Columnist and Activist Both Criticize Cardinal George on LGBT Issues

June 23, 2013
Cardinal Francis George

Cardinal Francis George

Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George has been in the news lately not only for his vocal opposition to Illinois’ marriage equality bill, but because he recently denied communion to a gay Catholic activist at a Mass celebrating the Archdiocesan Gay and Lesbian Outreach in his city.

Robert McClory, a columnist for The National Catholic Reporter, took apart an essay about marriage equality written by George in the Chicago archdiocesan newspaper.  McClory exposes some of George’s fear-mongering rhetoric, not only on marriage equality, but also on the issue of religious liberty, which seems to be one of George’s main purposes in writing the column.

For example, McClory is justifiably incredulous at George’s depiction of how secular society is “marginalizing” Catholics. McClory writes:

“George then launches out into the deep about the separation of religious faith from public life. He blames John F. Kennedy for starting a roll down the slippery slope and worries Catholics will be eventually barred from federal judgeships, medical schools, editorial offices at major newspapers, the entertainment world and university faculties.

” ‘If Catholics are to be closeted and marginalized in a secularized society, Catholic parents should prepare their children to be farmers, carpenters and craftsmen, small business people and workers in service industries,’ occupations that ‘do not immediately impact public opinion.’ What?”

McClory hits the nail on the head in his concluding paragraph which points out George’s true blindspot:

“Unfortunately, what Cardinal George cannot consider is the possibility that Catholics at the grass-roots level are coming to understand new and different ways to welcome to the table those previously excluded. Many, including not a few theologians, propose that the essence of marriage is the love and permanent commitment of two persons to one another — period. As that conviction matures in time, I believe the church will have to make accommodations with its implications, just as Christians in the time of Galileo had to reinterpret so much they and their ancestors had taken for granted as irreversibly, dogmatically true: the movement of the earth, the sun, moon and stars. It was for many a painful, revolutionary process. And the one believing Christians face now will be for some no less painful and revolutionary. But it must be done, lest the Catholic church disintegrate into a closed, inconsequential cult.”

McClory doesn’t comment on what I consider George’s greatest errors in his essay.  Speaking of marriage equality advocates, George states:

“Further, the claim that one is not equal under law is powerful in our society; it makes one a victim. And the claim that one is being demeaned and personally wounded is even more powerful evidence of victimization.  “

Yet, isn’t that what so many Catholic bishops are doing when they claim that their religious liberty is being curtailed because of pro-LGBT laws?  Aren’t they claiming “victim” status?  Isn’t George guilty of exactly the thing he accuses his opponents of doing?

The cardinal presided at the 25th anniversary Mass for Chicago’s Archdiocesan Gay and Lesbian Outreach (AGLO), and he was greeted by about 25 protesters from the Gay Liberation Network and the Rainbow Sash Movement (RSM).  The latter group is composed of Catholics who present themselves for communion while wearing a rainbow sash, indicating that they believe in the full equality of LGBT people and that they disagree with the hierarchy’s prohibition of sexual activity between person’s of the same gender.  When the RSM’s director, Joe Murray, went to the cardinal for communion, he was refused.

Joe Murray

Joe Murray

The Windy City Times reported:

“Murray stood up with his back to Cardinal George during parts of the Mass, and then he went up with the estimated 200 others in attendance to receive communion. George refused him, and Murray walked away with his hands open and empty, showing the congregants that he had been denied.

“But in an emotional show of solidarity, Brenna C. Cronin, who had already received her communion as part of the church choir, went back up and took another communion wafer (called a Host) and brought it to Murray herself.

” ‘One of my brothers, a member of my community, who is a full and equal member of the body of Christ, was denied communion. So I got back in line and I brought him communion, as I would for anyone else,’ Cronin told Windy City Times after the Mass. Cronin, who is a lesbian, has been involved with AGLO for two years and is also a cantor.

” ‘I was denied communion by the Cardinal,’ Murray said after. ‘I turned to Christ, I walked back open handed, and showed the community that I was denied communion, and Christ, in his mercy, sent me a priest [Cronin] to give me communion.’ “

The news story indicates that some in the congregation supported Murray’s action, while others were critical of it.  You can read the entire news account here.  It contains additional comments from both George and Murray.

What do you think?  Was George right in denying communion?  Was Murray right in presenting himself for communion?  Was the anniversary Mass an appropriate time for LGBT activists to protest George’s positions on LGBT issues?   Please make your thoughts known in the “Comments” section of this post.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related article:

May 1, 2013:  “Tension Emerges as AGLO Marks 25 Years”  Windy City Times


Catholics Debate Marriage Equality Bill in Illinois

January 15, 2013

Illinois, which already has a civil union law, signed by Catholic Governor Pat Quinn, will be taking up the issue of marriage equality in the legislature this year.  Catholics have already entered the debate on this topic on both sides of the question.

Cardinal Francis George

Cardinal Francis George

At the beginning of this month, Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George wrote a letter to priests asking them to urge parishioners to oppose the marriage bill.

The Chicago Sun-Times  quoted part of the letter:

“ ‘It is physically impossible for two men or two women to consummate a marriage, even when they share a deep friendship or love,’ George writes in the letter, meant for inclusion in parish bulletins to be distributed this upcoming weekend. ‘Does this mean nature is cruel or that God is unfair? No, but it does mean that marriage is what nature tells us it is and that the state cannot change natural marriage.’ ”

In this quote, we see a new trend in statements by Catholic hierarchy: they are starting to acknowledge that the relationship between two people of the same gender can be defined as a love relationship.

Rick Garcia

Rick Garcia

The cardinal’s argument did not convince Rick Garcia, a longtime Chicago advocate for LGBT issues. The Sun-Times quotes his reaction:

“ ‘How the Church — or any faith — views marriage within its own institution is one thing, but secular society treats marriage as a civil right,’ said Garcia, who described himself as a practicing Catholic. ‘No individual or church, including Cardinal George and the Catholic Church is going to be forced to perform or recognize any marriages they would not find consistent with their own beliefs. . . . What also will not change is the fact that secular society views marriage as a fundamental civil right that should be afforded to all.’ ”

A Chicago Tribune article on George’s letter notes that two prominent Illinois Catholics support the marriage bill:  Governor Pat Quinn and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin.

Chris Pett

Chris Pett

Dignity/Chicago President Chris Pett also criticized the cardinal’s statement. Pett noted that

“. . . the cardinal might have had pastoral intentions, but he missed an opportunity to call for dialogue and engage with the gay community. Instead, the cardinal made it clear that the church would fight marriage equality ‘until the bitter end.’ “

David Gibson, a long-time observer of the Catholic Church, notes in a USA Today article that George’s comments may not have the power to stop the bill from becoming law:

“It’s unclear what, if any, influence George may have. Similar attempts by influential cardinals to stop same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, New York, Washington, D.C., and Maryland have all failed.”

Cardinal George is not the only Illinois prelate who has entered the debate.  Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfiled and  Bishop David Malloy of Rockford also issued similar letters to the Catholics in their dioceses.

Robert McClory

Robert McClory

But support for the bill is also strong from Catholic lay leaders.  Chicagoan Robert McClory, an astute commentator on Catholic issues wrote a column in The National Catholic Reporter criticizing George’s stand.  After noting the shift in Catholic teaching at Vatican II, which  elevated love and companionship of the couple to an equal status with procreation as primary functions of marriage,  McClory notes that another important shift has also taken place:

“Meanwhile, we are adjusting to an evolutionary shift in society: the recognition that sexual orientation is not exclusively what one chooses but what one is. For centuries, it was assumed (certainly by the church) that all males are sexually oriented to females and all females oriented to males, no exceptions; therefore, homosexual relationships and homosexual activity were seen as contrary to nature, disordered and sinful. Now society, prompted by the research of psychologists, psychiatrists and other scientists vigorously questions those presumptions about orientation. And the questioning increases as LGBT people emerge from their closets. For the first time, straight people are seeing daughters, sons, uncles, co-workers, neighbors, teammates and others who are not only ‘out,’ but living happy lives, contributing to society, even contributing in creative ways to the multiplication of the race. That’s why so many people react angrily and resentfully in the face of unremitting negativity from church leaders.

“The question now is why these people in committed gay relationships should not be eligible for the same benefits society grants to those in committed straight relationships? And why should this relationship not be called marriage — a different kind of marriage, for sure, but a union that serves society’s needs in practical and useful ways? And why should the church be so uptight about what’s happening? Gay Catholic couples are daily fulfilling that central requirement of Christian marriage, love and fidelity. Would it kill the hierarchy to at least acknowledge these facts? George and other prelates and priests who cling to a failing theology and an outmoded anthropology are only further degrading their authority.”

Charles Martel

Charles Martel

Similarly, Charles G. Martel, writing in The Windy City Times observes that we have already had marriage equality for almost a decade in Massachusetts, and that other states have followed suit, and none of the social disasters predicted have happened:

“There were those who feared that somehow the granting of these rights to same sex couples would diminish our understanding of marriage, or that it would it reduce the specialness of such a pledge, one to another. Some worried that this was a ‘dangerous social experiment,’ that instead of seeing this as a matter of fairness to same-sex couples, it would introduce chaos into the social fabric, creating confusion. This has not happened.

“There were those who were afraid that this legal right would infringe on the rights of religious denominations to decide what constituted for them a sacramental marriage, that somehow they would be forced by the government to officiate at weddings they did not wish to bless.

“None of this has come to pass, but rather the laws in each state protect the rights of each religious denomination to determine whom they choose to marry, as has always been the case. Religious liberty has been preserved. Religious denominations that wish to bless same sex couples are free to do so, and those who choose not to, do not have to.”

Indeed, with each state that passes marriage equality, the fear-based arguments will soon begin to lose any remaining power that they may have.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


Was Cardinal George’s Apology Enough? Catholic Students Don’t Think So

January 18, 2012

When Cardinal George apologized for his insensitive comments comparing the LGBT rights movement to the Ku Klux Klan, the reaction was mostly favorable.

Students at the Catholic University of America, however, believe that the apology was not enough.  When Cardinal George visited their campus on January 12th to speak at a conference on the Second Vatican Council, a group of students who want him to do more stood and prayed outside the building where he was speaking and handed out flyers calling on the cardinal to do more than apologize.  The Tower, Catholic University’s student newspaper reprinted the students’ statement which reads in part:

“While we understand Cardinal George released an apologetic statement, we find this action passive and inadequate. Comparisons of a peaceful social movement rooted in a desire for equality under the law to the notoriously hateful KKK rooted in mob violence, bigotry, and the worst of American history are utterly inappropriate.

“The vision set forth by the Second Vatican Council, under consideration at the conference this weekend, thrust the Catholic Church into positive engagement with the world. If Catholics truly take to heart the opening words of Gaudium et Spes, then the joys and hopes, griefs and anxieties of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters are the joys and hopes, griefs and anxieties of us, as the People of God, as followers of Christ, too.

“Our presence this evening is our witness as people of good will to call on Cardinal George and the Catholic Church at large to dialogue with pure intention and total charity with the gay and lesbian community. “

Students at Catholic University were not the only ones to respond to Cardinal George’s comments.  At St Norbert College, DePere, Wisconsin, a petition was circulated calling on the school’s administration to rescind an invitation to Cardinal George to be the commencement speaker in May.  Thomas Kunkel, the college’s president, has announced that he will not rescind the invitation, and that Cardinal George will indeed be the speaker.

New Ways Ministry has already suggested that the cardinal not only to open dialogue with LGBT Catholics but to make a public gesture of welcome and reconciliation by passing out water to parade marchers on Gay Pride Day in Chicago.  Actions speak louder than words.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Cardinal George, LGBT People, and the Klan

December 22, 2011

Description: A Ku Klux Klan meeting in Gainesv...

The Catholic hierarchy are starting to let their claws and teeth show.

Fox-TV News in Chicago reports today that Cardinal Francis George of Chicago has compared the gay liberation movement to the Ku Klux Klan.   A story and video of the interview is available on their website.

The Huffington Post report of this incident has the text of the Cardinal’s explanation of his analogy:

“You don’t want the gay liberation movement to morph into something like the Klu Klux Klan, demonstrating in the streets against Catholicism.”

When the Fox host pointed out that George’s comparison was “a little strong,” the cardinal stood by his statement.

“It is, but you take a look at the rhetoric,” he continued. “The rhetoric of the Klu Klux Klan, the rhetoric of some of the gay liberation people. Who is the enemy? Who is the enemy? The Catholic Church.”

This comes on the heels of last month’s statement by Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, where he said, in reference to lesbian and gay people:

“We said the next thing will be we’ll be sued if we don’t do marriage, we’re going to be harassed if we don’t do receptions, we’re going to be penalized if we don’t allow adoption, we’re going to be booed if we don’t hire these people.”

The sheer ridiculousness and callousness of these comments show not only  ignorance of the LGBT movement, but also bespeak an irrational fear.

What else can account for such vicious responses?  Part of the fear may be due to the fact that the hierarchy senses they are losing the argument on LGBT equality.  I do not think that these men are evil.  I believe them to be motivated by good and trying to do good, but that pressure is getting  the best of them and making them act in irrational ways.  I am not excusing their behavior or statements at all, but I think it is important to understand what may be behind these statements.

Regardless of the motivation, an apology is needed in both cases.

I first learned of  Cardinal George’s  statement from our friends at the Unitarian Universalist website, www.standingonthesideoflove.org/blog.  I agree with their call to action:

“Get in touch with Cardinal George. Ask him to reconsider his comments and issue an apology. Above all else, approach this conversation with the greatest amount of love you can muster, lest we give credence to his beliefs that “the gay liberation movement” is full of angry hate-mongers. Our issue isn’t with Catholics — it’s with those leaders who use divisive, incendiary language and tactics to suppress an entire group of people and our families.

“You can leave a message for Cardinal George through his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/FrancisCardinalGeorgeOMI

“Or try the Diocese Catholic Information Line: 312-534-8204.”

Equally Blessed, the coalition of faithful Catholics who work for LGBT equality and justice (of which New Ways Ministry is a member), has released this statement in response to Cardinal George’s comment.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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