At this year’s Red Mass for the legal profession, Archbishop J. Michael Miller challenged the nation to uphold its reputation for “healthy secularism” and affirmed the Church’s desire to continue serving the common good through the institutions it has developed over centuries. (Photo: Nicholas Elbers/B.C. Catholic)

At Red Mass, Archbishop Miller calls for robust religious freedom

Speaking to Catholic lawyers at this year’s Red Mass at Holy Rosary Cathedral, Archbishop J. Michael Miller emphasized the need for a broader understanding of religious freedom in Canada, challenging the nation to uphold its reputation for “healthy secularism.”

In his homily, the Archbishop said, “Canada has traditionally been marked by a ‘healthy’ or ‘open’ secularism,” in which the State recognizes religion is not “an individual matter to be confined to the private sphere alone.”

He underscored the important role religion has played in shaping public institutions. “What the Church asks for is simply the space to continue to serve with integrity the common good through the institutions it has developed over centuries.” The Church, he said, opposes “every attempt to impose on those institutions … programs or practices” that go against its teachings.

Freedom of religion cannot be “limited to the individual dimension alone,” Archbishop Miller said in his Red Mass homily. Authentic exercise of faith must be “manifested publicly,” he said.

The archbishop said religious freedom extends beyond just the act of worship, encompassing “cultural, educational, health care, and charitable activities” that are integral to communities of faith.

Citing the late Pope John Paul II, he said religious freedom serves as the “litmus test” for the respect of all other human right and said Canada is “blessed” by its enshrining of freedom of religion and conscience in Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, forming “the bedrock” of the nation’s democratic society.

Freedom of religion cannot be “limited to the individual dimension alone,” he warned. “Its authentic exercise demands that its beliefs, including its inherent moral imperatives, be manifested publicly.”

The Archbishop also spoke to the responsibility of law professionals to “render divine justice” in cooperation with the Holy Spirit. Referring to their patron St. Thomas More, he said More exemplified “the perennial question of the relationship between what is owed to Caesar and what is owed to God.” More was executed for treason for refusing to approve King Henry VIII’s divorce. 

Canada today needs lawmakers, judges, and lawyers of well-formed conscience who bring their principles into their professional lives, the Archbishop told the lawyers. 

Meanwhile in Montreal a group of 60 jurists, notaries, and law students gathered at the Sacred Heart Chapel in the city’s Notre-Dame Basilica Sept. 7 to attend the first Red Mass organized by the newly formed Societe Saint-Yves de Montreal.

The society was established in May when Montreal lawyer Jacques Darche learned that the Bar of Montreal had unexpectedly decided to cancel the Red Mass — a tradition that marks the annual opening of the law courts dating back to the first Red Mass in Paris in 1245.

The Societe Saint-Yves de Montreal was established May 19, just two weeks after the bar’s announcement and, providentially, the feast day of St. Yves, one of the patron saints of legal professionals. The Red Mass was re-instituted with Montreal Archbishop Christian Lepine as celebrant.

The Red Mass dates back to 1944 in Montreal. 

Toronto’s Red Mass was scheduled to be celebrated Sept. 21 at St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica with Archbishop Francis Leo presiding.

With Canadian Catholic News files


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