Justice Scalia addresses Catholic Lawyers Guild

BOSTON — The Catholic Lawyers Guild held its annual Red Mass at the Holy Name Cathedral of the Holy Cross March 26 joined by Supreme Court Justice Antonin G. Scalia, who spoke later at a guild luncheon.

This was Scalia’s second time addressing the guild. He was the guest speaker in 1988, when the guild first revived the traditional celebration of the beginning of the judicial season, said Joseph Nolan, the guild’s president.

The justice was chosen the first time because he demonstrated a unique blend of brains and intestinal fortitude, which is still true today, said Nolan, who is a retired justice from the state’s Supreme Judicial Court and a professor at Suffolk Law School.

Speaking after the Mass, Scalia said he enjoyed the tradition of the Red Mass, and with the recent additions of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., both Catholics; he could share the duty of attending Red Masses across the country.

It had been his hope to spend time with Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley, with whom he had attended Red Masses in Washington, he said. But, he more than understood that the archbishop’s elevation to the College of Cardinals was a far more important event.

In his remarks at the luncheon, which was closed to the media, Scalia said he would speak on the two Thomases — St. Thomas More and Thomas Jefferson — and how they approached religion in public life.

He said he would also speak on how Christ’s expectation that Christians would be mocked in the world has been fulfilled in America.

Nolan said although there was no head table, as guild president he sat with Scalia and the two men had a wonderful conversation.

“He’s got the faith,” he said.

“I don’t like to take a back seat to anybody, but he has me beat where it counts,” he said. Scalia has 26 grandchildren compared to Nolan’s 24.

Nolan said he felt a little even because he has six great-grandchildren and the justice does not have any yet.

“Of course, his son is a priest. I told him having a son as a priest was a greater honor that sitting on the Supreme Court,” he said. “He told me: ‘I know that better than you, Joe.”

The Catholic Lawyers Guild is a professional organization, but it does not have the same tempo as the Knights of Columbus, said Wilson D. Rogers Jr., chief counsel to the archdiocese and president of the Rogers Law firm.

The guild’s main focus is the celebration of the Red Mass and the luncheon, he said.

Guild members celebrate Mass together on the first Friday of every month and on every Friday members volunteer to provide pro bono legal help to clients of the St. Francis day shelter, he said.

The Red Mass started in Medieval England and was first celebrated in America in New York City in 1928, he said.

It is more common for the Red Mass to coincide with the first Monday in October when Supreme Court opened its session, said Rogers.

This year, the date was moved to accommodate the schedules of both the justice and the archbishop, a plan thwarted by the happy news from Rome, he said. “The best laid plans...”