Archbishop of Chicago Francis George, speaking as the President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), on Monday lamented the fact that Catholics cannot be considered “full partners” in public life unless they put aside “fundamental Catholic teachings” on abortion and other beliefs about a “just moral and political order.”
Praising the social advancement that allows a man like Barack Obama to become president, the cardinal said we must pray he succeeds in his task and remember that Catholics “who took our social doctrine to heart” in combating racism can feel vindicated by his accomplishment.
According to the cardinal, Obama was not asked to renounce his racial heritage to become president. He contrasted this with President John F. Kennedy, who effectively “was asked to promise that his Catholic faith would not influence his perspective and decisions as president a generation ago.”
That debate continues, the cardinal claimed, in the words of those who “reject universal moral propositions that have been espoused by the human race throughout history, with the excuse that they are part of Catholic moral teaching.”
Decrying the fact that some Catholics must put aside Catholic teachings in order to be considered full partners in American life, Cardinal George singled out the issue of Catholic opposition to abortion.
“The common good can never be adequately incarnated in any society when those waiting to be born can be legally killed at choice… common ground cannot be found by destroying the common good,” he said to sustained applause from the bishops.
Cardinal George described attitudes that demand Catholics be silent about their beliefs as “hubris that has isolated our country politically and now economically.” This blinding pride “is heard, but not usually recognized, in moral arguments based simply and solely on individual moral autonomy,” he said.
Addressing the issue of how the Church fits into society, the cardinal president said, “The Church and her life and teaching do not fit easily into the prior narratives that shape our public discussions,” adding that those who impose their own agenda on the Church, whether left- or right-wing, “betray the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Cardinal George also seemed to encourage the way that scores of bishops spoke out in defense of the faith prior to the presidential election.
“As we all know, the church was born without episcopal conferences, as she was born without parishes and without dioceses, although all these structures have been helpful pastorally throughout the centuries,” he said.
“The church was born only with shepherds, with apostolic pastors, whose relationship to their people keeps them one with Christ, from whom comes authority to govern the church,” he remarked.
Cardinal George also had some words for Catholic politicians who were the particular focus of the debate over the Church’s acceptance in the public square. “We respect you and we love you, and we pray that the Catholic faith will shape your decisions so that our communion may be full.”
Saying the bishops face “enormous challenges,” he joked that bishops at their consecration should be given “not crosiers but mops!”