4 (or even 5) justices to the court, which could shape our country for decades. If all Trump does while he is president, is appoint a justice like Scalia, he will have done more than many past Republian presidents. And if appoints just 2 justices like Scalia, this will mark the end of Roe vs. Wade as we know it. The court doesn’t have to check with congress. It doesn’t have to confer with the president. All it takes is 5 people to agree, to sign a pen, and Roe vs. Wade is history.
Now, the objection is usually made at this point, that there is no guarantee that Donald Trump will follow through on his promise. And if you believed everything you hear in the media, there may be some truth to that objection. But a careful examination will reveal just how irrational it is. All he has to do is sign a pen. He could appoint someone on the very first day he takes office (and probably will). It’s not like he has to jump through hoops appoint someone, so he can’t excuse himself from this obligation. If he is elected, he will appoint someone. And given his track record as a successful businessman, he will hold true to his promise. Besides, as we have said elsewhere, to speculate on the future is irrational. Catholics need to learn how to think again, how to reason again. Catholic morality submerses itself in the present moment; it judges based on facts of the present, and does not judge solely on consequences that may or may not occur. Whether Donald Trump will follow through on his promises is irrelevant. The point is, he made the promise, and we as Catholics ought to have the charity of mind to give him the benefit of the doubt.
For what is the alternative after all? Hillary Clinton? The certainty of a pro-culture-of-death Clinton presidency? There is no telling just how much harm she could cause to our country. And this is why it is incumbent upon Catholics to get out and vote in November, if for no other reason than to prevent Mrs. Clinton from getting elected (and yes, that is a morally acceptable position to hold too).