California’s Chief Justice hailed the example of St. Thomas More as she urged legal professionals and civic leaders to build trust in the state’s legal system at LA’s 41st annual Red Mass.
Recalling the “unfathomable violence and suffering” witnessed by the world in recent weeks and describing public trust in institutions as “fragile,” Chief Justice Patricia Guerrero said the 16th-century English saint “represents a guiding figure for lawyers, judges, and public servants to navigate the complexities of our work and our world.”
“St. Thomas More reminds us that in a world that can often seem turbulent, we must not abandon our duty as guardians of the law,” said Guerrero, who gave the closing remarks at the Oct. 25 liturgy at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. The Mass was presided by Archbishop José H. Gomez and concelebrated by a dozen priests.
Guerrero, a Democrat, became the Supreme Court of California’s first Latina justice after she was nominated to the court by Gov. Gavin Newsom last year.
“It is a difficult time when we are called to do all that’s in our power in ways, big or small, to create a more just world,” said Guerrero. “We must continue to pursue justice and compassion, uphold the truth, and defend the rights of the most vulnerable.”
Organized by the local chapter of the St. Thomas More Society, the Red Mass is an ecumenical, civic celebration that honors judges, lawyers, legislators, and legal professionals usually held around the time the U.S. Supreme Court begins its new year.
The more than 200 people attending this year included representatives of various faith traditions. As in previous years, the Mass’ ceremonial honor guard was led by the Knights of Saint Peter Claver and the Knights of Columbus.
In her remarks, Guerrero also recalled the “deep and abiding” faith of her grandmother, who together with her parents passed on to her the “values of compassion and helping others” while growing up in California’s Imperial Valley.
This year’s homilist was Father Edward Siebert, SJ, rector of Loyola Marymount University’s Jesuit community and a longtime film producer who most recently worked as an executive producer for the 2023 Russell Crowe film, “The Pope’s Exorcist.”
The Jesuit invoked the 1957 legal drama “12 Angry Men” in his homily to connect the theme of the evening’s liturgy with Jesus’ words in the Gospel: “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more” (Luke 12:48).
“Both the film and the Gospel-parable offer us a narrative of human experience that helps us to rise above the oft confining limits of human experience in order to attain the ultimate ideas of justice and truth,” Siebert said in his homily.
The Latin word for “more” as found in the Gospel, Siebert said, is “magis,” a term that can translate to “greater” and often used by St. Ignatius Loyola.
“For St. Ignatius Loyola, the superlative was always God,” said Siebert, who is also the founder and president of Loyola Productions, Inc. “And the comparative, ‘the greater,’ was how we discovered what was more just, loving, and pleasing to God.”
The Spanish saint’s understanding of the gospel, Siebert said, “would call all religious authorities, and I dare say, civic authorities, to pursue the ‘greater’ in their own challenging, probing, and consequential deliberations.”
Before the end of the Mass, St. Thomas More Society of LA president Carmela Bombay announced the death of T. Matthew Hansen, general counsel for the Catholic Community Foundation of Los Angeles and a member of the society chapter’s board, who had died just three days earlier on Oct. 22.
Also remembered was Bishop David O’Connell, who was killed earlier this year and had concelebrated last year’s Red Mass alongside Archbishop Gomez. State Sen. Bob Archuleta, D-Pico Rivera, recalled that he received holy Communion from O’Connell at last year’s Mass. This year’s Mass, he told Angelus, was a chance to remember and pray for a man he considered a friend.
“He was truly the man of the cloth and he will be missed, and we honor him today,” said Archuleta, who sponsored 30 freeway-adjacent digital billboards around the LA area honoring Bishop O’Connell following his death last February.