What George Could Do

Lots of talk around the blogosphere about Cardinal George and what people think he should do. It runs the usual gamut between resign and keep his hopes up in the face of nasty, liberal persecution.

I found a sensible statement on the Cardinal George web site that many neo-orthodoxites might consider:

Suspicion and skepticism of every liberal Catholic critical of Cardinal George because of the failures of a few is unreasonable.

Oops; wrong quote. Here’s the real thing:

Suspicion and skepticism of every bishop because of the failures of a few is unreasonable.

Wait! They’re both good advice.

Cardinal George’s problem is not, as his letter to Chicago Catholics says, the “embarassment” of another predator priest. It’s that his archdiocesan appeal is in full gear this month and … wait–sorry; that’s not the problem either.

The cardinal has a credibility problem. He has a priest accused of a horrible crime. His problem is, that in finding out about it, didn’t drive out to the parish, sit down, and get the straight (or whatever) stuff from the guy in person. A bishop is responsible for his clergy, no matter who ordained and recruited them.

Christus Dominus 16 provides some substantive teaching:

Bishops should always embrace priests with a special love since the latter to the best of their ability assume the bishops’ anxieties and carry them on day by day so zealously. They should regard the priests as sons and friends (cf. John 15:15) and be ready to listen to them.


They should be solicitous for the spiritual, intellectual and material welfare of the priests so that the latter can live holy and pious lives and fulfill their ministry faithfully and fruitfully.

If my friend or daughter were in trouble, I’d sure as hell not send a lawyer or babysitter to handle the problem. And if Chicago is too big for any archbishop to handle, perhaps four or five more manageable sees can be manufactured out of it. Or minimally, George needs a co-adjutor.

The call for the cardinal to resign are premature. He did a good thing by visiting the parish and facing the music. His letter to the Chicago laity was about as strong as skim milk, but he does have the finances of the archdiocese hanging around his neck.

If a priest is accused of a sexual crime, I’d expect the bishop to be personally involved. That means victims as well as accused. That so many bishops haven’t been involved does not speak well of the understanding of some bishops for basic principles of Christianity, much less church teaching. The fact that the Dallas charter doesn’t outline specific pastoral steps to take is no excuse.

Cardinal George seems to be a smart guy, for being a conservative. He’s well-regarded among his colleagues, and that’s not all bad. And if he’s late to realizing the danger the American bishops are still wading through, then the next several months will tell if he’s suited for his job, won’t they? To be sure, people will be watching.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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