Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Please send your contact information to the following address, along with $40 annual dues:
Saint Thomas More Society of Philadelphia
P.O. Box 58060
Philadelphia, PA 19102

Please include the following information for our records:
Preferred mailing address:
Law School/year of graduation:

Please make checks payable to "Saint Thomas More Society of Philadelphia."
Thank you for your support!

Saint Thomas More Award

The Saint Thomas More Award is presented by the Society annually to a member of the legal profession whose accomplishments in some way represent the principles and ideals of St. Thomas More. The inscription on the award reads as follows:
St. Thomas More. Attorney - Public Servant - Jurist - Scholar - Teacher. A practitioner of his Catholic religion, he combined an intense concern for the problems of his day with a personal moral commitment. And he placed obedience to his conscience over blind obedience to governmental authority. Presented by the St. Thomas More Society of Philadelphia in recognition of traits held by St. Thomas More.
SAINT THOMAS MORE AWARD RECIPIENTS 2009 - Father Thomas M. Betz, Esq., OFM Cap. 2008 - Honorable Robert P. Casey, Jr. United States Senator; pro-life advocate. 2007 - Honorable Antonin Scalia, Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. 2006 - Mark A. Sargent. Dean of Villanova Law School, active in Catholic legal community. 2005 - C. Clark Hodgson, Jr. Civil trial lawyer, recipient of Papal honors. 2004 - Gerard J. St. John. Civil trial lawyer, past president of the Saint Thomas More Society. 2003 - Honorable Anthony J. Scirica. Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. 2002 - Rev. Mr. Clement J. McGovern, Jr. Judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County; permanent deacon. 2001 - John J. Cahill, Jr. Estates lawyer; past president and long time member of the Saint Thomas More Society; Board member: Calcutta House. 2000 - Mary DeFusco. Public Defender; also active in several Catholic lay groups. 1999 - Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua. Archbishop of Philadelphia; a graduate of St. John’s Law School; active in immigration law. 1998 - Honorable Rick Santorum. United States Senator. 1997 - Frank P. Cervone. Executive Director, Support Center for Child Advocates. 1996 - James A. Strazzella. Professor of Law, Temple University School of Law; former president, St. Thomas More Society. 1995 - J. Willard O’Brien. Dean of Villanova Law School; Professor of Law. 1994 - John Rogers Carroll. Criminal trial lawyer; founding member of Lawyers Helping Lawyers and other organizations addressing problems of alcohol and drug abuse. 1993 - Honorable Lisa Aversa Richette. Judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia; active in charitable activities focused on the needs of homeless women; author regarding juvenile justice. 1992 - Honorable Robert P. Casey. Governor of Pennsylvania; outspoken pro-life advocate. 1991 - William Bentley Ball. Appellate lawyer well known for his participation in landmark religious rights cases in the Supreme Court of the United States, first executive director and general counsel of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, former professor of law at Villanova Law School, recipient of Papal honors. 1990 - Honorable Genevieve Blatt. Judge of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania; the first woman to win a statewide election for judicial office in Pennsylvania and, prior to that election was the first woman to win statewide election for any governmental office, a member of the Board of Managers for the 41st Eucharistic Congress (1976), recipient of Papal honors. 1989 - Thomas M. Schubert. A lawyer in general practice who represented and assisted many Catholic religious organizations. 1988 - Harold Gill Reuschlein. Founding Dean, Villanova Law School, recipient of Papal honors. 1987 - Bro. Bartholomew A. Sheehan, S.J. Judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey; member, New Jersey Assembly; general counsel, Camden Trust Company; President, Camden County Bar Association; Jesuit Lay Brother, recipient of Papal honors. 1986 - Honorable Carol Los Mansmann. Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. 1985 - William D. Valente. Professor of Law, Villanova Law School; active in Catholic legal community. 1984 - James L. J. Pie’. First Deputy City Solicitor; identified with many Catholic causes and organizations. 1983 - Honorable Armand Della Porta. Judge, Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia, Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania; advocate for Philadelphia Catholic Schools, recipient of Papal honors. 1982 - John R. McConnell. Trial lawyer who handled primarily defense matters in civil cases; adjunct professor of trial techniques, Temple University School of Law; Chancellor, Philadelphia Bar Association.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Red Mass

The Red Mass is offered for the legal profession at the beginning of the judicial year to ask the Holy Spirit for guidance, strength and hope. The name “Red Mass” comes from the color of the vestments of the clergy and, originally as well, from the robes of the assembled judges and scholars. The red vestments of the clergy recall that the Holy Spirit came to the Apostles and disciples in the form of tongues of fire on Pentecost Sunday. Judicial robes in Europe, where the tradition began, are often a brilliant scarlet. Similarly, the academic robes of professors with doctorate degrees in law were a bright red. Although Masses invoking the Holy Spirit are celebrated on other occasions, notably at the beginning of the academic year at universities, the historic predominance of red at the opening of the judicial year has identified the name “Red Mass” almost exclusively with the Eucharistic liturgy celebrated at that time. The tradition began during the thirteenth century in several European countries. In England, the Red Mass is celebrated on a date close to September 29, Michaelmas (the feast of St. Michael), which is the first day of the fall court sessions. In the United States, the Red Mass is celebrated around that date in many dioceses and, on occasion, in connection with bar association activities. In Philadelphia, the tradition began in 1952, when the Red Mass opened the 150th Anniversary celebration of the Philadelphia Bar Association. The St. Thomas More Society of Philadelphia sponsored Philadelphia’s first Red Mass in 1952 at the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul. An overflow crowd heard Archbishop O'Hara deliver a homily on "The Natural Law." It was such a magnificent occasion that the officers of the Society quickly laid plans to assure that the tradition would be continued. Ever since, the annual Red Mass has been the Society's most visible activity.

Mission Statement

The Saint Thomas More Society of Philadelphia seeks to promote and foster high ethical principles in the legal profession generally and, in particular, in the community of Catholic lawyers; it provides a Catholic voice on issues of relevance to judges, lawyers, public officials, and law students; and, above all, the Society encourages its members to apply the following ideals exemplified by Saint Thomas More in both their personal and professional lives:
• The legal profession is a high calling with corresponding responsibilities to society; • The principal objective of every lawyer is to promote and seek justice; and • The duty of a Catholic lawyer is to remain faithful to the teachings of the Church, at all times, regardless of personal consequences.

Gest Forum

The John B. Gest Forum In the early 1960’s, the Society sponsored presentations on a monthly basis pertaining to the important religious, ethical, and moral issues of the day. The events were organized by John B. Gest, a former president of the Society who spent a substantial amount of his time on the affairs of the Society and other charitable activities. The Board of Governors re-established a yearly lecture forum in the mid-1970’s and named the annual event in honor of John B. Gest, who had placed great emphasis on luncheon discussions of an intellectual nature. With the exception of 1985 and 2001, when the demands of private practice of law precluded its scheduling, the Gest Forum has been an annual event. Traditionally, attorneys who attend the Gest Forum receive one CLE credit in Ethics. Past Gest Forum speakers and their topics are listed below. John B. Gest Forum Speakers and Topics 2009 - Rev. William J. Byron, S.J., “Reflections on Organizational Ethics in the New Corporate Culture.” 2008 - Rev. George W. Rutler, "Public Law and Private Conscience.” 2007 - Robert P. George, J.D., D. Phil., “The Bioethics of Embryonic Stem Cell Research” 2006 - Rev. Richard John Neuhas, Editor-in-Chief of First Things, “Higher and Lowers Laws – and the Lawyers in Between.” 2005 - Mark A. Sargent, Dean of Villanova Law School, “What it means to be a Catholic Law School.” Archbishop John P. Foley, President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, “The Death of Pope John Paul II and the Election of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI” 2004 - Robert K. Vischer, J.D., Assistant Professor, St. John's University School of Law, “Can a Good Lawyer be a Good Catholic (and Still Make a Living)?” 2003 - George Weigel, Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, biographer of Pope John Paul II, “Christian and Political Participation: Testing the Boundaries – Legall, Moral and Ethical Issues.” 2002 - Fr. Canice Connors, OFM Conv., Provincial of the Conventual Franciscan Fathers, “The Church in Crisis – Legal,, Moral & Ethical Issues.” 2000 - Reverend J. Bryan Hehir, Speaker 1999 - Archbishop Francois-Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan, Titular Archbishop of Vadesi, “Human Rights.” 1997 - John Bookser Feiser, “The Legacy of Cardinal Joseph Bernardin.” 1996 - Rev. George W. Rutler, “Legislating Morality.” 1995 - Sister Mary Jean Audette, SUSC, “The Civil Law Challenges to Not-For-Profit Corporations Governed by Canon Law.” 1994 - Dr. John Haas, “The Splendor of Truth: A Journey of Conscience in Freedom and Truth, not Freedom or Truth.” 1993 - Rev. Donald Clifford, S.J., “Jews and Christians: A Concrete Experience.” 1992 - Archpriest Mark Shinn, “How the Christian Churches Survived Under Communism in the Former Soviet Union.” 1991 - Professor Walter J. Wadlington, “Deciding About Children's Medical Care: Tensions Between Patients, Parents and the State.” 1990 - Professor G. Robert Blakey , “RICO Reform: Mother of Mercy, Is this the End of RICO?” 1989 - Professor Douglas W. Kmiec, “Judicial Selection and the Pursuit of Justice – Observations on Questions Judges May Take a Lifetime to Answer.” 1988 - Professor Charles E. Rice, “Private Conscience and Public Responsibility.” 1987 - Professor Paul C. Vitz, Ph.D., “Textbooks and Public Education -- The Broad Implications of the Alabama and Tennessee Textbooks Cases.” 1986 - Dr. Edward Viner, M. Mark Mendell, and Professor William Werpehowski, “Death & Dying – The Legal Aspects.” 1984 - Dean Richard G. Huber, “How Does the Message of the Separation of Church and State Affect the Implementation of Religious Values in our Society?” 1983 - Dean Willard O'Brien, “Judges, Jurisprudence and Justice: An Umpire is Neutral, A Judge is a Player.” 1982 - Honorable John J. Gibbons and Craig Stern, “Of Abortion, Busing and Other Controversies: Should Congress Be Able To Limit Judicial Jurisdiction If It Thinks The Supreme Court Is Wrong” 1981 - Judge Edward B. Rosenberg, Professor William D. Valente, “Law, Morals and the Family.” 1980 - Judge Joseph F. Weis, Jr., Professor Paul Bender, “What Do You Do When the Supreme Court is Wrong?” 1978 - Jonathan L. Goldstein, Perry S. Bechtle, Peter J. Liacouras, and Leonard P. Garry, C.P.C.V., “The Criminal, Disciplinary and Liability Pitfalls of Unethical Legal Practice.”

Our History

On May 25, 1949, a small group of lawyers and judges assembled in Room 416, City Hall, the chambers of the Orphans Court Division of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia, at the invitation of Judge John P. Boland. They met to discuss the formation of a new organization, similar to those that were springing up throughout the country bearing the name of the sixteenth century's preeminent lawyer and jurist, St. Thomas More, canonized on May 19, 1935. One year after More’s canonization, during the American Bar Association’s Annual Convention in Boston, a group of Catholic lawyers founded the St. Thomas More Society of America. Its purposes were to encourage the study of English law and the life and juridical idealism of St. Thomas More, and to disseminate those ideals to the practicing bar nationwide. Beginning in 1940, the national Society held its annual meetings in Philadelphia to coincide with the annual meetings of the American Law Institute. The meetings were hosted by a group of Catholic Philadelphia lawyers led by Walter B. Gibbons who served as Chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association in 1943 and 1944. In early 1949, this group decided to create an affiliated local organization, the St. Thomas More Society of Philadelphia, and Judge Boland undertook to schedule the organizational meeting. At that meeting, Judge Boland was elected president of the new organization. The following week, the Society sought and obtained the approval of Denis Cardinal Dougherty. Reverend Bartholomew F. Fair was designated as chaplain. A proposed Constitution provided for direction by four officers, three elected council members, an advisory board selected by the council, and the chaplain. There was an official prayer:
"Almighty God, Who didst vouchsafe to endow Thy servant Thomas with the qualities and grace to be chosen the Patron of the Legal Profession, we beseech Thee that by his life, learning and teaching we may derive profit and also merit our own eternal salvation. Amen."
The purposes of the Society were generally stated as follows:
"...To disseminate the ideals of St. Thomas More; to promote the practice of traditional ethics of the legal profession; to consider legislation with relation to the fundamental moral principles which underlie American Society; to widen and deepen the intellectual culture of members of the Society, and to extend and maintain their social relations with one another."
The first general activity, a dinner, was held on St. Valentine's Day, February 14, 1950, at the old Whitman's Restaurant, 1626 Chestnut Street. The price was the princely sum of $3.00, including gratuity. The featured speaker was Robert Granville Burke, president of the Guild of Catholic Lawyers of New York City. In 1952, the Philadelphia Bar Association -- the oldest bar association in the nation -- was completing preparations for the celebration of its 150th anniversary under a newly elected Chancellor, Bernard G. Segal, the first Jew to hold that office. One of Segal's first duties as Chancellor was to attend the ABA's midyear meeting of the House of Delegates in Chicago in February 1952. The ABA meeting was accompanied by the celebration of a Red Mass. Chancellor Segal was impressed by the splendor and tradition of the ceremony in Chicago. Upon his return to Philadelphia, Segal contacted recently installed Archbishop John F. O'Hara, whom he had met years earlier while lecturing at Notre Dame University where O'Hara was president. Segal asked about the possibility of a Red Mass being celebrated during the bar association's anniversary proceedings. On March 12, 1952, the 150th Anniversary of the Philadelphia Bar Association opened with the celebration of a Red Mass at the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul. The ceremony was sponsored by the Saint Thomas More Society of Philadelphia. An overflow crowd attended the Red Mass. Archbishop O'Hara delivered the homily on "The Natural Law." It was a magnificent occasion -- and the officers of the Society quickly laid plans to assure that the tradition would be continued. Ever since, the annual Red Mass has been the St. Thomas More Society's most visible activity. By the early 1960's, the Society's presentations were offered on a monthly basis, often under the prodding of John B. Gest, a senior lawyer who spent a substantial amount of his time on the affairs of the Society and other charitable activities. From time to time, the Society also awarded citations to acknowledge the efforts of Catholic lay leaders from the legal community. In 1975, the Board of Governors re-established an annual lecture forum. The forum was named in honor of John B. Gest, the former president of the Society who had placed great emphasis on luncheon discussions of an intellectual nature. In 1980, a forum presented by Honorable Joseph F. Weis, Jr., Judge of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, and Paul Bender, Professor of Law at the University of Pennsylvania, was very well attended. With the exception of 1985 and 2001, when the demands of private practice of law overwhelmed the Board of Governors, the Gest Forum has been an annual event. In 1982, the Board of Governors authorized an annual award to a member of the Catholic legal community. There was unanimous agreement that the award should be made in honor of St. Thomas More. However, the qualifications for and the recipient of the award were subject to substantial discussion. Eventually, it was decided that the award would be presented to a member of the Catholic legal community who, in some way, personified the principles and ideals of St. Thomas More. The Board was reluctant to go further in specifying qualifications, believing that the achievements of the recipients themselves would ultimately define the purpose of the award. Immediately following the thirty-first annual Red Mass in 1982, the first St. Thomas More Award was presented to John R. McConnell, a civil trial lawyer, former Chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association, instructor on trial techniques, and a former officer of the Saint Thomas More Society. Several of the early recipients of the award, Judge Armand Della Porta, James L. J. Pie' and Professor William D. Valente, had previously received citations from the Society in recognition of their Catholic lay activities. Significantly, the St. Thomas More Award is not restricted to recognition of activities undertaken on behalf of the Society. Also, the award has been presented to persons who were not active members of the Society, such as Honorable Carol Los Mansmann, Judge of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, and Honorable Genevieve Blatt, Judge of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, both of whom are from Pittsburgh, William Bentley Ball, an appellate lawyer from Harrisburg, and Brother Bartholomew Sheehan, S.J., whose career as lawyer, judge, and banker took place across the Delaware River, in Camden, New Jersey. On occasion, the St. Thomas More Award recognizes sustained activity in a specific area and that recognition permeates the entire evening, including both the Red Mass and the awards dinner. In 1994, for example, the award was presented to John Rogers Carroll, an outstanding criminal trial lawyer who spearheaded the development of outreach programs to help lawyers suffering from alcohol and drug addiction. During the mid-1980's, at the suggestion of the Society's first woman president, Georganne V. Daher, the Board of Governors restudied the basic purposes of the Society. On April 3, 1986, the study committee recommended "that the Society's major present objective should be the care and cultivation of its membership, with special attention to the particular needs of lawyers in particular age groups, to assist by providing a meeting ground for a dialogue on issues confronted in the profession but often overlooked." Stated another way in the report, "the Society should be a crucible for the thoughtful consideration of issues, including the ethical struggles which lawyers face daily, as well as for the advocacy of the Catholic viewpoint on issues affecting the legal and larger community." Adhering to these introspective purposes, the Society was reluctant to undertake activities the main focus of which is outside the legal community. Thus, the Society did not attempt to duplicate the work of other organizations devoted to worthwhile activities, such as Citizens for Educational Freedom, the Pro-Life Lawyers Guild, and others. However, the Society cooperated with those groups, exchanging information and mailing lists, and encouraged members to support those organizations. That introspective perspective was promptly tested. In mid-February 1989, the Women's Rights Committee of the Philadelphia Bar Association passed a Resolution that the Board of Governors of the Association be asked to direct the Chancellor to urge the American Bar Association to file an amicus brief in the Webster case, then pending in the Supreme Court of the United States, supporting affirmance of the abortion policy stated in the Roe v. Wade decision. The Resolution was to be presented to the Board of Governors of the Philadelphia Bar Association on February 23, 1989. The proposal would have put the Philadelphia Bar Association on record as opposing the fundamental Catholic ethical principle that all human life is sacred and should be protected as a matter of right. The Society undertook to organize the opposition to the Resolution. The proponents of the Resolution were committed to the proposition that an individual's right to decide all aspects of medical treatment is an absolute right. Emphasizing the absoluteness of this right, they recognized no exceptions -- even when the exercise of the "right" necessarily destroyed innocent human life. This view had substantial support in the secular news media and in academic circles. Moreover, inasmuch as it was being presented as a "women's rights" issue, there was an element of intimidation on the mostly male governors of a profession that only recently began admitting women in substantial numbers. The Society's officers decided to urge the bar association to refrain from establishing any partisan position on the abortion issue. At the February 23, 1989 meeting of the Philadelphia Bar Association's Board of Governors, Gerry St. John, Ann Cuddy, Fay Stack and Maureen McCullough represented the Saint Thomas More Society and spoke in opposition to the proposal, requesting that it be rejected or tabled. Immediately after the presentation, the Chancellor, Peter Hearn, addressed the Board, reading from a three-page typewritten statement. Chancellor Hearn noted the deep feeling on both sides of the question, the fact that there were many organizations available for both sides to present their views and that there was no associational purpose to be served by the bar association adopting a partisan position. His motion to table the Resolution was adopted by a near-unanimous vote of the Board. The forceful stand of the Society not only received wide support from its members, but also earned the respect of those who tended to support the proposed resolution. During the year 2000, Cardinal Bevilacqua appointed Father Gerard C. Mesure, then a first-year law student, to be the Society’s third chaplain. Father Mesure quickly learned of the difficulties that confront one who attempts to shepherd a flock of lawyers. On October 9, 2001, at approximately 5:15 p.m., as the liturgical procession was preparing to begin the Red Mass, it became increasingly apparent that the homilist was not in the Basilica. (It was later learned that he had recorded the wrong date on his calendar.) The new chaplain was quickly pressed into service. To the delight of the entire Board, Father Mesure delivered an outstanding homily, one of the best ever given at Philadelphia’s Red Mass. The 2001 Red Mass was significant because it was the fiftieth Red Mass sponsored by the Society. And on March 12, 2002, the Society sponsored a Mass celebrating the 200th Anniversary of the Philadelphia Bar Association. The voluntary organization of lawyers, judges and law professors had weathered fifty years of service to the legal community in Philadelphia, and the Society was still going strong. In 2002, the Board voted unanimously to seek to be included in the IRS Group Exemption granted to certain Catholic organizations. Under the sponsorship of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the Society received official recognition of its tax-exempt status, and contributions to the Society are deductible as provided in the Internal Revenue Code and Regulations. The Society proudly awarded the 2007 St. Thomas More Award to the Honorable Antonin Scalia, Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. The response for the award dinner was so overwhelming that the Society moved the event from its previous venue to The Union League’s Lincoln Hall.

About Us

The Saint Thomas More Society of Philadelphia is an association of Catholic lawyers, judges and law professors, organized to promote the ideals of Saint Thomas More and the practice of traditional ethics in the legal profession. The Society was founded in Philadelphia in 1949, with the approval of Dennis Cardinal Dougherty, then Archbishop of Philadelphia. It continues to be a source of strength, clarity and fellowship for its members and for the legal community as a whole. The Society's signature event is the Red Mass, which has been celebrated annually since 1952 when a Red Mass opened the 150th Anniversary of the Philadelphia Bar Association. Another annual activity is the John B. Gest Luncheon Forum, usually held in the spring. The Society also sponsors days of recollection, retreats, discussion sessions and communion breakfasts from time to time. Each year, the Saint Thomas More Award is presented to a Catholic lawyer, judge or law professor who, in some way, personifies the principles and ideals of St. Thomas More. Membership in the Society is open to lawyers, judges and law professors interested in promoting the Society's purposes.


The Archdiocese of Philadelphia - Featuring the Archdiocese's mission statement, diocesan directory, parishes, the tenth synod, archbishop statements, pastoral planning, news, and links. Villanova University School of Law - Featuring information about the law school and its distinctive mission that draws upon the Catholic tradition emphasizing the unique value of individual human lives and the endowment of free will. The St. Thomas More Website - Featuring links to texts, courses, biographies, organizations, and images of St. Thomas More. Center for Thomas More Studies - Featuring an educational material resource center including information, images, and lesson plans relating to the life of St. Thomas More. The Catholic Standard & Times - Presenting news from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia. First Things: A Journal of Religion, Culture, and Public Life - Published by The Institute on Religion and Public Life, to advance a religiously informed public philosophy.