Lawyers called to fight threats to religious liberty


Dialog editor

Members of the St. Thomas More Society of the diocese were told Oct. 4 during the Red Mass at St. Ann Church in Wilmington, that religious liberty is under attack in America and they were invited to join with U.S. bishops to proclaim religious freedom for all.

That was the message the society’s lawyers and judicial professionals heard during the homily by Msgr. Ronny Jenkins, general secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Bishop Malooly was the main celebrant of the liturgy that marks the annual start of the U.S. Supreme Court’s term and is named for the red vestments worn by celebrants symbolizing the Holy Spirit.

Msgr. Jenkins listed what he called “ever increasing threats we face to religious liberty in our great land,” including threats to conscience protections for charitable workers, the right of churches to employ ministers of their own choosing and the redefinition of “ancient institutions revered by all religious, such as marriage.”

Noting that Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, who is president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, has formed a special bishops’ committee devoted to religious liberty protection, Msgr. Jenkins called on members of the St. Thomas More Society to “be prophets of the law” and as administrators of the law make significant contributions to the bishops’ effort.

He suggested three ways lawyers and jurists can be prophets of the law in their daily lives.

First, by never being indifferent to the cause of justice and the protection of religious liberty.

Perhaps, Msgr. Jenkins said, “when it comes to law, the opposite of love is not hate, but an unworried indifference to the source and principles of justice that must lie at the heart of all laws and decisions rendered based on them.”

The second characteristic of the prophet of law is never to forget the “ultimate source of the law and of the fundamental rights that arise from it.”

Msgr. Jenkins said, “It seems hardly acceptable in our day to suggest … that the law of our state and nation is rooted in the creative reason of God. Even the use of the phrase ‘natural law,’ even without reference to a divine source, is taken as at least archaic or unfashionable. … But the fact is not swayed by the reaction to it.”

The third characteristic Msgr. Jenkins suggested for St. Thomas More Society members in their prophets of law vocation is “steadfast and unswerving devotion to the rule of justice.”

Lawyers can model God’s steadfast love by defending fundamental rights, such as religious liberty, protecting the innocent and punishing the guilty, promoting the equitable and the good and being devoted to the principles of justice.

Msgr. Jenkins reminded the attorneys that Blessed John Paul II once told a gathering of judges and advocates that “Your mission is first of all a service of love.”

He thanked the society’s members for that service, “for the witness of love you bring to it, and I pray that God, who is always love, will guide you in truth and the light for the fulfillment of justice and the triumph of all that is good.”