Catholic Supreme Court Justice Warns Seminarians About Religious Persecution

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by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  •  May 18, 2017   

Justice Samuel Alito tells future priests to keep the flame alive in the hearts of Americans

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WYNNEWOOD, Pa. ( - A Catholic U.S. Supreme Court justice is warning seminarians of the looming religious persecution.

During his commencement address at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary on Wednesday, Justice Samuel Alito spoke of the current attacks on religious freedom and free speech. Quoting from his dissenting opinion in Obergefell vs. Hodges, the case legalizing so-called same-sex marriage in 2015, Alito said, "[T]hose who cling to old beliefs will be able to whisper their thoughts in the recesses of their homes, but if they repeat those views in public, they will risk being labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers and schools."

Recalling Christian persecution of past generations, Alito commented, "History never repeats itself exactly, but it provides insight." He added the sobering insight that Christian persecution worldwide is at an all-time high.

"There are more martyrs today than ever," he said.

The 11th Roman Catholic to serve on the High Court, Justice Alito noted how attacks on religious freedom in America are rapidly gaining ground.

"For most of my life, American people have been united in their strong respect for religious liberty. But recently, things have started to change," he warned. "The idea that speech can be banned if it expresses an idea that is offensive is spreading around the country."

Speaking to some 75 graduates among those present, Alito encouraged the future priests to "keep the flame" of those freedoms burning brightly in "the hearts of our fellow Americans." This was especially necessary, today as religious liberty is being sorely tested, he commented.

The idea that speech can be banned if it expresses an idea that is offensive is spreading around the country.

The justice warned of a growing hostility toward people of traditional moral beliefs. During his 40-minute speech, he decried the secular attempts to undermine "traditional moral values," paint Catholics as bigots and erode the religious liberty of Americans. He brought up lawsuits attempting to overthrow traditional sexual morality, which involve contraception, same-sex marriage and abortion, all of which fomented "hostility" toward Christians with authentic morals.

Saint Charles Borromeo seminary was founded in 1832 and is the primary formation center for seminarians studying to be priests for the archdiocese of Philadelphia. Archbishop Charles Chaput said he chose Alito to give the address because of these very themes on which the judge spoke. The archbishop presented an honorary degree the same day to Justice Alito.

The son of an Italian immigrant, Alito was born and raised in Pennsylvania. He replaced Justice Sandra Day O'Connor in 2006 when he was appointed to the Supreme Court by President George W. Bush.


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