October 2nd, 2010
11:15 PM ET
Washington's 'Red Mass' attracts top government leaders, controversy
CNN Supreme Court Producer Bill Mears filed this report from Washington:
The beautifully ornate Catholic church in the nation's capital has seen its share of history and controversy.
In 1963, the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle was the site of John F. Kennedy's funeral. After the service, on the steps outside, the slain president's young son famously saluted his father's memory.
But the church is also the site of an annual Mass that has drawn criticism for what some see as an unhealthy mix of politics, law and religion.
Washington's 57th annual "Red Mass," which celebrates the legal profession, will be held on Sunday - the day before the Supreme Court begins its new term.
Several justices traditionally attend, along with congressional leaders, diplomats, cabinet secretaries, and other dignitaries. Past presidents have also attended, though Barack Obama is not expected to appear this year.
It is a Catholic Mass, but power brokers of other faiths are asked to attend the invitation-only event. Justice Stephen Breyer, who is Jewish, is a regular.
The Mass "takes its name from the color of the vestments. ... (It) goes back centuries, to Rome, to France to England," Washington Archbishop Donald Wuerl told CNN.
"There was the idea (to) bring all the people who are involved in the law... once a year so that together, they can simply pray for the wisdom of God."
The church, built starting in the 19th century, is considered one of Washington's hidden gems.
Tucked between modern office buildings a few blocks from the White House, it is a mix of architectural styles - a hint of ancient Rome, a splash from the Italian Renaissance and a definite Byzantine flavor.
St. Matthew, noted Monsignor Ronald Jameson, was the patron saint of civil servants - appropriate in a city where the federal government dominates the workforce.
A record six justices attended last year's Red Mass - including then-new member Sonia Sotomayor.
Critics of the service, however, find the attendance of leading decision-makers - including members of the highest court in the land - to be inappropriate.
"The truth is, this was set up as a way to basically lecture and give information to the justices," said Rev. Barry Lynn, President of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. "There is no other institution that has this special way to talk to the justices on the Supreme Court."
The Red Mass was started in Washington in 1952 by the John Carroll Society, a lay Catholic group of prominent lawyers and professionals. Chief Justice John Roberts' wife Jane is currently an officer of the group.
Lynn, an ordained minister with the United Church of Christ, noted that the Mass was begun following several high court decisions disapproved of by the archdiocese.
"They figured if they got all the justices together and chatted them up in a worship service, they might be able to convince them to see the law their way," he said.
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington strongly objects to that explanation of the Red Mass' beginnings.
Past homilies by Mass speakers have lamented the high court's ruling legalizing abortion and the constitutional separation of church and state.
Last year, U.S. Cardinal Daniel DiNardo made an unspecified reference to the rights of the unborn, saying those 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."
Other recent Red Mass events have been free of discussion on hot-button social and political issues, focusing on universal themes.
In 2008, Cardinal John Patrick Foley noted that many parts of the Bible "sound very much like American ideals" and urged members of the high court to build a society "of justice, of peace and of love."
One member of the court who no longer attends is Ruth Bader Ginsburg who, like Breyer, is Jewish. Ginsburg said she grew tired of being lectured to 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 Abigail Pogrebin.
"Even the Scalias - although they're much of that persuasion - were embarrassed for me."
Six Catholics now sit on the high court: Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Sonia Sotomayor.
Newest Justice Elena Kagan, like Breyer and Ginsburg, is Jewish. She is not expected to attend the Red Mass.
Church officials insist that they do not attempt to persuade anyone who attends the service. Wuerl says the event provides a place to put aside the partisanship and troubles in the world to seek comfort in a shared community and a sacred place.
Americans have "been very careful about ... not allowing any one tradition or church to become the state church," he said. "But from the very beginning, we've always said we need to hear the voice of faith in all the discussion that is a part of determining what we want to do."
Lynn takes a different tack. "I don't think there is any doubt that people in that congregation - including the Supreme Court justices - are going to listen to what is said," he said.
"They might hear something phrased in a way you might never hear it in the court, but it might become a lingering factor in their decisions," Lynn said. "People who are concerned about the Red Mass worry about this kind of undue influence."
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The article said:
"The truth is, this was set up as a way to basically lecture and give information to the justices," said Rev. Barry Lynn, President of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. "There is no other inst itution that has this special way to talk to the justices on the Supreme Court."
Lynn, an ordained minister with the United Church of Christ, noted that the Mass was begun following several high court decisions disapproved of by the archdiocese.
"They figured if they got all the justices together and chatted them up in a worship service, they might be able to convince them to see the law their way," he said."
The Catholics should spend their time cleaning their own house. Didn't we just hear of yet another nest of pedo philes in yet another country?
And this church claims to have anything to do with Christ? Pfui!
Ginsberg: "Even the Scalias – although they're much of that persuasion – were embarrassed for me." Oh, sorry, dear Justice Ginsberg. I think they were embarrassed because they know you support murder of the unborn. They were more likely embarrassed by YOUR beliefs, not by their own beliefs.
rick-you are truly a misfit of the so called catholic church. christ was a devout jew not catholic. you talk about the unborn-what about the living. your church has a two thousand year history of murder. torture, genocide and child molestation. your church is responsible for the murder of several million people. the vatican actively participated in helping the NAZIS round up jews and have them exterminated. you worry about abortion-what about the millions of living that your church has murdered. you make me sick.
There were thousands of priests murdered during the holocaust, too.
Catholicism is probably one of the few Christian Churches that completely embrace the Jewish faith, or the Catholic Churches I have always attended. We even have Sedar Meals every year at our Church. We realize the importance of the Jewish faith in our own faith. I really get upset when my non Catholic Christian friends tell me that Jews will not go to heaven. They have never been to a Bat Mitzvah, the most reverant service I have ever seen
"I really get upset when my non Catholic Christian friends tell me that Jews will not go to heaven."
Being Jewish alone won't get you into Heaven. They are no more special than any other group of people and if they go out of their way to reject the Messiah, well...That's between them and God.
Note: I'm not saying that all Jews are going to Hell because they are Jewish, either. Only God knows the state of someone's soul.
I love love love being a Catholic, it is the most beautiful Service I have ever been to. And I have been to some wonderful services in the Methodist, Lutheran, and Baptists Churches. I just adore the beauty of the traditions of the Mass. If you all want to focus on the sins of the members and not the Christ within the church that is your problem. Athiests please dont get so angry at believers, I am not angry that you dont believe. No one can force someone to believe or not believe
Where do they hold the pedophile mass? Just curious.
yooper, not nice. 08-1.3 % of Priests, out of 60,000 have been accused of abuse. Most of the accusers were over 14. ( no this does not make it right) However, 1 – 3 % of Protestant Pastors have been accused of abuse. satan is god of the earth there is always going to be sin. But you dont condem God for the sins of the people in His house. There are 58,000 good and kind and honorable Priests out there that pay the price of the few. Some of them are targeted not for anything they have done but what someone else has done.
The priests sins are bad, but what I am most outraged at, is the coverup and the enabling of the attacks on children. Some of the priests were moved from parish to parish. No warning was given, to the new set of faithful.
The Catholic Church seems more interested in saving money, than making the victims whole.
Another story of religious faith that the secular zealots see as a problem. Did you know that the first amendment does not prohibit government employees and political representatives from practicing their beliefs? The law also doesn't say that people can practice their faith as long as it doesn't offend people who don't believe. Congress will make no law "impeding the free exercise of religion." The ACLU is very special, isn't it? CNN seems to be very much in league with the mentality that the only true faith is a watered down secularism, of which its greatest contribution is to tolerate people. Isn't that grand: I'm going to tolerate you? Why not follow Christ and love others, if you want to act meaningfully?
Since the days of Constantine in the fourth century especially, has religion been trying and succeeding to manipulate the world's governments. It is of great interest to sincere Bible students that this was spoken of at Revelation 17:1, 2, whereby false religion, spoken of as a "harlot", is seen committing "fornication" with the "kings of the earth." She is also seen as riding on the back of the "scarlet-colored wild beast", the United Nations.(Rev 17:3) It now has reached a crescendo in our time period, called the "last days" at 2 Peter 3:3, 4, for the religions of the "world" are more than ever involved in the political arena.(Rev 17:9)
The only reason for any US Govt Judicial Branch employee to be there is to arrest any and all catholic clergy attending for aiding and abbeting the molesting of children.
"I went one year, and I will never go again, because this sermon was outrageously anti-abortion," Ginsburg said...
Now that is just plain sad, that is. What did she expect of a Catholic Mass? That they would embrace something that they view as a sin, just because she was there?
Yes, I'm sure the unborn children were appalled that someone would take such a moral stand. Shame on them. I'm sorry your sensibilities were so horribly offended.
Dude! What did you expect ? They want to take away a woman's right to choose. Yet, they let people in Africa die of AIDS and starvation because of their stand on contraceptives – especially condoms.
“When priests preach against using contraception, they are committing a serious mistake which is costing human lives.” With this distinctly undiplomatic language, Peter Piot, head of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), voiced the international community’s continuing distress over the Catholic church’s policy on condoms. “We do not ask the church to promote contraception, but merely to stop banning its use,” Piot told the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper following the United Nations’ conference on AIDS this past summer. The three-day special UN session stressed the need for nations to begin to talk plainly about AIDS in response to a catastrophic pandemic that has taken 22 million lives in less than 20 years. The final conference doc ument specifically noted the need for countries to expand access to condoms within five years.
Apparently the Catholic church was not listening to the unprecedented statement that many took as a sign that the world was finally ready to deal with the AIDS epidemic in a serious way. Archbishop Javier Lozano, who headed the Vatican delegation to the meeting, called for a prevention strategy revolving around “matrimonial fidelity” and “chast ity and abstinence,” while excluding “campaigns associated with models of behavior which destroy life and promote the spread of the evil in question”—a clear reference to the safe $ex and condom education campaigns that the meeting delegates had affirmed as essential to halting AIDS. Source: By Patricia Miller, former editor of Conscience and director of writing and research at Catholics for a Free Choice
Women have the choice to have or not to have relations with a man as per their social/faith morals. Once that decision is made…they should not have the right to end another’s life just because they chose to engage in the physical relation and it produced another person. They realize this could happen.
HIV/AIDS have not been lessened by contraception and actually increased….again by choices people make coupled with the fact that mishandling of the use of the condom…contraception has been a harm to people.
The Catholic Church is a top organization in the reduction of starvation the world over. Investigate Catholic Charities….Do you know anyone who is assisted by Meals on Wheels?
You said, "HIV/AIDS have not been lessened by contraception and actually increased….again by choices people make coupled with the fact that mishandling of the use of the condom…contraception has been a harm to people."
Your argument doesn't hold water.
Source: Catholics for Choice
Such claims that condoms should not play an important role in halting the spread of HIV are unfounded, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and leading AIDS researchers. Condoms opponents have seized on the fact that condoms are not 100% perfect in preventing AIDS to further their arguments that abstinence and $ex within marriage are the only ways to prevent AIDS.
Condoms, like all contraceptives, are not 100% foolproof. Most condom failure is due to human factors such as the failure to use condoms consistently or incorrect use of the prophylactic. Many of these problems can be corrected through safe $ex education, which opponents of condoms also oppose. Poorly manufactured condoms, which are sometimes found in the developing world, or those stored at excessive heats for long periods of time, can also fail. Non-latex condoms, such as those made of sheepskin, are not adequate protect against AIDS because HIV can pass through the larger pores of these condoms.
Claims that latex condoms allow HIV to pass through are unfounded. The pores of latex condoms are too small to allow HIV to pass through. Condoms have been shown to be effective barriers not only to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, but also to herpes simplex, CMV, hepat itis B, chlamydia and gonorrhea.2
While condoms are not foolproof, they are highly effective in preventing HIV infection. According to the CDC, studies examining $exually active people at high risk for contracting HIV have found that “even with repeated $exual contact, 98-100% of those people who used latex condoms correctly and consistently did not become infected.
The only reason the Catholic Church is against birth control, is because they believe it to be a sin. It has nothing to do with the effectiveness.
The Catholic Church's policy of foiling attempts by anyone to convince people that having fewer children would make their lives better. Aid to overpopulated countries since WWII has actually vastly increased human populations in already starving countries, compounding the misery and suffering the aid was supposed to help remedy. Did you know that the original idea for aid to overpopulated countries was to give them birth control education and access to birth control devices? The food packages were added to the plan only to give temporary relief until birth control and agricultural education could take effect. The Catholic Church boycotted the original aid plans until all elements relating to birth control were removed from them. Now we have much larger starving populations than 50 years ago and the impact on the environment is... so bad it's hard to think about.
I believe most people know that there are persons who call themselves Catholic who do not adhere to Catholic Teaching which is how the Church is persecuted from within. This is why it is so important to know the Truth; these 'false prophets' are very convincing....but are NOT Catholic.
You said, "I believe most people know that there are persons who call themselves Catholic who do not adhere to Catholic Teaching which is how the Church is persecuted from within. This is why it is so important to know the Truth; these 'false prophets' are very convincing....but are NOT Catholic."
Did you read the facts about condoms? That was the point. But, actually I find it pleasing people in church understand how your church lies. Cheers!
Why should people worry about this Mass being an "undue influence"?
It takes place in the public forum. It is not secret. The sermons are public record.
Perhaps people should be concerned about anything else that influences the court "unduky" or otherwise
and try to discover what these are and the forum(s" in which they take place.
Stoning and burning at the stake are done in a public forum. That makes it OK !
Too many christians, too few lions.
Then don't go to the event... Use your INDIVIDUAL powers of reason and decision making to separate faith from government. The integration of church into state is synonymous with the exclusion of any church from all matters related to those of the state. Like it or not, churches/religions are a part of society. Being agnostic, I'm all for keeping the direct invention of the church out of the legislative and judicial processes, but try and be reasonable and pragmatic for a change.
that is, ... keeping direct intervention of the church OUT of the legislative and judicial ...
Six Catholics: Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, Alito and Sotomayor and three Jews:
Kagan, Breyer and Ginsburg. The next appointee should be an atheist.
Why? There's not enough Atheists in the country to buy a single congressman.
Time for all these Churches to loose their tax exempt status.
Embarrassing that this even occurs in this age. Religion forcing itself on law givers, I shudder for the future... and the past.
A mass to "celebrate lawyers"? Shouldn't that be called a "Black Mass"?
Obviously, no one is being forced to attend this service. Some people, like Justice Ginsberg, have decided not to attend. So the only danger here would be if somehow the government would say holding this special mass by invitation is illegal. That would be a tragedy for freedom of religion in our country!
You missed the point entirely.
There is only so much seating in the Cathedral....let it be filled with those that the Mass is held for, rather than filling it with perhaps many who would come just to get a glimpse of someone in high office...
I do not believe the "Red Mass' can sway anyone one way or another. Yet with a more than half of the sitting judges being Catholic,what they hear could linger and with there already Catholic leanings,it could be a slippery slope. But why have it all?As for the statement that faith is considered in what they do is wrong. Religion in any form has no place in deciding justice.
You said, 'Religion in any form has no place in deciding justice.'
So you prefer someone without any religion to make decisions for you...I prefer someone with religion to make decisions where I am concerned..
No one is forced to attend a Mass at a Catholic Church. In our community there was recently a White Mass for Catholics in the health professions who care for the sick. In the past there has been a Blue Mass for those who serve their communities as police officers, fire fighters, etc. It is a time of prayer asking God for guidance in our chosen professions.
You are incorrect about no one being forced to attend mass. The Catholic Church makes it very clear that if you do not belong to the Catholic Church AND attend mass then you are going to HELL. That's about as much force as one can apply without holding a gun to your head.
@runswithbeer, it is clear that you lack knowledge of the Catholic Church. They WELCOME outsiders to their services. They hope to gain converts in that fashion. What YOU claim would work against the interests of the Church, and if naught else, the Catholic Church ALWAYS works in its own best interests.
Since the Bible tells us the Church is the pillar and foundation of Truth, one would be a fool to not listen, use your conscience, and chose the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
More anti religion junk from CNN. Change the setting: A group of humanists invites senior people in the legal profession to an invitation only event. The humanist ideology / philosophy functions as a quasi religion for the orgainizers and some of the participants. Strange, no screams of conspiracies, hidden influence, or uhmm.. "controversy" from CNN.
Hmmm I dont thing you have to worry about what the catholics say..They left the Bible behind a long time ago with "religion" taking the place of faith....!!!!
You said, ‘Hmmm I dont thing you have to worry about what the catholics say..They left the Bible behind a long time ago with "religion" taking the place of faith....!!!!’
If you have a Bible, you got it from Catholics, only if you are a protestant, you just don’t have the full one. If you have any Truth in your ‘protestant faith’, you got it from Catholics. Perhaps you believe in the Trinity…… it is Catholic dogma.
There is more….you can find the fullness of Truth in the Catholic Church! The Catholic Church is like a 3-legged stool, …Holy Tradition, Magisterium, and the Bible. If you are protestant, your stool has one leg…not too stable.