By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-editor
(CNN) – As the Supreme Court begins its new term Monday, the devil is not on the docket – but the Evil One apparently is on the mind of Justice Antonin Scalia.
New York magazine has published a fascinating new interview with Scalia in which the outspoken jurist tackled a number of topics. But none seemed to surprise Scalia’s interviewer, Jennifer Senior, more than his views on Satan.
The interview was conducted on September 26, the 27th anniversary of Scalia’s swearing-in as a justice on the high court. He is one of a record six Catholic justices on the Supreme Court.
After Scalia and Senior discussed heaven and hell (he believes in them; she doesn’t), the justice said in a stage whisper, “I even believe in the devil.”
“You do?” Senior replied.
“Of course! Yeah, he’s a real person. Hey, come on, that’s standard Catholic doctrine! Every Catholic believes that,” Scalia said.
Senior asked Scalia if he’s seen evidence of Satan’s work recently.
“You know, it is curious,” Scalia answered. “In the Gospels, the devil is doing all sorts of things. He’s making pigs run off cliffs, he’s possessing people and whatnot. And that doesn’t happen very much anymore. … It’s because he’s smart.”
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Scalia said the Devil has gotten “wilier” and convinced people that he and God don’t exist. The justice added that he doesn’t think that atheists are Satan’s minions, but that disbelief in God “certainly favors the devil’s desires.”
Senior asked if it’s “frightening” to believe in the devil, which seemed to annoy Scalia.
“You’re looking at me as though I’m weird,” he answered. “My God! Are you so out of touch with most of America, most of which believes in the devil? I mean, Jesus Christ believed in the devil! It’s in the Gospels! You travel in circles that are so, soremoved from mainstream America that you are appalled that anybody would believe in the devil! Most of mankind has believed in the devil, for all of history. Many more intelligent people than you or me have believed in the devil.”
Scalia, whose son, Paul, is a Catholic priest in Arlington, Virginia, also said Pope Francis is “absolutely” right about the church needing to concentrate more on mercy and outreach than on fighting the culture wars.
“But he hasn’t backed off the view of the church on those issues,” Scalia said. “He’s just saying, ‘Don’t spend all our time talking about that stuff. Talk about Jesus Christ and evangelize.’ I think there’s no indication whatever that he’s changing doctrinally.”
Finally, Scalia said he has not “softened” his views on homosexuality.
“I still think it’s Catholic teaching that it’s wrong. OK? But I don’t hate the people that engage in it. In my legal opinions, all I’ve said is that I don’t think the Constitution requires the people to adopt one view or the other,” Scalia said.