Justice, mercy are twin virtues for the law, Red Mass homilist says

By Mark Zimmermann

(CNS) — Those involved in the administration of law should seek justice and
mercy in their work, Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis said
Oct. 2.

“Those two virtues must intersect in our lives and actions,” said the archbishop, who
was the homilist at the 64th annual Red Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew
the Apostle in Washington.

Red Mass in the nation’s capital is celebrated just before the Supreme Court begins
its term in October; opening day for the court this year was Oct. 3.

Mass seeks God’s blessing and guidance on those who work in the law, including
judges, diplomats, government officials and attorneys. The Mass also was
attended by university officials and law professors and students.

Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl was the main celebrant of the Mass, which was attended
by five Supreme Court justices: Chief Justice of the United States John G.
Roberts Jr. and Supreme Court Associate Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence
Thomas, Stephen G. Breyer and Samuel A. Alito Jr.

government officials at the Mass included U.S. Attorney General Loretta E.
Lynch; U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr.; and Denis McDonough,
President Barack Obama’s chief of staff.

Hebda noted that those present at the Red Mass felt the absence of Antonin
Scalia, a Catholic who faithfully attended the Mass during his nearly three
decades as a Supreme Court associate justice. Scalia died Feb. 13 at
age 79.

(Scalia) was someone who seemed to understand the necessity of exploring the
connection between justice and mercy,” the Minnesota archbishop said. “In
addressing law students at the University of St. Thomas in my archdiocese just
last year, shortly before he passed away, he stressed the importance of their
moral formation, stating that ‘the rule of law is always second to the law of

that statement, Scalia was not showing a lack of appreciation for the rule of
law, but he was demonstrating “a heightened appreciation for the importance of
the law of love — and for the mercy that flows from it — in the practice of
law and in the administration of justice,” Archbishop Hebda said.

that Pope Francis has declared a Jubilee Year of Mercy in the church to reflect
on God’s infinite mercy and the call for believers to be instruments of mercy,
the Red Mass homilist said the pope “has noted that mercy ‘does not approach
“cases,” but persons and their pain.'” The pope, he added, has said, “Mercy
gets its hands dirty. It touches, it gets involved, it gets caught up with

Hebda said this personal approach to sharing mercy is especially important for
the work of law. “We need to remember that real people are at the heart of what
we do and are affected by the decisions we make,” he said.

Minnesota archbishop said the Catholic Church respects the important work for
the common good carried out by government leaders and those who administer

and women of goodwill throughout this nation depend on you to protect their
liberties,” Archbishop Hebda said, noting how Pope Francis during his visit to
the White House last year encouraged public servants to build a tolerant and
inclusive society that safeguards people’s rights and rejects unjust

together to pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance in the administration of
justice is an appropriate response to facing difficult challenges, he said,
noting that this year’s liturgy was being held “at this critical moment in our
nation’s history, at this time when America seems to be almost paralyzed by a
political polarization that impedes our ability to address effectively a whole
host of pressing needs.”

Hebda noted several contemporary problems “in a society in which shopping malls
and discos and schools have all too often become places of unthinkable horror,
at a time when old hatreds and prejudices seem to be rearing their ugly heads,
or when our first freedoms are so readily put at risk.

he said that through prayer and action, people can take on the “privilege role
as the hands of God’s mercy” to bring healing to the world, a work that people
are called to do together, and then “we can — by God’s grace and the work of
the Holy Spirit — do amazing things.”

the importance of common prayer and mutual support, Archbishop Hebda said that
can foster “faith capable of moving the mountains of despair and division,
faith capable of pursuing justice while manifesting mercy, (and) faith capable
of making a difference in our lives and in our communities.”

Red Mass in Washington is sponsored by the John Carroll Society, an organization
that provides spiritual, intellectual, charitable and social opportunities for
Catholic professionals and business men and women in service to the archbishop
of Washington.

concelebrants included Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to
the United States; Archbishop Hebda; Bishop Paul S. Loverde of Arlington, Virginia;
Auxiliary Bishop Richard B. Higgins of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military
Services; and Washington Auxiliary Bishops Barry C. Knestout and Mario E.
Dorsonville. Twenty-one priests also concelebrated the Mass.

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is editor of the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.

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