Annual Red Mass starts Legislative session

By Ramsay Wharton – bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - "We pray for Neil Abercrombie, our Governor and Brian Schatz, our Lt. Governor, for members of our Legislature, for Justices and elected officials and all others who are entrusted to guard our political welfare," said Bishop Larry Silva of the Diocese of Honolulu during prayer at Red Mass Thursday morning inside Our Lady of Peace Cathedral on Bishop Street. "May they be enabled by your powerful protections. Discharge their duties with honesty and liability. In Christ, our Lord. Amen."

Governor Abercrombie attended the annual Catholic service along with Hawaii's Chief Justice, Mark Recktenwald Speaker of the House of Representatives, Calvin Say, members of the State Legislature, Honolulu City Council and other public servants.

"I need all the blessings I can get, believe me," said Abercrombie.

Red Mass has been held here in the islands since 1955. The Catholic Church prays to the Holy Spirit for wisdom and guidance for all of Hawaii's public servants. A tradition that dates back hundreds of years in Catholic churches around the world.

"The great motivating force for me here in paradise is that our diversity defines us and doesn't divide us and I think that the Red Mass is a good example of us trying to define our common goals and our common purpose in life," said Abercrombie. "And it's always easy to find things that divide you. The things to concentrate on are the things that can unite us in moving Hawaii forward."

Bishop Silva was pleased with Thursday's morning attendance.

"I was very grateful for the number of public officials who were here this morning," said Silva. "And I think that it is important that we work together and that the Catholic Church and all churches really as part of our mission, are not just here to worship in the confines of our building, but to help bring justice and peace to our society. Therefore, it is important that we engage with public officials. so this is a good example of trying to bring them in, and engage with them."

Abercrombie reflected, "I always have a copy of the Constitution with me. It's quite clear in here, that this is the glory of our democracy, that the separation of church and state is not to separate people from each other's faith, either in themselves or in that which they profess to guide their lives. So, this is an opportunity to show respect for one another."

But not everyone was pleased with the event.

"The Catholic Church is opposed to civil rights. They're opposed to women's rights. They're opposed to reproductive rights. They're opposed to death with dignity and they are an international criminal organization, shouted Holly Huber with Hawaii Citizens for the Separation of State and Church.

Huber was among the nearly dozen protesters who held various anti-Catholic signs outside of cathedral during Red Mass.

"Shame on government officials for attending the Red Mass and listening to the Catholic Church," said Huber. "They're morally bankrupt," continued Huber.

Huber and other anti-Catholic demonstrators hurled allegations of hypocrisy, child abuse and violations of church and state regarding today's event.

Protester Caroline Golouch said of public officials in attendance, "They're being paid by our tax dollars and they turn around and they're supporting the Catholic Church."

In fact, the relationship between sacred and secular law was the topic of today's Homily, delivered by prominent American Jesuit scholar, author and lecturer Father John Coleman.

While referencing a religious freedom case Coleman stated, "The Chief Counsel of the United States Bishops rejoined, it's true that the church doesn't have a First Amendment right to have a government contract but is does have the right, not to be excluded from a contract based on its religious beliefs."

"He (Silva) was very correct that the Constitution doesn't allow someone like Mitch Kahle to impose his atheism on us, said Republican House Representative Kymberly PIne of anti-Catholic activist, Mitch Kayle whose group was protesting the event."And it doesn't allow him to stop us from performing our own ceremonies that honor our own religion."

Pine argued, "We follow the doctrine of our own personal beliefs, whether it's religious or non-religious. People are human. People forget that even priests and other leaders and state leaders are just human."

"Well the protestors have a first amendment right to protest and the Bishop in his remarks at the end of mass stated that we should love the protesters and I agree with that, said Catholic Robert Camilleri of Honolulu. "We should love them."

Protesters accused the Catholic Church in Honolulu of exuberance and not spending enough to help the homeless.

"The Catholic Church has done nothing to help the homeless, except talk about it," argued Huber. "If you're referring to the Catholic Charities, that is not the Catholic church. Catholic Charities is not a Catholic organization. It's our charity because we fund it. About 90 percent of its funding comes from government grants and only 3 percent of Catholic charities funding, comes from the Catholic church."

Bishop Silva disagreed.

"It is an Catholic organization, or else it wouldn't be called a Catholic Charities, but it's not directly under my authority," said Silva. "There's a Board that runs it so its a little bit apart and that's so it can receive monies from the state. It serves not only Catholics, but people of all denominations, or no denomination. So, it really reaches out to the whole community, and that is why I think the State does have great respect, and does give it funds because it knows it's doing a job that is so much needed."

Pine added, "What we see today with the protesters as well as all the different faiths inside the church. It just shows that America does allow us many different freedoms and allows us to believe whatever we want to believe as long as no particular individual group, forces us to believe what they believe. And I think that is where we differ, with Mitch Kahle and his group today.

"We are really trying to be better than we are, said Pine."That's why we're here today."

In a related story, around 10 a.m. paramedics treated a 64 year-old woman who suffered a medical condition during Red Mass. The woman walked into the Cathedral and sat on the floor, right in the middle of the Homily remarks.

She kneeled down, as if to pray, but then laid on her back. Police officers sitting in the front pews responded to the woman when it looked like something was wrong and took her outside for medical assistance.

Area police say the woman is known to them and believed to be homeless. When I asked her what happened, she replied, "The Holy Spirit hit me."  The woman who uttered to officers she wanted to be taken to the psychiatric facility Kahi Mohala in Ewa Beach, was taken via ambulance to a nearby hospital for immediate treatment.

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