October 8, 2012

Red Mass

RedMassPicHere in the U.S., we recognize that our elected officials are going to attend various worship services. For the most part, even we proponents of church-state separation are content to look the other way. We understand that politicians have to have some personal religious freedom and some downtime in which to exercise it. But there are times when a politician's religious involvement requires some attention on our part. The annual Red Mass tradition is one such time. From Marie Griffith's excellent editorial for Religion & Politics:
Last Sunday, September 30, witnessed one of the most vivid and, to many, disturbing examples of this religion/politics paradox. On the day prior to the opening of the new term of the U.S. Supreme Court, six out of the nine current Supreme Court justices, along with members of President Obama’s cabinet, members of Congress, and members of the law profession attended the 60th annual Red Mass, a Catholic worship service held at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle.
So a bunch of our most powerful leaders went to church together, what's the big deal? The big deal is the content in which they participated. Back to Griffith:
In his address to the crowd, Timothy P. Broglio, archbishop for the U.S. military, called for people to become “instruments of a new evangelization” and stated, “The faith we hold in our hearts must motivate the decisions, the words, and the commitment of our everyday existence.”
When six of our nine Supreme Court justices and members of President Obama's cabinet willingly sit through this, we'd better pay attention. This is particularly true when the Supreme Court is expected to address so many important issues on which the Catholic Church holds positions at odds with most of the country. Rev. Barry Lynn, president of Americans United for Separation of Church and State characterized the event as follows:
There is one purpose to have this. It is to make clear … just what the church hierarchy feels about some of the very issues that are to come before the court.
He goes on to say that he believes it is wrong (though not illegal) for members of the Court to attend such an event. I concur. This is probably something to which we in the reality-based community ought to be paying more attention.