Father Paul Scalia: “The Church is the Home of Marriage”
Son of late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia speaks at Franciscan University on threats against marriage and the Church.
August 08, 2018

St. Thomas More is often heralded as a champion of religious freedom, but supporting that effort was his unshakable faith and evangelical joy in the truth about marriage.

Father Paul Scalia, speaking at the Defending the Faith Conference held at Franciscan University of Steubenville, July 27-29, expanded on a quote by G. K. Chesterton about Thomas More: “He is a champion of liberty in his public life and his still more public death.”

“We should remember Thomas More for his domestic witness, the witness of his own marriage, family, and home,” Father Scalia said. “His defense of marriage wasn’t purely intellectual. He knew marriage and the family from the inside. He knew the joy in the virtue that was being threatened by its undoing.” Serving as the Episcopal Vicar for Clergy for the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, Father Scalia is the son of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Commenting on his father’s influence, Father Scalia said, “I saw him striving to be a good Catholic man. I also saw him failing, but I saw him trying, and that’s what’s important.”

St. Thomas More, English politician and philosopher, also strove toward holiness, famously giving his life in defiance of King Henry VIII’s divorce and remarriage. Father Scalia noted that More didn’t actually speak out against the divorce until he was already condemned to death. “He simply resigned his public office,” Father Scalia said, connecting More’s example to how a Catholic can respond to civil breaches of morality.

“The shepherds (the priests and bishops) always have to speak out against injustice. They don’t have an option.” In regard to the laity, Father Scalia continued, “They are not always in a position where they can speak out, but they are always in a position to live lives of integrity and holiness in witness to the truth.”

Commenting on the many threats against marriage and the Church, Father Scalia said, “You can’t force people to be moral. No amount of great laws and laws in perfect keeping with the moral code are going to force people to be moral. You can’t outlaw Original Sin.

“An external change is helpful, as it can create room for the deeper change, but what is really necessary is not a change of laws, but a change of heart.” Henry VIII, attempting to validate his marriage to Anne Boleyn, broke from the Catholic Church and established the Church of England. Father Scalia noted that since Henry took issue with marriage, he would also take issue with papal authority.

“Both the Church and marriage point to something else beyond and before the state, and in that way, they relativize the authority of the state,” he said. “The Church and marriage are inextricably bound to one another; the Church is the home of marriage.

“The evangelical mission of marriage is the task that married couples have to reveal the eternal significance of marriage. When people bump into a married couple who are really trying to live the sacrament of marriage, they’re bumping into an icon of Christ and the Church.”

Father Scalia then broke down marriage into four essentials: freedom, permanence, fidelity, and openness to life.

Just as Christ freely gave himself to his bride, the Church, Father Scalia said, freedom must also be lived out in marriage. “Freedom within marriage means embracing those regular duties. We are able to do freely what we are already required to do.”

Secondly, marriage must be permanent. “Our Lord endured the sickness, poverty, and the bad times, but he never cast off his bride. What the world encounters when it encounters the permanence of marriage is the bond between Christ and his Church that is not just permanent, but eternal.

“Fidelity is devotion to each other, attentiveness, the constant awareness that they are one flesh. Lovers look at each other. Christ is always looking at his bride with love and longing. When a married couple does the simple thing of living this fidelity in a deep manner, only having eyes for each other, that’s a sign to the world that, yes, love can be true. Promises can be kept. Yes, God’s grace makes this possible.

“The union between Christ and the Church is all about new life, the new life of grace. New life requires a great deal of trust between the spouses and in God, as well as sacrifice. Couples that witness to the openness of life and the joy that should come with it, living that sacrifice joyfully and peacefully, signify that it is possible to make sacrifices and be fulfilled.”

In addition to his address, “More Witnesses Needed: Saint Thomas More and the Eternal Significance of Marriage,” Father Scalia also led a eucharistic Holy Hour. Over 1,400 people from across the U.S. attended the Defending the Faith Conference, held each year during the last weekend in July at Franciscan University of Steubenville. Speakers this year also included Dr. Scott Hahn, Father David Meconi, SJ, Mark Hart, Patrick Madrid, Dr. Carrie Gress, and others.

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