Chicago Cardinal Francis George dies at 78, an icon of a conservatism suddenly out of favor

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Cardinal Francis George, archbishop of Chicago, at news conference at the North American College in Rome March 4, 2013.

American Cardinal Francis George, archbishop of Chicago, attends a news conference at the North American College in Rome on March 4, 2013. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

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(RNS) Chicago's Cardinal Francis George thrived under Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Under the more progressive Francis, though, "I don’t yet really have an understanding of ‘What are we doing here?’ ”

  • James Carr

    A great man, and a great man of God.

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  • Greg

    Indeed. I for the life of me cannot fathom the way the writers of these articles always frame them in the context of politics (i.e., conservative, progressive, etc.). In the Catholic Church you are just Catholic. If Francis decides to emphasize a certain aspect of Catholicism, it doesn’t make him “progressive;” it only means he is emphasizing a different facet of the stone. The Catholic Faith is wide, and deep, and needs to be proclaimed in its fullest. Go Francis! And Cardinal George, you have met Jesus. Someday we all will.

  • DeaconJohnMBresnahan

    Greg is right on the mark
    The trouble is that much of the all-powerful media wants nothing more than to divide the Catholic Church

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  • Richard Maloney

    Another fear-mongering quote about how Francis George’s enemies want to do away with him is a fitting tribute for a guy who regularly compared non-Catholics to Nazis and the LGBT to the KKK. Lest we forget, he was ousted for keeping a child-molesting priest in his post prior to that priest admitting his guilt, and he’s also the reason Catholic Charities ended their foster care placement services in Chicago.

    Pope Francis is bringing people back to the church, and Francis George drove them away with his divisive, hateful behavior. There’s his real legacy.

  • Greg

    Richard the Church should be inviting, always welcoming people to come and participate fully in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. However, living the Gospel is not always easy.

  • Whatever the media wants, Francis in a double act with Cdl. Kaspar is doing his level best to generate a schism. He needs no help from the media. He is quite efficient at the task as is.

  • for a guy who regularly compared non-Catholics to Nazis and the LGBT to the KKK.

    Ach. This place is a sinkhole of sectaries with poisonous imaginations.

  • I suspect the Cardinal was confounded for the same reason the rest of us are: Francis says whatever is expedient in addressing a particular audience. His policies and administrative acts (see his appointment of Cupich in Chicago and the abuse of the Franciscan Friars and the bad comedy of the recent synod) demonstrate that he is systemically hostile to the orthodox faithful and wishes to excise long settled teachings. He’s bound and determined to provoke a crisis. What’s coming will not be pleasant.

  • Theo

    You worship yourself.

    If you and yours choose to leave the church, the loss will be yours, and the church will continue serving the people of God.

  • The comments of Pope Francis need to be viewed as a personal call to holiness, and a call to extend mercy to individuals, instead of as political statements. This is the mission of every member of the Church. What Cardinal George has been criticized for is standing up to the political waves that activists ride to divide and misdirect. The Catholic Church needs both types of Pope that Francis and Benedict represent, just as it needs Thomas Aquinas and Francis of Assisi. Both Joan of Arc and Terese’,the little flower. Was Peter more important than Paul?
    If your goal for the Church is political, go to adoration and let Jesus look you over.

  • James Carr

    I like Benedict XVI’s concentration on defining Vatican II as it should have been in 1965. The Council was not supposed to be the end of orthodoxy and the beginning of a free-wheeling conversion to the Protestant form, but liberal Bishops and clerics ran amok with changes in the so called “spirit of the council”. They used every loophole they could find and Paul VI seemed too overwhelmed to reign the unwritten changes in.

    Pope Francis, I hope, is now orchestrating the implementation of true Council directions; mercy, understanding, cooperation, and peace. The Catholic Faith will not be compromised, nor will dogmas be conceded for society. There is ample room in the Faith for diversity, but the rules of Catholicism remain firm…….just like in a family.

  • cermak_rd

    Well, I don’t know about regularly, but he did compare the gay pride parade marching past a Catholic church (just about unavoidable in a town with this many of them) to be like the KKK. Even though the pastor of that church actually had a pretty good working relationship with the pastor of said church and they actually were coming to an agreement on time at the time that George made his unfortunate statement.

    George actually let the parishes do their own thing as long as they did the rubrics. So he was actually a pretty good Bishop in that regard. His big flaw was in giving statements to the press that tended to generate a lot more heat than light. Now whether this was a matter of him saying a lot of things and the press just picking out the money quote as being the most unwise thing he had said, I don’t know. Toward the end of his reign he did seem to get that if he spoke to the media, they would take the most extreme thing he said and run with it.

  • cermak_rd

    I guess I can understand why George feared the approach of a more secular America. He saw it happening in Chicago. 50 years ago, Chicago was a Catholic city. Today, it is a modern secular city very similar to any modern European city.

  • donn g

    Well, since we now know that RNS is funded by at least one gay group, what else do you expect? Iti s deeply unseemly to do a victory dance in the headline of an article announcing the death of a cardinal, but that is what RNS is all about – trying to announce that liberalism is now triumphant in the church. It is very creepy, and it shows that the people at RNS have zero class.

  • donn g

    What is it with the constant lying by liberals in order to denigrate others? Of course, Cardinal George said no such thing, did no such thing. You should be ashamed of yoursel

  • Concisely stated.

    If the future is more just than the present, the readiness with which certain elements within religious congregations were suborned will be remarked upon. Eastern Europe in 1947, America in 2014. Same deal.

  • George McGovern is dead and Nat Hentoff is real old. Shamelessness is a mark of the contemporary portside, almost a defining feature.

  • It would be more prudent to regard them as a manifestation of whatever is convenient to him at that moment. Look at what Francis does. The verbiage is chaff thrown in your face.

  • See Christopher Ferrara on this point, especially re the document on the liturgy: it should be read like a lawyer reads a contract, with an eye to what it allows the other guy to do to your client.

    You did have a wretched breakdown in discipline on the ground after 1966 with bishops making the strangest decisions. However, Pope Paul could have shut down the concilium after they finished their preliminary work in 1967 and said that’s enough. He could have refused to run interference for dissident priests and refused to undermine Cdl. O’Boyle. He could have issued directives and advisories attempting to discourage folk masses. He could have sanctioned Kung and Schillebeecx and Curran and Boff and not left matters to fester for his successor. He did none of these things.

  • Another wretched bit of business was the end of Friday abstinence in 1966. Disrupting people’s weekly routine this way was destructive.

  • Today, it is a modern secular city very similar to any modern European city.

    Very similar to which European city?

  • You all have an aversion to providing quotations and links. Some wag might think there’s a reason for that.

  • You worship yourself.

    More non sequiturs.

    Whatever Francis is up to, it ain’t all that. Some of us can see the train coming at us. Some are pretending it isn’t happening.


    The share of their income which has been provided by the Arcus Foundation exceeds 55%. The Arcus Foundation’s executive director is ubercreep Kevin Jennings. I’d chuckle at the astroturf character of this whole enterprise, but I’d wager that Jennings et al were pushing on an open door.

  • Ken

    Some of us know that there’s no train there.

  • Dr. Cajetan Coelho

    Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord.

  • Susan

    I’m not Catholic or even Christian. Most of the arguments on this page go over my head. I am only interested in the fact that the Catholic Church before Vatican II was extremely antisemitic. I wonder if the conservative Catholics want to go back to the bad old days of pre-Vatican II antisemitism.

    The Orthodox churches, to my knowledge, have never had an equivalent to Vatican II. Most American Jews come from Russia or Eastern Europe, countries that were either Catholic or Orthodox.

  • From my understanding (I wasn’t around in 1966), Friday abstinence wasn’t ended…it was simply asserted that eating meat on Friday was not a mortal sin demanding confession before reception of Communion. This was a legal change, but Catholics were free to preserve their personal convictions about meat consumption and maintain their personal beliefs / family routines, etc.

    The cultural shift was one of Catholic leadership and younger Catholics feeling there were more pressing moral issues than Friday meat consumption…uncomfortable, yes. Cognitive dissonance and dietary disruption, yes. Destructive…no, I can’t go that far. It made many think deeper about their faith, just as abolishing the list of banned books made many perceive the faith could withstand critical examination. It makes the faith stronger, more relevant to the world and its needs, and preserves the dictum that “the burden is light”.

  • James Carr

    You infer that the Church was dogmatically antisemitic prior to Vatican II. This is wrong. Antisemitism was an unfortunate discrimination that evolved in the majority Christian world going back to the time the Church rose as the Faith of the empire. It was the false attitude that Jews killed Jesus, and all Jews were held accountable. It was a human error that became an ingrained prejudice towards the Jews for centuries.

    I think it has only been in the last Century that the Church officially denounced antisemitism, noting that only the Jewish Sanhendrin were responsible for the death of Jesus, also a Jew. This act is not to be blamed on all of Judaism. Of course, the disappearance of all traces of antisemitism does not disappear overnight… just as racism still exists despite laws that say it is illegal.

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