Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

Father Paul Scalia keeps funeral focus on Jesus of Nazareth and prayers for his father, a sinner

Father Paul Scalia keeps funeral focus on Jesus of Nazareth and prayers for his father, a sinner

Catholics who faithfully go to Confession are unusual these days, with one study linked to Georgetown University noting that a mere 2 percent of American Catholics "regularly" confess their sins to a priest. 

Local odds being what they were, Father Paul Scalia of Arlington, Va., once learned that he had come very close to facing one faithful Catholic whose confession would have -- literally -- hit close to home. That Saturday evening he heard a unique complaint from his father, Justice Antonin Scalia. 

The issue "was not that I'd been hearing confessions, but that he'd found himself in my confessional line. And he quickly departed it," said Father Scalia, during his father's nearly two-hour funeral Mass (video here). "As he put it later, 'Like heck if I'm confessing to you!' The feeling was mutual." 

This anecdote drew laughter in the massive Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. But even this personal story was part of the priest's focus on eternal issues, rather than details of the life and lengthy U.S. Supreme Court career of his famous father.

After all, Antonin Scalia had made his feelings crystal clear -- writing to the Presbyterian minister who performed the 1998 funeral of Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr. -- that funerals should contain real sermons, not touchy-feely eulogies.