.- This past Friday, Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago and President of the USCCB, addressed his critique of Notre Dame's invitation to have President Obama speak at its commencement ceremony, and repeated that the university was wrong to make such a unilateral decision. Speaking at a March 28 conference on human life, Cardinal George had said that “Notre Dame does not understand what it means to be Catholic.”
The comments, first released by the pro-life news agency LifesiteNews, further fueled the controversy over whether the Catholic university should have invited the president to speak, especially considering his extreme views on abortion.
Last Friday, at a conference at DePaul university, noting the presence of journalists, Cardinal George explained that his previous comments were made as an answer to a question and not for the wider public dissemination they have received.
The USCCB President stood at a podium at DePaul University and in an “attempt to put a cast on it that I hope will be respected,” he said, “I thought that was the only context in which my response would be understood.”
The Archbishop of Chicago explained that the first point he tried to make then, was that the Catholic laity should take the matter into their own hands and act.
“Take your responsibility at hand and write to them (the University of Notre Dame,) not to us (the Bishops.) The bishops do not control Notre Dame,” he said.
The Cardinal then explained that his second point was that the Catholic church is one body, and all are affected by decision like the one taken by Notre Dame.
He said he hoped his discussions with the university would remain private. “Now unfortunately those discussions are complicated because of the publicity given, but the principle is true: no university, no bishop, no parish can take a decision unilaterally and be surprised by the reaction by everyone else who calls himself or herself Catholic might make to it, especially around a profoundly deeply divisive issue such as the protection of human life within mothers’ wombs.”
“In Catholic community, whatever anyone does affects anybody else,” he said. “We can think of scandals. We can think of problems. Therefore, no institution that calls itself Catholic can be unilateral.”
“So the decision in a sense corroborates our theology.” “What one of us does in Catholicism affects us all and I think that’s the question that has to be discussed.”
On the same day, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley defended the invite in a Chicago Sun-Times article “as the father of a Notre Dame alum and as a Roman Catholic who happens to be pro-choice.” The Democrat mayor wrote that he has “no problem” with the university’s decision to make President Obama its commencement speaker.
But Cardinal George sees things differently.
“I have great respect for Mr. Obama and especially for his office and he knows that,” the cardinal said, also acknowledging that he and Obama agree on many issues. On other things, particularly on this issue, he has his own principles that are well thought out and I and many others, not only because of Catholic teaching but for other reasons as well, even outside the Catholic communion, think that it is a crime to kill an innocent human being even though if he or she is not yet born.”
“That division, which is a very profound one, will continue and there is no reason why its terms of engagement should be changed now,” the Cardinal concluded.
Cardinal George’s statement at DePaul can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aBAWvRL83Os