Ruth Bader Ginsburg is not a judge today. Today she is in the dock. She is the accused. Like each one of us who will face judgment one day, Ruth Bader Ginsburg begs for mercy.
As a Catholic, I cannot opine on the state of anyone’s soul, living or dead. We cannot know what happens in the final moments of anyone’s life. We know making a perfect act of contrition in the final moments prevents your descent to the fiery place. We also know—but cannot know—the mercy of God.
What we hear about Ruth Bader Ginsburg is what a wonderful person she was. Justice Antonin Scalia’s son published a well-regarded column about her longtime warm friendship with his dad. Her husband was a gourmet chef. They put on lovely parties. She was good company.
In this vein, it is interesting that Ken Starr’s column at the Wall Street Journal focuses almost exclusively on her personality. She was shy and soft-spoken. Her house was a convivial clubhouse. She and her husband golfed. Starr mentioned one issue she cared about greatly: abortion.
Before joining the high court, Ginsburg delivered a lecture in which she placed a right to abortion not in “substantive due process,” which the Supreme Court long ago wrenched out of its true meaning in fair procedures, but in equality. Ginsburg said that without abortion, women could not lead equal lives or have equal dignity.
And Ginsburg had plenty of time in her career to vote in favor of killing unborn babies. One of the most important and revealing was the case called Gonzalez v. Carhart, on the partial-birth abortion ban. Partial-birth abortion is the act of killing a child as she is being born. In some cases, her entire body—except for the head—is out of the birth canal and into the world. The abortionist then reaches in and stabs the child’s head and delivers the dead baby. Imagine the little feet kicking and then going limp with the cranial stab. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the ban on this despicable procedure.
She made several claims in her dissent: that once-upon-a-time women did not have independent status under the law; that women now have the right to participate equally in the nation’s socio-economic life, and that abortion is central to a woman’s destiny. Ginsburg concluded that restrictions on an abortion procedure—i.e., stabbing a baby’s head while being born—would deprive women of equal citizenship.
Keep in mind that the decision did not ban cutting the baby limb from limb and bringing out the parts. The law only banned killing the baby while being born intact. As a lawyer and pro-life advocate, Cathy Ruse (my wife), said at the time, “My right to equal citizenship depends on a doctor stabbing my baby’s head with scissors rather than dismembering her? That’s preposterous.”
So now the woman who defended this brutal procedure and many more is standing before God’s judgment seat. As I said, we cannot know the disposition of her soul. We pray that she rests in peace. We pray that God’s mercy washes over her. I know dozens of pro-life Catholics who hit their knees and prayed for Ginsburg when they got the word of her passing. This is well and good.
I am not a theologian, so I cannot know, but I wonder if in her defense will be the millions of unborn babies killed in abortion, that gruesome act Ginsburg defended and promoted her whole professional life. Why would I think such a thing? Because those in or near the Beatific Vision understand forgiveness, getting it, and giving it. It is the essence of Heavenly citizenship.
We know for certain that right now, Ruth Bader Ginsburg knows the truth of abortion, a truth she assiduously avoided in her professional life. In her Gonzalez v. Carhart dissent, she even mocked using the terms “unborn child” and “baby.” But now she knows. And may God have mercy on her soul.