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 • Joe Biden • Politics

soundoff (263 Responses)
  1. jimmieshoe

    These 5 Supreme Court Judges will have to recuse themselves when the catholic church comes before the Court for aiding and abeting molesting pedopriest under Racketeering Charges. There attendance at this mockery gives credibility to this most vile network of liars and manipulators.

    October 3, 2010 at 8:13 pm |
    • Thorrsman

      And what makes you think that such a ridiculous case would ever come before the American Supreme Court?

      October 3, 2010 at 9:59 pm |
  2. brianm0122

    This article is meaningless.

    Who or where is the source of criticism? Why is it controversial? Who cares and why? absolutely meaningless. Poor reporting

    October 3, 2010 at 8:10 pm |
  3. Patti

    So sad that the Catholic justices, legislators, vice president, etc. get criticized for attehding their faith's services, but not much is said when the President attends his faith's services. This country was founded on freedom of religion and the ability for us to be able to practice our faith without recrimination but sadly, not everyone believes in that from the tone of this article. Faith and politics do mix because if those that are leading/guiding us do not have faith, how can we expect them to make moral and right decisions for all of us?

    October 3, 2010 at 8:03 pm |
    • Pablo

      Because morality has nothing to do with religion. People have been and continue to be moral without religion.

      October 3, 2010 at 8:18 pm |
    • Ry guy

      Are you implying that one must believe in God to be able to make "right" and "moral" decisions? Perhaps for those who are weak and cannot make decisions without some faith based organazation approving them. I make "right" and "moral" decisions every day, and I do not consult God or any religion. Have confidence in your own ability to be strong and moral.

      October 3, 2010 at 8:21 pm |
    • BADGUY

      But going "en-mass" does not look good. What's one to believe? Were they going to get their "instructions" on how to vote on future cases? How about "Roe-vs.-Wade"? Were they threated with the "witholding of the Sacraments" or "Ex-communication" if they didn't "toe the line" and vote against it? Their attendance looks and is VERY BAD.

      October 4, 2010 at 12:16 am |


    October 3, 2010 at 7:48 pm |
    • Ry guy

      What are we saving the pope from? Child abuse court cases?

      October 3, 2010 at 8:24 pm |
    • Peacemaker


      October 4, 2010 at 10:02 am |
    • Platypus

      It's emperors Constantine and Theodosius faults in the 4th century! Alleluia!

      October 4, 2010 at 5:20 pm |
  5. Francisco Cardenas

    This is actually an insult to all the victims of priests pedophilia to have the Supremes go there. I applaud Ruth Bader Ginsburg for bailing out of this sham.

    October 3, 2010 at 7:42 pm |
    • alan

      you are a bigot.................

      October 3, 2010 at 7:50 pm |
    • jimmieshoe

      I agree, Cardenas.

      October 3, 2010 at 8:24 pm |
    • IceT

      Excellent point ... these justices are suppossed to believe in justice for all, and this isn't it. I question their ability to arrive at an intelligent decision.

      October 3, 2010 at 9:29 pm |
    • Really???

      Pedophiles exist in every religion and, oh no, also among atheists and agnostics too! So I guess that even if you stay away from ALL churches, you are being supportive of Some group of pedo's ! (turns off sarcasm) I am puzzled why you think going to a church for a service in honor of the legal profession is horrific to victims of abuse. Catholic churches don't have "cooties" just because they are Catholic churches! Presidents have held prayer breakfasts at the White House with Baptist ministers, and I don't claim that recent scandal with that Baptist preacher is connected to ALL Baptist churches!. Unless there is direct evidence that this particular service and/or church supports pedophiles what you spouted was irrational & biased.

      October 4, 2010 at 4:54 am |
    • Frogist

      @Really: I'm kind of shocked that you don't know this. But the head of the Catholic Church has been implicated in the pedophilia scandal. Not just a priest or two but the man at the very top of Catholicism, the Pope. And this, as well as the organisational heirarchy, makes it significantly different than any other scandal involving abuse of children in any other church.

      October 4, 2010 at 9:55 am |
    • Peacemaker

      Francisco, what you are implying with your comment is that "all" priests are pedophiles or that "all" priests are condoning these crimes. And that's not so!

      There are a little over 1 billion Catholics on Earth, and the pedophiles are less than 1%..... it is still a monstrous crime..... but please do not judge and condemn ALL Catholics by the crimes of a few monsters! Here is a quote for us all:

      "No human race is superior; no religious faith in inferior. ALL collective judgements are wrong. Only racists make them." ~ Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor & human rights activist.

      I don't condemn atheists nor agnostics. EVERYONE is FREE to believe or not, that's one of the things that makes our Country great. Peace.

      October 4, 2010 at 9:56 am |
    • Platypus

      The religious beliefs of government leaders may influence their legislative decisions thereby affecting the happiness or misfortune of the people.
      Ex President G.W. Bush, a fervent Born Again Christian shouted to the world that it was God who ordered him to invade Iraq in 2003.
      He made many people unhappy among American and Iraqi families during his reign as a bellicose Texan cowboy president.

      October 4, 2010 at 7:13 pm |
  6. debbi

    Justice Ginsburg was tired of being lectured by Catholic officials...after ONE MASS?!
    What is the harm in sitting politely during the mass? Many Jewish officials attend religious services of other faiths, for the simple purpose of learning how someone else thinks about things. Surely Ms. Ginsburg learned SOMETHING beneficial during that ONE Red Mass she attended. If she felt she was being lectured to, perhaps she should have bothered to learn about the religious service she was attending before she went.
    A Mass is, in a nutshell, a celebration of the Eucharist, with a reading from both old and new testaments, a homily(lesson for Catholics, usually about the readings), and Communion by the transfigured bread and/or wine(now the body and blood of Jesus). The lecture she was tired of was likely because she did not KNOW that the homily is primarily directed at the Catholics in the pews. If I were invited and attended a Jewish service, it would behoove me, a non-lawyer, to learn about the service prior to attending, so as to get the most benefit, with the understanding that the Rabbi's purpose is to teach about the Jewish faith to the faithful Jews in attendance.

    October 3, 2010 at 7:39 pm |
    • BADGUY

      Why should she have to "undergo" being lectured to by the Catholic church? The Catholic church has many monetary and vested interests in the USA, some of which may be subject to "judicial review" by the Supreme Court. It's not a question whether she wants to be lectured or not, it's a question whether it's prudent to be lectured. (given here position and the possibility she may have to decide a case involving the Catholic Church). The same holds for the other justices. Their attendance at these "Red Masses" is very irregular.

      October 3, 2010 at 10:38 pm |
    • Aloisae

      She doesn't have to undergo being lectured to. She was under no obligation to attend in the first place. She was invited and could have said no as do several other Justices, including according to the CNN article one of the Catholic Justices. Instead she made the personal choice to accept the invitation of her own free will and then publicly use her position to bash the religion.

      October 4, 2010 at 1:19 am |
    • Really???

      She might get tired of being lectured to after one mass. Poor thing, not everyone has a long attention span!

      October 4, 2010 at 4:57 am |
    • CatholicMom

      Sometimes, it may happen, that people will hear Truth and it rattles their consciences.

      October 4, 2010 at 1:09 pm |
  7. Ry guy

    Thorrsman, separation of church and state is not a myth according to our founding fathers. And, by the way, it is not just the Athiests who emphasize separation of church and state. Many logical minded Christians know it is the most rational way to run a gov't, if that gov't is truly an unbiased ruling body.

    October 3, 2010 at 7:22 pm |
  8. Cindy D

    The Red Mass tradition began in 1952, and now this year CNN decides to label it "controversial"?
    Ginsburg is quoted as saying "I went one year", and yet "has said she grew tired of being lectured by Catholic officials". I don't understand what her problem is.

    October 3, 2010 at 7:17 pm |
    • Recent Mover

      I guess it's okay for RBG to effectively lecture us with her unwaivering, close-minded allegiance to unrestricted baby killing, but it's too painful for her to sit down for an hour and hear opposing views.

      October 3, 2010 at 7:33 pm |
    • Aloisae

      Actually, the Red Mass tradition goes back to the middle ages and did not start in the United States nor is it limited to here. The 1952 year would just be the first year the Red Mass was held in the DC area at that particular church and sponsored by that particular society of Catholic lawyers (presumably.. I actually didn't fact check CNN on the year). They definitely have been celebrated in other diocese in the US for longer than this.

      October 4, 2010 at 1:09 am |
    • Frogist

      @CindyD: I'm not sure you mean about "what her problem is" but I'd think if you were invited to a private service about religion, you would not want to be lectured about how you perform in your publicly held job of upholding the law.

      October 4, 2010 at 9:44 am |
  9. Aaron

    The fact that this is even an issue is a shame, if secularists want religions out of public places, then they need to butt out of religion in private lives. The men are Catholics can can attend mass if they want to.

    October 3, 2010 at 7:10 pm |
  10. Ry guy

    I am for complete and utter seperation of church and state. However, if this is a private event and is not directly in opperation with the US gov't, then what is the problem?

    October 3, 2010 at 7:09 pm |
  11. Tom

    The difference is that in a case brought in front of the Court the Supremes have a right to question the litigants. At the Red "Mass", protocol does not allow any questioning of those making their case. Hence it is a lecture as Ginsburg described.

    October 3, 2010 at 7:03 pm |
    • Thorrsman

      Nothing requires anyone there to "BELIEVE" either. For some, this is naught more than a photo op. Too many among the militant Atheists view–quite wrongly–any contact between religion and members of our government as violating their own cherished myth regarding separation of Church and State.

      October 3, 2010 at 7:07 pm |
    • Aloisae

      Not only are they not required to believe.. they aren't required to attend. Every person attending a Red Mass (and, while CNN didn't make this explicit the service in DC isn't unique... these masses are celebrated across the country in many different churches) does so by choice. Nobody is forced to go.. if the CNN article is accurate not even all the Catholic Justices attended.

      This is exactly the freedom which is guaranteed by the separation of Church and State. The right to practice one's faith or explore other faiths isn't something that the government takes away from somebody because they work for the government or hold a public office.

      October 3, 2010 at 7:55 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Just a little info about Red Masses held around the country.....

      On Sunday, Oct. 3 at 9:30 a.m. at Holy Family Cathedral, Archbishop
      Roger Schwietz will celebrate the annual Red Mass, and all are invited.
      Held annually in many American cities, the Red Mass is a special Mass at
      which the church prays for all who practice law, especially asking the
      Holy Spirit's guidance for attorneys, judges and politicians.

      After the Mass in Anchorage, there will be a brunch at the Marriott
      Hotel. Alaska Governor Sean Parnell, Attorney General Dan Sullivan and
      Superior Court Judge Frank Pfiffner are the keynote speakers.

      The origins of the Red Mass are traced to the 13th century, when the
      first known Red Mass was offered on behalf of the supreme court of the
      Catholic Church, the Roman Rota. Clerics wear red vestments, since the
      color signifies the Holy Spirit. The annual Red Mass celebrations in
      Anchorage are sponsored by the St. Thomas More Lawyers' Society of

      October 4, 2010 at 1:03 pm |
  12. Recent Mover

    I assume that Mr. Biden, one of the leaders of the party of "just say yes" to partial birth and late term abortions, did not partake in communion.

    October 3, 2010 at 7:00 pm |
    • Jen

      I should hope that he didn't partake. If so he is going against the beliefs of the Church he claims to believe in.

      October 3, 2010 at 8:39 pm |
    • Really???

      If he partook of communion, hopefully he preceded it with the sacrament of reconciliation!

      October 4, 2010 at 5:03 am |
    • CatholicMom

      You said, ‘If he partook of communion, hopefully he preceded it with the sacrament of reconciliation!’

      The Sacrament of Reconciliation would be invalid if his profession of contrition was not true…that is, if he plans to continue in the sin, the contrition was fake and thus he would be piling sin upon sin on his soul.

      October 4, 2010 at 12:56 pm |
    • Frank

      The Holy Eucharist can lead a person to repentence whether they are contrite at the time of Communion or not. As for Biden, he is just another political huckster. He sold his soul out long ago.

      October 4, 2010 at 1:06 pm |
    • Tell_Me

      Years ago, when my belief in Catholicism (and God, in general) began to dwindle, many times I did the ritual of Confession / Communion, thinking that I would be renewed or strengthened or something. Nope. Nothing. Nada. That wafer is not magic. Any feelings of holy ecstasy stemming from it are self-induced.

      October 4, 2010 at 1:27 pm |
    • Frank

      God does not work on our time. You may not always get instant results. I had gone through the feeling that God is just not listening, not there, doesn't exist and even that God hates me! I went so far as to denounce God and His Church, even to the point of getting involved in Satanism and other abhorrent philosophies. The point is that God works His will in His own time. It is not promised that you are going to waltz out of Mass every time glowing and floating on airs. Sometimes you may not feel anything at all! Such are the tests of Faith. Many Saints have experienced such dark nights of the soul. Even when that happens, you should remain steadfast in your belief, read the Bible and the writings of the Saints and the Church to nourish your soul and mind, meditate and pray. God is still there and His is still listening. He knows better than anyone when the best time is to make Himself known in our lives.
      Be blessed.

      October 4, 2010 at 1:43 pm |
    • Tell_Me


      "Never say never", I suppose; but the likelihood is extremely low - akin to my sprouting wings on my back and flying, or seeing Santa Claus emerge from my fireplace. Thanks for the good wishes, however.

      October 4, 2010 at 2:21 pm |
    • Frank

      You're welcome. As it says in the Bible, 'with God nothing shall be impossible'. I'll pray for you. God bless.

      October 4, 2010 at 2:28 pm |
    • civiloutside

      I'm not entirely certain what sin Senator Biden is being accused of here. Has he performed an abortion? Has he directly counseled anyone to have an abortion? Or is it merely that he has thus far refused to use his position as a legislator to enshrine Catholic doctrine on abortion in American law. Is it your position, then, that every Catholic legislator is obligated to not only follow Catholic teaching to the letter, but must also work to insert that teaching into the laws of the nation? And that to do otherwise is a sin?

      October 4, 2010 at 3:28 pm |
    • CatholicMom


      I have enjoyed reading your posts about your coming back to the Catholic Faith and your joy is easily felt. Thank you for sharing!

      On this particular post it almost sounds like you are saying that a person can receive the Holy Eucharist with mortal sin on one’s soul and that this could lead a person to repent even if they are not contrite at the time they receive Communion. I may be misunderstanding you, but just so non-Catholics are fully aware…. No one is to receive Communion unless in a state of grace.

      Someone was wondering what Joe Biden’s sin might be… Joe knows that if he leads others into sin by his proclaiming that it is okay for a woman to have an abortion if she so chooses, and someone hears that and so goes ahead with an abortion…that is going against the Church’s teachings that abortion is wrong so if you cause another to sin woe to that person. So even if Joe doesn’t have an abortion himself…but leads someone else to have one…it is scandalous and a sin.

      October 4, 2010 at 5:20 pm |
    • Frank

      "I have enjoyed reading your posts about your coming back to the Catholic Faith and your joy is easily felt. Thank you for sharing!

      On this particular post it almost sounds like you are saying that a person can receive the Holy Eucharist with mortal sin on one’s soul and that this could lead a person to repent even if they are not contrite at the time they receive Communion. I may be misunderstanding you, but just so non-Catholics are fully aware…. No one is to receive Communion unless in a state of grace."

      Thank you for your kind words. Yes, that is what the Church teaches. I apologize if I've confused anyone.

      October 5, 2010 at 4:30 am |
  13. jim

    Did the justices receive the Eucharist (accept Communion)? Well, I guess Breyer no, but I can see how this would give the impresssion that the court is not entirely impartial.

    October 3, 2010 at 6:58 pm |
  14. Dan

    Religion is such rubbish.

    October 3, 2010 at 6:58 pm |
    • Really?

      Jesus doesn't like religion either – Revelation 2:6.

      October 3, 2010 at 8:08 pm |
    • Peter F

      Did you copy that from that one CNN iReport advertisement? lol

      October 3, 2010 at 9:41 pm |
    • PeterS

      I wish it were just rubish....actually, it is dangerous rubish.

      October 4, 2010 at 1:04 am |
    • Hk


      October 4, 2010 at 3:40 am |
    • Really???

      Sorry you feel that way. It isn't that way to me. It strengthens, and uplifts me. Not to mention comforting and healing me. The deep roots holding the tree firm against the storms of life. Like a warm blanket on a cold day.

      October 4, 2010 at 5:13 am |
    • Frogist

      @Really: So what is Christianity? Isn't it a religion?
      I'm glad that you find strength in your way of thinking. Most people do. But I often ask myself, why does Christianity, and most other religions, behave like some exclusionary club. A lot of christians say they love all but at the same time call those who do not think like them, sinners. It seems like a contradiction that treats love less like an ideal and more like a bargaining chip.

      October 4, 2010 at 9:39 am |
    • Brenn

      We do except everyone. We are all sinners myself included. And all those people who you think we cast away, we are always waiting with open arms to welcome the sinner who repents.

      October 13, 2010 at 4:49 pm |
    • Mikko

      There is not such thing as sin

      October 18, 2010 at 7:16 pm |
  15. Tom

    I would like to remind the critics of those who place faith in God as a priority that we need to accept truth even if it is painful. The Catholic Church teaching stands up for the truth. If God is accepted by the majority of people, then God (theology) trumps individual thinking and even science(science is a means not an end to our existence). We need to start thinking about the purpose of our existence (for all human beings) and our endpoint not just about our existence as a means eg means towards our gratification. If we exclude God(truth) and ultimately our purpose in life, then chaos will ultimately rule(chaos is not how our universe was designed – ask any physicist). Do you trust your fellow human being more than God for truth? Thank God we have a few leaders in our country willing to listen to our Church leaders to better understand God(truth) and try to be better, more selfless, leaders.

    October 3, 2010 at 6:56 pm |
    • Pablo

      The Catholic church is not about truth and neither are it's teachings. They are about control, influences, and maintaining power. Look over the history of the church and how it's teachings were employed to manipulate, control, and perpuate lies against those who opposed it's un-democratic rule and influence.

      October 3, 2010 at 8:24 pm |
    • francis

      Read the Bible and you will know the truth. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you if you find it hard to understand the Scripture. Wisdom from God not from men in red will be given to you.

      October 3, 2010 at 9:48 pm |
    • BADGUY

      If the Pope, through the American Bishops, threatens to Ex-Communicate or withold the Sacraments from the 5, Catholic, Supreme Court justices if they don't vote to reverse "Roe-vs-Wade" (or cancel pedophile priest lawsuits) what do you think we should do?

      October 3, 2010 at 11:37 pm |
    • Adam

      The catholic Church put the New Testament together. Each gospel was written for a local church community. And the gospels are just witnesses to what the early Church believed. Jesus didn't commission the New Testament Gospels....the Church did. He never told anyone to write a thing. The Early Christians did it themselves. The Church came first. Then along came the Gospels.

      October 3, 2010 at 11:38 pm |
    • BADGUY

      The Church did not receive a "Commission" from the Roman government until Constintine mandated such in the early 300's. Although not the originator of the Christian Church he was certainly 'instrumental" in its acceptance and eventual success. He was also the the force behind the compilation of the Christian bible. So....the real "prime mover" of the Catholic church ( as well as the Protestant churches that followed) was a guy who felt Christianity would help him win wars and meld the people of the "Eastern Empire" into a more cohesive unit. In other words, his cooperation with the church was done for political reasons more so than religion (By the way he killed members of his own family to maintain power...a great Christian!)

      October 3, 2010 at 11:57 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Tom: I respectfully disagree. No chaos ensued when I became an agnostic. It was actually a revelation and a release. And I am still happily living within a legal and moral code that harms no one, threatens no one, and excludes no one. There was more chaos trying to fit the ridiculous laws of god into the world than seeing the world for what it is.

      October 4, 2010 at 9:32 am |
  16. Michael

    Fortunately, we are blessed with the freedom to practice religion in this country, even if we are public servants. Working for Uncle Sam doesn't require you to resign from your church. I am always astonished–but seldom surprised–by the liberals who claim that 'tolerance' is a virtue...unless it's needed toward Christians or Catholics.

    October 3, 2010 at 6:52 pm |
    • debbi

      Catholics ARE Christians.

      October 3, 2010 at 7:29 pm |
    • Jessica

      That's quite brilliant Michael. How did you arrive at your idea that no liberals are Christian or Catholic? You've been thinking too hard, you've hurt yourself.

      October 3, 2010 at 7:46 pm |
    • Cello


      October 3, 2010 at 7:56 pm |
    • j h goodrich

      debbie is seriously mistaken

      October 3, 2010 at 8:48 pm |
    • BADGUY

      Not only is the Catholic church a "church", It's a foreign power. As such, questions of "propriety" are warranted.

      October 4, 2010 at 12:27 am |
    • Peacemaker

      @debbi: Thanks for mentioning that Catholics ARE Christians. We have been around for over 2000 years, and yes, we are not perfect there is a lot to change. There is plenty of blood on our hands. However, the vast majority of Catholics are good people who strive to Love God & serve His people. As a life-long Catholic I assure everyone that we profess and believe that Jesus Christ is our Lord & Savior, period. There are a lot of old dysfunctional traditions in our ancient church..... but the bottom line is ..... Jesus is Lord! Peace to all.

      October 4, 2010 at 9:50 am |
    • CatholicMom

      There is a difference between Tradition, tradition, and dogma. What was Truth when Jesus Christ founded His Church is still Truth today. We keep the Truth as the Bible tells us ‘the Church is the pillar and foundation of the Truth; the way we are taught the Truth or how we are brought to the Truth can change but Truth cannot change.

      Debbi is right...we are Christian BECAUSE we are Catholic.

      October 4, 2010 at 12:45 pm |
  17. Tom

    Congradulations to those Justices who stay at home. As Justice Ginsburgh said and I agree, this is an event where Justices are lectured to and I don't want our Supreme Court Justices lectured to by any specific group.

    I wonder if Alito, Scalia, Thomas and Roberts would attend if it was a Red Burka service at the local mosque or a an annual gathering of the leaders of some atheist group celebrating the fredom to think about how we all came to be.

    Next year boy's, just stay home, and let the Red Robes have their mass and hopefully ponder what they have done to their church.

    October 3, 2010 at 6:44 pm |
    • Thorrsman

      Why should they not be "lectured" to? It is not as if these nine–or any other group of nine justices in the past–are all-wise. Every group that manages to get a case before the Supreme Court attempts to "lecture" them. Every interest group that wants the Court to rule in their favor "lectures" them. In what way is this any different? The Catholic Church has interests and ideals and hopes that the members of the Court will take those interests and ideals to heart, just like every other interest group.

      October 3, 2010 at 6:53 pm |
    • Brian

      It's a mass. The *point* of a mass is that you get a lecture (aka sermon) at some point. I certainly agree that one shouldn't go to a mass if one doesn't want to hear Catholic theology, but if one is Catholic, what's the problem?

      October 3, 2010 at 7:03 pm |
    • Jessica

      sorry Thorrsan but as an attorney I can ssure you that we do not "lecture" the judges. We do not tell them how to think or what to think, we argue why they should decide the way we argue and they are free to think whatever they want as long as they do not put their value system on us but makes decisions for the good of the entire country and not just have things they way they want them.

      October 3, 2010 at 7:43 pm |
    • RickW-Cambridge

      Did you object to president obama slamming the justices while they were expected to sit silently because he didn't like their decision in Citizens United? At least in the Mass, the Justices know what the tone of the homily will be. They're not ambushed like o did.

      October 3, 2010 at 7:45 pm |
    • Aloisae

      Why should they stay home unless that is a personal choice of theirs? The right to practice one's religion (or to explore other faiths or not practice any religion) isn't forfeited when one takes public office. I sincerely doubt that only Catholics continue to practice their faith after taking a public office and it is definitely not the only religion that "lectures" to its followers by providing moral guidelines of some sort.

      October 3, 2010 at 8:05 pm |
    • Thorrsman

      @Jessica, it does not take long to see that "Lecturing" is exactly what some before the Supreme Court do. You might have a nice fancy Legaleze term for it that no one who speaks normal English would use, but the effect remains the same.

      October 3, 2010 at 10:03 pm |
    • BADGUY

      If the Catholic Church wants to press it's vested interests with the High court, let it do it in the Supreme Court's Chambers. Why should the Church have "special access", especially since these Supreme Court members may be asked to rule on taxation issues or cases pertaining to the priest scandals. Very VERY irregular!

      October 3, 2010 at 10:13 pm |
    • Aloisae

      They don't have "special access". The Justices aren't required to attend these services... several of them didn't according to the CNN article including one of the Catholic Justices.

      One thing to keep in mind is that the Red Mass was NOT started in 1952 by the John Carroll Study Group despite what the article said. That is just the sponsor of the Red Mass at this particular church and that was the first year that it was held.. again, in this particular church. The Catholic tradition of the Red Mass goes back to the middle ages and is celebrated in churches around the world, including in many different locations in the US. In the US attendance has always been completely voluntary and nobody who doesn't wish to attend is required to do so.

      October 4, 2010 at 1:03 am |
    • Frogist

      The difference is that people who come to the court are part of our system of justice. The catholic church is not part of that system. No one religion is part of our justice system. And that is why they should not be "lecturing" these justices who were invited, not because they were Catholic, but because they are high level judges.

      October 4, 2010 at 9:23 am |
    • tifoso

      To clarify the point made by Jessica: In court, both sides get to state their cases. There is balance. In the Red Mass, only one viewpoint is heard. Attorneys do not "lecture" a court; they plead before it. Huge difference.

      October 4, 2010 at 9:54 am |
  18. pkfops

    Sounds like the government is being infiltrated by demons. 666

    October 3, 2010 at 6:31 pm |
    • francis

      for those of us who read our bible we know there is more than the eyes meet.

      October 3, 2010 at 9:45 pm |
  19. Aaron

    As a Roman Catholic myself, I think Brian is right... people are going to go and worship anyways. And honestly, I would rather see people going to a religious organization where beliefs are openly discussed than the "C Street" group.

    Secondly, no, I don't think the church should be pushing agendas onto people. They can preach about the "womb to the tomb," about peace and about justice. But they shall not judge nor condemn. And if they do, they are wrong for doing so.

    October 3, 2010 at 6:28 pm |
    • Brian

      Churches (or any other ideological organization, for that matter) always have agendas. I wouldn't expect the Catholic church to ever back off on abortion or gay marriage or anything like that. What I think is most important is for organizations and individuals to have *open* agendas. If you believe that life begins at conception, and you believe that because the Bible or the Catholic church tells you so, that's fine, but be open about it, so that people can decide whether or not to vote for you. Likewise, if you believe that no one has any rights until they leave the birth canal, be open about that, too.

      October 3, 2010 at 6:44 pm |
    • Missy

      Folks are so upset about people trying to build a Mosque, meanwhile one Religion, one that suppresses women and hides abuse of young boys, has a majority rule on the court. But nobody has a problem with that. If we had ONE Muslim on the court people would scream. But five Catholic justices and it's no big deal.

      October 3, 2010 at 7:48 pm |
    • Aloisae

      Are you suggesting, Missy, that only atheists should be allowed to hold public office? If so...how is that any different than establishing atheism as the government religion? This was attempted by the Soviet Union with resulting persecution of many Muslims and Jews as well as followers of various Christian religions.

      Or are you saying that people in public office can be of any faith.. as long as it isn't Catholic? In which case, you just declared that the religious denomination/sect with the greatest number of followers in the US should be discriminated against in favor of all the minority religions.

      October 3, 2010 at 9:22 pm |
    • Tell_Mr

      A member of any religion whose aim is world domination, be it Catholicism, Islam, Mormonism or any other fundamentalist religion, is suspect in government.

      October 4, 2010 at 1:11 am |
    • Peacemaker

      You are correct. The ONE thing that bothers me is not that the the VP & Justices worshipped & prayed, is the tone & message of the sermon. Its much better for the Catholic church to stick to the teachings of Love & Peace from Christ and leave ALL politics to the politicians.

      BTW Folks, Mormonism is not considered a Christian faith! Do some research into their theology and you will see it.

      October 4, 2010 at 9:45 am |
  20. Brian

    Separation of church and state is a cherished concept, but I don't think that precludes people in government from *having* a faith.

    And I'm personally an atheistic agnostic.

    October 3, 2010 at 6:18 pm |
    • Conway

      Brian, I have the same view point as you and agree with what you said.

      October 3, 2010 at 6:26 pm |
    • Ryan

      Sometimes senators have a little too much faith and it doesn't help them think so clearly

      October 3, 2010 at 6:33 pm |
    • Brian


      Justices certainly need to be guided by the law, whatever their faiths may be, but you can't ask anyone (reasonably) to evict their faith from their work. Even if they *tell* you they will, even if they tell *themselves* they will, they won't. Your faith is too much a part of who you are. (I'm using "faith" in a broad sense here. Even if you don't believe in God, as I currently don't, that's also a faith, because one can never *know*.)

      October 3, 2010 at 7:06 pm |
    • IviHarvard

      Power to ya
      I completely agree! Part of what is great about this country is that we are free to practice our faith regardless of what positions we may hold in our careers.

      October 3, 2010 at 7:07 pm |
    • RickW-Cambridge

      I don't recall seeing the word "separation" of church and state; seems to me the gov't is projibited from establishing a state religion.

      October 3, 2010 at 7:47 pm |
    • AA

      By private invitation only. . . . . this is not a service for the faithful. It is full scale lobbying. The catholic church (no capital for them) should be investigated for their violation of their tax exempt status and should register as the lobbyist they are. Religion only exist for the control and domination of the "lower classes."

      October 3, 2010 at 8:39 pm |
    • Bob

      AA, you nailed it!

      October 3, 2010 at 8:59 pm |
    • automagic

      Yeah, but imagine the uproar if one of the justices attended a non-Christian religious event?

      October 3, 2010 at 9:36 pm |
    • Jason

      I named the five before I read the order. They would be better as Sunday School teachers than judges!

      October 3, 2010 at 10:29 pm |
    • Carl in Atlantic City

      Yawn. Complete non-story. Catholic politicians and judges are allowed to be Catholic and to practice their faith by attending Catholic services like members of every other denomination in our country.

      October 3, 2010 at 11:14 pm |
    • BADGUY

      But when the "Church" is also a foreign power with a vested interest in affecting their vote (Pedophile Priests, taxes, etc), , I think there's a difference.

      October 3, 2010 at 11:42 pm |
    • Aloisae

      Justices do attend non-Christian religious events. Keep in mind that we have a couple Jewish Justices. In terms of attending religious events in general that don't correspond to the religion of the Justice, this happens at the National Cathedral as well and some of these are OFFICIAL functions and nobody seems to get up in arms about them attending Episcopalian services.

      October 4, 2010 at 12:55 am |
    • Paul

      Brian – it is not possible to be an 'atheistic agnostic'...either you are an atheisis and don't believe in God or our are an agnostic and you question the exsistance of God. Kinda greedy to want to be both...pick one and then support why you believe that way.

      The one thing I do agree with is you are right...separation of church and state does not mean they can't have faith. And regardless what the MINORITY of population who are athesis say...this country WAS built on Chrisitan principles and on the Christian faith...and frankly...for those that don't like it anymore...the rest of say....head to Canada, Mexico, India, or China...if you can't let the MAJORITY express the faith we have. We dont have to change for you...and if you don't like it....live somewhere else and stop enjoying the freedom you want to take away from the rest of us. So tired of political correctness....you people are simply wrong and the majority is behind me.

      October 4, 2010 at 7:40 am |
    • Mukarram

      i agree a 100%

      "But the event has drawn criticism in recent years for what many see as an unhealthy mix of politics, religion and the law."

      but there is no healthy mix of politics and religion

      October 4, 2010 at 8:15 am |
    • Tommy Mack

      When will the liberals in this country come to understand that the Founding Fathers meaning of "Separation of Church and State" meant we would not be subjected to one religion, as England was (is) with the Anglican Religion? It did not mean that the word "God" was to be purged from the English language. And as for Rulth Ginsburg boycotting the event. Ruth - not having you there was the highlight of the Mass.

      October 4, 2010 at 8:27 am |
    • Frogist

      I'm with AA on this. This event is not a celebration of faith. The article states it's an event for the law profession by the Catholic Church where many different high level people are invited. It's a means of trying to influence the courts. And I'm very uncomfortable with it. High five to Ruth Bader for saying no to it.
      I think some Christians don't know the difference between celebration of your religion and dallying in political affairs. And many of them say as much. But these same christians put down middle eastern countries for being under the influence of their religious majority. So many of them do not see the hypocrisy of that stance. Either you are for a theocracy or against it, no matter what the religion. Thankfully, we are not a christian nation and no one group has the the right to put their religion above the influence of our laws.

      October 4, 2010 at 9:09 am |
    • Peacemaker

      Thanks Brian! For being reasonable & fair.

      October 4, 2010 at 9:32 am |
    • talon10

      If they want to believe in ignorant nonsense, that's their right. But when the church puts on a special sermon for governement officials, that's not right. If they allowed everyone to attend and govt. officials showed up, then it wouldn't be a problem. Seems like a violation of separation of church and state to me.

      October 4, 2010 at 9:43 am |
    • John K

      Atheistic agnostic? An atheist believes absolutely without question that God does not exist. An agnostic believes that there is not enough evidence to either confirm or deny the existence of God. It is not possible to be both atheist and agnostic.

      October 4, 2010 at 10:49 am |
    • Tell_Me

      Yes there can be an Atheist-Agnostic.

      Contrary to what religious people desire – "God", wrapped up in a tidy little package, with "His" properties and attributes and powers all defined, non-believers fall into many categories. Here is a sampling of the range of beliefs / non-beliefs:

      Strong atheist – Does not believe there is a god.

      Weak atheist – Does not see any evidence that there is a god.

      Non-theist – Does not seek god.

      Apathetic – Does not care about god.

      Theist – Believes in a personal god.

      Anti-theist – Does not believe in a personal god.

      Deist – Believes in a non-personal god.

      Weak Agnostic – Can not prove there is a god.

      Strong Agnostic – It is not possible to prove there is a god.

      Atheistic Agnostic – Does not have belief in the existence of any deity, does not claim to know that a deity does not exist.

      Ignostic – Needs a definition of god before I can discuss this.

      Pantheist – Believes god is the universe and the universe is god.

      Panentheist – Believes the universe is part of god.

      Very brief definitions, and not complete by any means - but just an overview. Hope this helps.

      October 4, 2010 at 1:12 pm |
    • Nonimus

      "I don't recall seeing the word 'separation' of church and state; seems to me the gov't is projibited from establishing a state religion."
      I don't recall seeing the words "establishing a state religion," it's no law respecting an establishment of religion. You have a religious establishment? There should be no respecting it, by law.

      October 4, 2010 at 2:10 pm |
    • Tobias Strauss

      I'm a Christian. According to my faith, I am supposed to pray for my leaders, including senators, judges, and the president. I see nothing wrong with inviting leaders to a special service where we pray to the Lord that He will grant our leaders with wisdom and justice. Just because you hold elected office doesn't mean you cease holding your religious beliefs.

      Likewise, I don't think there is anything wrong with making decisions according to how your faith influences your interpretation of the laws of the land. One o f the lessons I remember most vividly from college was when a professor said "there are two types of people in the world, those who admit that they are biased, and those that don't realize that they are biased." Never have truer words been uttered.

      Regarding Ginsberg's complaint regarding the service, seriously, what did she expect? The Roman Catholic church is staunchly pro-life. This is no secret. They are not shy about this opinion. Why would you expect a Roman Catholic service for law makers to be pro-choice?

      Anyhow, I think everyone should just get over it. The US is pretty unlikely to become a theocracy any time soon. I doubt Roe v. Wade would even be overturned with our current supreme court. Just chill, believe whatever you believe, and come to terms with the fact that people of faith like myself are praying for our leaders–that's just what we do.

      October 6, 2010 at 11:32 pm |
    • Autumn

      A person can be an agnostic atheist, a gnostic atheist, an agnostic theist, or a gnostic theist. Do your homework before coming down on someone. Gnosticism and theism are two different things. One has to do with belief, and one has to do with knowledge. Better yet, visit youtube and search it out. There are countless videos explaining how the two are not mutually exclusive.

      October 20, 2010 at 12:51 am |
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About this blog

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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.