I haven’t been following Jerry Galipeau’s blog much the past few months. When I visited today, I noticed his post on his new archbishop. Striking for many reasons …
The last few times I have heard Cardinal George speak I noticed how defeated he seemed in his demeanor. His struggles with cancer have seemed to taken a toll on him. Reading his latest columns, I have found little “joy of the Gospel” and very little hope. Frankly, it has dragged my own spirits down. I pray for him daily, for the healing of his body as well as a lifting of his own spirit.
Cardinal George was touted as the “brains” of the USCCB in the late JP2/Benedict era. That might be true, but probably not compared to real theologians. I remember his assessment of “exhausted project” when speaking of liberal Catholicism. (whatever that might have meant.) Supposedly, he was shifted to Portland and then, after not even a liturgical year, to Chicago to police music publishing. Portland Catholics should feel really good about themselves for that one, though it wasn’t really Francis George’s doing–unless you think a bishop can and should stand up to the pope and the nuncio and say, “No, thanks. It is unseemly to be installed as an archbishop and leave after less than a year. Even if it is for a red hat.”
He might have been better off staying on the West Coast. He bungled big time on sex abuse in Chicago. I don’t think the man was outright malicious about it. But if he wasn’t, it wasn’t very smart.
The topper was his famous quote from 2010:
I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square.
I thought this utterance utterly ironic, given the state of the USCCB on sex abuse cover-up. I could see an archbishop of Chicago dying in prison if the B16 vector of insensitivity to abuse, cover-up, and grooming of allies continued. I could see a Pope Pius XIII-appointed bishop getting dragged from a cathedral for turning a blind eye to sex predators among his clergy.
Thankfully, I don’t think we’re going to get to that dark moment.
The cardinal has been unwell for many years. The thanks he got for loyalty to the institutional cause was extra years as corporation sole in the city by the lake. You don’t think it would have occurred to anyone to appoint a co-adjutor archbishop five to seven years ago, and given the new guy a few years to tutor under the old guy. Then give the latter a break.
If Cardinal George evinced little enough joy in his final years in Chicago, maybe it’s partly because the institution he so prized and that he was so eager to please abandoned him at the end. Nothing can suck the hope out of a person like suffering grave illness and finding no relief, no support–only the expectation of the grind of difficult issues piled on top of difficult days.
I for one hope the new administration will show a little more mercy to bishops. Jerry is praying for his soon-to-be retired ordinary. Clearly the man needs it.