Within hours of the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, zealous right-to-lifers sent petitions to the President, asking that he nominate a judge who would strike down the 1973 Roe vs Wade decision which allows pregnant women to abort their babies. I guess they determined there is no time to mourn when there is work to do.
Ginsburg was known, not only for her fearless fight for women’s rights but also, for helping those who are marginalized by society, outcasts like those whom Jesus helped, and those who are mentally or physically handicapped. She and Antonin Scalia, who died four years earlier, were often on the opposite side of judicial arguments but remained “best buds” throughout their illustrious service on the high court. Questioned how they could be such good friends when their political and judicial views differed so greatly, they contended that their friendship and respect for each other was far more important than their vote.
Justice is essentially the administration of what is fair according to the law of the land by those who are impartial (even though most believe that impartiality is impossible because of experience). Justice for most of us, in our modern times, means getting even. Justice in biblical times meant getting right with God and right with one another. Solidarity, a principle of the Catholic Social Teachings, is closely tied to justice. It means to value our fellow human beings and stand with them in their struggle for what is right. Pope John Paul II, known among other things for bringing freedom to his Polish homeland with Lech Walesa through the Solidarity Movement, made solidarity a household word and helped the universal church understand the importance of commitment to the common good, especially when those with power lord it over the powerless. The common good is, therefore, more important than our personal viewpoint on any given matter.
Ginsburg and Scalia, like other judges, sought to administer justice knowing that it is impossible to remain impartial. In the abortion issue cases, she remained partial toward the pregnant mother while he was partial toward the unborn baby. Yet, like players on opposing teams locking arms to express unity, they remained committed to the common good provided by law and stood in solidarity. I think it is true that we cannot legislate morality. As Christians, our job is to change hearts, not to change laws. We seek to change hearts because of Jesus who, throughout the Gospels, reminded us that laws can be flawed—but not the law of love. If we change hearts toward love, then laws will change toward life.
As we seek justice in our society for those who suffer injustices, let us stand in solidarity with them, even channeling the spirit of Ginsburg, Scalia, Walesa, and John Paul, for theirs is a spirit of true justice and solidarity.