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Members of bar affected by moral relativism

Posted By October 25, 2012 | 5:42 pm | Featured Article #3
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Rose Marie Carelli, left

By Tanya Connor

“When a democracy bases itself on moral relativism and when it considers every ethical principal or value to be a matter of negotiation, including every human being’s fundamental right to life, it is already on its way to totalitarianism. The might of right quickly morphs into might makes right.”
Msgr. F. Stephen Pedone made this point in his homily at the 55th annual Red Mass Sunday at St. Paul Cathedral.
The Red Mass is for all persons in the legislative, judicial and executive branches of government and the bar, whether or not they are Catholic. The St. Thomas More Society of Worcester County sponsors the local Mass, at which the bishop presents awards.
“As members of the bar … you can see the result of the moral relativism of our times in the many issues that come before you,” Msgr. Pedone, the diocese’s judicial vicar/vicar for canonical affairs, told listeners. “It is important that you bring your faith to the intellectual demands of your profession and your intellect to your faith.”

Sumner Silver Jr.

He expressed hope that, following the example of St. Thomas More, they would be “good servants of the court, of the rule of law, by being God’s servants first.”
“We invoke the guidance of the Holy Spirit upon the officers of the court, which unites us to a long and noble tradition of recognizing the sovereignty of God over those human claims of sovereignty,” Msgr. Pedone said as he began his homily. He noted that the red vestments signify the fire of the Holy Spirit, courage and martyrs.
St. Thomas More, lawyer and Chancellor of England, suffered martyrdom “because he refused to accede to King Henry the VIII’s … demand that loyalty to him and the state should precede More’s loyalty to God and the Church,” Msgr. Pedone said. He refused to betray the truth or his conscience, which was formed by “reasoned faith and faith-filled reason.”
“Thomas More’s witness is much needed in our contemporary society,” Msgr. Pedone said. “We need that witness especially today when objective moral principles and truth, understood as necessarily larger than us, are removed from the domain of public life, leaving the public square barren.”
He said it is important to be guided by the Holy Spirit “when our contemporaries and we ourselves are often tempted to consider deceit, selfishness, and subordination of the truth and the common good as legitimate means for winning political office or professional advancement.”
Pope John Paul II traced today’s crisis of morality to a rupture of the connection between truth and freedom, Msgr. Pedone said. Jesus said, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”
“Today’s climate of moral relativism … denies any truth to moral statements,” Msgr. Pedone said. “Moral judgments are held to be purely subjective sentiments.” Individual will, unenlightened and unencumbered by reason, is given free reign. Society values “sincerity” over truth, “feeling” over reason.
Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI are not trying to impose their beliefs or morality or seek special privileges for the Catholic Church, as “those who would exclude voices of faith from public discourse” sometimes allege, Msgr. Pedone said. Rather, “theirs is a proposition, an invitation to dialogue … to rediscover … the reasonableness of reason itself.”

John M. Griffin

Awardees and their awards were as follows: John M. Griffin, who has been practicing law in Worcester since 1970, Distinguished Attorney Award; Rose Marie Carelli, a retired court officer of the Massachusetts Trial Court, Catholic Layperson Award; Sumner Silver Jr., a senior partner at Philips, Silver, Talman, Aframe & Sinrich, Bishop Bernard J. Flanagan Ecumenical Award, and Ellen Katuska, in her second year at the University of South Carolina School of Law, Bishop Timothy Harrington Scholarship.
Following the Red Mass there was a brunch at Coral Seafood in Worcester. Leonard Gengel, president of the Be Like Brit, Britney Gengel’s Poorest of the Poor Fund, Inc. was speaker.

PHOTOS by Tanya Connor

Red Mass Homily
By Msgr F. Stephen Pedone,judicial vicar/vicar for canonical affairs, Diocese of Worcester

Bishop McManus, my brother priests and deacons, esteemed members of the judiciary and bar, award recipients, parishioners of St. Paul Cathedral Parish, distinguished guests, in the name of Msgr. Robert Johnson, I welcome you to St. Paul Cathedral for our annual Red Mass sponsored by the St. Thomas More Society of Worcester County.
We invoke the guidance of the Holy Spirit upon the officers of the court, which unites us to a long and noble tradition of recognizing the sovereignty of God over those human claims of sovereignty. The color of the red vestments worn by the clergy at this Mass recall the fire of the Spirit which descended upon the early Church and which has remained with her and will remain with her until the end of time. This red color signifies the courage, which is the Spirit’s gift to the Church. Red vestments are also worn on the feasts of martyrs. The word martyr itself comes from the Greek and means simply “witness.” The martyrs are those whose unwavering commitment to the truth about God and man in Jesus Christ led them to accept even death. For martyrs believe that there is a fate worse than death. They accepted to die rather than to betray the One who is the way, the truth and the life.
As officers of the court you have a most worthy patron in St. Thomas More, Chancellor of England under King Henry VIII. The martyrdom of this lawyer and confessor of the faith earns our admiration and should inspire our imitation even as we seek his intercession before Jesus, the just judge of the living and the dead.
St. Thomas More suffered martyrdom because he refused to accede to King Henry the VIII’s unjust and overreaching demand that loyalty to him and the state should precede More’s loyalty to God and the Church. Thomas More refused to betray the truth revealed in Jesus Christ about God and man, and the right relationship between men and women to God. A man of strong Catholic faith, he refused to betray his conscience. This conscience was not a capricious one, but one formed by reasoned faith and faith-filled reason. “I am,” said More, the King’s good servant, but God’s servant first.”
Thomas More’s witness is much needed in our contemporary society. We need the witness of acting in the truth that characterized More’s life and death. We need that witness especially today when objective moral principles and truth, understood as necessarily larger than us, are removed from the domain of public life, leaving the public square barren. Today, with the irrationality, which so much characterizes our post-modern society and the sophistry that so often today passes as jurisprudence, a radical secularism threatens to replace a healthy secularity in civil society. In such a state of affairs, justice becomes simply the utilitarian imposition of the will of the strong.
How important, then, that that same Holy Spirit which guided Thomas More, guides us today, when our contemporaries and we ourselves are often tempted to consider deceit, selfishness, and subordination of the truth and the common good as legitimate means for winning political office or professional advancement.
Pope John Paul II, now Blessed John Paul, stated that the primary origins of today’s crisis of morality lie in a rupture of the connection between truth and freedom. Jesus said “you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Thus, only the frank and open acceptance of the truth is the condition for authentic freedom. Freedom is rooted in the truth about men and women.
Today’s climate of moral relativism has invaded our culture. It denies any truth to moral statements. Moral judgments are held to be purely subjective sentiments. They hyper-individualism of our culture gives free reign to the “individual will” unenlightened and unencumbered by reason. Thus, our therapeutic society values “sincerity” over truth, “feeling” over reason.
It is important to note that both Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI are not trying to impose their beliefs, their morality, nor are they seeking any special privileges for the Catholic Church. This is sometimes alleged by those who would exclude voices of faith from public discourse. Both Popes have said several times that the Church proposes, it does not impose. Theirs is a proposition, an invitation to dialogue, an invitation to rediscover once again the reasonableness of reason itself.
When a democracy bases itself on moral relativism and when it considers every ethical principal or value to be a matter of negotiation, including every human being’s fundamental right to life, it is already on its way to totalitarianism. The might of right quickly morphs into might makes right.
As members of the bar, you are very close to these issues. You can see the result of the moral relativism of our times in the many issues that come before you. It is important that you bring your faith to the intellectual demands of your profession and your intellect to your faith.
Following the example of St. Thomas More, may you be the king’s good servant, that is may you also be good servants of the court, of the rule of law, by being God’s servants first.