Cardinal George, who was president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in 2007-10, made his remarks in his Sept. 7 column for the archdiocesean newspaper. In his commentary, the cardinal explains that America, despite social frictions at certain times, had always strived to ensure religious freedom and respect for different religions.
The State, in the past, had “kept its promise to protect all religions and not become a rival to them, a fake church,” said the cardinal.
But that has now changed, he said. “In recent years, society has brought social and legislative approval to all types of sexual relationships that used to be considered ‘sinful,’” he continued. “Since the biblical vision of what it means to be human tells us that not every friendship or love can be expressed in sexual relations, the church’s teaching on these issues is now evidence of intolerance for what the civil law upholds and even imposes.”
“What was once a request to live and let live has now become a demand for approval,” said Cardinal George, whose archdiocese includes about 2.2 million Catholics. “The ‘ruling class,’ those who shape public opinion in politics, in education, in communications, in entertainment, is using the civil law to impose its own form of morality on everyone.”
“We are told that, even in marriage itself, there is no difference between men and women, although nature and our very bodies clearly evidence that men and women are not interchangeable at will in forming a family,” he said. “Nevertheless, those who do not conform to the official religion, we are warned, place their citizenship in danger.”
The cardinal then noted that Americans who objected on religious grounds to the Obamacare mandate on contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortion-inducing drugs, were chastised by many in the media, including the liberal Huffington Post, which claimed the opposition, and the six Catholic judges on the Supreme Court, raised “concerns about the compatibility between being a Catholic and being a good citizen.”
This was not the anti-Catholic voice of nativists, or the Know-Nothing Party, or the Ku Klux Klan, said the cardinal, but, “rather, the self-righteous voice of some members of the American establishment today who regard themselves as ‘progressive’ and ‘enlightened.’”
“The inevitable result is a crisis of belief for many Catholics,” said Cardinal George. “Throughout history, when Catholics and other believers in revealed religion have been forced to choose between being taught by God or instructed by politicians, professors, editors of major newspapers and entertainers, many have opted to go along with the powers that be.”
The cardinal continued, “Swimming against the tide means limiting one’s access to positions of prestige and power in society. It means that those who choose to live by the Catholic faith will not be welcomed as political candidates to national office, will not sit on editorial boards of major newspapers, will not be at home on most university faculties, will not have successful careers as actors and entertainers.”
“Nor will their children, who will also be suspect,” he said.
“Since all public institutions, no matter who owns or operates them, will be agents of the government and conform their activities to the demands of the official religion, the practice of medicine and law will become more difficult for faithful Catholics,” said Cardinal George. “It already means in some States that those who run businesses must conform their activities to the official religion or be fined, as Christians and Jews are fined for their religion in countries governed by Sharia law.”
Cardinal George went on to argue that U.S. civil law has done much to weaken and destroy the family, which in turn has forced the State to impose more and more restrictions on people and their activities that are unloosed from the “internal restraints that healthy family life teaches.”
He also says that many of the “tenets of the official State religion” are largely dictated by elements of a certain social class, noting that “’same-sex marriage,’ as a case in point, is not an issue for the poor or those on the margins of society.”
Catholics and traditional Christians know by faith, said Cardinal George, that Christ will return to judge the living and the dead and the church “will be there to meet Him.”
However, “[t]here is no such divine guarantee for any country, culture or society of this age or any age,” concluded Cardinal George.
The archdiocese of Chicago, established in 1843, serves about 2.2 million Catholics through 356 parishes, and with more than 1,400 priests and 1,600 women religious. The archdiocese operates 44 schools and 5 colleges, the latter educating 49,000 students. The archdiocese also oversees 17 Catholic hospitals, assisting 2.6 million people a year, and helps another 1.2 million people through 150-plus different charities.