Government Should Help Religion, Cardinal Tells Attendees At 'Red Mass'

Government should "protect and support" religion in order to increase "civic virtue," Roman Catholic Cardinal Avery Dulles told attendees at Washington, D.C.'s annual "Red Mass" Oct. 5.

"The government cannot establish in this country any given religion by law, but it can protect and support religion as an aid to civic virtue," Dulles said. "Law and spirit belong together. They are as inseparable as body and soul. Law, at least civil law, is a human achievement, but the spirit, if it is to be upright, depends chiefly upon the grace of God, who can transform our hearts and fill them with his love. May God forgive us for having so often tried to do without him."

Dulles noted that "in biblical history" law and the spirit "are neither separable nor antithetical but are inextricably conjoined."

Dulles also took a shot at public education, asserting, "Schools extend the pedagogical function of the family. To the degree that public education fails to instill moral convictions and behavior, this task will fall more heavily on private institutions, especially those conducted under religious auspices. Schools of this character fill the void left by value-free institutions that limit themselves to factual information and technical skills."

Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Associate Justice Antonin Scalia attended the service. Also in attendance were Secretary of Housing Mel Martidnez, District of Columbia Mayor Andthony Williams and Michael Steele, lieutenant governor of Maryland.

Catholic groups sponsor the Red Mass every year the Sunday before the Supreme Court returns to session. Critics say the event gives the church an unparalleled opportunity to lobby court members on issues that often come before the justices.