Kudos to Cardinal George

Cardinal Francis George hit the nail on the head in his speech to the Knights of Columbus convention yesterday, calling for renewed efforts at binding up the unity of the faithful.

"A Catholic way of life is based on assent to revealed truth and obedience to appointed pastors, both of which create the unity Christ wishes us to enjoy. The Church’s unity today is severely strained, as we all know," the cardinal said. "Bishops and priests have sometimes been less than worthy of their calling, and lay groups have sometimes come together to create a Church in their image and likeness rather than Christ’s. Political interference and the hostility of some in the media and entertainment industries, the self-righteousness of some on both the right and the left, have created a dangerous situation, one the bishops now want to explicitly address. How to stitch up the Church where her unity is torn, how to use the authority given by Christ to the apostles without wounding the faithful who are already hurting is a project that begins with the bishops’ own submission to Christ and our own self-examination in the light of God’s word."

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Cardinal George deserves credit for acknowledging something that social scientists have been discussing for some time, that Americans’ attitudes today do not break down along confessional lines so much as they do along liberal v. conservative lines which run through the various denominations. We Catholics have begun to blend into the broader American fabric and lost any distinctive attitudes. We line up with our ideological, not our ecclesiastic, fellows. Alas, this appears to be the case with the Bishops’ Conference as well, which one of their number told me is as polarized as it has even been in the past twenty years. Cardinal George especially deserves credit for acknowledging that the process of binding up the unity of the Church must begin with the bishops’ self-examination.

Part of the challenge, but only part, is for all bishops to avoid the appearance of partisanship (so long as neither political party fully embraces the Gospel) while not withdrawing from the public arena. The bishops and all the faithful must, as Pope Benedict XVI wrote in Caritas in Veritate, see the Church’s teaching as integral but the bishops must also allow for the possibility that well-informed consciences can reach different conclusions, especially in the realm of politics where the question of how to affect change is always complicated even if there is agreement on the kind of change to affect.

The direction that the bishops must take, and that I believe is being indicated by Cardinal George, is to say that it is no longer enough to be a Catholic and a banker, or a Catholic and a politician. We must be Catholic bankers and Catholic politicians. Even better, I prefer that Catholic be the noun, the thing that defines us not the adjective that qualifies us. Bank-managing Catholic. A Catholic who politics. I do not think this will mean that all politicians or bankers who are Catholics will suddenly become univocal. That is not the point. Instead the goal is, I believe, to show to the culture that the most important event in our own, oh-so busy twenty-first century lives happened on a hillside in Jerusalem two thousand years ago, and that together, as one Church, we continue to tease out the meaning of that event. There are no ready-made "answers" or the Virgin Mary would have given birth to a summa. There is communion with Christ and through him with each other, so that we can search for answers together.

The challenge for the two sides in the Church today is for the side that is usually called "the left" to recognize the priority of faith and the requirement of obedience in finding the truth and for the "conservatives" to recognize the fact that we are all still searching and that nostalgia is not an answer. Cardinal George gets credit, lots of credit, for demonstrating the truth found in last Sunday’s Gospel – only those who admit they are hungry can be fed.

 

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8 years 2 months ago
A fair assessment of the situation although the comment that we must "see the Church’s teaching as integral but the bishops must also allow for the possibility that well-informed consciences can reach different conclusions" raises the same old problems which have precisely caused the Church's unity to be undermined for so long since Vatican II.  What does this mean exactly?  Can I dissent and believe that abortion is okay in some circumstances if my well-informed conscience tells me so?  Can I use contraception for the same reason?  Can I deny that Jesus is really present in Holy Communion if my conscience tells me that it's just not possible?  If so, who needs the Church's teaching authority if conscience is the ultimate arbiter of personal morality?    A truly well-formed conscience and the magisterium are rarely at odds, and when they are, the presumption of truth lies with the magisterium, not with our conscience.  If we recover this belief, we will go a long way to enhancing unity among baptized catholics.
8 years 2 months ago

"The challenge for the two sides in the Church today is for the sidebthat is usually called "the left" to recognize the priority of faith and the requirement of obedience in finding the truth and for the "conservatives" to recognize the fact that we are all still searching and that nostalgia is not an answer. Cardinal George gets credit, lots
of credit, for demonstrating the truth found in last Sunday’s Gospel – only those who admit they are hungry can be fed."

This paragraph is far too facile. The "left" is not the only side called to obedience in finding the truth and the "right" is not simply gulty of nostalgia. I would submit that both are called to repentance, fidelity and mercy in oder to give full expression to the love of Christ for His Church. The Cardinal does deserve some credit for naming this disunity.  However, let's not overstate his role. For him to truly demonstrate the truth would require him point first to his own singular failures in both carrying out his offcie and stoking the flames of disunity.  A true demonstartion of humility and repentance would be for him to step aside and recognize that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are abundantly alive in the Church and do not solely reside in the hierarchy as his comments so clearly infer.

8 years 2 months ago

There is a disconnect between Cardinal George's presupposition about Catholic life found in his opening line--"A Catholic way of life is based on assent to revealed truth and obedience to appointed pastors, both of which create the unity Christ wishes us to enjoy."--and Mr. Winters' presupposition found towards the end of his entry:
"Instead the goal is, I believe, to show to the culture that the most important event in our own, oh-so busy twenty-first century lives happened on a hillside in Jerusalem two thousand years ago, and that together, as one Church, we continue to tease out the meaning of that event."
 

"[A]ssent to revealed truth" for Cardinal George is very different from Mr. Winters' goal for Catholics, to communicate (or "show") the culture that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is "the most important event" in our lives. 

Cardinal George's statement implies that the subjects (Catholic faithful) do the assenting while the objects (prelates or those who "reveal") do the revealing of truth.  Mr. Winters' goal on the other hand implies that all the faithful, lay and religious, witness to the broader culture by making Jesus' life, death, and resurrection the center of our very own lives. 

This same difference plays out in Cardinal George's statement about "obedience to appointed pastors" and Mr. Winters' statement about "together...[teasing] out the meaning of that event."  There, the differences between subjects and objects are more clear. 

Mr. Winters' gives Cardinal George a generous reading. Before there was obedience, there was persuasion-Christ persuading the apostles who then persuaded others, by words and deeds.  The Bishops' focus on obedience is to the detriment of persuasion. 

8 years 2 months ago
You say, "The challenge for the two sides in the Church today is for the side that is usually called "the left" to recognize the priority of faith and the requirement of obedience in finding the truth and for the "conservatives" to recognize the fact that we are all still searching and that nostalgia is not an answer. " I believe you got this right and what I see happening is the ease at which scandal can be promulgated by either of the two sides; perhaps this distinguishes our era from the past which also had to deal with such two sides. By scandal, I mean raw open dissent from what the Church teaches, or if you will, what is particularily grating, what the Popes directly say. So,  John Paul II can warn about and talk about the horrendous effects of and condemn a war in Iraq and still there is war and even talk of victory after millions displaced and millions killed. Or, repeated warning about Catholic politicians and others supporting abortion, but still the scandal continues in our faces. Then there are those who support homosexual marriage and state openly that homosexual sex is okay and even holy; even in popular Catholic magazines. Or, those who continue to fund nuclear bombs and prepare for their use unabated. Things of this sort that are clearly against the teachings of the Church, its traditions, its magisterium, and its popes. Now this type of ignoring the teachings, or of even recruiting followers against the teachings is easily done and promulgated. This is a quite different situation than when academic journals contained debates by knowledgable theologians; now things have moved into the public arena as though all questions are open to debate and to "conscience". Well, in one sense they are, but key to any debate is good knowledge and openness to truth, not just accepting polemics. The funny thing is, it may be that the questions above will actually be settled by politics more than by truth; often this was the case in the past and so our era has the political results of the past to live with as we deal with the present and future. Therefore it is essential to have faithful writers who have a finger on the politics of the times.
8 years 2 months ago
Pardon me, but I think one could accurately say that before persuasion there was obedience - obedience unto death, even death on a cross. In Gethsemane there was no persuading going on. Only God humbling Himself before God. Such meekness was good enough for Christ our Lord, but for as for us, we need to be convinced.
8 years 2 months ago
Well said.
Where is the link to the actual talk by Cardinal Francis George in order to read the whole thing?
Also related and of possible interest: Bishop Kevin Farrell's Commencement Address at University of Dallas, TX in May. "What Does It Mean to Be Catholic Enough?" (August 13th issue of Origins).

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