Saint Thurgood?

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Jan 27, 2006

The Episcopal Diocese of Washington is proposing that the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall be made a saint. Marshall was part of the court majority in the 1973 Roe v Wade ruling, having successfully convinced Justice Harry Blackmun (the author of the decision) to expand the legalization of abortion throughout the third trimester of pregnancy. The Diocese intends to ask the 2006 General Convention to include Marshall, who died in 1993, in the book of "Lesser Feasts and Fasts."

"Thurgood Marshall is a saint already in the Bay Area," says the Bishop of California, the Rt. Rev. William Swing, "as people hearken back to his memory often." Marshall's sanctity, as it appears from the testimonials offered in support of his cause, was of a peculiarly reticent order:

Thurgood Marshall believed very strongly in the Constitutional principle of the separation of church and state. Consequently, once he became a Supreme Court Justice, he attended church very infrequently. Concerned that he would develop partisan political views which affect his judgment as a Justice, ironically, he ceased voting in local and national elections.

The pastor of Marshall's Washington parish -- testifying in favor of his parishioner -- corroborates this view:

Although his family attended church almost every Sunday, "the Judge," as he preferred some to call him, did not. He did attend enough to be "respectable" about his membership, but he never equated church attendance with his being a Christian. Courts, not candles, were his milieu.

It's impossible in this connection not to call to mind the celebrated quip about the faith life of Senator Ted Kennedy: that his religion is so private he doesn't even impose it on himself.

I find it hard to believe that Archbishop Akinola will rejoice in ECUSA's latest curtsey to rainbow-coalitionism. That said, there appear to be few obstacles in the Blessed Thurgood's ecclesiastical path to Cooperstown. The Diocese has even proposed Scripture readings for the celebration of Marshall's feast -- as well as a Collect, which I swear I am not making up:

Eternal and Ever-Gracious God, you blessed your servant Thurgood with special gifts of grace and courage to understand and speak the truth as it has been revealed to us by Jesus Christ...

I interrupt this Collect to remind worshipers of one of Marshall's most famous remarks, delivered in response to a question about his possible retirement from the Supreme Court: "I have a lifetime appointment and I intend to serve it. I expect to die at 110, shot by a jealous husband." He was to be disappointed in both respects. Let us resume, dear brethren, the Eucharistic Oration:

... Grant that by his example we may also know you and seek to realize that we are all your children, brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ , whom you sent to teach us to love one another; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever.


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