Thursday, September 28, 2006

Red (Mass) Alert

As the judicial term opens around the country, it's indeed the season for a plethora of Red Masses -- the annual rite at which Catholic lawyers, judges and other officeholders gather to pray for the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in their decision-making.

Here, in this place which is all politics, all the time, as you'd expect the Red Mass takes on a life of its own: the uber-event. Always scheduled for the day before the Supreme Court's annual opening on the first Monday of October, last year's liturgy in Washington became an even bigger-than-usual showcase, as President Bush showed up (Laura and Condi in tow) to celebrate the confirmation of John Roberts, the first Catholic chief justice of the United States since Roger Taney, author of the infamous Dred Scott decision, which greased the skids toward civil war. Of course, the elevated exposure made Cardinal McCarrick a very happy camper in his final turn as the Mass' celebrant.

Keeping with the tradition, this year's Red Mass will take place Sunday morning in the restored splendor of St Matthew's Cathedral with Washington's new archbishop, Donald Wuerl, at the helm. Given Wuerl's elevation to the DC post and his well-known preference for exercising the munus of his office vis a vis things political through teaching as opposed to sanctions -- not to mention the looming Congressional midterm elections which, as things look, could swing either way -- his homily will be worth watching.

(A quick personal word: I was honored to share a table last night with, among others, Msgr Peter Vaghi, the well-known "lawyer's priest" and chaplain of the John Carroll Society, which sponsors the Red Mass. The JCS -- much of whose membership I've come to know, both through my trips here and among the readership -- are a truly great bunch who provide a great example in their service both to the church here in the capital and beyond.)

Word around town is that Ted won't be in attendance at the Red. However, the still-globetrotting cardinal gave his first big hometown talk last week since Wuerl's June arrival, delivering the previously-mentioned keynote at the CUA Conference on the "State of the US Church 2006."

There's no fulltext floating around, but here's a report:
“Faith is the biggest problem facing our church today,” said McCarrick. He then emphasized his point by stating that the Church today is divided into four groups. He defined these as the uneducated, the cafeteria Catholics and the inactive. The fourth group, he said were Catholics who were practicing and “happy” in the Church.

“I think it’s the ethos of the sixties,” said McCarrick in reference to the cause of the present state of the Church. He said that with the Second Vatican Council, the Church said, “We must open up to the world” while the world said, “We must open up to everything.”

“We became a contraceptive society,” said McCarrick. “Now forty years later we see what is happening in family life. We see what is happening in abortion. We see what is happening in marriage,” he continued. “Sex has become another thing you do like going to the movies,” said McCarrick.

McCarrick described the majority of modern society as one “without depth, without feeling and without responsibility.”

Cardinal McCarrick touched upon a variety of other issues including the “decline in the excellence of Catholic education.” McCarrick stated that Catholic education “fell into the cracks of the sixties.” McCarrick said that the result of this was that today’s Catholic education “becomes touch feely rather than doctrine, matter and form.” ...

McCarrick turned his address towards the future of the Church and discussed the call of the laity to holiness. “The Church has to listen to that call,” he said. He then spoke on the importance of the increasing Hispanic population in the country. “The Hispanic presence in our society is a new sign of hope. Their presence among us is a gift,” he said.
Remember, these are the insights of someone who's been derided in turns as a "satanist pinko 50-yard-line socialist communist Episcopalian syncretist libbbberrriilll."

Then again, the delusional you will always have with you.

Speaking of the universal call to holiness, one of my favorite blogs -- Todd's Catholic Sensibility -- has been serialising Lumen Gentium in recent weeks, piece by piece, day by day; here's one great snip, and another. Definitely check it out.

The White House