At the Bench Memos blog at National Review, Mathew Franck linked to a rather hysterical screed written by Marie Griffith. The object of Griffith’s scorn: the annual Red Mass that takes place at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington, DC before the opening of the Supreme Court term. Griffith is not at all pleased that two-thirds of the Supreme Court attended the latest Red Mass a couple of weeks ago.
Last Sunday, September 30, witnessed one of the most vivid and, to many (emphasis mine), disturbing examples of this religion/politics paradox.
Right out of the gate we get some good old-fashioned intellectual dishonesty. Who are the “many” that are disturbed by this visual? I would wager that the overwhelming majority of people have no idea that this Mass even exists, and that a scant few who are aware of its existence are very bothered by it. Rather than taking ownership of an opinion and writing that she is offended by the Red Mass, Griffith assigns a feeling to a mythical many. It’s a passive aggressive trick employed when a writer either lacks the guts to openly state their feelings, or when they want to conjure up support for an opinion that is not wildly shared by actual open beings.
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Sometimes it’s all in the phrasing. The other day I read a mention of the annual Red Mass celebrated in Washington DC which quoted Justice Ginsburg’s explanation of why she no longer attends (though Justice Breyer, also Jewish, attends). The quote in full:
“Before every session, there’s a Red Mass,” Ginsburg said. “And the justices get invitations from the cardinal to attend that. And a good number of the justices show up every year. I went one year, and I will never go again, because this sermon was outrageously anti-abortion.”
Outrageously anti-abortion. Well.
The Red Mass is celebrated annually at the Washington, D.C. Cathedral and hosted by the John Carroll Society, a group of Washington area legal professionals. The Mass is normally for for judges, attorneys, law school professors, students, and government officials. The Mass requests guidance from the Holy Ghost for all who seek justice, and offers the opportunity to reflect on what Catholics believe is the God-given power and responsibility of all in the legal profession.
The Red Mass is so-called from the red vestments traditionally worn in symbolism of the tongues of fire that descended on the Apostles. The most significant difference between the Red Mass and a traditional Mass is that the focuses of prayer and blessings concentrate on the leadership roles of those present. Guidance from the Holy Ghost is asked to be bestowed on the congregants. Other blessings that are commonly requested to prevail in the minds, offices, and court rooms are Divine strength, wisdom, truth, and justice.