The traditional Red Mass at St. Michael’s Cathedral in Toronto, marking the opening of the courts in the fall, was celebrated by Cardinal Gerald Emmett Carter on September 3. The sermon was rendered by the chaplain of the Thomas More Lawyers Guild, Father Donald Finlay, c.s.b.
Earlier in the year (February), the Chaplain, together with the President, the Hon. Judge Karen Weiler and the secretary, Mr. Duncan McRae, had opposed the idea, proposed by some members, of the Guild taking a stand against the illegal Morgentaler abortion clinic. See “Catholic Guild dodges moral issues,” July/August Interim). Outwitting their fellows, they organized a quick consultation by mail, confirming their decision to do nothing and avoid everything. Meanwhile they had already invited the Hon. Ian Scott, the Attorney General, a long time lapsed Catholic and committed to abortion on demand, to give the address at their post Red Mass dinner (see “Machiavellian lawyers guild?”, September Interim p.6).
Before dinner, lawyers and judges were met at the entrance to Osgoode Hall, Toronto’s professional law establishment, by some 35 pro-life witnesses. Most carried the regular “Justice for the Unborn” signs. But some of them carried signs designed for the occasion. “Thomas More, the King’s Good Servant, but God’s first” (words More uttered before he laid his head on the block); “Ian Scott – Morgentaler’s good servant”; and Thomas More, a man for all seasons; Ian Scott, abortions for all reasons.”
The protest was directed both against some members of the Thomas More Guild Executive and the Attorney General.
Luckily some Guild members are guided by the same principles as the great Thomas More. Among those who picketed were David Bennet and Wilf McDonald, past presidents of the Guild, who were outraged at the fact that Ian Scott was invited to address the Catholic lawyers.
Bennett, who was president of the Guild in 1964, said “Picketing is not my usual style, but I felt I had to do it this time. The government is doing irreparable damage to the public view of the law and administration of justice in this province by refusing to enforce the law. It is allowing the clear requirements of the Criminal Code to be openly and flagrantly violated by the staff and clients of the Toronto abortion clinics. These lawyers are not aware of the enormity of the evil that is being done in the killing of unborn children.”
Ian Scott spoke to the protestors saying, “the police are conducting an investigation. If and when there is sufficient evidence, they will go to the Crown Attorney.”
Mr. Scott just told this crowd a bunch of utter nonsense,” said Mr. Dodds. “Toronto police are not going to lay a charge without direction from the Attorney General. It’s not the Attorney General waiting for the police to act, it’s the police waiting for the Attorney General.”
Among those attending the dinner was Emmett Cardinal Carter who ignored the picketers when he went in, Bennet was angered by this action “I think it’s imprudent for the Archbishop to appear at that dinner and sit at the same table as Ian Scott. The Archdiocese is showing a lack of concern for the killing of babies.”
At the dinner itself Scott delivered an extraordinarily clever and puzzling speech, from the point of view of a lawyer politician. He charged that while today we honour Thomas More for his resolute death, and defence of moral principle, we have lost sight of his lifelong devotion to law as a necessary tool for compromise, consensus and conciliation.
By the end of his speech Scott had convinced his audience that law is superior to “moral correctness,” that moral correctness is essentially a matter of private personal dictates, that in a pluralistic society compromise is an excellent virtue, and that the law is a value unto itself. Consequently, Scott interpreted More as a noble man whose highest values failed him in the end.
Scott praised More for upholding the law, even an imperfect law, and left his audience with the impression that this represented his own commitment. All the charges brought against him, he implied, are nothing but disappointments of people who do not understand that as the law is imperfect, his hands are tied. The audience rewarded him with a standing ovation.
The Red Mass is a centuries-old tradition throughout the world, marking the opening of the new year in the law courts. The vestments at the Mass are red because the ceremony is one in which lawyers and judges pray for the guidance and wisdom of the Holy Spirit. Hence the term – the Red Mass.
What a mockery of the age old tradition and of Thomas More to have, as a guest speaker, Ian Scott who is actively supporting those who deliberately and defiantly break the law of Canada.