Bishop Asks Jurists to Respect Church’s Role

by Ed Wilkinson

Justices from the Kings County Supreme Court joined other members of the legal profession for the annual Red Mass at St. James Cathedral.

“We should all be concerned with a seeming increase in conflicts between Church and State,” said Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio when he addressed Brooklyn’s legal community at the diocese’s annual Red Mass Oct. 19 at St. James Cathedral-Basilica, Downtown Brooklyn.

“Catholic institutions are grappling with such concerns,” he told the judges and lawyers from Kings County.  “We have been seeking to balance between what we believe to be a moral obligation to offer our employees health benefits with recent directives that seem to obligate Catholic institutions to offer benefits to employees that we find morally objectionable.”

“In fairness, the administration has carved out a religious exemption,” he explained, but noted that the definition of the religious mission of the church is too narrow and places the works of the Church in jeopardy.

The bishop said that new health care law would force the Church to pay for coverage of all artificial contraception and sterilization which it finds to be morally unacceptable options.

The bishop added that “although the mandate does not expressly target Catholicism, it does so implicitly by imposing burdens on conscience that are well known to fall almost entirely on observant Catholics – whether employees, employers, or insurers.”

“We do not see ourselves as simply a social service provider but ministering in the fashion dictated by the command of our Lord to care for the widow and orphan.”

“These conflicts ought to be of special concern to jurists and members of the bar as well as to all citizens,” he said.  “For you are the men in the women in the arena arbitrating the various interests of the state and the convictions of believers and non-believers alike.”

Toward the end of his homily, Bishop DiMarzio received approval from the congregation when he said that jurists are underpaid and overtaxed and that recent pay raises were more than justified.

“Faith is always a part  of what we do,” said Sara Gozo, president of the Catholic Lawyers Guild. “We’re always trying to do the right thing.  We can’t separate that. We always go by what we think is right.”

The Red Mass was sponsored by the Kings County Chapter of the Catholic Lawyers Guild and the Columbian Lawyers Association of Brooklyn.  The first reading was offered by Dominic Famulari of the Columbian Lawyers and the second by Gozo.  Past President Gregory Cerchione led the Prayer of the Faithful.

Bishop DiMarzio greets attorney Frank Seddio at Red Mass as Sara Gozo and a judge look on.