Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The USCCB Meets In Baltimore And Cardinal George Pontificates

Cardinal reviews health reform debate as 'wound to church's unity'

By Nancy Frazier O'Brien, Catholic News Service - 11/15/2010

BALTIMORE -- In his final address as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago criticized those who define the church's usefulness by whether it provides "foot soldiers for a political commitment, whether of the left or the right." 

In his talk opening the Nov. 15-18 fall general assembly of the USCCB, the cardinal devoted much of his time to reviewing the debate over health care reform earlier this year and the "wound to the church's unity" caused by differences over the final legislation.

George said "developments since the passage of the legislation" have confirmed that "our analysis of what the law itself says was correct and our moral judgments are secure."

He did not specify what those developments were. (Of course he didn't. Archbishops don't have to, every opinion they have is pure truth.)

The USCCB opposed passage of the final health reform legislation, saying that it would permit federal funding of abortion, inadequately protect the conscience rights of health care providers and leave out immigrants. Other Catholic groups, including the Catholic Health Association and many orders of women religious, said the final bill and an executive order signed by President Barack Obama would exclude any possibility of federal money going to pay for abortions under the health plan.

George said the debate also raised the question of "who speaks for the Catholic Church."

"The bishops ... speak for the church in matters of faith and in moral issues and the laws surrounding them," he said. "All the rest is opinion, often well-considered opinion and important opinion that deserves a careful and respectful hearing, but still opinion." (Creeping infallibility has hit the USCCB.)

He said the Catholic Church "should not fear political isolation; the church has often been isolated in politics and in diplomacy." (The bigger question is why should the Church care.  Jesus certainly didn't and He in fact rejected political influence and power.)

"We need to be deeply concerned, however, about the wound to the church's unity that has been inflicted in this debate and I hope, trusting in the good will of all concerned, that means can be found to restore the seamless garment of ecclesial communion," he added.  (This is a seamless garment which is all seam and no garment.
He also dismissed arguments that the health reform legislation was too complex for the bishops to understand it.

"If you will excuse my saying so, this implies either that no one can understand or judge complicated pieces of legislation, in which case it is immoral to act until sufficient clarity is obtained, or it is to say that only bishops are too dense to understand complicated pieces of legislation," George said. (No, my problem with certain members of the USCCB is they were projecting into the document what wasn't there.  They are in this sense, 'dense' about the workings of their own personalities.)

The latter comment drew laughter from the bishops and a comment from the cardinal that this was "an arguable proposition, but we won't argue it now."

The cardinal, who was completing a three-year term as USCCB president, also warned against the U.S. Catholic Church seeing itself as "a purely American denomination."

He expressed concern for Christians in the Middle East, saying that they were "uniquely ... without protection in the wake of the American invasion of Iraq."

George's voice caught as he told the story, recounted by a U.S. Dominican nun in Iraq who is a friend of a friend, of a 3-year-old boy named Adam who "witnessed the horror of dozens of deaths, including that of his own parents," during the Oct. 31 massacre at the Syrian Catholic church in Baghdad.

"He wandered among the corpses and the blood, following the terrorists around and admonishing them, 'Enough, enough, enough,'" the cardinal said, quoting the Dominican. "According to witnesses, this continued for two hours until Adam was himself murdered."

"As bishops, as Americans, we cannot turn from this scene or allow the world to overlook it," George said. (So where was the USCCB when it needed to be heard? JPII said this war was immoral and you bishops said nothing. Were you too dense to read the fine print, or were you just 'foot soldiers' for GW, as opposed to faithful Catholic shepherds loyal to your Pope?)

He also urged attention to "the active persecution of Catholics in other parts of the Middle East, in India and Pakistan, in China and in Vietnam, in Sudan and African countries rent by civil conflict." (I know this is just an 'opinion', but our lack of appreciation for Islam, and the one million plus deaths this has caused in Iraq, has had a great deal to do with the persecution of Catholics.)

George also stressed the church's "consistent concern for the gift of human life, a concern that judges the full continuum of technological manipulation of life the use of artificial contraception to the destruction of human embryos to the artificial conception of human beings in a Petri dish to genetic profiling to the killing of unwanted children through abortion."

"If the poor are allowed to be born, then the voice of Christ continues to speak to the homeless and the jobless, the hungry and the naked, the uneducated, the migrant, the imprisoned, the sick and the dying," he said.  (I can't believe he actually said this.  This is neocon social justice which is so far from traditional Catholic understanding it's scary. It basically says the poor exist to justify the Christ like charity of the rich.)

"Our ministry is consistent because the concerns of Jesus Christ are consistent," he added. "He is at the side of the poor."


I wrote yesterday that the real battle is over the consensus reality created by Roman Catholicism. I know what I wrote was only an 'opinion' and carries no real weight, because Cardinal George says so. That doesn't make my opinion untrue in reality.  This battle is now being waged in high schools.  Censorship was used against an intelligent award winning high school newspaper because the editors dared print an editorial comment which questioned Archbishop Neinstedt's gay marriage DVD campaign.  This censoring also included the personal story of a gay senior.  Again, it's OK to be gay as long as you deny it and silence yourself.

Cardinal George needed to be worried about Iraqi Catholics nine years ago.  His belated teary concern rings very hollow when the USCCB has said virtually nothing about this war or it's devastation on innocent Iraqi Muslims.  Iraqi Catholics needed the support of American Catholics nine years ago, which is why half of them left the country when they understood that support stopped with John Paul II as the USCCB muzzled itself. This is just another of my worthless 'opinions'.

Our illustrious leadership is meeting in Baltimore and rather than deal with the serious issue of the hemorrhaging of Catholic laity or the closing of numerous parishes, they can choose to entertain themselves with an instructive program on exorcism. That is, when they are not selecting other narcissistic members of their fraternity to lead them, and instruct the rest of us on how to vote---and reiterating Cardinal George's other observation that the duty of the laity is to practice orthodoxy and obedience. 

No wonder the laity are only allowed opinions and only allowed to voice opinions that concur with the official opinion.  The consensus reality demanded by the USCCB seems to be that of infantilizing the laity--even high school laity.  My question is how much further do we need to be infantilized until our bishops feel secure in their authority? I'm sure they will tell us, one way or another.

Update:  Interesting development this morning for the USCCB.  Rather than rubber stamping Bishop Kicanis of Tuscon as the next president, the bishops voted 118-111 to elect Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York.  It took three ballots.  Kicanis has been in the middle of a controversy conscerning his decision as rector of Chicago's Mundelein seminary (1990's) to ordain a seminarian with serious personality issues. The seminarian then went on to become a priest abuser whose handling by Cardinal George was abysmal and violated the 2002 Dallas Charter. The story is linked in the above post. 

Hmmm, maybe laity still do have opinions that matter.  Either that or the USCCB is unwilling to take another onslaught of bad press.


  1. I wish I could believe that the UCCB did not elect Bishop Kicanis because he allowed the pedophile to be ordained. I think the bishops did not think Bishop Kicanis was conservative enough and had not taken a hard enough line against "dissenting Catholics." There has been no sign of intelligent life in this group for some time.

  2. I don't know coolmom, if that was the entire case, they could have elected Archbishop Chaput or Cardinal Vigneron who were also eligible.

    This is not to say that Archbishop Dolan is some sort of compromise with the less orthodox bishops. He's just the sugar candy version of the orthodox side of things. Which means we will all have tooth decay chomping on his thoughts.

  3. My sources--and I'm part of a theology faculty--tell me that right-wing Catholic blogs have been spreading their vitriol about Kicanas. He's too "liberal" (like Bernardin) This is horrible. The bleeding of the Church will continue.

  4. Kevin, there's no question the right wing blogs were all over Kicanis, but the problem is he did make a very bad decision when it came to ordaining McCormack, and Cardinal George made an even bigger mistake in ignoring the mandates of the Dallas Charter. To elect Kicanis would be like replacing one for the other, so the right wing had lots of arrows to sling. Arrows that made some sense. So now we have Dolan, whose own record with abusive priests is nothing to write home about.

    The bleeding of the Church will continue under Dolan. The man now has an enormous voice in the American Catholic church. I imagine he will now be able to entertain all sorts of offers for his voice.

  5. But that's my point, colkoch. ALL bishops, either as Ordinaries or as seminary rectors (the usual path to power in the Church), have the stain of abuse on their consciences. So, why was Kicanas singled out? I'm not justifying his decision(s), poor as they were, but they elected George and he's hardly been exemplary--as you rightly observe--in this regard. The right-wing gives a pass to their favorites (Dolan, Chaput, etc.) on these matters...Hell, they practically canonized the founder of the LCs even AS allegations of horrific behavior were coming to light.

  6. Kevin that's the one issue I just don't understand. Why in the world aren't all Catholics up in arms about the corruption and criminal activity of the hierarchy. This behavior is the one constant for almost all our bishops, and cuts across all political and theological divides.

    I freely admit I don't understand how the right wing or trads can put up with this whole notion that our guys criminal activity is less sinful than your guys criminal activity. The Kicanis situation perfectly exemplifies this inconsistency.

    A reasonable person would think that full scale corruption would be the one issue on which all sides could come to some agreement. I guess not.

  7. Here is a direct quote from one of the links: “There was a sense that his activity was part of the developmental process and that he had learned from the experience,” continued Bishop Kicanas. “I was more concerned about his drinking. We sent him to counseling for that.”
    Thus spake Kicanas about McCormack. In what universe is sexual abuse of boys part of the developmental process? What did he learn from it: how to do it over and over again and get away with it? And, drinking? One goes ahead with the ordination, knowing he's also a drunk?
    Sheeesh, what a Mama's Boy!
    And this bit that we always have to agree with them: reminds me of the marketing for early Model T cars. You can have any color you want, provided you want black.

  8. Trans, if one does some research into Dolan's actions on these issues, he doesn't come up smelling like a rose either. The systemic reaction these guys had to clerical abuse is all the same irrespective of their theological leaning. Protecting the clerical system is the one thing they all seem to share. Dolan will certainly do that since he has derived great benefit from it.

    With Kurtz in the VP slot I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

  9. The faster this house of cards burns, the better.

    I was watching today too. Outside of the discussion of the Iraqi Catholics the whole thing was so banal.

    Some days it feels like the best thing I can do is give them all the rope they need, and disregard the cost.

  10. The stink of the Iraq invasion of 2003 will be around for a long, long time. You are very right to question the role of the Bishops. It was a moment for Confessing, as in Germany in 1933, and the Bishops failed the test.

  11. Cardinal George is arrogant. He is arrogant if he thinks the work of the Spirit is limited only to black suited bishops in a Baltimore hotel room. He is arrogant if he thinks his opinion is better than yours or mine.

    In the October 15th. issue of the NCR Regina Shulte wrote this: “It is apparent that the hierarchy has usurped the entire teaching office -- the “magisterium” -- for themselves; yet they are only one of three components endowed with this charism. Theologians and the wisdom born of experience in the “sense of the faithful” comprise the other two. It would seem, then, that appropriate exercise of their distinctive roles requires that bishops collaborate rather than compete.”

    The bishops, for the most part, live in a bubble.

  12. This is an excellent article. You covered a lot of bases here. I hope that Archbishop Dolan is an improvement over Cardinal George in this position. I was somewhat horrified by the rock throwing at Bishop Kicanas on some sites. As Kevin said, a lot of vitriol.