It is unfortunate that Chicago's Cardinal Francis George is beset with a kind of pernicious paranoia. In 2012, he wrote that he expects die in bed, that his successor will likely die in prison and the following archbishop will be executed in public.
This dread of the future appears vividly in his most recent column in the Catholic New World. "There was always a quasi-religious element in the public creed of the country," he writes. "It lived off the myth of human progress, which had little place for dependence on divine providence. It tended to exploit the religiosity of the ordinary people by using religious language to co-opt them into the purposes of the ruling class. Forms of anti-Catholicism were part of its social DNA. It had encouraged its citizens to think of themselves as the creators of world history and the managers of nature, so that no source of truth outside of themselves needed to be consulted to check their collective purposes and desires."
Now, George says, "society has brought social and legislative approval to all types of sexual relationships that used to be considered 'sinful.' 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. 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."
I don't understand what George is saying. If many states pass, for example, approval of gay marriage, aren't Catholics free to oppose it in keeping with official church teaching, just as they are free to oppose the sale of contraceptives in drug stores? If the government requires insurance policies to cover the purchase of contraceptives, are not Catholics free to object, as George has done for months? But I don't see how any of this amounts to a "ruling class" imposing "its own form of morality on everyone."
But for George, that is precisely the situation we're all in: Swimming against the ruling class tide means limiting one's access to positions of prestige and power in society.
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"It means that those who choose to live by the Catholic faith," he says, "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. 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. 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."
I hope some of George's clearer-thinking colleagues would gather around their partner and urge him to consider a more positive, optimistic future for Catholicism. Is not the Holy Spirit still among us?