Charles took me to task for refering to this widely circulated quote attributed to Cardinal George, the archbishop of Chicago, when the state of Illinois expanded LBGT rights:
I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison, and his successor will die a martyr in the public square.
I alluded to it in conjunction with a Mexican priest who has experienced intimidation to the point of death threats for his ministry to migrants from Central America. Charles believes I’ve been unjust:
“Cardinal George muses…” could be regarded as rather a cheap shot, Todd and to what benefit or expected outcome?
I don’t expect an immediate benefit, to be honest. This is a rather small corner of the Catholic blogosphere. And I have no delusions about being more widely-read or influential than with a relatively small (but certainly appreciated) group of friends and visitors. A few who disagree with me think I pound away at the bishops more than is seemly. And honestly, I take that into consideration. My criticism of certain heroes stings whether I do it once a week or once a day. In that sense, I’ve become part of the background hum of the hermeneutic of persecution: a sort of court jester who isn’t very funny or a Catholic Howard Stern for the neo-orthodox. You’d like to tune me out, and eventually you do. But I don’t bring you the sex and profanity like Mr Stern–just the annoying twitter of a critic. And you don’t seem to be keeping your fan club page up to date, either.
I am concerned the outcome is further polarization. Bishop critics cheer that someone else has taken a swat at a sacred cow of the Right. People on the Right simmer because most all of them would agree that Padre Solalinde is indeed an admirable figure to persist in service despite attacks from organized crime, the government, and business corporations.
Getting back to the quote, after about fifteen minutes of research in the libraries of the search engines, I could not find the original attribution. The fisheaters’ forum though it was Archbishop Chaput’s. But he told them it was his Chicago brother. I’ve seen it used on liberal LBGT sites to poke even more deeply at the Catholic hierarchy. I’ve seen it borne on Catholic sites, possibly with a tear stain or two in the posting. The original words might still be online somewhere. Just buried past the headlines.
I think it’s a silly quote. Especially in the context of the cover-up of sex crimes of the clergy. Could the United States be overrun by thugs? It’s within the realm of possibility. I suppose. Bad people have done bad things with government support, but usually justice won out in the end. Jim Crow laws were eventually deep-sixed. Japanese-Americans were returned to their homes. Corrupt politicians in eastern cities were eventually turned out. Gravely evil acts were committed in the name of law and order and safety and patriotism and the public good. Evil tends to have its arc and then spend itself. It always seems to pop up anew. If I believed in a devil, I’d say that being has a monster case of attention-deficit disorder.
It’s a silly quote because most Catholics, if told that a bishop was to go on trial in the United States, and if given a choice between something to do with paying for someone else’s abortion or endangering the child sex victims of a priest, would likely choose the latter. And they would be correct, as of 2011.
If Cardinal George’s successor were either naive as Bishop Robert Finn or as dodgy as Cardinal Bevilacqua, it’s very likely the man would go to jail. And if he were guilty of a serious crime, it would be a just solution most likely. The people who have died as martyrs in the US have been civil rights figures. Powerful figures like Kenneth Lay and Anthony Bevilacqua have died before the first mob even formed. But I suspect that it would, very unfortunately, be possible to drum up a lynch mob for either man, considering the public perception of damage they’ve done.
My favorite foils seem to think I’m advocating for the bishops to just shut up and go away. And no, I don’t agree with that either. I have no intention of shutting up and going away, and really, I don’t think they should either. I do think that a wider reading of the saints, and an introduction to the good work being done away from chanceries and the halls of politics would temper a lot of these episcopal statements with wisdom and prudence.
So in the long run, I’ve just annoyed a friend or two. I’ve gotten a few thumbs-up icons. Cardinal George isn’t retracting his words, nor is he taking a Mexican holiday to fill in for a brother priest in Oaxaca. The conservatives still think the country’s going to hell in a handbasket, and I still think it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, considering who’s driving the bus off the cliff. Meanwhile, I need to do more research on women of character who have been persecuted by the same institution that seemed, a month ago or so, to be touting religious freedom. Any suggestions?