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October 3rd, 2010
05:39 PM ET

Biden, 5 Supreme Court justices attend controversial 'Red Mass'

CNN's Lauren Pratapas and Bill Mears filed this report from Washington:

Vice President Joe Biden joined five Supreme Court justices to attend Sunday's annual Red Mass, the Roman Catholic service for the courts that has drawn criticism in recent years.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, Stephen Breyer and Clarence Thomas attended the service, held at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, on the eve of the court's new term.

The Mass was started in 1952 by the John Carroll Society, a lay Catholic group of prominent lawyers and professionals, to celebrate the legal profession. But the event has drawn criticism in recent years for what many see as an unhealthy mix of politics, religion and the law.

The mass is a Catholic service, but power brokers of other faiths are asked to attend the invitation-only event. Critics have called the attendance of leading decision-makers, including members of the highest court in the land, inappropriate.

Past homilies by individual speakers have lamented the high court's ruling legalizing abortion and the constitutional separation of church and state, although most recent Red Mass ceremonies have avoided hot-button social and political issues to focus on universal themes. Church officials insist they do not attempt to lobby or seek to persuade anyone who attends the service.

Archbishop J. Augustine Di Noia, who gave this year's sermon, told parishioners the church understands the "nearly overwhelming complexity of the climate which envelops the practice of law and the administration of justice today."

"No informed observer can fail to acknowledge that the social and cultural pluralism of our times - not to mention the relentless and sometimes pitiless public scrutiny to which you are subjected - makes the work of judges and lawyers today very hard indeed," he said.

The archbishop also asserted that laws are based upon certain principles: "the pursuit of the common good through respect for the natural law, the dignity of the human person, the inviolability of innocent life from conception to natural death, the sanctity of marriage, justice for the poor, protection of minors, and so on."

Di Noia later decried a trend toward "exclusive humanism" and said, "That innocent human life is now so broadly under threat has seemed to many of us one of the signs of this growing peril." Washington archdiocese spokeswoman Susan Gibbs told CNN afterwards that the reference to "innocent human life" was meant "broadly," referring to "all life that is at risk, not just simply the unborn, but the fragility of all human life."

All the justices who attended Sunday are Catholics except Breyer, who is Jewish. The court is currently made up of six Catholics and three Jews, including its newest member, Elena Kagan.

One member of the court who no longer attends is Ruth Bader Ginsburg who, like Breyer and Kagan, is Jewish. Ginsburg has said she grew tired of being lectured by Catholic officials.

"I went one year, and I will never go again, because this sermon was outrageously anti-abortion," Ginsburg said in the book "Stars of David: Prominent Jews talk About Being Jewish" by author Abigail Pogrebin. "Even the Scalias - although they're much of that persuasion - were embarrassed for me."

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Catholic Church • Courts • Faith Now • Joe Biden • Politics

soundoff (263 Responses)
  1. deposito conto

    You are in point of fact a excellent webmaster. The website loading speed is amazing. It kind of feels that you are doing any unique trick. Moreover, The contents are masterwork. you have performed a fantastic activity in this topic!

    April 18, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  2. Mikko

    USA is in no way built on christianity!

    if you don't like it get out of usa!

    October 18, 2010 at 7:05 pm |
  3. Clevelandben

    AA indeed nailed it..right on the Cross! When a lawyer/politician receives an "Invitation-only" request for an event known to be political while held under the guise of a Church service, I believe they should politely decline due to any possible conflict of interest that may be brought forth against them.
    I believe they have the right to attend, but how can one NOT be tainted by the Sermon and YOUR views and legal cases?
    Do away withThe RED Mass! It's a mess.

    October 15, 2010 at 11:47 am |
  4. smrk

    All I know is that Rhode Island Avenue was closed off, and I passed a Fransican Friar coming out of the Metro.

    October 4, 2010 at 2:39 pm |
  5. frjimt

    the vp and 5 justices attend "controversial" red mass......
    excuse me, i thought i'd see something newsworthy, but i forgot, this was cnn.
    silly me.......

    October 4, 2010 at 1:07 pm |
  6. Platypus

    What is theology?

    Theology is a branch of human ignorance.

    Theology is the study of human imagination about gods.

    People on Earth may not be the dreams of the gods, but the gods are the dreams of these people.

    October 4, 2010 at 12:35 pm |
  7. Platypus

    @michaeldimeglio: I agree with you 200%! God is supposed to be omni everything. So he doesn’t need prayers, worship, offerings and help from anybody. He needs to be left alone to manage his 156-billion light years domain, the cosmos consisting of billions of galaxies with billions of stars in each galaxy. Why would God pay particular attention to our little Blue Dot called Earth?

    Yeah, but the Christian Churches need money all the time.
    I think Robert G. Ingersoll was right when he said “Ministers and priests teach charity. That is natural, all beggars teach that others should give.”

    October 4, 2010 at 12:32 pm |
  8. Chip

    This Catholic bishop should have excommunicated the pro death dems on the spot instead of lecturing them. Lecturing does no good with liberals because they make up their own moral laws as they go and discard them at will when inconvenient.

    October 4, 2010 at 11:39 am |
    • godispretend

      Chip, You got it backwards. It's the religious among us who adopt and discard morals and ethics as they see fit. If christians were guided by what they read in the their holy books, they would look much more like taliban (actually, they do to some extent still). Humanists, on the other hand, only change their stance based on new information and reason.

      November 3, 2010 at 3:16 pm |
  9. Truth

    @Frank and actually the word for Peter is pe' tros, the masculine form of the Greek word, which actually means "piece of rock." Pe' tra, the feminine form, which designates a mass of rock. The apostles themselves did not understand Jesus' statement at Matthew 16:18 to mean that Peter was the rock-mass. They continued to argue and dispute about who was the greatest among before and even AFTER Jesus said this. (Matthew 9:33-35; Luke 22:24-26)

    Peter HIMSELF identified Jesus as the foundation conerstone upon which all the apostles rest. (1 Peter 2:4-8) Similarly, the apostle Paul wrote: "For they (the Israelites) used to drink from the spiritual rock-mass that followed them, and that rock-mass is CHRIST." (1 Corinthians 10:4).

    On at least two occasions and in two different locations the Israelites received a miraculous provision of water froma rock-mass (Exodus 17:5-7; Numbers 20:1-11) Therefore, rock-mass as a source of water, in effect, followed them. The rock-mass itself was evidently a pictorial, or symbolic, illustration of Jesus Christ, who said to the Jews: "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink." (John 7:37).

    October 4, 2010 at 11:26 am |
    • CatholicMom

      Truth,
      I recall similar wording on another comment...
      but JW do not believe in the Trinity or the Succession of Popes...just to name two Catholic Truths....

      Here is something that is well written about Peter as the Rock.....Dave Armstrong – a convert to Catholicism from Evangelicalism wrote the following…. Is Peter "Rock", or is he only a "pebble"?

      Non-Catholic Christians charge that Peter is not the "rock" because the Greek word used for "rock" in this verse means a little pebble. Right away, it is obvious from the very beginning, that there is a translation problem here. Scholars have determined that Matthew was not written in Greek, but in Aramaic, and was soon translated into Greek, so we have to go to the original written language to find the true meaning of this verse.
      Peter was called "Cephas" or "Kepha(s)" in Aramaic, by Christ in Matthew 16:18, and it means a large massive stone or rock. Christ said this at Caesarea Philippi, the site of a large rock mass. See Matthew 16:13. The Aramaic word for a small stone or pebble is "evna". "Kepha", when translated to the Greek language means "Petra" (a large rock) or "Petros" (a small stone). However, unlike Aramaic words which have no gender, Greek words do have gender, and "Petra" is feminine. Translators from the Aramaic to the Greek, changed the word to the masculine gender or "Petros" because they were unwilling to assign a name with feminine gender to a man.
      In Matthew 16:18, it is correct to say that Jesus would have said, "You are 'Kepha', and upon this 'Kepha', I will build My Church." In Greek, it would translate to, "You are 'Petros', and upon this 'Petra', I will build My Church." It was the translation of the Aramaic word, "Kepha" (Cephas), into the Greek language that caused the confusion among some who look upon Peter as not being called "rock", but only a "pebble".
      Matthew 16:13, 18, John 1:42, 1Corinthians 1:12, 3:22, 9:5, 15:5, Galatians 2:8-9

      October 4, 2010 at 3:08 pm |
    • Tell_Me

      If these words were from an Omniscient Being, there would be NO questions, NO mistranslations, NO misinterpretations.

      October 4, 2010 at 3:15 pm |
    • Truth

      h Well CatholicMom thank you for addressing these things. First off, let's touch on the subject of the Trinity. You are correct. Jehovah's Witnesses do not believe in the Trinity, not because of mere opinion, but Jesus' own testimony and also that of the apostles and other Bible writers. Let's examine this doctrine in light of God's own Word, the Bible. -Immediately after his baptism and God's spirit had descended upon Jesus, "there was a voice from the heavens that said: "This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved." (Matthew 3:16, 17) If the Trinity doctrine is true and the Father, the Son, and the holy spirit are all 3-in-1, who is this speaking from heaven? How could all three be the all one God but be in 3 different places at one, with the God speaking from heaven, the holy spirit on its way descending from heaven, and the Son on earth being baptized? -Concerning the end Jesus himself said: "Concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but ONLY THE FATHER." (Matthew 24:36) If Jesus was part of an equally powerful 3-in-1 triumvarate God, would not Jesus have this knowledge as well, being equal to the Father? -Speaking about his Father, Jesus said: "I am going my way to the Father, because the Father is GREATER than I am." Firstly, how could Jesus be on his way to the Father if they both are the same, part of a 3-in-1 God? Secondly, and on a greater note, how can the Father be greater than the Son if they both equally powerful? Did not Peter say at 1 Peter 2:22: "Nor was there any deception found in his mouth?" -In his famous prayer in John 17 when Jesus prayed for his Fathers will ti be done and his name to be sanctified, who was he speaking to? Is not he the same and the equal to the Father as part of an equally powerful Trinity? -John 1:14 mentions that the Word "became flesh and resided among us." Yet 1:18 says: "No man has seen God at ANY time." Yet they are the same, all-powerful 3-in-1 God known as the Trinity? -Paul mentioned at 1 Corinithians 11:3: "The head of the Christ is God." But how can God be the head, yet they both be equally powerful Trinity? ________ As far as the issue at Matthew 16:18 see my above post. But to go along with that, Jesus himself debunks the issue of papacy. At Matthew 23:8-10 he says to not be called Rabbi/teacher, Leader (like as in the Holy Pope) or FATHER (wow, as in like Holy Father like the Pope) because only one was their teacher and Leader, Jesus himself. And only one was their Father, their heavenly Father. "Whereas all you are brothers." Yes they were all equally brothers, not staggered in laity with one man giving guidance to all. Yes there were ones with positions higher than others, but according to Jesus, there was no one man installed here on earth to be their 'leader' because Jesus was leading them as their perfect King. J October 4, 2

      October 4, 2010 at 5:39 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Truth,
      Within God there is a community, a “family” of Divine Persons whose perfect love is perfect unity! Understandably, such a concept is not easily expressed with the limitations of our language.

      John 14:11[American King James Version
      Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake.
      Jesus is claiming a unity with His Father that is beyond the categories we live in.

      Jesus prayed: “My prayer is not for them alone, I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:20 and 21)

      Jesus claimed that if his followers have seen Him they had already seen the Father. (John 14:9)

      “Father, may they be One in us….so that the world may believe… .” (St. John 17) Here Jesus prays that ‘all of us’ would one in them [the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit] just as they are one….we become one in them by Baptism.

      October 4, 2010 at 8:35 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Truth,
      The following is a beautiful way of thinking about the Holy Trinity: One God in Three Persons
      Is there only one God? - Yes, there is only one God.
      "I am the first, and I am the last, and besides me there is no God" (Is. 44:6). There can be only one God, because only one can be supreme, all-powerful, and independent of all.
      How many Persons are there in God?– In God there are three Divine Persons - the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
      In speaking of the "Persons" in God, we do not use the term in exactly the same way we use it when speaking of people. We use it only for lack of a word to show our meaning better.
      In speaking of a man as a "person," we mean that he is an intelligent being, acting individually for himself. The acts he performs belong to him and he is responsible for them - he himself, not his tongue, nor his mind, nor his whole body even, but the whole of himself.
      We speak of three "Persons" in God because to each belongs something we cannot attribute to any other: His distinct origin.
      From all eternity the Father begets the Son, and the Son proceeds from the Father. From all eternity the Father and Son breathe forth the Holy Ghost, and He proceeds from Them, as from one Source.

      October 4, 2010 at 8:42 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Truth,
      Here is more on the Trinity….
      Are the three Divine Persons really distinct from one another? - The three Divine Persons are really distinct from one another.
      "So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity nothing is afore or after, nothing is greater or less; but the whole three Persons are co-eternal together, and co-equal. So that in all things, as in aforesaid, the unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in unity is to be worshipped." (From the Athan-asian Creed.)
      This is the simplest way by which the distinct origin of each Divine Person has been explained: God is a spirit, and the first act of a Spirit is to know and understand. God, knowing Himself from all eternity, brings forth the knowledge of Himself, His own image. This was not a mere thought, as our knowledge of ourselves would be, but a Living Person, of the same substance and one with the Father. This is God the Son. Thus the Father "begets" the Son, the Divine Word, the Wisdom of the Father.
      "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God; and the Word was God" (John 1:1).

      October 4, 2010 at 8:51 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Truth,
      God the Father, seeing His own Image in the Son, loves the Son; and God the Son loves the Father from all eternity. Each loves the other, because each sees in the other the Infinity of the Godhead, the beauty of Divinity, the Supreme Truth of God. The two Persons loving each other do not just have a thought, as human beings would have, but from Their mutual love is breathed forth, as it were, a Living Person, one with Them, and of Their own substance. This is God The Holy Ghost. Thus the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of Love, "proceeds" from the Father and the Son.
      "But when the Advocate has come, whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness concerning me" (John 15:26)

      October 4, 2010 at 8:54 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Truth,
      And so,
      we are not to suppose that once God the Father begot the Son and now no longer does so, nor that once the love of the Father and the Son for each other breathed forth the Holy Ghost, but now no longer does. These truths are eternal, everlasting.
      God the Father eternally knows Himself, and continues to know Himself, and thus continues to bring forth the Son. God the Father and God the Son continue to love each other, and their delight in each other continues to bring forth the Spirit of Love, God the Holy Ghost. In a similar way, fire has light and color. As long as there is fire, it continues to produce light. As long as there is fire with light, there is produced color. But all three exist at one and the same time.

      October 4, 2010 at 8:58 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Truth,
      So with this final post about the Trinity, I hope it has helped you understand the Christ-ian point of view on it.
      In this imperfect way we va-guely see that God must necessarily be three Divine Persons, because only in that way can God with His Divine Knowledge and Will be complete in Himself.
      Our Lord Jesus Christ spoke to us of the Blessed Trinity when before the Ascension He said to His Apostles: "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" (Matt. 28:19)

      October 4, 2010 at 9:03 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Truth, as you pointed out these verses…….in trying to make a point....

      8
      As for you, do not be called 'Rabbi.' You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.
      9
      Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven.
      10
      Do not be called 'Master'; you have but one master, the Messiah.
      11
      The greatest among you must be your servant.
      12
      Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
      Of course, we are to call no one father as ‘father in heaven’ for there is but One Father in Heaven. When we call our priests ‘father’ it because they are as a father to us and we are as children to them. Jesus even call Abraham ‘father’ in Mt. 3:9. Jesus also commands us to honor our mother and father. No, we do not dishonor God by calling persons father as long as we do not mean them to be ‘our Father in Heaven’. If we do as Jesus did, honoring Mother and Father, we cannot go wrong.
      The Pope is a Servant of the Servants. He is humble in every way. He is our spiritual father but again not ‘our Father who art in Heaven’. The Pope is a Servant in the line of Apostolic Succession with Peter, the first Pope.
      Truth,
      Why would you follow man, that is, Charles Taze Russell who started the JW’s in the 1890’s? Google ‘Stumpers for the Jehovah's Witnesses’ ; you cannot call yourself a Christian if you follow this religion.

      October 4, 2010 at 9:38 pm |
    • VistaNow

      @Truth – The subject of the Trinity – it sounds like you are looking for any argument to discredit the Trinity which is not stated in the Bible, perhaps one needs to look at this in a more simple view. Father, Mother and two children form a family. Can you say that one child is not a member of the family, although separate member it still forms the single unit family or can you say that Jesus did not seek equality with G'd, but rather He humbled himself and took the form of Flesh and emptied Himself on the cross. Why the limitation of space and time? Matter is neither created nor destroyed outside of G'd, but rather transformed. Can you see that if everything could be written about Jesus, it will not fit on the Earth.Peace.

      October 5, 2010 at 2:02 pm |
  10. Bob

    If this were a Jewish service attended by Catholics or other religious it would be viewed as bringing religions together even though those officiating would have also be "preaching" their agendas. If any of the attending justices ever complained about not going back because they were preached at, it would have been headline news. Our political correctness with religion has gone too far. One problem with our world today is prayer in any form is frowned upon because we are afraid of offending someone. Most religions accept the concept of a God so schools should allow a non denominational prayer period teaching children that there is a higher being. The ignorants who fear a takeover by Catholics because of simple prayer to me are more fearful of being proven wrong and finding that there IS a God. The Red Mass is a tradition and similar events can be held by any religion if desired. If our world focused on religion a bit more than politics maybe we would be a better world.

    October 4, 2010 at 11:02 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.