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Pope tells Aussie Catholic lawyers to protect unborn and aged

Ahead of yesterday's 'Red Mass' for Catholic lawyers, Pope John Paul II urged members of the St Thomas More Society to defend the "inviolable dignity and rights of every human being - from conception until natural death".

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the message came as the society of Catholic lawyers marked its 60th anniversary at St Mary's Cathedral with the annual mass to mark the start of the legal year. The mass was celebrated in the presence of Australia's three cardinals - Pell, Clancy and Cassidy - and before some of the New South Wales' most senior judges, barristers and solicitors.

The society, named for the lawyer and politician beheaded by Henry VIII in 1535 for refusing to accept the king's claim to be supreme head of the English church, has quietly lobbied for changes to the abortion laws. The society has also opposed euthanasia and advised on the Catholic Church's formal protocol for dealing with sexual abuse claims. Most recently, it argued for the NSW Government to give legal protection to foetuses and is now urging Federal Parliament to hold the line on banning the use of embryos in stem-cell research.

The society counts the High Court Chief Justice, Murray Gleeson, and the former governor-general, William Deane, among its members, who are mainly but not exclusively practising Catholics.

The Pope's message said the Catholic Church in Australia faced the "task of fulfilling her evangelising mission in an increasingly secularised society".

"The sense of God and of his loving Providence has diminished for many people, with a subsequent neglect of Man's necessary relationship with the Loving Creator," it said.

The society's president, John McCarthy, QC, said the Pope's message underlined the role his society had to play in shaping public policy and promoting justice as a "personal virtue as well as a social and legal relationship".

Mr McCarthy estimated that 35 to 40 per cent of the "baby-boomer generation of lawyers" were Catholic, and a significant number of them - more than in the wider Catholic community - remained practising Catholics.

In his homily, Sydney Archbishop Cardinal Pell said that any good system of laws must be built upon an honest and genuine pursuit of justice on the part of those legislators who frame the laws and those legal practitioners who have to put these positive laws into practice.

"Any good society is held together by good people following just laws. We should pray that this passionate commitment to justice will never grow cold in Australia."

The service at St Mary's was followed by one at St James Anglican Church later in the morning. The Great Synagogue will mark the occasion on Friday and the Greek Orthodox Church on Sunday.

Meanwhile Hobart Archbishop Adrian Doyle presided over an ecumenical service involving Christian members of Tasmania's legal fraternity. The Mercury says all attention was on Hobart magistrate Shan Tennent, who attended the service shortly before she was named the state's first female judge.

"It is important that we keep our focus on who are our clients, fellow Tasmanians, who are often at a very significant point in their lives when they meet with you," said Archbishop Doyle.

Defend unborn's rights, Pope tells Catholic lawyers (Sydney Morning Herald 1/2/05)
Legal eagles frock up for new year (The Mercury 1/2/05)

St Thomas More Society (Archdiocese of Sydney)

Bishop cautions judges on anti-terror laws (CathNews 3/2/04)

Law profession begins court year with church service (ABC News 31/1/05)
Off the beach and back to the bench (The Australian 1/2/05)
Red Mass opens New Year's Law Term (Catholic Communications, Archdiocese of Sydney 27/1/05)

32 Feb 2005