Conrad Black’s Messy Attack on Scalia

Friday, October 14, AD 2011

Conrad Black has written one of the most rambling and fairly incoherent things I’ve ever seen in quite some time.  I’m not quite sure what his overall point is, but he ends up attacking Antonin Scalia  of all people.

But some are, including Justice Antonin Scalia, who, as Maureen Dowd wrote in the New York Times on October 2, has attacked the complainant in a civil suit to stop the banning of co-ed dormitories at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. As Ms. Dowd pointed out, Justice Scalia has not hesitated prior to this to volunteer publicly either his solidarity with his Church militant, or his dissent from it. But in the case of the Roman Catholic Church’s long-held and oft-expressed (by four recent popes) hostility to the death penalty, Justice Scalia recently told Duquesne University in Pittsburgh that if he thought “that Catholic doctrine held the death penalty to be immoral, I would resign.” Since he could not possibly be unaware of the views of the Holy See over the past 50 years (John Paul I was the only pope in that time who did not reign long enough to opine on the subject), nor of the authority of the pope to speak on such matters for the whole Church, it is not clear why he is not delivering his letter of resignation to the president instead of sticking his nose into the dormitory rules in one of the national capital’s universities.

To move the inquiry that Ms. Dowd usefully started to entirely secular matters, there could be searching questions about why the Supreme Court has sat like a great suet pudding for decades while the Bill of Rights has been raped by the prosecution service with the connivance of the legislators, a tri-branch travesty against the civil rights of the whole population, but I will spare readers another dilation on that subject. However, Justice Scalia’s preoccupation with the dormitories of the Catholic University of America (a matter that is now, to the Justice’s chagrin, sub judice), is, in the circumstances and to say the least, bizarre.

Leaving that aside, the report card on the co-equal branches is not uplifting: The legislators and the executive wimped out on abortion and immigration. The beehive of conscientious jurists on the Supreme Court applied a completely amoral test to get to a defensible conclusion on abortion when it was dumped by default on them to determine. And its most vocal current Roman Catholic member, swaddling himself in his faith, upholds the death penalty in contradiction to the popes, holds in pectore his views on abortion (which is not now before the high court, though not for absence of petitions), and thunders fire and brimstone about coeducational university dormitories, which is not, I think, a subject that the See of Peter has addressed.

This is just bizarre.  From relying on Maureen Dowd as a source of criticism of Scalia’s Catholicism, to his complete non sequiter about Scalia’s involvement in the CUA suit, to Black completely misconstruing Church teaching on the death penalty; this turned into an unholy mess of an article that already has no clear thesis.

I was all set to write a response, but Shannen Coffin has already done so masterfully.   I’d be violating fair use to copy and paste the whole thing, but you must read the whole thing.  But here are the key passages:

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4 Responses to Conrad Black’s Messy Attack on Scalia

  • It looks like Coffin’s comment has been deleted.

    I read Black’s article, and there’s no way around it, that’s some bad writing. I even read the Dowd article on the chance that it made sense. It didn’t. I’ve never seen her construct an argument where one point follows another.

    There’s an additional historical inaccuracy in Black’s article that no one’s commented on: the idea that the Supreme Court was forced by the failure of elected officials to step into the abortion debate in 1973. You could make an argument – a valid one, I think – that the elected branches could have been far more aggressive since Roe was decided. But the few efforts they have made have been blocked by a Court that refuses to yield any ground on the issue. Black’s argument simply ignores the facts of then and now.

    They’re right that it’s improper for a Justice to speak out about a court case, though.

  • The post is still there, but I think he deleted one parenthetical aside that he thought was too much of a low blow.

    Some of the commenters on Black’s post (and on his post about the post on the Corner) made the same point you have about legislative attempts to do something about abortion.

    It’s just an all-around sloppy article.

  • The solid gold line has got to be this:
    Since he could not possibly be unaware of the views of the Holy See … nor of the authority of the pope to speak on such matters for the whole Church, it is not clear why he is not delivering his letter of resignation to the president ….

    Accusing someone of ignorance of something that he clearly is ignorant of himself.

    Dude. Meta. (/stoner voice)

  • How on earth Conrad Black could ever be regarded as some kind of expert on Catholicism, I don’t know. I have to admit I’m a bit biased against him because he ran HUNDREDS of newspapers into the ground financially and quality-wise (google “Hollinger International”), looted pension plans for some of the companies he ran, and played a big part in making it difficult if not impossible for people like myself to make a decent living in the profession we trained for (newspaper journalism), in order to finance a lavish lifestyle.

    All that said, a good case can be made that his actions didn’t rise to the level of federal crimes such as wire and mail fraud, and that the feds were overzealous in their prosecution.

    In 2007 Black wrote an 1,100-page exculpatory biography of Richard Nixon. If it’s anywhere near as rambling and incoherent as the column referenced above, I would say that being forced to read it would be my idea of Purgatory 🙂