Sunday, October 05, 2008

At Red Mass, No Red Meat

Fulltext to come, but the Vatican's Voice of Christmas earned himself the distinction of the shortest homily in memory at this morning's Red Mass in Washington: four minutes, all told... and that after John Cardinal Foley was reportedly asked to extend his first draft.

Celebrated by Archbishop Donald Wuerl -- who, with his concelebrants, donned the vestments first used for Pope Benedict's April liturgy (video) in DC's Nationals Park -- the Holy Sepulchre supremo's brief meditation relied heavily on his treasury of old reliables, including the recent one about how, learning that the Revolutionary-era bishop of Quebec had excommunicated John Carroll, the first American bishop, Foley requested the lifting of the sanction by its present-day prelate, Cardinal Marc Ouellet.

Comprised of Catholic lawyers -- including the wife of Chief Justice John Roberts, who sits on its board -- the capital's John Carroll Society organizes the St Matthew's Cathedral rite, now in its 55th year.

There was, however, some fresh material:
[Foley] spoke of the parallels between the legal profession and religious callings. "We both seek to challenge people to recognize their dignity and to live according to it. We both consider law as a guide to a well-ordered society." Foley also noted that the Supreme Court itself has said, "We are a religious people." (That sentence comes from the 1952 case Zorach v. Clauson, which ruled that New York City could release public school students for religious instruction during school hours.)

Foley told an interesting anecdote about a visit he had from Justice Scalia and his wife in Rome several years ago. Recalling his doctoral dissertation on natural law, Foley said he offered examples to Scalia of cases in which the Warren Court had "transcended mere positive law" to reach its results. In both Brown v. Board of Education and Gideon v. Wainwright, Foley said, the Court resorted to principles of equality that went beyond written law. Foley said Scalia disagreed with him until his wife Maureen interjected, "Oh admit it, Nino, the archbishop was right."

As the audience laughed, Foley added that Mrs. Scalia is "a woman of exceptional taste and discernment."
Alongside Roberts and Scalia, Justices Clarence Thomas, Anthony Kennedy and Stephen Breyer led the congregation, joined by hundreds of lower court judges, lawyers and elected and appointed officials. Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Military Services and Bishop Paul Loverde of Arlington served as lead concelebrants.

PHOTO: Reuters