CLAN rallies against catholic’Red Mass’ in protest against church influence on Australian legal system

19 January 2019  by Jenny Fawcett

clan red mass protests flyer
“Legal milieu from all over converged upon the cathedral to celebrate the colourful tradition of the Red Mass.” source:

CLAN Australia begin their silent anti-‘Red Mass’ rallies this month  to protest  the Catholic Church’s annual blessing of the legal calendar, with CLAN spokesperson Leonie Sheedy  saying churches must not be seen to have any influence over Australia’s legal fraternity nor its justice system.

For nearly a century it seems that at the start of each year  some judges,  legal fraternity members, politicians and even Attorney-Generals have been palling up together in pews nationwide to seek blessing of the Australian legal system by Australian churches.

CLAN Australia however says there should be a clear demarcation line between the Law and churches in Australia, especially so that justice can be seen for every matter brought before the bench.

“Imagine bringing sex-abuse charges against a priest, and then finding out his lawyer, your lawyer and the judge have all been sitting together in a church somewhere with the heads bowed before that very same priest’, says CLAN leader Leonie Sheedy.

“Its not right. It has to stop”.

Leonie Sheedy of CLAN at a support meeting in Warrnambool 19 Jan 2019  (c) J. Fawcett

And it is the annual catholic “Red Mass” blessings that are of concern to Clan says Leonie Sheedy.

“Since the 1930’s at least, the catholic church in particular has held ‘Red Masses” each year to bless the coming legal calendar. Judges, politicians, lawyers, everyone dresses in red, and praying together in a church”.

“And they are still going on at a time with so many investigations centered around churches and religious figures regarding the abuse of children”.

The catholic church openly promote their Red Masses;

Legal milieu from all over converged upon the cathedral to celebrate the colourful tradition of the Red Mass.

“The Mass began at 9am with literal big-wigs processing in woollen garb of various regal colours – red, purple and black – down the central aisle of St Mary’s Cathedral. The Archbishop emphasised the crucial role lawmakers have in our society: “Our law makers, judges, practitioners, teachers and students play an essential role in our community and rightly seek a higher wisdom to serve true justice and mercy”.


Ms Sheedy however says CLAN has significant concerns about church intervention of the Australian legal system and says there is an absolute necessity for the separation of church and law, especially for the sake of Justice.

“Just think about it. All those judges and lawyers dressed up in red and on their knees in a church bowing before bishops and priests also dressed in red”.

“What sort of a message does that say to Australians, especially anyone who has to bring a matter to court against a church, institution or religious figure’.

“We say churches should not be seen to have any influence over Australian legal systems.  We say churches should be separate from the legal fraternity its system and processes  which oversees justice matters”.

The first of CLANS silent “Red Mass” rallies kicks off on the steps of  St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney on the 29th of January at 8.30am, with a similar protest on the same day at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne and Leonie Sheedy says people can make a choice about supporting their cause:

“We want everyone to dress up in red and meet up on the church steps to protest the injustice of our churches being allowed to have influence over the Australian legal Fraternity. We want Clannies out in full force and dress in red. But the legal fraternity too can make a stand, by choosing not to attend church influence over our legal system”

And if supporters cannot make it on the day, just tweet a picture of yourself in red to CLAN to show your support says Leonie Sheedy.

For nearly 20 years CLAN (Care Leavers Australia Network)  has been advocating and supporting former children who were placed in institutions, who were in foster care or adopted (formally or illegally).

But even after two decades fighting to create awareness of the suffering of children at the hands of institutions and churches, it seems  seems even Leonie Sheedy can still be shocked:

“I couldn’t believe it when I heard these Red Masses by the catholic church were operating. But its not just the catholics: apparently other churches are involved in these annual blessing events as well. I found out there was even a blue mass for the police force!”.

It seems the power of the church permeated every level of our Australian society, so little wonder it was easy to keep so many children silent about the abuse they suffered at the hands of religious figures and institutions.


Church, judges in unholy union, by Chrissie Foster (THE AGE, 12 Jan 2020)