November 2019 Church & State Magazine | AU Bulletin

Chief Justice John G. Roberts and two associate justices attended a special religious service for members of the legal community in Washington, D.C., Oct.6.

The ‘Red Mass’ – so named for the color of the vestments worn by the officiant – is held every year in the nation’s capital the Sunday before the Supreme Court returns to session. In past years, clergy have used the religious service to lecture the high court on issues such as abortion, LGBTQ rights and tax aid to religious schools.

Catholic Standard reported that aside from Roberts, Justices Clarence M. Thomas and Stephen G. Breyer attended the mass. Retired Justice Anthony M. Kennedy was also there.

Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Washington officiated. Gregory said in part, “We pray for all of the members of the judiciary and legal world because yours is the tremendous responsibility of attempting to reflect God’s perfect justice and mercy in interpreting the laws of our nation and for all those who will come before you during this next year.”

Gregory also included a veiled reference to abortion, saying that those who are affected by the administration of justice include “those whose language, culture, race, or religion are not your own, as well as those who are at [a] precarious moment on the spectrum of human life.  None of them are unimportant and all of them approach you for what they hope will be a sign and an expression of God’s truth.”

Also in attendance at the mass were U.S. Attorney General William Barr, U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco and U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia, son of the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

The high court announced last month that it will hear a major case dealing with abortion rights – June Medical Services v. Gee. The case challenges a Louisiana law that was designed to restrict access to abortion through onerous regulations. Anti-abortion groups are expected to use the case to urge the court to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case that declared abortion a constitutional right.