Bush, Roberts Join Flock at 'Red Mass'

Church & State, November 2005 | Go to article overview

Bush, Roberts Join Flock at 'Red Mass'


President George W. Bush and newly confirmed Chief Justice John G. Roberts joined a slew of other government officials at Washington, D.C.'s annual "Red Mass" Oct. 2.

The Catholic mass, named for the red vestments worn by the officiating clergy, takes place every October before the start of the new Supreme Court term. This year, Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington, D.C., led the service, using his sermon to call for more civility in public life.

In previous years, bishops and cardinals have used the mass to lecture high court justices and other officials on the church's position on controversial issues such as abortion, gay rights, religion in the public square and government aid to religious schools and institutions.

The mass was one of Roberts' first public appearances since being confirmed and sworn in. That, and Bush's attendance, led to heavy media coverage of the event. Perhaps aware of the intense media interest, McCarrick kept his sermon relatively subdued and avoided direct references to controversial social issues. He singled out several challenges facing the world today, among them terrorism, the war in Iraq, AIDS and the needs of those displaced by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Drawing on Jesus' parable of the vine-yard, McCarrick said, "These are the times of challenge when the vine growers need to work together and be more aware of the responsibility they hold to bring the wine of sweetness and the wine of strength to ourselves and to all our people."

McCarrick then segued into a discussion of civility in public life. He lauded the "period of greater civility in the selection of our chief justice" and added, "I pray that that civility will continue because it is so important not just for good government, but for the good care of our people who look here to all of you and your colleagues for the kind of leadership that is not destructive or not too intensely partisan."

The non-controversial nature of McCarrick's remarks disappointed one Religious Right activist who attended the mass.

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