The Cardinal Among the Latter-Day SaintsGEORGE WEIGEL
The three years of service that Cardinal Francis George of Chicago has given the Church as president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have been a great blessing.
After noting that Mormons and Catholics had lived "mostly apart from one another" for 180 years, and telling a nifty story about his 2007 experience guest-conducting the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (while getting in a plug for his beloved Chicago Cubs), Cardinal George got down to the business at hand, which was to explore why distance and suspicion have been replaced by mutual recognition and co-belligerency, as Catholic and Mormons have discovered in each other common moral principles and a shared commitment to reforming our culture. The first point of tangency in this new relationship has to do with religious freedom.
As I've noted before, there is an attempt in some quarters today to hollow out religious freedom by reducing it to a variant on lifestyle choice – an essentially private matter. Cardinal George is not buying that and he told his Mormon audience why:
The cardinal then moved on to the defense of the family:
Marriage, which is the basis of the family, is not something the state can redefine: marriage is an institution of civil society that a just state must acknowledge and protect. States that insist on redefining marriage will therefore get pushback from religious institutions that understand that the state is attempting to encroach on territory that is in principle beyond its reach. The state will not like this. It will attempt to compel compliance with its redefinitions, and "if this first wave is successfully resisted, there will be a second series of government punishments for our persistence. We will lose state or local government contracts, tax exemptions, anything else that could be characterized as a 'subsidy' for our 'discrimination.'"
And that is why, Cardinal George concluded, "interreligious coalitions formed to defend the rights of conscience for individuals or for religious institutions should become a vital bulwark against the tide of forces at work in our government and society to reduce religion to a purely private reality. At stake is whether or not the religious voice will maintain its right to be heard in the public square."
Let the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing "Amen!"
George Weigel. "The Cardinal Among the Latter-Day Saints." The Catholic Difference (May 5, 2010).
Reprinted with permission of George Weigel.
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George Weigel, a Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, is a Roman Catholic theologian and one of America's leading commentators on issues of religion and public life. Weigel is the author or editor of Against the Grain: Christianity and Democracy, War and Peace, Faith, Reason, and the War Against Jihadism: A Call to Action, God's Choice: Pope Benedict XVI and the Future of the Catholic Church, The Cube and the Cathedral: Europe, America, and Politics Without God, Letters to a Young Catholic: The Art of Mentoring, The Courage to Be Catholic: Crisis, Reform, and the Future of the Church, and The Truth of Catholicism: Ten Controversies Explored.
George Weigel's major study of the life, thought, and action of Pope John Paul II, Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II (Harper Collins, 1999) was published to international acclaim in 1999, and translated into French, Italian, Spanish, Polish, Portuguese, Slovak, Czech, Slovenian, Russian, and German. The 2001 documentary film based on the book won numerous prizes. George Weigel is a consultant on Vatican affairs for NBC News, and his weekly column, "The Catholic Difference," is syndicated to more than fifty newspapers around the United States.
Copyright © 2010 George Weigel
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