October 3rd, 2009
09:08 AM ET
5 years ago

Red Mass: lobbying high court or simple prayer service?

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and Chief Justice John Roberts attend Red Mass in 2005.
Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and Chief Justice John Roberts attend Red Mass in 2005.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – The beautifully ornate Catholic church in the nation's capital has seen its share of history and controversy.

In 1963, the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle was the site of John F. Kennedy's funeral. After the service, on the steps outside, the slain president's young son famously saluted his father's memory.

But the church is also the site of an annual Mass that has drawn criticism for what many see as an unhealthy mix of politics, the law and religion.

Washington's annual Red Mass, which celebrates the legal profession, will be held this year on Sunday, October 4 - the day before the Supreme Court begins its new term. Several justices traditionally attend, along with congressional leaders, diplomats, cabinet secretaries and other dignitaries.

Past presidents have also attended, though there is no word yet on whether President Obama will appear.

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Filed under: Supreme Court
soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. Jeff in Houston

    We had no business building it in the first place. A large, beautiful hall devoid of even one religous simbol? Yes. A cathedral? Never. If one's head is not filled with religion, this place is just an over done sports arena set up for the business of religion. And at tax-payer's expense I bet, one way or another....can't tax the church now can we?

    October 3, 2009 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  2. jwtexas

    Obama will be at the MOSQUE!

    October 3, 2009 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  3. Debbie

    If the justices or members of congress are Catholic and choose to attend on their own time and dime then the 1st Amendment protects them to do so. If the attendance is on the nations time or dime then the 1st Amendment would say the Gov cannot forward any religious beliefs.

    October 3, 2009 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  4. Donkey Party

    If people want religion mixed in with their politics, please move to Iran.

    October 3, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  5. Lucky B

    It is a very sad thing that religious extremists like Roberts, Alito, Scalia and Thomas are in a position to let their personal beliefs dictate public policy and the laws of the land. It seems like the Bush legacy will be tearing down the wall between church and state, and the protected rise of corporatism. There will be no justice in this country while Roberts leads the court and his cohorts support his narrow corporatist dogma.

    October 3, 2009 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  6. ThinkAgain

    This is totally inappropriate. And it has become politicized by the fact that certain people are expected to attend and if they don't, they are held up for criticism.

    Religious freedom, as explicitly stated in the First Amendment of the Constitution, is a cornerstone of our government. This "Red Mass" is an affront to the writers of our Constitution and goes against our country's fundamental principle of separation of church and state.

    If people want to hear a Catholic clergyman talk, then they can voluntarily go to a Catholic Church.

    October 3, 2009 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  7. Sniffit

    Am I missing something?

    Where is the "controversy" here?

    October 3, 2009 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  8. Felonious Monk

    religion is foolishness

    October 3, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  9. Thomas

    I am a confirmed atheist. I am also militant about the separation of church and state. However in reading this story, I can't honestly find anything to be concerned about.

    Members of our government have the right to assemble. No one is being forced to attend.

    Much ado about nothing

    October 3, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  10. S Callahan

    Does this ever end....stretching it for all it's worth.

    You liberty's tie into the Ten Commandments...should that be removed?

    You freedom of speech which includes print ties into the Ten Commandments....but wait...there is outrage there right now because it affects you personally, you're livlihood....

    You can't serve two Masters...it's one or the other. I choose God.

    October 3, 2009 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  11. Buckeye

    Red Mass celebrating the legal profession? When did the founder of Christianity ever have anything good to say about the "legal profession"? Christ castigated these legalistic forces of his time and exposed them as hypocrites. Not much has changed since then. Pharisees, hypocrites and lawyers (especially chief justices and chief priests) had a lot in common then, and still do.

    October 3, 2009 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  12. Terry from West Texas

    I am not particularly religious and I don't like the idea of the government promoting a religion. I know that fundamentalist Christians believe that their new version of Christianity is somehow America's traditional religion, that Catholics believe that they are the only true Christian Church, and that Christians mostly believe that Jehovah and Jesus are the only actual gods and that all others are imaginary creations of deluded individuals or charlatans.

    However, this ceremony is not going to hurt our Supreme Court Justices. It is sort of like the ceremony where Queen Elizabeth reads a speech proclaiming her policies for the year, except that the speech was written by the Prime Minister's speech writers. No minds are changed, no dramatic statements are made, but the powerful people get to put on their new suits and be seen rubbing elbows with others. They love that sort of stuff.

    October 3, 2009 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  13. John Sullivan

    I don't know if the Red Mass is an "unhealthy mix of politics, the law and religion" but it is an awesome sight. If you get to the Mass early enough any regular person can attend. The grouping of all those politicians in one spot is too much of an opportunity for the Cardinal to pass up. It's his chance to get his message across to them all at one time.

    October 3, 2009 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  14. Mike in NYC

    "Ginsberg said she grew tired of being lectured to by Catholic officials."

    Now that's chutzpah times ten. Considering how the Church is still lectured to by Jewish groups over its supposed share of responsibility for what happened to Jews during WWII, I'd say turnabout's fair play.

    To give one example among many, none other than the ADL has felt it necessary to demand revisions to the centuries-old Oberammergau passion play. Who's making demands on whom?

    October 3, 2009 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  15. Preston kath

    Please mr obama do not speck at this church the gop wiil make up a story about you hate god why let them hurt you preston and kathy

    October 3, 2009 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |