Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Continuing Red Mass of the U.S. Supreme Court

in honor of Bible burner tyrant Thomas Moore

From Wispers in the Loggia

The Red Report

Fronting the pews at this morning's Red Mass in DC's St Matthew's Cathedral: the nation's First Catholic -- Vice-President Joe Biden -- joined by six Supreme Court Justices, including the bench's Chief John Roberts and newest member Sonia Sotomayor, both likewise of the fold.

While the fulltext has yet to emerge, the wire's running a snip from the day's visiting preacher:
The specialized, formal knowledge of the law "frequently becomes semi-mechanical, even distancing," [Cardinal Daniel] DiNardo [of Galveston-Houston] told the congregation. "The law and lawyers are around because justice among human beings will always be an issue."

"Even sophisticated, knowledgeable human lawyers need reminding, need a divine fire ... both in their personal lives and in their profession itself."
Now in its 56th year, the annual liturgy to seek God's guidance for politicians, lawyers and judges was protested by anti-abortion activists deeming the event a "mockery" given the presence of politicos who, according to the group's leaders, "commit sacrilege by receiving the Body and Blood of Christ while they hold a knife to the throat of the unborn."

Concelebrating alongside the capital's Archbishop Donald Wuerl were archbishop of the Military Services Tim Broglio, Bishop Paul Loverde of Arlington and the District's three auxiliaries. As is customary (but not required) in the case of a non-cardinal celebrant, DiNardo presided in the scarlet choir dress of a prince of the church, donning a stole for his turn in the pulpit.

As ever, more to come as it comes in.

As promised, more still:
Speaking at the annual Mass the day before the opening of the Supreme Court term, DiNardo said that people represented by lawyers are "more than clients. ... In some cases the clients are voiceless for they lack influence; in others they are literally voiceless, not yet with tongues and even without names, and require our most careful attention and radical support."...

DiNardo did not elaborate on the rights of the unborn, focusing instead on how the complexity of the law can have a dehumanizing effect on those who practice it.

posted by Rocco Palmo at 12:39

In the Capitol, "Red" Meets Blue

As American church-state interactions go, this weekend brings the genre's Super Bowl -- and given the new state of things in the nation's capital, smart money says this years'll be even more closely watched than usual.

Of course, the "Bowl" in question is Washington's Red Mass, held annually on the First Sunday of October, the eve of a new Supreme Court term. Begun in 1954 and planned by DC's John Carroll Society for Catholic lawyers, the liturgy in St Matthew's Cathedral -- its roots dating from the 14th century -- traditionally attracts a quorum of the Court's nine justices (six of them now Catholic) and, in the last administration, an occasional appearance by the President. ("43" is shown above at the 2005 rite, alongside the now-retired Cardinal Ted McCarrick and Chief Justice John Roberts, then at the outset of his first term.)

While the capital's archbishop invariably serves as celebrant, the Mass' preaching duties are customarily given to a high-profile visitor. And so, following in the footsteps of Sean O'Malley, Tim Dolan and John Foley, this year's pulpit honors fall to the Cardinal of the South, Galveston-Houston's Dan DiNardo, who'll assume leadership of the US bishops' pro-life efforts at next month's November Meeting in Baltimore.

Speaking of things pro-life (or not), the Court's standing precedent on abortion and its clash with Catholic teaching has led church-state separation advocates on the political left to criticize the Mass as a means of "lecturing" the justices, and the leader of the court's pro-choice bloc, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, no longer attends the liturgy after one Red Mass homily which she described as "outrageously anti-abortion."

All that said, the wild card remains whether this year's edition will see the presence of the Court's newest (and unprecedented sixth Catholic) member, Justice Sonia Sotomayor. A product of the archdiocesan schools of her native Bronx, the junior associate is the first Latino ever to take a seat on the nation's highest bench.

Regardless of who does or doesn't show, however, it's worth noting that, just like the Court itself, cameras of every sort are kept well outside the cathedral walls for the liturgy's duration.


posted by Rocco Palmo at 12:16

This Weekend in Washington: The Reddest of 'Em All

The timing might get more attention than usual this year thanks to election season, but early fall's opening of the judicial term sets the traditional backdrop for the annual spate of Red Masses... which recent weeks have seen (or will see) take place in, among others, Atlanta, Providence, LA, Brownsville, Salt Lake City, San Diego, Manchester, Kansas City, Lubbock, Detroit, Harrisburg, Seattle, Toronto and -- back in its birthplace -- at Westminster Cathedral in London.

Begun in the 14th century as the church's moment to invoke the Holy Spirit's blessing and help on the judiciary, the celebration -- suspended in Britain at the time of the Reformation, but revived there in 1891 -- had its American introduction in New York in 1928. In the years since, however, its focus increasingly geared beyond judges to the entire community of lawyers and public officials, the most-prominent Stateside celebration of the "Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit" has come to be celebrated in the capital, where this year's liturgy awaits on Sunday morning.

First held at St Matthew's Cathedral in 1954, recent rounds of the Washington Red Mass have taken on a consistently higher profile, with the congregation led by the first Catholic chief justice in eight decades and a POTUS with close ties to the church often in attendance. Always timed for the day prior to the opening of a new Supreme Court term, last year's Mass lacked President Bush, but drew six justices (including the five who form the Court's first-ever Catholic majority).

Organized by the capital's John Carroll Society, the liturgy's become one of the tougher tickets of official Washington's rites of fall, and given the octane of officialdom present in its front pews, a security check of attendees now stands among its traditions (along with the requisite demand for the enforcement of Canon 915). Its choice of preacher always closely watched, this year the pulpit honors'll fall to none other than John Cardinal Foley, the grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre.

While the Red is the original and best known of the "profession Masses" held to bless and honor the members of a field, its spirit has spawned similar celebrations for other groups: the Blue Mass salutes law-enforcement and public safety personnel, medical professionals of all stripes are celebrated at the White Mass... and in a new twist on the custom, one DC parish recently held a "Gold Mass" for folks involved in the creative and performing arts.

PHOTO: Reuters

posted by Rocco Palmo at 14:09

Hail, Columbia... and Holy Communion

Sure, his pro-choice stance might've driven no shortage of hierarchs to correction during the campaign -- and still finds him barred from Communion in a handful of dioceses -- but even so, tomorrow's inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama will likewise make history for the nation's 70 million Catholics with the swearing-in of the first of the fold ever to take up the Vice-Presidency of these United States, the first to enter either of the executive's elected posts since a certain JFK blazed the trail.

To kick-off the week that, despite seven terms in the Senate, will see him moving into his first Washington home, Joe Biden went to Mass (and, yes, received the Eucharist) yesterday at the District's Jesuit parish -- a favorite worship-spot of the first Romish president:
Biden and his wife, Jill, sat in a pew reserved for him and his family toward the back of Holy Trinity Catholic Church, and listened as the Rev. Larry Madden, S.J., delivered a sermon about God as a constant anchor and the promise of hope and change for those who believe.

Although Madden did not mention Biden's name, the presence of the vice president-elect was obvious in other ways.

Secret Service agents were discreetly stationed throughout the church, including either side of the altar. Toward the end of the 11:30 a.m. Mass, as one of the lectors urged those in attendance to welcome new members and visitors, some in the congregation laughed and then applauded, looking toward Biden. He eventually stood and acknowledged the response that included a standing ovation.

Among those at the service was Biden's former colleague, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., a regular at Holy Trinity....

Kennedy worshipped at Holy Trinity during his time in Washington, and a plaque on the fence at the front of the church describes the 35th president. On the snowy morning of Jan. 20, 1961, Kennedy attended Mass there before his swearing-in.

During Sunday's service, the congregation was asked to pray for "wisdom and integrity" to guide the new president and his administration, a recognition of Tuesday's inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama and Biden.
For the record, the Bidens have quietly been "church-shopping" around the capital over recent weeks, attending Sunday Mass at various DC parishes in advance of their move to One Observatory Circle.

Hoping to spend as much time as possible at their Delaware home, however, the Second Couple are expected to remain Sunday regulars at their parish in Wilmington, St Joseph's on the Brandywine, where the incoming VP usually attends the 9am Mass... and always sits near the back.

* * *
Given the confluence of the inauguration and Thursday's March for Life, much more to come on both as things progress. In the meantime, though, the most fitting starter for these days would yet again seem to be a house favorite: the "Prayer for the Nation and the Civil Authorities" written and first delivered in 1791 by John Carroll of Baltimore, a cousin of a signer of the Declaration of Independence and the nation's first bishop...
We pray, Thee O Almighty and Eternal God! Who through Jesus Christ hast revealed Thy glory to all nations, to preserve the works of Thy mercy, that Thy Church, being spread through the whole world, may continue with unchanging faith in the confession of Thy Name.

We pray Thee, who alone art good and holy, to endow with heavenly knowledge, sincere zeal, and sanctity of life, our chief bishop, Pope Benedict, the Vicar of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the government of his Church; our own Bishop, N., all other bishops, prelates, and pastors of the Church; and especially those who are appointed to exercise amongst us the functions of the holy ministry, and conduct Thy people into the ways of salvation.

We pray Thee O God of might, wisdom, and justice! Through whom authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted, and judgment decreed, assist with Thy Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude the President of these United States, that his administration may be conducted in righteousness, and be eminently useful to Thy people over whom he presides; by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and by restraining vice and immorality. Let the light of Thy divine wisdom direct the deliberations of Congress, and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed for our rule and government, so that they may tend to the preservation of peace, the promotion of national happiness, the increase of industry, sobriety, and useful knowledge; and may perpetuate to us the blessing of equal liberty.

We pray for his excellency, the governor of this state, for the members of the assembly, for all judges, magistrates, and other officers who are appointed to guard our political welfare, that they may be enabled, by Thy powerful protection, to discharge the duties of their respective stations with honesty and ability.

We recommend likewise, to Thy unbounded mercy, all our brethren and fellow citizens throughout the United States, that they may be blessed in the knowledge and sanctified in the observance of Thy most holy law; that they may be preserved in union, and in that peace which the world cannot give; and after enjoying the blessings of this life, be admitted to those which are eternal.

Finally, we pray to Thee, O Lord of mercy, to remember the souls of Thy servants departed who are gone before us with the sign of faith and repose in the sleep of peace; the souls of our parents, relatives, and friends; of those who, when living, were members of this congregation, and particularly of such as are lately deceased; of all benefactors who, by their donations or legacies to this Church, witnessed their zeal for the decency of divine worship and proved their claim to our grateful and charitable remembrance.

To these, O Lord, and to all that rest in Christ, grant, we beseech Thee, a place of refreshment, light, and everlasting peace, through the same Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior. Amen.
PHOTOS: AFP/Getty(1); AP/Carolyn Kaster(2)

posted by Rocco Palmo at 12:50

No comments: