Sunday, September 21, 2014

Cardinal George wasn't loved, but brought a certain grim purpose to his job

      I've written some critical things about Cardinal George, particularly when it came to his cruel, immoral view of gays. But when the paper called last night and asked me to put together something on his 16 year (!) tenure leading Chicago's Catholics, a gentler tone seemed in order. 

    When the Rev. Francis George, archbishop of Portland, Oregon, learned that Pope John Paul II had named him as the successor to Chicago’s much-beloved Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, the unassuming priest asked in surprise, “Are you sure the Holy Father has considered all the options?”
     He had.
     The former Northwest Sider became Cardinal Francis George, the city’s sixth cardinal and the first priest born within the Chicago Archdiocese to be called upon to lead it, which he has done with seriousness and a firm hand. On Saturday, Pope Francis named Bishop Blase Cupich, of Spokane, Washington, as George’s successor, according to the Associated Press.
     Considered conservative at the time of his appointment — he was named head of the Chicago Archdiocese in April 1997 and elevated to cardinal in January 1998 — George tried to set an accepting tone for the archdiocese’s 2.3 million Catholics.
      “The bishop is to be the source of unity in any archdiocese,” he said the day he was introduced to the city. “The faith isn’t liberal or conservative.”
George, 77, has been struggling with cancer for the past eight years after being diagnosed with bladder and prostate cancer in 2006. It returned for a third time in the spring, and in August he began using experimental treatments to combat the disease.

    To continue reading, click here.


  1. Gosh! Nobody had a thing to say about your view of Cardinal George? I thought someone might object to the "cruel, immoral view of gays" at least. Not me, however, although I'm sure the Cardinal might point to statements that show he's a bit friendlier than the really anti-gay folk.


    1. "A bit friendlier than the really ant-gay folk" is the definition of damning with faint praise. I think the sort of person who would object to "cruel, immoral" -- a dry journalistic description -- stopped reading the blog long ago. You'll notice that wasn't in the newspaper story; that has to reach a much wider spectrum, the sort of people who complained that I gave George a pass, that he should be criticized for failing to excommunicate Dick Durbin.

  2. Attention Sun-Times: Why is it necessary to stack THREE IDENTICAL VERSIONS OF THE EXACT SAME SLOW-LOADING XFINITY AD atop each other on the landing page for Neil's column, thereby ensuring that those with less-than-optimal Internet versions will experience freezeup?

    Neil, I'm sorry, I know you have nothing to do with etc. etc. But sometimes you just gotta let out the exasperation. I was especially frustrated because it was a good column that I wanted to finish.

    1. From your lips to God's ears, as my late mother-in-law used to say. I've passed along your complaints, and the Sun-Times is changing its entire web presence on Wednesday (kidding, it's a coincidence -- but we are trotting out a new web site. I hope the ads work better on it)

  3. In Cardinal George's defense, it's not like he came up with his attitude toward homosexuality on a whim, or that he is even among the minority among religious leaders with regard to this attitude. The current Pope has attempted to be more welcoming in some of his comments, but he hasn't indicated that he'll be attempting to change the core teachings of the Church with regard to the issue -- to my knowledge, anyway. And some of the core teachings are rather, shall we say, cruel and immoral, depending on one's view of the matter. To wit, the Catechism of the Catholic Church instructs: 2357 ... "Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that 'homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.' ... Under no circumstances can they be approved. ... 2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity." In 2358, it does teach that "They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided." But, clearly, the folks who crafted this document did not find those sentences incompatible -- that is, they didn't find barring gays from same-sex marriage, or from any kind of sexual expression at all, for that matter, to be "unjust discrimination."

    Let me hasten to add that, though I was raised Catholic, I'm not in agreement with these teachings, and I'm not familiar with everything that Cardinal George has said with regard to the issue. I just think it's important to keep in mind that somebody in his position doesn't have the luxury of saying whatever he might really think about something, whether he has any qualms about the teachings, or not.

    I really think it's quite a dilemma for the Church. On this, and other matters with regard to sexuality, the age-old teachings are clearly obsolete. IMHO, not that it's an outlier of an opinion. ; ) (Heterosexuals are only "allowed" sex within marriage, of course, not that anybody's been paying attention to that.) Yet, despite these teachings having been largely ignored since the '60's, at a minimum, no effort to modify the teachings seems to be contemplated by those in charge. I just don't see how, going forward, the Church will still be able to hold the line on some of this stuff, and retain anything like the number of followers it has in this and other developed countries. (Clearly, in some European countries, the Church has fared poorly even to this point.) Yet, nothing's officially going to change unless some bold and creative leadership is brought to bear with regard to some of these matters, and I just don't see that as forthcoming, though the current Pope may well be a step in the right direction. Whatever one thinks about this stuff, the teachings of the Church with regard to some of it have been consistent for millennia, and the latest Gallup poll with regard to gay marriage holds no sway. Thus, bringing about real change with regard to the teachings is extremely problematic, even were it desired by some of those in power, though I would hope not impossible.


This blog posts comments at the discretion of the proprietor.