Red Mass 2020

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This homily was given by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades at Holy Rosary Cathedral, Toledo, Oct. 3 and the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Fort Wayne, Oct. 5.

The Red Mass is a Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit. Every year at this Mass, we pray for members of the legal profession, lawyers, judges, students and professors of the law and also for civic officials. We ask the Holy Spirit to guide them and bless them with His manifold gifts. This year, when there is so much disunity and polarization in our nation and even within the Church in our nation, I invite you to pray for unity. The Holy Spirit is the principle and source of the Church’s unity. And “the Church is, in Christ, like a sacrament – a sign and instrument of communion with God and of unity among all people” (LG 1).

We all see the division and polarization in our nation, the widening political chasm in our country. All we have to do is turn on any news channel on TV, skim political news on the internet, or watch a so-called “presidential debate.” There is not only a lot of disagreement on issues, which is nothing new, but also anger and outrage that some call a “public epidemic in America.” One might have expected that the Covid pandemic would have united Americans in fighting the spread of the virus, but it has divided Americans even more. So we have not only a coronavirus pandemic, but another pandemic – a pandemic of anger.  

Social media, including Twitter, Facebook and blogs have often become forums used more for the expression of divisive and nasty commentary than for constructive and civil dialogue. Traditional social mores and norms of conversation are thrown to the wind. Respect for those with whom one disagrees is often missing. It has become culturally acceptable to abuse and injure other people and damage and destroy their reputation. Even many Christians engage in such a manner, seemingly oblivious to the eighth commandment’s prohibition of rash judgement, defamation, slander and calumny. The anonymity of social media emboldens some people to behave badly. We must not forget that we are not anonymous to God.

We heard the Ten Commandments in the first reading from the book of Exodus. Let us not ignore the too-often forgotten eighth commandment of the Decalogue. As lawyers and judges, you know the importance of the eighth commandment, the gravity of false witness, perjury and how it can lead to innocent people being found guilty or guilty people being exonerated. The exercise of justice is thus gravely compromised. As members of the legal profession, you are rightly sensitive to these grave offenses against truth. We all need to be sensitive to, and opposed to, the other