MELBOURNE, Australia, FEB. 1, 2011 ( At Masses across Australia to mark the beginning of the legal term, prelates noted the moral battles facing the nation, with one bishop cautioning against the "power of the law and the weakness of our own natures." 

The Archdiocese of Sydney reported the Mass celebrated Monday by Bishop Anthony Fisher of Parramatta in St. Mary's Cathedral. 

Bishop Fisher spoke to the more than 1,000 judges, barristers, solicitors, professors and lecturers in law as well as many law students in attendance about the bills to legalize euthanasia in Australian parliaments. 

"We may be standing on the verge of legalizing, somewhere in this country, the killing of those who suffer by those who are comfortable, of the vulnerable by the powerful and of the sick by those professed to heal them," he warned. 

Bishop Fisher was himself a practicing solicitor before he went to the seminary. 

In his homily, he noted the case of Solomon, "renowned and revered for his wisdom and seen as the ultimate wise judge," but later a victim of lust for women, power and wealth, who fell from grace and ceased to speak with divine wisdom. 

"He is a warning to us all who have experienced the power of the law and the weakness of our own natures," the bishop said. 

Gratitude and vigilance 

Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne presided at the Red Mass on Monday in St. Patrick's Cathedral there, and Auxiliary Bishop Timothy Costelloe delivered the homily.

Bishop Costelloe focused his address on religious freedom, drawing from the example of St. John Bosco and referring to Benedict XVI's message for the World Day of Peace. 

Citing the Holy Father's message, the prelate explained: "What the Pope is saying of course is that the recognition and protection of the right to the free practice of religious faith is a necessary precondition for the maintenance of a just and peaceful society." 

The bishop acknowledged that the Pontiff's message refers in a special way to the violence against Christians, particularly in the Middle East. But, he said, "[W]e might nevertheless ask ourselves about possible dangers to religious freedom in our own country." 

"As so many of us gathered in churches across the city and suburbs on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day last year to celebrate the birth of Christ, few if any of us would have given even a passing thought to the possibility of attacks on our Churches," the prelate said. He called his listeners to gratitude for this "wonderful freedom" that "not every country enjoys." 

"But with gratitude must go vigilance," Bishop Costelloe asserted. "Freedoms which are taken for granted may well be freedoms which easily come under threat." 

In that context, he pointed to the "unending battle" over abortion. 

"How many of us could have imagined that, in this context, even the freedom of doctors and other medical professionals to exercise their right to conscientiously refuse to cooperate in any way in the procurement of an abortion would be denied in law?" the bishop reflected. "We are aware of the constant pressure to allow for the legalization of euthanasia. As we seek to put an alternative viewpoint must we prepare ourselves for a similar outcome?" 


Bishop Costelloe noted the Holy Father's explanation that at the heart of the question of religious freedom "lies the right of every human person to be a truth-seeker." 

He continued: "[T]he real reason why religious freedom must be protected and advanced is because it corresponds to the deepest truth about human beings, that we are made by God and made for God. To deny people the right to respond to this God fully, freely and openly is to betray the very meaning of what public service, in any of its forms, is meant to be. 

"As we all look to another year in the service of our society, Pope Benedict invites us to keep our eyes firmly fixed on this fundamental truth. Human beings are made for God. When we forget this, and exclude God from our personal and communal lives, then our lives as individuals, and our lives together in society, begin to unravel. We do not understand ourselves, we do not understand each other and we do not understand the true nature of the world in which we live."