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Cardinal George - Not a Conservative

Marian T. Horvat, Ph.D.
Like me, my friend Jan has been receiving postings ad nauseam praising Cardinal Francis George, the retired Archbishop of Chicago who died at age 78 in his residence after a long battle against cancer. Like me, she was surprised to find almost universal praise for the Prelate, who is being called the “American Ratzinger” as if this marks him as a conservative champion for the Old Mass and against Vatican II.

JPII Cardinal george

Card. George, a progressivist in the mold of JPII & BXVI

Cardinal George Benedict XVI
The title “American's Ratzinger” is correct. Card. George was a “conservative” in the mold of John Paul II and Benedict XVI; he vigorously preached their “new evangelization,” as the media is quick to point out. (1) But this in fact makes him not a conservative at all, but a progressivist who supported Vatican II and the revolution it engendered.

Oh yes, I know that he opened the door for a few more Latin Masses in Chicago, but he himself regularly said the Novus Ordo Mass and never criticized it. Like Ratzinger, he attacked modern secularism as an enemy of Christian Civilization (or what is left of it), but he never accused the new attitude of the Church embracing the modern world as the root of the problem. In my view, prelates like Card. George do more harm for the Church than his predecessor Joseph Berdardin and successor Blaise Cupich, both known as avid progressivists.

While he did not advocate the more radical positions of Progressivism, Card. George nonetheless promoted and continued the Conciliar Revolution by adhering completely to its wrong teachings on ecumenism, religious liberty and tolerance in moral issues. By taking this position, he gave a bad example to conservatives and even traditionalists since he made them think that it is possible to find a comfortable middle ground, a way of accepting Vatican II without admitting its errors in both its letter and spirit.

For those who adhere to George's vision of the Church, everything can be interpreted in light of tradition and there is no need for resistance to the errors of Vatican II and the conciliar Popes. We could surely call him a disciple of the “hermeneutics of continuity” of Benedict XVI, which has been amply proved on this site to be in reality a hermeneutics of rupture.

George on Vatican II

As a summary of his thinking, Card George offered his reflections on the “living legacy” of Vatican II at St. Francis Xavier University for the concluding lecture of the University's annual Catholic Colloquium series on April 9, 2014.

He affirmed that the Council was called in 1962 as a means to use the unity of the Church to restore the world that was on a path to self-destruction. To speak convincingly to this world, he insisted, it was necessary to understand and enter it, and “not be a museum.” This is how he defended the Conciliar Church's new attitude of adaptation to the world.

As for liturgy, he said, one of the Council's most significant changes was to do away with saying Mass in Latin in favor of common languages.

Was there a word of criticism for this change and the many abuses it engendered? Not a single one. Rather, he stated that the change has served the people by allowing greater participation. He saved the criticism for the Latin Mass: “To go to the Tridentine Mass was a beautiful experience... but there's no dialogue… and the Mass is the highest form of dialogue with the Lord himself.”

His words echoed his previous statements made in 2013 when he opened the doors of the new lecture hall in St. John's Seminary in Chicago. There he praised Vatican II for bringing dialogue as a healing tool for unity. He told the seminarians that the documents of Vatican II – “such as Lumen Gentium” – sought to save the Church from becoming “overly legalistic.”

At a press conference in 1998 one year after his installment in Chicago, he addressed the problem of how to resolve an exhausted "liberal Catholicism.” The solution, he emphasized “is not to be found in a type of conservative Catholicism obsessed with particular practices and so sectarian in its outlook that it cannot serve as a sign of unity.” The real solution would be to correctly apply the documents of Vatican II, which he consistently did during his 17 years at the helm of the Chicago Archdiocese.

Radical ecumenist

cardinal george muslims

Above, greeting Islam Society head Hussain Khan before the 9th Annual Ramadan Dinner; below, giving the keynote address at a 2014 Jewish meeting

JUF keynote adddress Cardinla George
One arena where there can be no discussion about Card. George: He was a radical conciliar ecumenist. Faithfully following his predecessor Bernardin, his commitment to the interreligious agenda under the fully staffed Office for Human Relations and Ecumenism was unflagging.

Consider those who mourned his death: The Chicago Muslim community presented its formal expression of grief and appreciation for the “special relationship” it enjoyed with Card. George, who attended an annual dinner with its members, never missing it. To recognize his support, the Council of Islamic Organizations of Chicago presented him with a special award last April.

The American Jewish Committee (AJC), the Jewish United Fund (JUF), and Chicago's entire Jewish community also expressed condolences, praising the inter-action and joint programs the Prelate fostered. In AJC's official posting, it correctly affirmed that “Cardinal George embodied the teachings of Nostra Aetate in his passion for inter-faith engagement.”

He shared Shabbat dinners with his Jewish “brother,” commemorated the Passover, went to Israel and celebrated the Sabbath at the Western Wall, praised the Hebrew Torah, and even instituted a “Priest/Rabbi retreat.”

The Cardinal's full commitment to inter-religious dialogue is generally ignored by those who portray him as conservative, which in fact he was not. Rather he was a progressivist as an advocate for conciliar ecumenism as well as for religious liberty and social issues.

George's concessions to homosexuals

The popular media like to portray George as a tiger in defense of traditional marriage and, therefore, opposed to homosexual “marriage.” What they do not report are his many concessions to the homosexuals of the Chicago Archdiocese.

The Archdiocesan Gay and Lesbian Outreach (AGLO) is a pro-homosexual office, founded by Card. Bernardin, famous for its advocacy of the homosexual lifestyle. It officially adopted as its parish and headquarters Our Lady of Mount Carmel (OLMC) on Belmont Avenue.

The congregation, like Holy Redeemer parish in San Francisco under the also “conservative” Salvatore Cordileone, consists of primarily homosexual men who openly flaunt their sinful lifestyle. There are never sermons on conversion from the practice of the sin of sodomy. It is all about love, understanding, accepting each one as he is and as God made him – in this case, homosexual.

Cardinal George homosexuals AGLO

Cutting the cake for the 25th anniversary celebration of the pro-homo AGLO

In other words, the ministry openly opposes and flouts Catholic teaching. The AGLO/OLMC community sponsors Dignity events, hosts drag shows and participates with George's approval in Chicago's Gay Parade.

Did Card. George shut down this Outreach ministry or even try to reform it? He did not. Instead he encouraged and promoted it, taking part in its liturgies. He clarified his stance on AGLO to Fox Chicago: “Well, you start with respect. You start with people who are homosexually oriented, gays and lesbians. However they picture themselves, you start with respect,”

George even chose to be the main celebrant for the Outreach's 25th anniversary Mass in June 2013 and deliver the homily. In it he praised the “charity” and “concern for others” of its homosexual members.

One can wonder how far these concessions to homosexuals went with Card. George considering that in 2003 he shared his residence with Fr. Kenneth Martin, a priest who was criminally charged with sexually abusing a high school boy in Maryland in the 1970s. It should come as no surprise that this report the so-called conservative Catholic media studiously avoids.

A contradictory record

On other issues, we find Card. George playing the part of a conservative even while he makes concessions to the progressivist agenda. For example, George is known as a supporter of the pro-life movement; at the same time he declined to endorse calls from other Bishops that Catholic politicians be denied communion for supporting abortion.

mormon choir cardinal george

Stepping up to conduct the Mormon Tabernacle Choir as a sign of solidarity with the false religion

It was George who championed the “zero tolerance” policy for priest sexual abuse at the 2002 Dallas meeting. At the same time he failed to apply that policy himself in 2005 in the high profile case of Fr. Daniel McCormack. George made no attempt to contact the police after allegations that McCormack had sexually abused two boys surfaced, and kept the priest at his post.

He later acknowledged he had “made mistakes” in the case, but suffered no consequences for his actions despite bitter criticism from SNAP and calls from several conservative organizations for him to resign.

These are just a few of the blatantly progressivist stands and contradictions in the mixed legacy of Cardinal Francis George, whom I believe we cannot call a conservative.
  1. George dedicated the chapel in the Archdiocesan Seminary to Pope John Paul II to show his esteem for that conciliar Pope

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Posted April 22, 2015

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