Red Mass includes call for jurists to promote, protect religious liberty

by Matthew Smith

North Texas Catholic

October 4, 2017

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore exits St. Patrick Cathedral after celebrating the Red Mass with Bishop Michael Olson, Sept. 28, 2017 in Fort Worth. (NTC Photo/Ben Torres)

FORT WORTH — Religious liberty pertains not just to what we do on Sunday but “in our whole lives,” Archdiocese of Baltimore Archbishop William Lori posited in urging attorneys, judges, and public officials to defend incursions against religious freedoms.

“While religious freedom is personal, it is never merely private,” Archbishop Lori said.

The Archbishop delivered the homily, followed by a guest lecture, during the Fort Worth Diocese’s annual Red Mass on Sept. 28 at St. Patrick Cathedral.

Attorneys, judges, law students, and other officials gather each year at the Red Mass to seek guidance and wisdom from the Holy Spirit in the administration of justice.

Archbishop Lori, who serves as chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, spoke of the urgency of such issues but, in a lighter moment, compared himself to Don Knotts’ Barney Fife character on the “Andy Griffith Show.”

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore conducts his homily during the Red Mass at St. Patrick Cathedral. (NTC Photo/Ben Torres)

“In the past six years I’ve become so associated with issues of religious freedom that I’m like a typecast actor who is remembered for only one role,” Archbishop Lori joked.

Although the attorneys and officials in attendance are unlikely to begin speaking in tongues or loudly proclaim the Gospel publicly as did the Apostles, they too house the gift of the Holy Spirit, Archbishop Lori said.

“So you and I and all involved in the practice of law and administration of justice can indeed welcome the influence of the Holy Spirit more robustly into our lives,” Archbishop Lori said. “Not only to strengthen and encourage us in the challenges of professional life but also to help us serve the cause of truth, freedom, and common good.

“It is no small thing that we pray for.”

The gift of the Holy Spirit, Archbishop Lori said, is not a private ownership, but one to be shared.

How best then to share those gifts, Archbishop Lori asked, given the rigors of professional life and competing values of the secular world?

“Allow me to suggest a specific witness which you are equipped to provide in the practice of law and the administration of justice,” Archbishop Lori said. “I would submit that you are all in position to urge your colleagues to consider carefully the importance of maintaining religious freedom, which is increasingly threatened at home and abroad at this time in our history.”

Archbishop Lori urged attendees to couple their standing in the professional community with the unique gifts the Holy Spirit imparts to each person to engage in what 19th century Cardinal John Henry Newman referred to as the apostolate of personal influence.

Archbishop Lori, during his post-Mass lecture, delivered an overview of religious freedom as it relates to the First Amendment through America’s history in light of Supreme Court rulings, legislation, statutes, and local ordinances.

“In the first decades of our government, the First Amendment was understood mainly as an affirmation that the federal government is denied all power over religious matters,” Archbishop Lori said.

Men and women kneel after receiving Communion during the annual Red Mass celebrated by Bishop Michael Olson and Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore on Sept. 28. (NTC Photo/Ben Torres)

Subsequent court rulings and laws have in many ways altered such views, Archbishop Lori argued.

“So, instead of primarily protecting the interest of religion, the First Amendment is now seen in a way that delimits the role of religion in public life,” Archbishop Lori said. “Specifically limiting religion’s influence on the conduct of civil government.”

Religious liberty flows not from government, Archbishop Lori said, but from God. As such vigilance is required to ensure its continued availability both to individuals and religious organizations.

Although the Red Mass dates to the 13th century in Europe and 1928 in the U.S., the event is relatively new to Fort Worth, this being the diocese’s 12th year to celebrate the Mass.

Fort Worth attorney and Chairman of the Red Mass Committee Robert J. Gieb was instrumental in calling for the Mass in the diocese.

“The need I saw was first of all to bring lawyers and judges together to pray,” Gieb said. “We argue a lot, but it’s good to come together in a different setting.”

Gieb, a St. Patrick parishioner, said Archbishop Lori’s presentation encapsulated what Gieb thinks the Church needs.

“Catholic lawyers and judges, Christian lawyers, and good people of whatever faith need to be in the public square,” Gieb said.

Plano attorney John Griffin, a member of St. Ann Church in Coppell, said he began attending the Red Mass in Fort Worth when he was a student at then Texas Wesleyan School of Law.

“I’m always amazed and fascinated by how noble and ancient a tradition it is,” Griffin said. “It gives us a chance to gather to remember the mission we’re all called to, to defend our faith and stand for our principles as Catholics through our occupations and every aspect of our lives.”

FORT WORTH — Religious liberty pertains not just to what we do on Sunday but “in our whole lives,” Archdiocese of Baltimore Archbishop William Lori posited in urging attorneys, judges, and public officials to defend incursions against religious freedoms.

Published (until 12/27/2035)