Thursday, April 08, 2004

Jeff Berkowitz: Your eminence, let me see if I can apply what you have just said, or narrow it to some edicts or directives from the Church—

Cardinal George: We don’t give edicts. Again, we are governed by the code of Canon Law, You can’t excommunicate someone because they vote for something, it is very clear…there are some penalties you can’t impose. We have to govern by law.

Paul Green: You have never been on his show.

[Laughter by the Cardinal and audience]

Cardinal George: Some people say excommunicate. You [pointing at Paul Green] are the one that brought that up. Excommunicate. Believe me, it is very, very narrow, that power, very narrow.

Berkowitz: But, your eminence, last fall, the Pope issued, I believe, a doctrinal note and as you know, that note dealt with when political activity runs up against moral principles that do not admit of exception, compromise or derogation—well, then certain things kick in—the last part is my words, not [those of ] the Note, obviously, but
The Note goes on, as you know, to talk about abortion, to talk about the protection of Life from conception to death.

Cardinal George: Yes.

Berkowitz: Now, as you know, the bishop of Scranton, apparently in response to that, has issued, if not an edict, perhaps a directive, that those individuals in that diocese who are pro-choice, some would say are pro-abortion, would be barred from using those churches in that area, that diocese, for speaking, that is, they could not publicly speak in that area and that [prohibition] I assume would apply particularly to politicians in that area who are publicly pro-choice, pro-abortion. Similarly, the Bishop of Eau Claire and now New Orleans has issued again for those individuals in those areas who are described as pro-choice, pro-abortion—they would be barred from receiving communion.

Cardinal George: hmmm, hmmm.

Berkowitz: So, I am wondering—are you, in this area, your diocese, considering issuing a similar directive that would bar certain individuals with respect to receiving communion--

Cardinal George: No, not at this point.

Berkowitz: or being able to speak [on Church property], and if not, why not?

Cardinal George: Well, not at this point, no. It would be very interesting to toss it out and say what do you think? I have done that at the [inaudible] Council; I have done that at the archdiocesen pastoral council, which is 60 lay people; I have done that at the archdiocesen Women’s committee, which is about 20 lay women. You know before a bishop moves, he better listen a lot, he better consult, particularly on something, which is political, because political issues of their nature divide. And, the bishop has to be a source of unity. So, I am not going to do this tomorrow or the next day, but we have this Committee that I am talking about, which is examining all of the options, this is one of the reasons why, at least in the Catholic Church, we don’t let politicians take pulpits- because politics divide and the Church is supposed to be about uniting people, as long as the parameters of the faith and the moral code are respected. The problem is compounded because the Pope in the document you mentioned has said, look, legislators and politicians have to respect the law as it is, but then if the laws seem unjust, for example they permit killing of infants in the womb- then you have to work toward changing them. But, while they are in force, they are enforced, including by Catholic politicians. The difficulty is in working toward…

Cardinal George: …The great scandal to my mind of the Democratic Party is that there is no Pro-Life Caucus, none whatsoever. A party that historically has been concerned about the weakest among us, why most Catholics were in fact Democrats historically—doesn’t permit any freedom of speech around this question of abortion…
So in that particular situation there is something of a scandal. One can say, as I have, that the Democratic Party has lost it’s soul. One could also argue that the Republican Party never had a soul. [Lots of audience laughter]. It is called equal opportunity. [more audience laughter]. But, there is something seriously wrong with a country that has watched over 40 million infants be killed over the last 30 some years, and it should be a matter of some concern. The fact that it can’t be a concern, that it simply has to be put aside and never discussed publicly again even by the oldest of our political parties is a matter of concern I think politically. It is also a matter of concern morally for the people who espouse that and it is precisely as their pastors and their concern for them that bishops speak…I think at this point the integrity of my office doesn’t demand that I do what you ask. If in fact, it did, and I couldn’t- I would resign, if the Pope lets me. So, this is matter of the utmost concern—but I don’t have a clear answer to your question at this time.

Berkowitz: But that issue is before the committee that you referred to. Is that right?

Cardinal George: Yes.
Cardinal George, Answering questions at the City Club of Chicago, after speaking at the City Club’s lunch program on April 7, 2004.

[We may post a supplemental or revised transcript from this program on this Blog later on Thursday].

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