Moral Truth Must Guide Legal Code

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The following is the text of Bishop Rhoades’ homily at the Evening Red Mass on Monday, Oct. 3, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Fort Wayne, and Wednesday, Oct. 5, at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Notre Dame.

We unite in prayer at this Red Mass to invoke the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, upon all of you who serve or are preparing to serve in the legal profession and also upon those who serve in public office. We do so with faith in the words of Jesus to the disciples in today’s Gospel, that He would ask the Father and the Father would give them another Advocate to be with them always, the Spirit of truth. Jesus says that the world cannot accept this Spirit of truth because it neither sees nor knows it. These words are rather disconcerting, that the world cannot accept the Spirit of truth, but we must understand that here “the world” refers to humanity as it is alienated from God. Those who are alienated from God reject His revelation and remain spiritually blind. But Jesus assures His disciples that they will know the Spirit of truth because the Spirit will be with them and in them. And so we pray today, as disciples of Jesus, with the confidence that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, whom we have received in Baptism and Confirmation, is with us and in us. We need only open our minds and hearts to His sevenfold gifts and to His guidance in the truth.

Truth is a very controversial topic today, as you know. People refer to his or her truth, my truth and your truth. With such rampant relativism, it is no wonder that our society is so polarized culturally and politically. Relativistic individualism judges that every individual is the source of his or her own values. How dangerous this is for the future of our democracy and our social wellbeing and peace, especially when there is no consensus regarding moral truth. Just consider the great divide among Americans on the issue of abortion. 

We rejoiced at the judicial victory this past June with the Dobbs v. Jackson Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade. We rejoiced that an historic error was corrected – the supposed constitutional right to abortion. The majority rightly found that Roe v. Wade departed from the text of the Constitution and from valid precedents. But the primary problem with Roe v. Wade, from a Catholic perspective, was that it departed from natural justice, from the truth revealed by God about the dignity of every human person from the moment of conception. Roe v. Wade discarded the fifth commandment of the Decalogue: “Thou shalt not kill,” a commandment that was not only revealed on Mount Sinai but is a norm of natural justice written in the human heart. In this light, I would say that the Dobbs’ decision was a great judicial victory, but not a cultural victory. It was a judicial victory – the Supreme Court rightly judged that Roe v. Wade was an exercise of raw judicial power that had taken away the right of the legislature and t