Msgr. Olson challenges members of Catholic legal community to seek greater good at Red Mass

By John Henry

Correspondent

October 24, 2013

Professionals and students in the legal profession and government officials assembled Sept. 26, at St. Patrick Cathedral for the Red Mass, the annual gathering and celebration that asks guidance from the Holy Spirit for those who seek justice.

Monsignor Stephen Berg, Diocesan Administrator for the Diocese of Fort Worth, celebrated the Mass and Monsignor Michael Olson, rector of Holy Trinity Seminary in Irving, delivered the homily and afterward challenged those on hand at a reception at the St. Patrick Pastoral Center with a talk titled “Religion in Society.”

“You never get a point across arguing medicine with doctors,” Msgr. Olson joked, reminiscing about the advice of a professor during the Sept. 26 event. “I won’t make the same mistake with lawyers.”

The Red Mass is fashioned for judges, attorneys, law school students and professors, and government officials.

Among government officials present were District Judge Robb Catalano, County Clerk Mary Louise Garcia, and District Clerk Thomas Wilder.

The rite, first recorded at the Cathedral of Paris in 1245, got its name from the color of vestments worn to symbolize the tongues of fire — the Holy Spirit — the apostles encountered during Pentecost.

The first Red Mass in the U.S. was conducted in 1877 at Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Detroit.

Msgr. Olson’s presentation centered on the secular principle of autonomy — the concept of seeking the best resolutions with only the individual in mind, while ignoring and often at the expense of, the good of society — and the legal concept of the right to privacy.

Both have clouded our understanding of the human condition and human dignity, said Msgr. Olson.

This principle leads us to lose sight of the responsibility “we have to others or society as a whole. …” and, he said, leads us to act and believe as though, “society exists to serve me as the individual” all the while blurring our obligation to love our neighbor and Christ’s admonition that “in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me.”

The establishment of autonomy and the right to privacy has led to settled law in Roe v. Wade and made euthanasia and assisted suicide legally viable, Msgr. Olson said.

“The anthropological concept of autonomy, how we understand the person as autonomous and its harm to human beings and the common good to society are what is most at stake with disagreements between the Church and other voices of American society regarding such issue as same-sex marriage and the exercise of religious freedom,” said Msgr. Olson, who earned a doctorate in theological studies at Alphonsian Academy of the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome.

And in many cases with what appear to many in secular society to be appealing ends, such as in contraception, same-sex marriage, no-fault divorce, and cohabitation.

Advocates for contraception, for example, have argued that it relieves poverty. Women’s rights advocates argue that no-fault divorce emancipates women from spousal abuse, and same-sex marriage advocates claim that it will reduce the ostracizing and bullying by bigots.

Instead, the human condition as a whole was harmed though no-fault divorce in that it “shook our understanding of marriage from a covenant to a contract with property rights.”

Likewise, contraception introduced into family life changed our perception of children. Rather than children being seen as a gift from God, there became an understanding of children as property.

“Soon the common good ceases to be reality,” Msgr. Olson said. “It quickly becomes an abstract ideal loosely composed of aggregates of individual interests … all measured the way property is measured.”

It is Christ who demonstrates to us how to conquer such evils. Catholics, Msgr. Olson said, have the Gospels, which instruct that “bullying of gay people is immoral; spousal abuse is evil and sinful and impactful on the common good” and that couples have ability and responsibility to decide the size of their families through natural family planning methods.

“Where are we to find love in place of autonomy?” Msgr. Olson asked. “We must find it in Jesus … in the poor, in the unborn, in the dying, the sick, the immigrant, in the homosexual person, the down-syndrome child. In all of our neighbors who are incapable of autonomy.”

Professionals and students in the legal profession and government officials assembled Sept. 26, at St. Patrick Cathedral for the Red Mass, the annual gathering and celebration that asks guidance from the Holy Spirit for those who seek justice. Homilist Monsignor Michael Olson, rector of Holy Trinity Seminary in Irving, addressed the secular principle of autonomy — the concept of seeking the best resolutions with only the individual in mind, while ignoring and often at the expense of, the good of society — and the legal concept of the right to privacy.

Published (until 10/24/2063)