Critical Mass: Bishops Advise Supreme Court On The Laws Of God
Rob Boston printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Oct 02, 2007 at 11:59:05 AM EST
Don't you wish you had the opportunity to personally lobby the members of the U.S. Supreme Court on issues that concern you?

It's rare that anyone gets that chance. The nine members of the court are supposed to be somewhat aloof and to isolate themselves from the pressure groups and high-powered lobbyists who regularly cruise the halls of Congress, seeking to button-hole members of the House of Representatives or Senate.

But once a year, many of the justices sit through a lecture where they are patiently instructed on how to vote on a number of important constitutional issues. This event takes places in the context of a worship service. It is called the "Red Mass."

The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., working with the John Carroll Society, sponsors this special service, so named for the red vestments the presiding member of the clergy wears. The annual event takes place the Sunday before the first Monday in October, the opening of the Supreme Court's new term.

This year's service at St. Matthew's Cathedral took place Sept. 30. It was attended by six members of the high court - Chief Justice John G. Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito, Anthony M. Kennedy and Stephen G. Breyer. (Members of Congress and other government officials also were present).

By some unspoken tradition, the homilist at the mass usually takes a swipe at separation of church and state - albeit sometimes in carefully couched language - and speaks out against legal abortion, stem-cell research, same-sex marriage or other issues that may be occupying the church's leadership. In previous years, some bishops have even used the mass to carp about the lack of tax support for Catholic schools.

At Sunday's event, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of Milwaukee told the justices, "It is a cherished part of our American heritage, then, to rejoice in a mutually enriching alliance between religion, morality, and democracy, since, as de Tocqueville observed, `Respect for the laws of God and man is the best way of remaining free, and liberty is the best means of remaining upright and religious.' No wonder the bishops of the Catholic Church of the United States, meeting in council in Baltimore in 1884, could write, `We consider the establishment of our nation, the shaping of its liberties and laws, as a work of special Providence, its framers building better than they knew, the Almighty's hand guiding them.'"

Dolan didn't name the religion he wants to see in "alliance" with democracy. It's probably not Buddhism. Moments later he prayed, "[P]erhaps a way to view our participation in this annual Red Mass in our nation's capital is as our humble prayer for the red-hot fire of the Holy Spirit, bringing the jurists, legislators, and executives of our government the wisdom to recognize that we are indeed made in God's image, that deep in our being is the life of God, and then to give them the courage to judge, legislate, and administer based on the consequences of that conviction: the innate dignity and inviolability of every human life, and the cultivation of a society of virtue to support that belief."

He later asserted that in contemporary culture, "we're tempted to act like animals instead of like God's icon" and blasted "a culture where life itself can be treated as a commodity, seen as a means to an end, or as an inconvenience when tiny or infirm, in a society where rights are reduced to whatever we have the urge to do instead of what we ought to do in a civil society...." That's bishop-speak for opposition to stem-cell research and abortion rights and dogma-based mandates on care for the dying.

Dolan's sermon fits the pattern. At last year's Red Mass, Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., insisted that opposing "threats to the dignity of life" - church code language for its anti-abortion lobbying - is not an effort "to force values upon society."

Wuerl asserted, "Politics and faith may mingle, because believers are also citizens. Church and state are home for the very same people."

In 2004, Boston Archbishop Boston Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley called on lawmakers to conform laws to church policy, telling attendees, "Too often when politicians agree with the church's position on a given issue they say the church is prophetic and should be listened to, but if the church's position does not coincide with theirs, then they scream separation of church and state."

During the 2003 mass, Cardinal Avery Dulles bluntly called on government to "protect and support" religion. He then blasted public schools for failing to include moral instruction and implied that private institutions may need to take over the task of educating youngsters.

The bishops' rhetoric has actually become a bit more guarded in recent years. That may be because the ham-fisted sermons annoyed one justice. Ruth Bader Ginsburg told a writer last year that she attended one Red Mass after being placed on the high court in 1993 but doesn't plan to do so again.

"Before every session, there's a Red Mass," Ginsburg said. "And the justices get invitations from the cardinal to attend that. And a good number of the justices show up every year. I went one year, and I will never go again, because this sermon was outrageously anti-abortion."

Judges and politicians may attend any religious service they like, of course. But when the hierarchy of a powerful religious denomination uses a worship service to demand that its theology be written into the law for all to follow, Americans have a right to be concerned.

I've been troubled about the direction the hierarchy is headed in. I appreciate your column and I agree with it.

by khughes1963 on Tue Oct 02, 2007 at 08:58:45 PM EST

Karen is correct, but there is something more going on here.

After many years of the Vatican condemning liberalism and Enlightenment principles, the neo-orthodox led by George Weigel Richard John Neuhaus and Michael Novak have begun employing revisionist history. Now they claim that the Founders were actually in sync with Catholic natural law principles--something that would have surprised Anglican theologian Richard Hooker from whom John Locke and, in turn, the Founders drew upon for their concept of tolerance. I will explore this in a future Catholic Right post.

As always Rob, you provided us with very important and helpful information.


by Frank Cocozzelli on Wed Oct 03, 2007 at 07:49:20 AM EST

threatening to deny communion to Rudy Giuliani should he be the Republican candidate.

by NancyP on Wed Oct 03, 2007 at 02:44:57 PM EST

WWW Talk To Action

Cognitive Dissonance & Dominionism Denial
There is new research on why people are averse to hearing or learning about the views of ideological opponents. Based on evaluation of five......
By Frederick Clarkson (330 comments)
Will the Air Force Do Anything To Rein In Its Dynamic Duo of Gay-Bashing, Misogynistic Bloggers?
"I always get nervous when I see female pastors/chaplains. Here is why everyone should as well: "First, women are not called to be pastors,......
By Chris Rodda (178 comments)
The Legacy of Big Oil
The media is ablaze with the upcoming publication of David Grann's book, Killers of the Flower Moon. The shocking non fiction account of the......
By wilkyjr (98 comments)
Gimme That Old Time Dominionism Denial
Over the years, I have written a great deal here and in other venues about the explicitly theocratic movement called dominionism -- which has......
By Frederick Clarkson (93 comments)
History Advisor to Members of Congress Completely Twists Jefferson's Words to Support Muslim Ban
Pseudo-historian David Barton, best known for his misquoting of our country's founders to promote the notion that America was founded as a Christian nation,......
By Chris Rodda (105 comments)
"Christian Fighter Pilot" Calls First Lesbian Air Force Academy Commandant a Liar
In a new post on his "Christian Fighter Pilot" blog titled "BGen Kristin Goodwin and the USAFA Honor Code," Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan......
By Chris Rodda (127 comments)
Catholic Right Leader Unapologetic about Call for 'Death to Liberal Professors' -- UPDATED
Today, Donald Trump appointed C-FAM Executive Vice President Lisa Correnti to the US Delegation To UN Commission On Status Of Women. (C-FAM is a......
By Frederick Clarkson (115 comments)
Controlling Information
     Yesterday I listened to Russ Limbaugh.  Rush advised listeners it would be best that they not listen to CNN,MSNBC, ABC, CBS and......
By wilkyjr (79 comments)
Is Bannon Fifth-Columning the Pope?
In December 2016 I wrote about how White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who likes to flash his Catholic credentials when it comes to......
By Frank Cocozzelli (228 comments)
Ross Douthat's Hackery on the Seemingly Incongruous Alliance of Bannon & Burke
Conservative Catholic writer Ross Douthat has dissembled again. This time, in a February 15, 2017 New York Times op-ed titled The Trump Era's Catholic......
By Frank Cocozzelli (55 comments)
`So-Called Patriots' Attack The Rule Of Law
Every so often, right-wing commentator Pat Buchanan lurches out of the far-right fever swamp where he has resided for the past 50 years to......
By Rob Boston (153 comments)
Bad Faith from Focus on the Family
Here is one from the archives, Feb 12, 2011, that serves as a reminder of how deeply disingenuous people can be. Appeals to seek......
By Frederick Clarkson (173 comments)
The Legacy of George Wallace
"One need not accept any of those views to agree that they had appealed to real concerns of real people, not to mindless, unreasoning......
By wilkyjr (53 comments)
Betsy DeVos's Mudsill View of Public Education
My Talk to Action colleague Rachel Tabachnick has been doing yeoman's work in explaining Betsy DeVos's long-term strategy for decimating universal public education. If......
By Frank Cocozzelli (54 comments)
Prince and DeVos Families at Intersection of Radical Free Market Privatizers and Religious Right
This post from 2011 surfaces important information about President-Elect Trump's nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. -- FC Erik Prince, Brother of Betsy......
By Rachel Tabachnick (210 comments)

Respect for Others? or Political Correctness?
The term "political correctness" as used by Conservatives and Republicans has often puzzled me: what exactly do they mean by it? After reading Chip Berlin's piece here-- I thought about what he explained......
MTOLincoln (240 comments)
What I'm feeling now is fear.  I swear that it seems my nightmares are coming true with this new "president".  I'm also frustrated because so many people are not connecting all the dots! I've......
ArchaeoBob (87 comments)
"America - love it or LEAVE!"
I've been hearing that and similar sentiments fairly frequently in the last few days - far FAR more often than ever before.  Hearing about "consequences for burning the flag (actions) from Trump is chilling!......
ArchaeoBob (171 comments)
"Faked!" Meme
Keep your eyes and ears open for a possible move to try to discredit the people openly opposing Trump and the bigots, especially people who have experienced terrorism from the "Right"  (Christian Terrorism is......
ArchaeoBob (143 comments)
More aggressive proselytizing
My wife told me today of an experience she had this last week, where she was proselytized by a McDonald's employee while in the store. ......
ArchaeoBob (141 comments)
See if you recognize names on this list
This comes from the local newspaper, which was conservative before and took a hard right turn after it was sold. Hint: Sarah Palin's name is on it!  (It's also connected to Trump.) ......
ArchaeoBob (146 comments)
Unions: A Labor Day Discussion
This is a revision of an article which I posted on my personal board and also on Dailykos. I had an interesting discussion on a discussion board concerning Unions. I tried to piece it......
Xulon (144 comments)
Extremely obnoxious protesters at WitchsFest NYC: connected to NAR?
In July of this year, some extremely loud, obnoxious Christian-identified protesters showed up at WitchsFest, an annual Pagan street fair here in NYC.  Here's an account of the protest by Pagan writer Heather Greene......
Diane Vera (123 comments)
Capitalism and the Attack on the Imago Dei
I joined this site today, having been linked here by Crooksandliars' Blog Roundup. I thought I'd put up something I put up previously on my Wordpress blog and also at the DailyKos. As will......
Xulon (185 comments)
History of attitudes towards poverty and the churches.
Jesus is said to have stated that "The Poor will always be with you" and some Christians have used that to refuse to try to help the poor, because "they will always be with......
ArchaeoBob (142 comments)
Alternate economy medical treatment
Dogemperor wrote several times about the alternate economy structure that dominionists have built.  Well, it's actually made the news.  Pretty good article, although it doesn't get into how bad people could be (have been)......
ArchaeoBob (83 comments)
Evidence violence is more common than believed
Think I've been making things up about experiencing Christian Terrorism or exaggerating, or that it was an isolated incident?  I suggest you read this article (linked below in body), which is about our great......
ArchaeoBob (189 comments)
Central Florida Sheriff Preached Sermon in Uniform
If anyone has been following the craziness in Polk County Florida, they know that some really strange and troubling things have happened here.  We've had multiple separation of church and state lawsuits going at......
ArchaeoBob (77 comments)
Demon Mammon?
An anthropologist from outer space might be forgiven for concluding that the god of this world is Mammon. (Or, rather, The Market, as depicted by John McMurtry in his book The Cancer Stage of......
daerie (107 comments)
Anti-Sharia Fever in Texas: This is How It Starts
The mayor of a mid-size Texan city has emerged in recent months as the newest face of Islamophobia. Aligning herself with extremists hostile to Islam, Mayor Beth Van Duyne of Irving, Texas has helped......
JSanford (105 comments)

More Diaries...

All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. Comments, posts, stories, and all other content are owned by the authors. Everything else 2005 Talk to Action, LLC.