- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 2, 2005

Washington Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick exhorted Supreme Court justices and government officials yesterday to exercise “leadership that is not destructive or too intensely partisan” at an annual Red Mass at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Northwest.

“Thanks be to God, in the last few days, we have witnessed a period of great civility in the selection of our chief justice,” said the cardinal, gazing down at President Bush and newly confirmed Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., sitting before him in the cathedral’s front rows.

“I pray that that will continue because it is so important not just for good government, but for the good care of our people,” the 75-year-old prelate said in the Mass customarily held the day before the Supreme Court session opens.

Chief Justice Roberts was confirmed Thursday by a 78-22 Senate vote after minimal debate, and Mr. Bush is expected soon to pick someone to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

As if anticipating a bitter political fight, the cardinal urged the packed cathedral not to let the country degenerate as did the vineyard inhabited by unruly tenants in one of Jesus’ parables from Matthew 21, the day’s Gospel reading.

“We tend to blame each other,” Cardinal McCarrick said. “The level of our discourse can sometimes become shrill and caustic and uneven. What happens in the vineyard can happen to us in our public life.

“We must be careful we do not bring damage to the vineyard and harm to the vine growers.”

Rather, his listeners might try harder “to bring the wine of sweetness and the wine of strength to ourselves and to all our people,” the cardinal said.

They must try to “dialogue more gently, more positively; more careful to set the conversation within a forum of mutual respect,” he said, “by being willing to listen for the good points that are usually present in every reasonable discourse.”

Cardinal McCarrick then referred to an exhortation by Paul in Phillippians 4 to think only noble thoughts.

America, he said, would be much improved “if our discourse could mirror that of the apostle and help change this vineyard of ours.”

He did not, however, ruminate on the fate of the vineyard workers who, according to Matthew, were severely punished when they failed to obey the vineyard owner, traditionally understood in the parable as God.

So named because of the red robes worn by royal judges and Mass celebrants in medieval Europe, the Red Mass once marked the official opening of the judicial year of the Roman Rota, the tribunal of the pope. Since its D.C. inception in 1953 under Cardinal Patrick O’Boyle, the Mass in Washington usually attracts the president, members of the Supreme Court, Congress and the diplomatic corps.

Surrounded by clouds of incense and standing under a glittering mosaic of St. Matthew, Cardinal McCarrick also reminded the crowd of the Sept. 7 funeral of Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist at the cathedral, then prayed that Chief Justice Roberts would serve with the same “courage and dedication.”

Mr. Bush and Chief Justice Roberts did not speak during the Mass except for brief words during the sign of peace.

In the parting remarks, the cardinal referred to Chief Justice Roberts’ playful 4-year-old son, Jack, who won international attention with his impromptu dance during Mr. Bush’s announcement of his father’s nomination.

“I look at these young boys who aren’t married yet; they’d be good priests,” he said as the congregation chuckled. “I was thinking Jack Roberts might be a candidate, but we might have to wait a few years.”

Sitting next to Chief Justice Roberts and his wife, Jane, were three other Catholic justices: Anthony M. Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer, who is Jewish, also attended, as did Laura Bush, White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr., Solicitor General Paul D. Clement, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso R. Jackson, Health and Human Services Secretary Michael O. Leavitt and Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele.

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