All the Way to the End
Upon hearing the news of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing last Friday night, in all charity a thoughtful Catholic should have offered some prayer for the repose of her soul. Priests hopefully would have included her in the Memento of the Dead at Mass in the days following. And we would hope that her soul is being prayed for as Rosary beads are thumbed by tens of thousands of Catholics across the country, all the while invoking the Mother of God to see that a new Justice is nominated and approved who will be the almost complete antithesis of Ginsburg. Not like we should put our hope in politics, as government and governors cannot save us from our sins nor from death. But we rightfully should have legitimate love of our country during our lives, always wanting to see it turn from evil and misguided ways and promote a citizenry that is virtuous.
Nonetheless, we do not get off this world alive, and the death of this prominent and influential Justice should give us pause about that very reality. Her decisions have impacted millions upon millions of lives, born and unborn, of which she had to make an account before God. This is quite daunting to think about. The secular press will laud her efforts as “pioneering” in the cause of equal rights, but it is overall clear and alarming where her priorities were, and we should rightfully have concern about her eternal fate.
Justice Ginsburg considered unrestricted abortion and access to it as a “right” for all women, and so a worldview like that will define how other issues are approached. Poisoning the river at its source adversely affects what happens downstream. This is something that cannot be ignored or escaped from, regardless of whether she may have decided favorably at times on less weighty matters. If a jewel thief happens to save an old woman crossing the street from getting hit by a car, that does not exonerate him; he still needs to stop his thievery and make amends.
So while overcoming human challenges over the course of decades to become the second woman to sit on the Supreme Court, there was no questioning her determination to implement an agenda that stood fundamentally in opposition to the most basic right every human being has. The fact that Planned Parenthood mourns the loss of a heroine in their eyes speaks volumes. The secularists stand ready to canonize another “saint” of their making, evident from the hysteria we are witnessing in some sectors over her “untimely” passing. In spite of Jewish roots, Justice Ginsburg seemed to show little care of what the God of Abraham thought about life, the natural law, and eternity, and voted as such in the key Supreme Court decisions during her tenure.
So it is on an occasion like this where thoughtful Catholics may find right reason and supernatural hope in conflict. After all, how are we to reconcile the thought of someone so committed to such a secular anti-life, anti-God platform as being admitted into a Vision where everything there is the very opposite of what she advocated during this life?
If there is even a modicum of accuracy that her dying wish was that President Trump not be the man who proposes her successor, it seems this life is all she had to hold on to. How ironic and disturbing is a life hailed as “progressive” and “forward thinking” by her champions now forced to retreat back upon itself, isolated in the face of eternity.
But while nations pass away, the Word of God does not, and no one can resist that. Indeed the will of God is our sanctification, He does will for us to be with Him in heaven for eternity, but that comes on the condition that we want to go there: If you love Me, keep My commandments. (Jn. 14:15) Our Lord forces no one to accept His love, but the rejection of it will have its consequences. In fact, He further warns that a person can become so blinded to the true good on account of obstinacy in evil that he comes to think that killing the good is actually a service to God. (Jn. 16:2)
However, it is Catholic teaching that, while we can definitely know who is in heaven, we cannot know with certainty (outside of a private revelation) if someone is damned. The pains of hell described by Our Lord in the Gospel suggest hell is far from empty; various visions of hell given to the saints through the course of two thousand years indicates that it is quite crowded. It would be misplaced optimism and foolish to think otherwise.
That said, there is wisdom in the Church’s teaching that we cannot know with certainty if a specific soul is in hell. One reason is because it keeps us from giving up on someone. We must remember that hell is so bad that we should never wish a soul to be there, even when the evidence looks bleak for someone this side of eternity. To do so would be a grave offense against charity towards our neighbor. Another reason is that it helps us remember that the price of an individual soul – beginning with our own – is our Lord’s Blood, and that should humble us at the thought that we, too, will all meet the same God for our exit interviews from this life, and to consider how well we have heeded His words. Furthermore, it leaves the individual judgment of a soul where it must be left – between the soul and the God who alone knows and reads the heart, and who accounts for each and every grace given, accepted, and rejected through life, usually unknown to the seeing public.
But Justice Ginsburg was given at least one grace in full view, and it is something even the secular media has found quite intriguing: her close friendship with the late Justice Antonin Scalia, a devout and principled Catholic whose voting record on the key issues reflected the God He loved and the Faith he internalized. The two could not have been more opposite in terms of world view; undoubtedly they locked horns often – and on the most fundamental things – but their passion for law and other mutual interests outside the Court served to unite them. She admitted that he was formidable in his challenges to her; his masterfully written dissents and arguments would merit thoughtful consideration, and she valued that. This intrigues the media, and should actually intrigue us, because there is something quite noble about it: in these days of such polarization that people who disagree cannot sit around a table, let alone be friends, here are two who could, and did. Given the man Justice Scalia was, we can likely surmise the type of friend he was as well. Only God knows how many Rosaries he prayed and how many Masses he offered for his dear friend Ruth, that she come to know and love the divine Judge who was the inspiration and model of his own career as a judge, and who ought to become the one for hers.
And he would not have given up in spite of the human odds, because that is how Catholics are called to love. As some saint writes somewhere: To love another in the highest sense of the word is to wish that person eternal possession of God and to lead him to it. True, although Justice Scalia would lead, the decision to follow would be hers. But in their friendship, he endeavored to be the presence of Christ in her life, the herald of a Kingdom, a bearer of Good News, the deliverer of an invitation to a heavenly wedding banquet offered to anyone, if only she be willing to put on the required wedding garment of faith and charity.
So as we can reasonably and legitimately have concern about where Justice Ginsburg may now be, the example of Justice Scalia should temper some of that. None of us want to be given up on, and so perhaps we can find a reason, on account of the prayers of her true friend, that Justice Ginsburg may have met a Mother at her judgement who was able to tip the scale of justice?
There is certainly no loss in a heartfelt prayer for that.
September 24, 2020