Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP, called for Australia’s legal professionals to uphold the right to religious freedom – especially in the midst of growing militant secularism – at the Red Mass on 29 January, marking the beginning of the 2018 legal term.
In his homily, Archbishop Fisher spoke of the growing threats to the expression or religious ideals in Australia today.
“The pressure is on to eradicate Judeo-Christian ideas such as the sanctity of life and love from our laws and customs, to inoculate people to faith or make them embarrassed or secretive about it, and to enforce a kind of practical agnosticism on the whole community,” he said.
Legal milieu from all over converged upon the cathedral to celebrate the colourful tradition of the Red Mass.
The Mass began at 9am with literal big-wigs processing in woollen garb of various regal colours – red, purple and black – down the central aisle of St Mary’s Cathedral. The Archbishop emphasised the crucial role lawmakers have in our society: “Our law makers, judges, practitioners, teachers and students play an essential role in our community and rightly seek a higher wisdom to serve true justice and mercy”.
The Red Mass, an ancient tradition hearkening to the Middle Ages, has been celebrated in Sydney since 1931 and is partly organised by the Saint Thomas More Society; a society of Catholic legal professionals who take inspiration from the martyred English lawyer who strove to uphold justice at all costs.
The Archbishop mentioned that now – more than ever – Saint Thomas More is relevant to Catholics who uphold their faith in the public domain.
“The militant secularism in the air at the moment, like colonialism, sectarianism, racism and sexism in the air at other times, threatens to unravel Australian respectfulness in religious matters and historic balances between Church and state,” he said.
The sweltering January morning did not prevent the traditional thick woollen garments necessary for the occasion. And likewise, the heat and confusion of the current political climate needs to be handled with fortitude and faith.
The Archbishop remained hopeful that this could be achieved with co-operation from people of all faiths and none.
“I would say that Australia has mostly been good (at respecting the rights of citizens), if not always or in all respects. “