March 15, 2009

Catholics at the capital: The church in public life

Cardinal George's Schedule

  1. March 16: 3 p.m., Finance Council Meeting, Cardinal Meyer Center
  2. March 17: 9:30 a.m., Presbyteral Council General Meeting, DePaul University, O’Hare Campus
  3. March 18: 1 p.m., Faculty Meeting, University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary; 3:30 p.m., Seminary Community address; 4:45 p.m., Mass and dinner with seminarians
  4. March 19: 10:30 a.m., Chicago Association of Religious Educators, St. John of the Cross, Western Springs; 5 p.m., Mass for Solemnity of St. Joseph, St. Joseph College Seminary
  5. March 20: 9 a.m., The Lumen Christi Institute Conference with Economists, University of St. Mary of the Lake/ Mundelein Seminary
  6. March 21: 9 a.m., Archdiocesan Pastoral Council General Meeting, Holy Name Cathedral; 1:30 p.m., CCIR/ Justice for Immigrants, Our Lady of Mercy Church; 6:30 p.m., Shield of St. Xavier Award, Xavier University President’s Scholarship Ball, Hilton Chicago
  7. March 22: 2 p.m., Confirmation, St. Cornelius
  8. March 23-25: USCCB Administrative Committee Meetings, Washington
  9. March 26: 6:30 p.m., 14th Annual Cardinal Bernardin Jerusalem Lecture, DePaul University, Lincoln Park
  10. March 27: 6:30 a.m., Mass, Illinois Catholic Prayer Breakfast, Hilton Chicago; 10 a.m., Episcopal Council Meeting, Residence
  11. March 28: 9 a.m., Vocation Parish Training, Holy Name Cathedral Parish Center; 10:45 a.m., Dignitas Personae Conference, Marriott O’Hare
Cardinal's Crest

Cardinal's Appointments

March 6, 2009

His Eminence, Francis Cardinal George announces the following appointments:


Rev. Richard LoBianco, from associate pastor of Our Lady Mother of the Church Parish, West Lawrence, to administrator of Divine Savior Parish, West Montrose, effective immediately.

Cardinal’s delegate

Rev. Louis J. Cameli, from pastor of Divine Savior Parish, West Montrose, to the cardinal’s delegate for Christian formation and mission with residence at Holy Name Cathedral, North Wabash, effective immediately.

Last week, more than 4,000 Catholic parishioners, employees, volunteers and school children met in Springfield to promote the tenets of Catholic social teaching and express support or disagreement with bills currently being considered by those who represent the citizens of Illinois in the capital. After a rally around schools, we split up to contact various legislators and the new governor. The conversations were mostly pleasant and, I’m told, the day was well received.

The state government, like the federal government, is wrestling with huge deficits and with payments for social services that are many months behind. Catholic hospitals now have a harder time borrowing money to pay their bills while waiting for the state to pay its bills for health services guaranteed by government programs. Catholic Charities and other social services have similar problems. Everyone agreed easily that the state has to find ways to pay its bills more quickly, even if ways for the state to find money remain extremely contentious.

There were eight areas of concern addressed last week but, as I spoke to various people in our state government, I stressed two: schools and conscience clauses. In the current economic crisis, many parents are finding it very hard to pay tuition for their children’s education in Catholic schools. The state now grants a $500 tax credit to each family with children in our schools, and I was asking that the tax credit be raised to $1,000 per family. This is not money the state pays to parents or schools; it is money not collected by the state from parents who have children in our schools. It can be considered a financial savings measure because the government, if our schools ceased to function, would have to add almost $2 billion to an already huge deficit. An increased tax credit would help relieve the burden on parents of Catholic school children.

The second concern I discussed in Springfield is a proposal to effectively repeal the right to conscientious objection to abortion and related procedures that kill. It is a shame that such a socially divisive measure should be proposed at a time when we all have to try to come together around economic policy. This country recognizes a conscientious objection to war, even though it is a good and moral action to defend one’s country. Why do some want to deny the right to conscientious objection to abortion, which is a moral evil?

Sometimes the desire to diminish or do away with the public influence of the Catholic Church in our society is ideological: Society should be free of any religious rhetoric or impact. Religion is an entirely private affair and, often, to be discouraged even in private life. While this opinion is not consistent with American history or public life for the past 200 years, it now seems to be the opinion of some who shape public life in the government, the courts, the media, the universities and the entertainment industry.

There is often, moreover, a particular animus against Catholicism. Dislike of the Catholic Church can arise from prejudice that is fostered by some other religious groups or from a biased reading of human history. It can stem from a hurtful personal incident with a priest or sister or mistreatment in a Catholic institution. But there are “principled” reasons why it is intellectually and socially acceptable to drive the Catholic Church from public life. Let me mention four of them, which can be reduced to one: the church preaches limits in a society that imagines every individual and our country itself should be able to do whatever we deem desirable and possible. While many issues could illustrate the point, the examples below all stem from the church’s constant teaching on respect for every human life.

First, the church teaches that there are religious limits to state power. The state, unless it is despotic, should not force a citizen to do something that violates that person’s conscience. The state cannot place itself between an individual and God.

Second, the church teaches that there are limits to individual freedom. No one can take the life of another, even an unborn child, just because the other human being is unwanted.

Third, the church teaches that there are limits to scientific research. The current dispute about killing human embryos for research purposes has little to do with therapy and a lot to do with hubris. All the practical medical results so far have come from using adult and other stem cells. The issue is whether the scientific community can claim absolute control over its own activities to the exclusion of the moral laws that govern all human actions.

Fourth, the church teaches that there are limits to how one can define her own teaching and life. The church comes from Christ, and no individual Catholic or group of Catholics can decide on their own what the church’s teaching on life issues and other doctrines should be or what demands they place upon us. In the last election campaign, some Catholics tried to redefine what it means to be prolife. This is a betrayal of the faith, as Pope Benedict’s recent words to the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives made eloquently clear a couple of weeks ago.

It’s not easy to hear about limits to what one wants, but the limits taught by the church express universal norms for moral behavior. With the whole world, we’re being brought face to face with economic limits. Lent is a good time to recognize again moral limits that serve to make us both civilized and holy.

Our elected representatives in Springfield and Washington want, I believe, to serve the common good, and so should all of us. The church helps us to see what the common good requires of us by teaching clearly the moral principles that have been and are basically common to the human race. Prayer for our government officials reminds us that their actions and ours determine not only how we live together here but also whether we’ll all live together in eternity.

God bless you.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Francis Cardinal George, OMI

Archbishop of Chicago