On Tuesday afternoon in Baltimore, Cardinal Francis George held a press conference on his upcoming tenure as president. The cardinal addressed a range of questions among which were how he sees his role as president, the sex abuse scandal and the withholding of Communion from politicians.
Describing his leadership style as one that is more of discernment than visionary, Cardinal George also noted that his role is not like that of the president of the United States, rather, he is “the president of the conference, not the ‘Bishop of the United States.’”
A controversy has been brewing over the cardinal’s election to the presidency of the conference because of claims that the Church has not done enough to solve the sex abuse crisis. Cardinal George addressed those accusations and the proposed legislation in Illinois to suspend the statute of limitations for clerical sex abuse. The legislation is “a moot point in Chicago because we’ve taken every allegation that has come forward …a few years ago I settled an allegation that took place in 1937,” the cardinal said.
The withholding of Communion from public officials who act contrary to Catholic teaching also was brought up during the press conference. Cardinal George explained that he sees three areas that must be considered when discussing the issue of withholding Communion. First, priests and bishops need to work to properly form the consciences of the laity, especially those who are public officials. Second, he pointed out that the canons on withholding communion refer not to the bishop and his responsibility for communion but to the minister. Finally, he noted that if the refusal of communion does take place, it should not detract from worship.