Posts Tagged ‘St. John XXIII’

Encomium Francis Cardinal George, OMI

Sunday, November 16th, 2014

With the 11/18/14 ceremony marking the beginning of the ministry of Most Rev. Blase Cupich as archbishop of Chicago, this is a time of thanks for the ministry of his predecessor Francis Cardinal George, OMI.

My first unknowing encounter with Francis George was hearing not his voice but his music in my 1950s childhood when he served briefly as a substitute organist in my parish, St. Priscilla. My second encounter with Archbishop Francis George was at the January 17, 1998 Chicago gathering of the National Center for the Laity, on whose board I then served, when he gave his noted “exhausted project” comments during a homily at Old St. Patrick’s Church.

The late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin benefitted throughout most of his tenure in Chicago and beyond from a cheering section both in the secular and in Catholic media, as I hope Archbishop Cupich will have as well. But Cardinal George did not and probably won’t ever have a cheering section to the same extent. This is unfortunate, since few spiritual heads in the Church evidence the depth of religious and cultural insight as does Cardinal George. While Cardinal Bernardin, borrowing a line from St. John XXIII, introduced himself as our brother, Cardinal George introduced himself as our neighbor, an equally rich scriptural reference.

While Cardinal George has grown stronger in administration and in the communicative side of being the Archbishop of Chicago, it did not come easy to him. Although a gentle person, he evidences from time to time vinegar and quick wit that can either help or hurt his efforts, but he also reveals self-effacing if not humorous humility. He has this bad habit of speaking the truth as he sees it. He sometimes made mistakes in appointments, as almost all administrators do. But one of his most carefully considered and successful appointments, of the Rev. Robert Barron of the Word on Fire media ministry as rector and President of the University of St. Mary of the Lake and its Mundelein Seminary, is of far reaching significance for the Church. As did Cardinal Mundelein when he appointed Msgr. Reynold Hillenbrand to the same rectorship in the 1930s, Cardinal George has appointed “a man with imagination.” May Fr. Barron stay right where he’s at as rector / president of USML as long as the Lord wills it.

An equally significant appointment by Cardinal George was that of Sr. Mary Paul McCaughey, OP, as Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Archdiocese of Chicago. In my opinion, Sr. Mary Paul is the best Chicago Catholic schools superintendent in living memory. May the Lord give her more strength and energy before He grants her a well-deserved rest! And may support come to the Catholic primary and secondary schools to continue this our shared Catholic mission.

In the temporal sense, three human progeny generally outlive a person: children, writings, and institutions. Cardinal George protected the Catholic Schools of the Archdiocese so many of their children could have a Catholic education. He stabilized the Chicago seminaries after a period of decline and scandal. He established the Liturgical Institute at USML to enrich the life of the Church. He defended the Catholic hospitals against radical interference, and defended religious liberty on both the health care and the marriage questions. He dialogued with Catholic university presidents both locally and internationally, keeping some in the fold, and under his support the Lumen Christi Institute at the University of Chicago has grown to an international reach. He also firmed up a structure to protect children from abusers, and to deal promptly with the perpetrators, and established a Healing Garden at one of Chicago’s oldest parishes, Holy Family. Cardinal George reached out to Muslims and those of other faiths. He dealt very patiently with Fr. Michael Pfleger, and he shepherded the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius to ecclesiastical approval. He defended the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, joined anti-violence and affordable housing efforts, and supported countless charitable works of the Church.

And he has written well–both in terms of his most recent books, but especially in terms of his essays, pastoral letters, addresses and homilies. I do hope the Archdiocese perpetually keeps open the web page with Cardinal George’s writings. His books, The Difference God Makes: A Catholic Vision of Faith, Communion, and Culture, and God in Action: How Faith in God Can Address the Challenges of the World, will be read the more as religious liberty continues to erode and as religion continues to be shoved from the public square. I hope Cardinal George is given the time, energy, and privacy to continue to write.

Cardinal George presided on the hot seat of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the USCCB, during one of several recent rounds of the “bad priest” scandal. He was openly disrespected by a number of politicians, several Catholic. At the same time, Cardinal George served on numerous Vatican Congregations, and St. John Paul II asked Cardinal George to preach a retreat in the Vatican. In the celebrated words of Bill Murray’s assistant greens keeper character in the film Caddyshack, at least “He’s got that going for him.”

Cardinal George’s fun side was seen early in his tenure, when he visited the TV booth at Wrigley Field, and was asked for an invocation as Sammy Sosa came to bat. When Sosa promptly hit a home run, the city got to hear the Cardinal’s laughter. Whether the home run was due to divine intervention or to some other more worldly force will remain, as we Catholics say, a mystery.

Recently, I’ve been reading the works of the great 19th century German bishop Wilhelm Emmanuel von Ketteler, whose 1848 sermons and later writings in Mainz presaged–with the Pope’s acknowledgement–Leo XIII’s social encyclicals.

The writings of Francis Cardinal George are of a similar stature. They will inform the choices that Catholic Christians will make for generations about faith and life, about religion and culture, and about church and state whether Cardinal George’s role is ever acknowledged. I’m sure that Cardinal George would be quite happy if he were forgotten and if the greater glory went to the Lord. That is why he stays to the very end of every parish event he attends, greeting and meeting parishioners down to the last person in line. Cardinal George has the charismatic gift of soldiering on, despite illness, be it polio, flu, cancer, a cold, or fatigue, long beyond his 50 plus years of priesthood. Perhaps I should say, the Gift of Carrying the Cross.

Beyond the temporal legacy of Cardinal George, there is the eternal. He learned from an early age the priestly role, an eternal role shared with the Lord. As a Missionary Oblate of Mary Immaculate, an OMI, Cardinal George gained a special appreciation for mission and religious life. I rejoice to continue sharing the Faith with Cardinal George as we look forward to joining the cloud of witnesses (Hebrews, 12:1).

Much will continue to be made of the differences between Cardinal George and Archbishop Cupich, especially regarding the 2009 Obama / Notre Dame honorary degree controversy, where each took a divergent approach.

On the above point I merely reply, that after the recent death of Auxiliary Bishop Timothy Lyne, Cardinal George could have moved from the mansion into the Holy Name Cathedral rectory at any time as was considered early in his tenure as Chicago archbishop. But I have a theory that the Cardinal elected to stay in the mansion so that his successor could elect to have the nice headline. Sometimes humility means that one look like a rich man so one’s successor does not have to. A lesser man would have kept the nice headline for himself. Archbishop Blase Cupich’s tenure will be all the better because he was preceded by Francis Cardinal George, OMI.

© Copyright 2014, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved


Podcast of 10/07/14 Talk on St. John XXIII and his Pacem in Terris

Saturday, October 11th, 2014

Just in time for today’s 10/11/14 first feast of the newly canonized St. John XXIII, I’ve posted the podcast of the just-completed 10/07/14 talk entitled, St. John XXIII and his Pacem in Terris, which was presented as part of the School of Catholic Thought at the St. John Paul II Catholic Newman Center in Chicago.

© Copyright 2014, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved


World Peace and Natural Law

Saturday, October 4th, 2014

The postmodern turn away from theories of natural law appears to have led to a less peaceful world. For natural law theories, e.g., those brought forth in the US Declaration of Independence, argue that certain human rights, like life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, are proper to the nature of humanity. These rights demand of others the duty to respect natural, human rights, thus binding together society. When there is no respect for natural rights, trust breaks down, and thereby peace breaks down among nations.

St. John XXIII made the above “natural law rights and duties argument” central to his famous 1963 encyclical, Pacem in Terris. He saw a connection between the duty to respect natural rights, and the establishment of peaceful relations between individuals and among nations.

Western political elites have turned away from natural law in recent decades, in part because they see in natural law a threat to homosexual rights and to abortion rights. At the 1991 Clarence Thomas Supreme Court confirmation hearings, several prominent Catholic politicians rejected natural law. While some few jurists like Justice Thomas argued that one can sometimes construct substantial law from natural law, other jurists, including the late Judge Robert Bork, argued that more than natural law was needed to properly form law.

Whoever claims to be making a commonsense argument is sometimes making a natural law argument and might not admit it. But these commonsense arguments are often the only remaining natural law arguments allowed among political elites.

This is unfortunate, because St. John XXIII’s natural law arguments for peaceful relations among nations could still bring nations to respect one another.

Regrettably, for the sake of elites supporting radical lifestyle choices, natural law recognition of general human rights and duties has eroded. The world is thus a less peaceful place, since there is no widespread, worldwide common sense of the natural rights and duties that build trust and lead nations to peaceful relations.

The corrosive affect of abortion logic thus again has spread beyond sexual relations into relations between nations, and weakened them. As soon as one allows an innocent human life to have no rights, one allows the logic of no-rights to spread throughout society. Once a critical mass of individuals do not respect one another’s rights, eventually, neither do nations, and thus, over decades, our societal capacity to build trust and thereby achieve peace breaks down.

The world should turn once again to St. John XXIII’s Pacem in Terris for a way to peace. . . especially for nations and peoples who have little in common with one another except the capacity to respect each other’s common human rights.

© Copyright 2014, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved


Talk on Tuesday, 10/7/14, at St. John Paul II Newman Center on St. John XXIII and his Pacem in Terris

Sunday, September 28th, 2014

I’ll be presenting a free talk entitled “St. John XXIII and his Pacem in Terris,” for the School of Catholic Thought at the St. John Paul II Newman Center at 6PM Tuesday, October 7, 2014, after evening Mass at the St. John Paul II Newman Center Library, 700 S. Morgan St. Chicago,, 312-226-1880. Here’s the Announcement_StJohnXXIII_PaceminTerris_092514.

Here’s a png version —


A podcast of the talk is here. Here’s the link for Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth), the historic 1963 encyclical of St. John XXIII.

© Copyright 2014, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved