Catholic lawyer Catherine Pawluch JD, DCHS, served as the president of the Thomas More Lawyers’ Guild of Toronto from 2020 to 2022. Below, she shares insights into the mission of the Guild.
1. What is the history of the Thomas More Lawyers’ Guild of Toronto? What does it offer to its members?
The Thomas More Lawyers’ Guild of Toronto was formed in 1968 to fulfil the mandate of sponsoring the annual Red Mass, which is celebrated to invoke the inspiration of the Holy Spirit on behalf of those involved in the administration of justice. The Red Mass is a reminder to all that the law is based on the eternal law of God and divine justice. Judges, lawyers and representatives of law enforcement gather for the Red Mass, which takes its name from the colours of the vestments worn by the Mass celebrants. The Red Mass dates back to the 13th century and marks the opening of the Michaelmas term of the Courts, which is the first term of the legal year running from October to December. It has been celebrated at St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica in Toronto every year since 1924.
In recent years, the Red Mass has been celebrated by His Eminence, Thomas Cardinal Collins, whose homilies about the life of St. Thomas More serve always to inspire and encourage those in the profession of law.
The Guild also seeks to promote the intellectual and spiritual welfare of its members. Speakers, including Supreme Court Judges, members of the Clergy and leading Catholic thinkers, are invited to Guild-sponsored dinners. The Guild also organizes continuing legal educational programs, which present legislative developments through a Catholic lens. The Guild provides opportunities for fellowship among members and their families, through events such as the Easter Family Communion Brunch and the Thomas More Feast Dinner, held annually in June.
2. How should people understand the motto of the Guild, “The King’s good servant – and God’s first”?
The Guild exists to honour the memory and principles of St. Thomas More. A lawyer, judge, statesman, scholar, writer, husband, father, martyr, saint: Thomas More truly was "a man for all seasons" as his friend Erasmus described him. He rose to become London's leading barrister, Chancellor of England, and a renowned scholar, yet devoted himself to the education of his children and tirelessly defended the Catholic Church. He was martyred when he refused to acknowledge King Henry VIII as Head of the Church.
St. Thomas More inspires us to never give up on being true guardians of the eternal law of God, as he strived to be himself. By its existence, the Thomas More Lawyers’ Guild bears witness to the fact that there is no contradiction between the Catholic faith and the profession of law. We can be, as St. Thomas More professed himself, "the King's good servant – and God's first."
3. The Thomas More Lawyers’ Guild of Toronto aims to instill the profession with Catholic values. What contribution does Catholic faith make to the profession of law? Does being Catholic make it easier or harder to be a lawyer?
There is a prayer that is often said to invoke the intercession of St. Thomas More, the patron of lawyers. It is a good starting point in answering this question.
Pray that for the greater glory of God and in pursuit of His justice, I may be able in argument, accurate in analysis, strict in study, correct in conclusion, candid with clients, honest with adversaries, faithful in all details to the faith. Sit with me at my desk and listen with me to my client's tales. Read with me in my library and stand beside me in court so that today I shall not, to win a point, lose my soul.
In essence, the prayer asks St. Thomas More to help us serve our clients in pursuit of His justice, faithful in all details to the Catholic faith, so that, in doing so, we might serve God as well, always safeguarding our souls. Our Catholic faith teaches us to strive to live our lives, exemplifying the cardinal virtues of fortitude, justice, prudence and temperance, and to use the virtues that are graciously given – faith, hope and charity. These, together with prayerful humility, are foundational to our Catholic faith. They are also integral to the profession of law and in this sense, our Catholic faith does contribute to the profession of law and being Catholic makes it easier to be a lawyer.
4. The laity are called to “leaven the temporal order with Gospel values” as the Second Vatican Council teaches. How are lawyers called to do this in particular?
The lay faithful, in the words of St. John Paul II, "are called by God so that they, led by the spirit of the Gospel, might contribute to the sanctification of the world, as from within like leaven, by fulfilling their own particular duties. Thus, especially in this way of life, resplendent in faith, hope and charity they manifest Christ to others…”
Lawyers, as part of the laity, stand in a unique position to carry on the Church’s mission because of their place both in the Church community and in society. Lawyers are taught to navigate laws and advocate for others. As such, they are uniquely situated to give voice to Catholic values in the public discourse. With the grace and energy and spiritual courage that comes only though prayer – lawyers can and ought to engage in the public square, affirming the inherent dignity of the human person from the first moment of conception to natural death, defending religious freedom and freedom of conscience, and advocating for the unmet needs of the poor, the marginalized and the persecuted.
For more information about the Guild, visit http://www.thomasmoreguild.ca/ .