Pastor's Page
By Fr. George Welzbacher
June 30, 2013

St. John the Evangelist, St. John the Beloved, our parish's Patron Saint, provides us in the first of his three letters with a statement of our parish mission: "If we walk in the Light, as He [the Father] is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the Blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin" (I John 1:17). To help one another to "walk in the Light," the Light that shines forever forth from Him Who is alone "the Way, the Truth, and the Life" (John 14:6) -- this is the mission to which St. John's Parish has pledged its fealty for more than a century and a quarter, ever since the founding of our parish in 1886. In pursuit of this goal the full measure of our success is not for us to judge. Such judgment is reserved to God alone. But due allowance having been made for human insufficiencies, the power of Christ's words as transmitted from our pulpit and, for many decades, within the classrooms of St. John's School, has served as a prevailing beneficent force, as a "Light shining in the darkness, a Light that the darkness cannot overcome" (John 1:5), a Light that in numbers beyond our reckoning, as we may assert with the confidence of Christian faith, has guided generations of our parishioners safely home to God. For those who put their trust in Christ, Christ's promises are kept.

So, too, through the Sacraments administered in this parish, the Blood of Christ has cleansed from sin and enriched with grace multitudes of souls, souls that in God's Kingdom must surely be rejoicing this very day, secure forever in His Love.

Throughout the life-span of our parish those who have "walked in the Light" and have been "cleansed in the Blood of Jesus, His Son," have lived as members of a family, enjoying "fellowship with one another." A spirit of familial concern for one another, deep and abiding, is characteristic of this parish. Gathered together before Christ's altar-for the first third of a century within a more humble structure, but for four score years and ten, since 1923, within the walls of our present splendid edifice -- our parishioners in their reverent participation in the Holy Eucharist and in their communal devotions have presented a presage of the heavenly liturgy, giving grounds for the hope that, God willing, we may all one day be joined together in the Communion of Saints, in a mysterious, wordless but very real exchange to share with one another our ecstatic joy in the high adventure of a ceaseless exploration of that boundless ocean of Goodness, Beauty, Truth and Holy Love that here on earth we only dimly discern when we utter the Name of God.

Now that the time has come for us, for a while, to go our separate ways, let us continue, strengthened through fervent prayer to the Supreme Shepherd of our souls, to walk in His Light, cleansed by His Blood, pressing forward with courage as a family of God on the journey that leads to our heavenly home, where, we pray, we shall one day rejoice together, through God's mercy, secure forever in the Communion of Saints.

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the Communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Father George Welzbacher

*          *         *         *         *
Turning our gaze to the wider world, there's good news and there's bad. The good news is that the additional miracle required for the canonization of Pope John Paul the Great has now been officially certified. The bad news is that the United States is becoming a paper tiger with an increasingly hollowed-out military in a world that grows more dangerous by the day. And internally the threat to our freedom constituted by a new creation called IPAB (The Independent Payment Advisory Board), soon to be imposed upon us under ObamaCare, is enormous: a new authority with immense power that will be answerable to NO ONE. I urge you to spend a few minutes reading the following essays of warning abut a double threat to the republic that we love so much but have taken too much for granted.
*          *         *         *         *
An ObamaCare Board Answerable to No One
David B. Rivkin, Jr. and Elizabeth P. Foley
The Wall Street Journal, June 20, 2013

Signs of ObamaCare's failings mount daily, including soaring insurance costs, looming provider shortages and inadequate insurance exchanges. Yet the law's most disturbing feature may be the Independent Payment Advisory Board. The IPAB, sometimes called a "death panel," threatens both the Medicare program and the Constitution's separation of powers.

At a time when many Americans have been unsettled by abuses at the Internal Revenue Service and Justice Department, the introduction of a powerful and largely unaccountable board into health care merits special scrutiny.

For a vivid illustration of the extent to which life-and-death medical decisions have already been usurped by government bureaucrats, consider the recent refusal by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to waive the rules barring access by 10-year old Sarah Mumaghan to the adult lung- transplant list. A judge ultimately intervened and Sarah received a lifesaving transplant June 12. But the grip of the bureaucracy will clamp much harder once the Independent Payment Advisory Board gets going in the next two years.

The board, which will control MORE THAN HALF-TRILLION dollars of federal spending ANNUALLY, is directed to "develop detailed and specific proposals related to the Medicare program," including proposals cutting Medicare spending BELOW a statutorily prescribed level. In addition, the board is encouraged to make rules "related to" Medicare.

The ObamaCare law also stipulates that there "shall be NO ADMINISTRATIVE OR JUDICIAL REVIEW" of the board's decisions. Its members will be nearly untouchable, too. They will be presidentially nominated and Senate-confirmed, but after that they can only be fired for "neglect of duty or malfeasance in office."

Once the board acts, its decisions can be overruled only by Congress, and ONLY through unprecedented and constitutionally dubious  legislative procedures-featuring restricted debate,  short deadlines for actions by congressional committees and other steps of the process, and supermajoritarian voting requirements. The law allows Congress to kill the otherwise inextirpable board only by a three-fifths supermajority, and only by a vote that takes place in 2017 between Jan. 1 and Aug. 15. If the board fails to implement cuts, all of its powers are to be exercised by HHS Secretary Sebelius or her successor.

The IPAB's godlike powers are not accidental. Its GOAL, conspicuously proclaimed by the Obama administration, is to control Medicare spending in ways that are INSULATED from the political process.

This wholesale transfer of power is AT ODDS with the Constitution's separation-of-powers architecture that protects individual liberty by preventing an undue aggregation of government power in a SINGLE entity. Instead, power is diffused both vertically-with the federal government exercising limited and enumerated powers and the states exercising all remaining authority-and horizontally, with the powers of the federal government divided among, the executive, legislative and judicial branches.

This diffusion of power advances another key liberty-enhancing constitutional requirement: accountability. Accountability enables the people to know what government entity is affecting them, so that they can hold officials responsible at the polls. Congress can also hold the executive responsible through oversight and measures like impeachment.

As Chief Justice John Marshall observed in Wayman  v. Southard  (1825), Congress may delegate tasks to other bodies, but there is a fundamental constitutional difference between letting them "fill up the details" of a statute versus deciding "important subjects," which must be entirely regulated by the legislature itself." Distinguishing between the two, the court said, requires an inquiry into the extent of the power given to the administrative body.

The POWER given by Congress to the Indepeadent Payment Advisory Board is BREATHTAKING. Congress has willingly abandoned its power to make tough spending decisions (how and' where to cut) to an unaccountable board that neither the legislative branch nor the president can control. The law has also entrenched the board's decisions to an unprecedented degree.

In Mistretta v. United States (1989), the Supreme Court emphasized that, in seeking assistance to fill in details not spelled out in the law, Congress must lay down an "intelligible principle" that "confine[s] the discretion of the authorities to whom Congress has delegated power." The "intelligible principle" test ensures accountability by demanding that Congress take responsibility for fundamental policy decisions.

The IPAB is guided by no such intelligible principle. ObamaCare mandates that the board impose deep Medicare cuts, while simultaneously forbidding it to ration care. Reducing payments to doctors, hospitals and other health-care providers may cause them to limit or stop accepting Medicare patients, or even to close shop.

These actions will limit SENIORS' access to care, causing them to WAIT LONGER OR FOREGO CARE—the essence of rationing. ObamaCare's commands to the board are thus inherently contradictory and, consequently, unintelligible.

Moreover, authorizing the advisory board to make rules "relating to" Medicare gives the board VIRTUALLY LIMITLESS POWER of the kind hitherto exercised by Congress. For instance, the board could decide to make cuts beyond the statutory target. It could mandate that providers expand benefits without additional payment. IT COULD REQUIRE THAT INSURERS OR GYNECOLOGISTS MAKE ABORTION SERVICES AVAILABLE TO ALL THEIR PATIENTS AS A CONDITION OF DOING BUSINESS WITH MEDICARE, OR THAT DRUG COMPANIES SET ASIDE A CERTAIN PERCENTAGE OF MEDICARE-related revenues to fund "prescription drug affordability." There is no limit.

If the Independent Payment Advisory Board exercises these vast powers, political accountability will vanish. When constituents angrily protest, Congress, having ceded its core legislative power to another body, will likely just throw up its hands and blame the board.

Since ObamaCare eliminates both judicial review for any of the board's decisions and public-participation requirements for rule making, this unprecedented insulation of the board guts due process. Even the president's limited ability to check the board's power—since he can remove members only for neglect or malfeasance—represents a more circumscribed standard than usual for presidential appointees.

The bottom line is that the Independent Payment Advisory Board isn't a typical executive agency. It's a new beast that exercises both executive and legislative power but can't be controlled by either branch. Seniors and providers hit hardest by the board's decisions will have nowhere to turn for relief—not Congress, not the president, not the courts.

Attempts to rein in government spending are laudable, but basic decisions about how and where to cut spending properly belong to Congress. In the 225 years of constitutional history, there has been no government entity that violated the separation-of-powers principle like the Independent Payment Advisory Board does.

While the board is profoundly unconstitutional, it is designed to operate in a way that makes it difficult to find private parties with standing to challenge it for at least its first several years in operation. An immediate legal challenge by Congress might be possible, but also faces standing difficulties. Unless and until courts rule on IPAB's constitutionality, Congress should act quickly to repeal this particular portion of ObamaCare or defund its operations.
[Emphasis added].

Mr. Rivkin, a partner at Baker Hostetler LLP, served in the Justice Department under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush and represented 26 states in challenging ObamaCare. Ms. Foley is a professor of constitutional law at Florida International University and the author of "The Law of Life & Death" (Harvard, 2011).
*          *         *         *         *
America's No-Fly Zones Are Already in Place
David A. Deptula
The Wall Street Journal, June 24, 2013

There has been much talk lately in Washington about establishing a no-fly zone in Syria. You don't hear about the no-fly zones that are already up and running—over the United States. Where in the U.S.? Over places like Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, the Air Force's premier combat training range; and over Naval Air Stations Oceana in Virginia and China Lake in California, affecting Navy and Marine Corps aviation. Then there are the no-fly zones over Seymour Johnson AFB Goldsboro, N.C., the home of an F-15E fighter wing; Hill AFB in Ogden, Utah, home to F-16 fighters; and Ellsworth AFB, S.D., the home of B-1 bombers that provide America global reach and power.

Those and others are no-fly zones because Congress has legislated, through budget sequestration, the shutdown of major air capabilities of the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. Military spending is scheduled to be cut by $492 billion over 10 years, with $52 billion in mandatory, across-the-board reductions coming next year.

But the $42 billion axed from the military in 2013 is already damaging America's combat readiness—and therefore its security. Our military readiness is plummeting, especially the nation's air power, which underpins the entire military's ability to operate when and where necessary. In the Air Force alone, more than 30 squadrons are now grounded, along with aircrews, and maintenance and training personnel. The U.S. military's foremost air-combat training exercise—Red Flag—has been canceled for the rest of the year. The graduate schools for Air Force, Navy and Marine combat aviators have been canceled. Equipment testing and upgrades to F-22s, F-15s, F-16s and other aircraft have been delayed.

Without testing, improvements can't be made, and without upgrades air forces atrophy and their capability declines. Training, testing and education are vital to keeping forces honed to a combat edge. The excellence and high standard of those activities have enabled the U.S. to remain the world's sole superpower.

Flying and maintaining proficiency in high-performance military aircraft is not like riding a bike. It requires constant preparation and training to maintain the superior combat capabilities that have long been the pride of the U.S. As foreign military equipment and technology around the world approached America's own weapons capabilities, superior air-combat training gave the U.S. an advantage. With large numbers of U.S. airmen around the world not flying, that is no longer the case.

The real danger is that the damage caused by the no-fly zones imposed by sequestration will not be recognized until too late—until air forces and personnel are required to support America's vital security interests in times and places unforeseen and impossible to predict.

The U.S. Air Force has always focused on being 100% ready at all times. That's the goal. Why? Because being in a posture to deploy and employ quickly creates capabilities to engage around the world to encourage peace and stability. If necessary, that posture provides the foundation for success in war-fighting. Sequestration's no-fly zones result in a disproportionate loss of national capability because they hinder the Air Force's role as America's "first response force." This quickness buys the Navy and Army time to spin up and steam to the fight.

The hollow force caused by sequestration means that the U.S. has a growing strategy-resource mismatch: a widening gap between what our leaders say and what the nation can accomplish. Sequestration was designed to be so irresponsible that Congress would prevent its implementation. Now that it has been implemented, the danger is that Washington begins to think the military cuts are tolerable.

With the consequences of the cuts not immediately apparent, Congress might regard them as a more palatable way to cut military spending than the politically unpopular Base Realignment and Closure Act. Earlier this month, the House of Representative approved legislation to prohibit another round of BRAC, even though it could be used to cut the military's excess infrastructure and achieve significant savings. The ban appears likely to become law. Combat readiness doesn't have a constituency—except for the entire nation, when fighting needs to be accomplished.

Ultimately, the staggering challenge of the national debt will have to be addressed in a more responsible way than by a sequester. When that time comes, a discussion of first principles is essential. Who is to determine what is the appropriate "fair share" of each of the elements of government? How do we determine priorities?

Plenty of opinions will be offered, but America's leaders would do well to seek guidance from the document describing the reason for the government's existence—the Preamble to the Constitution. The Founders wrote that the nation was constituted to "provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity."

Providing for the common defense is U.S. government job one. On the ample evidence of the past year—the deficit debates, the potential solutions offered to resolve the fiscal crisis, the damage done to America's security by sequestration—too many people in leadership positions have forgotten that obligation.

Mr. Deptula, a retired Air Force three-star general, was a commander of the no-fly zone over northern Iraq in 1998-99. He is a senior military scholar at the Air Force Academy.

*          *         *         *         *
China's Growing Challenge to U.S. Naval Power
Seth Cropsey
The Wall Street Journal, June 21, 2013

On his recent trip to Asia, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel tried to allay fears that the 7% cut to the Pentagon's budget due to the sequester will diminish America's protective influence in the region. Referring to President Obama's pledge to "rebalance" U.S. forces in favor of Asia, Mr. Hagel told reporters that America is carrying forward "every measurement of our commitment to that 'rebalance.' "

He also spoke of U.S. efforts to improve military-to-military relations with China. His aides pointed to plans for increasing the U.S. Marine contingent based in Darwin on Australia's north coast to 1,100 from 250.

The defense secretary's message was unlikely to reassure America's allies in the region. The U.S. Marine contingent in Darwin, even if it reaches its long-term goal of 2,500 personnel, might be useful in a conflict over control of the narrow sea passages (the Strait of Malacca, Sunda Strait and Lombok Strait) through which shipping between Asia and Europe must pass. But the Marines would be of limited use if China directly threatened Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines or Vietnam. Darwin is roughly as far from the northern reaches of the South China Sea as New York is from San Francisco.

China will be participating in U.S.-led naval exercises near Hawaii, part of an effort to improve military relations with China. The exercises include Australia, Canada, South Korea and Japan. That's all well and good, but it is ludicrous to imagine that any of this will moderate Beijing's vaulting ambitions in the Western Pacific. In addition to China's long-standing threat to Taiwan, Beijing has made no secret of its desire for hegemony in the South and East China seas. It already has engaged in provocative incidents over territorial disputes with Japan and the Philippines.

These ambitions are backed by an extensive program of CHINESE MILITARY MODERNIZATION. According to a report last month by the U.S. Defense Department, Beijing continues to build up its medium-range and long-distance missile arsenal, antiship cruise missiles, space weapons and military cyberspace capabilities. China is also improving its fighters, building three classes of attack submarines, and has commissioned its first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning. It is, in short, building an advanced system of weaponry CAPABLE OF STRIKING ASIAN STATES FROM AFAR.

Facing this growing military might in the Western Pacific is A U.S. FLEET LESS THAN HALF THE SIZE IT WAS AT THE END OF THE COLD WAR IN THE EARLY 1990S. The plan to build the 306-ship fleet that the Navy says is necessary to accomplish all its missions rests on assumptions about shipbuilding costs that the Congressional Budget Office and Congressional Research Service agree are unrealistic. The current situation is also troubling. On Tuesday, Rep. Randy Forbes (R., Va.), chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee on sea power, told a group at Washington's Hudson Institute that "In 2007, the Navy was able to meet about 90% of America's combatant commanders' need [for ships]. THIS year that figure WILL FALL TO 51%."

The growing disparity between Chinese and U.S. military investment will eventually alter the balance of power in the Western Pacific. This shift will likely lead either to military conflict or to tacit American acknowledgment of Chinese dominance. A war would be disastrous, but Chinese dominance would not bode well either: The U.S. ability to shape the international order would end with Chinese supremacy in the most populous and economically vigorous part of the world.

The budgets needed to achieve the Navy's goals were unlikely even before sequestration. The defense budget since 9/11 has averaged 4.1% of GDP. Under the budgets projected by the Obama administration, the figure is projected to drop to 2.5% in less than a decade.

If AMERICA'S UNILATERAL DISARMAMENT occurs and the Pentagon leadership clings to a more or less equal division of dollars among the military services, the U.S. sea power available in the Western Pacific will DECLINE SIGNIFICANTLY. Alternatively, to maintain strong forces in the Pacific, the U.S. would be forced to abandon its naval presence in such areas of strategic concern as the Caribbean or the Persian Gulf.

Such a shell game is not in the best interest of U.S. strategy. Neither is it in the interest of THE INTERNATIONAL ORDER that America has helped to establish and maintain in the decades since World War II. What ultimately matters for the U.S. and for a stable world order is America's ability to maintain a distributed and powerful presence across the globe.

Yes, the U.S. needs to pay greater attention to the security situation in Asia. But "rebalancing" requires weight, and America is losing this weight. Japan's plan to increase its submarine fleet to 24 from 16 demonstrates that Asia's leaders know it.
[Emphasis added].

Mr. Cropsey is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and the author of "Mayday" (Overlook, 2013). He served as a naval officer from 1985 to 2004 and as deputy undersecretary of the Navy in the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations.

*          *         *         *         *
Case Closed? Far From It
Peggy Noonan
The Wall Street Journal, June 22, 2013

Right now the IRS story looks stalled and confused. Congressional investigators are asking for documents—"The IRS is being a little slow," said a staffer—and interviewing workers. Pieces of testimony are being released and leaked, which has allowed one congressman, Democrat Elijah Cummings, to claim there's actually no need for an investigation, the story's over, the mystery solved.

When the scandal broke in early May, the Obama administration vowed to get to the bottom of it with an FBI investigation. Many of us were skeptical. There's a sign we were right.

On June 13, FBI Robert Director Robert Mueller testified before the House Judiciary Committee and was questioned by Rep. Jim Jordan (R., Ohio) about former tax-exempt office chief Lois Lerner's claim that the targeting of conservative groups was due to the incompetence of workers in the Cincinnati office.

Jordan: "What can you tell us—I mean you started a month ago, what can you tell us about this, have you found . . . the now-infamous two rogue agents, have you discovered who those people are?"
Mueller: "Needless to say, because it is under investigation, I can't give out any of the details."
Jordan: "Can you tell me . . . how many agents, investigators you've assigned to the case?"
Mueller: "Ah, may be able to do that, but I'd have to get back to you."
Jordan: "Can you tell me who the lead investigator is?"
Mueller: "Off the top of my head, no."
Jordan: "This is the most important issue in front of the country in the last six weeks, you don't know who's heading up the case, who the lead investigator is?"
Mueller: "Ah, at this juncture, no. . . . I have not had a recent briefing on it."
Jordan: "Do you know if you've talked to any of the victims—have you talked to any of the groups who were targeted by their government—have you met with any of the tea-party folks since May 14, 2013?"
Mueller: "I don't know what the status of the interviews are by the team that's on it."

Wow. He'd probably know something about the FBI's investigation of the IRS if he cared about it, if it had some priority or importance within his agency. This week an embarrassed Mr. Mueller was ready for questions from senators. There is an investigation, he said, and "over a dozen" agents have been assigned. Well, better than nothing.

Attorneys for the best-known of the targeted groups confirm that they've heard nothing. From the American Center for Law and Justice: "None of our clients have been contacted or interviewed by the FBI." From lawyer Cleta Mitchell: "I hear from people around the country, and no one has been contacted." All of which is strange. If the FBI were investigating a series of muggings, you'd hope they'd start by interviewing the people who'd been mugged.

Meanwhile a CNN poll shows the number of people who believe the targeting program was directed by the White House is up 10 points the past month, to 47%.

So things have gotten pretty confused, maybe because it's in the interest of a lot of people to confuse it.

Again, what is historic about this scandal, what makes it unique and uniquely dangerous, is that it is different in kind from previous IRS scandals. In the past it was always elite versus elite, power guys using the agency against other power guys. This scandal is different because it's the elite versus the people. It is an entrenched and fearsome power versus regular citizens.

The scandal broke, of course, when Lois Lerner deviously planted a question at a Washington conference. She was trying to get out ahead of a forthcoming inspector general's report that would reveal the targeting. She said that "our line people in Cincinnati who handled the applications" used "wrong" methods. Also "in some cases, cases sat around for a while." The Cincinnati workers "sent some letters out that were far too broad," in some cases even asking for contributors' names. "That's not appropriate."

Since that day, the question has been: Was the targeting of conservative groups in fact the work of incompetent staffers in Cincinnati, or were higher-ups in the Washington office of the IRS involved? Ms. Lerner said it was all Cincinnati.

But then the information cascade began. The Washington Post interviewed Cincinnati IRS workers who said everything came from the top. The Wall Street Journal reported congressional investigators had been told by the workers that they had been directed from Washington. Word came that one applicant group, after receiving lengthy and intrusive requests for additional information, including donor names, received yet another letter asking for even more information—signed by Lois Lerner.

Catherine Engelbrecht of True the Vote, which sought tax-exempt status, recently came into possession of a copy of a 20-month-old letter from the IRS's Taxpayer Advocate Service in Houston, acknowledging that her case had been assigned to an agent in Cincinnati. "He is waiting for a determination from their office in Washington," the advocate said. The agent was "unable to give us a timeframe" on when determination would be made.

The evidence is overwhelming that the Washington office of the IRS was involved. But who in Washington? How high did it go, how many were involved, how exactly did they operate?

Those are the questions that remain to be answered. That's what the investigations are about.

Rep. Cummings, having declared the mystery solved, this week released the entire 205-page transcript of an interview between congressional investigators and a frontline manager in the Cincinnati office. The manager, a self-described conservative Republican, was asked: "Do you have any reason to believe that anyone in the White House was involved in the decision to screen Tea Party cases?" The answer: "I have no reason to believe that."

There, said Mr. Cummings, case closed. But that testimony settles nothing. Nobody imagines the White House picked up a phone to tell IRS workers in Cincinnati to target their enemies. That, as they say, is not how it's done.

The frontline manager also said, in his interview, "I'll say my realm was so low down, and after the initial review of a case, which was, you know, within three days after assignment, I became less and less aware of what happened above me." He said he didn't do any targeting, but "I'm not in a position to discuss anybody else's intention but my own."

What investigators have to do now is follow the trail through the IRS in Washington, including political appointees.

Questions: Do the investigators have a list of everyone who worked in the executive office of the IRS commissioner? Have they contacted those people and asked when they learned of the targeting? What did they do when they learned? Who, if anyone, thwarted any attempts to stop it? And what about those bonuses the IRS is reportedly about to award its employees? How does that figure in?

Congress, including both its battling investigative committees, must get the answers to these questions.

The House speaker should make sure it's a priority. There's no sign the FBI will.

*          *         *         *         *
National Cathedral Celebrates Ruling on Gay Marriage
NewsMax, Jubne 27, 2013
Greg McDonald

The National Cathedral joined other Christian churches in the nation's capital Wednesday in ringing bells to celebrate the Supreme Court's decision overturning the federal ban on gay marriage.

Cathedral spokesman Richard Weinberg told television station WUSA the bells were rung for about 45 minutes to an hour, beginning at noon. Bells also could be heard ringing at Methodist, Presbyterian, Unitarian, and other Christian churches across the District of Columbia to mark the ruling.

The cathedral, the seat of the Episcopal Church, also marked the day with an evening prayer service for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender families, the Washington Post reported.

Speaking at the service, the Rev. Gary Hall, the cathedral dean, said, "I do believe we have turned a comer in American life. I do believe we have turned a comer in the faith community's life."

Hall, a vocal supporter of same-sex marriage, also observed, "We are now at a place where we are beginning to see together that the sacrament of marriage is a divine gift, a divine gift offered to everyone regardless of sexual orientation."

According to the Post, the cathedral started performing same-sex marriages in January, not long after Hall became dean.

The cathedral's recognition of the court's ruling through its prayer service brought out many gay and lesbian couples who told the Post they had turned away from religion.

Two of them, Aaron Elliott and Frank Piotrkowski, are engaged to be married. They said many of their friends celebrated the ruling by going out for drinks, but they chose instead to attend the church service.

"I gave up on religion for a long time," Elliott told the Post. But he said the welcoming congregation at the cathedral makes him feel like he "can be part of a religious community again, not be ostracized because of someone else's ideas."

Earlier in the day, the cathedral issued a statement from Hall noting that the bells of the church, which sits at a high point in the city, overlooking nearly all of Washington, were rung "to celebrate the extension of federal marriage equality to all the same-sex couples modeling God's love in lifelong covenants."

Hall said the ruling should be viewed as a call for all Christians to embrace religious marriage equality, according to WUSA.

*          *         *         *         *