Columnist and Activist Both Criticize Cardinal George on LGBT Issues

Cardinal Francis George

Cardinal Francis George

Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George has been in the news lately not only for his vocal opposition to Illinois’ marriage equality bill, but because he recently denied communion to a gay Catholic activist at a Mass celebrating the Archdiocesan Gay and Lesbian Outreach in his city.

Robert McClory, a columnist for The National Catholic Reporter, took apart an essay about marriage equality written by George in the Chicago archdiocesan newspaper.  McClory exposes some of George’s fear-mongering rhetoric, not only on marriage equality, but also on the issue of religious liberty, which seems to be one of George’s main purposes in writing the column.

For example, McClory is justifiably incredulous at George’s depiction of how secular society is “marginalizing” Catholics. McClory writes:

“George then launches out into the deep about the separation of religious faith from public life. He blames John F. Kennedy for starting a roll down the slippery slope and worries Catholics will be eventually barred from federal judgeships, medical schools, editorial offices at major newspapers, the entertainment world and university faculties.

” ‘If Catholics are to be closeted and marginalized in a secularized society, Catholic parents should prepare their children to be farmers, carpenters and craftsmen, small business people and workers in service industries,’ occupations that ‘do not immediately impact public opinion.’ What?”

McClory hits the nail on the head in his concluding paragraph which points out George’s true blindspot:

“Unfortunately, what Cardinal George cannot consider is the possibility that Catholics at the grass-roots level are coming to understand new and different ways to welcome to the table those previously excluded. Many, including not a few theologians, propose that the essence of marriage is the love and permanent commitment of two persons to one another — period. As that conviction matures in time, I believe the church will have to make accommodations with its implications, just as Christians in the time of Galileo had to reinterpret so much they and their ancestors had taken for granted as irreversibly, dogmatically true: the movement of the earth, the sun, moon and stars. It was for many a painful, revolutionary process. And the one believing Christians face now will be for some no less painful and revolutionary. But it must be done, lest the Catholic church disintegrate into a closed, inconsequential cult.”

McClory doesn’t comment on what I consider George’s greatest errors in his essay.  Speaking of marriage equality advocates, George states:

“Further, the claim that one is not equal under law is powerful in our society; it makes one a victim. And the claim that one is being demeaned and personally wounded is even more powerful evidence of victimization.  “

Yet, isn’t that what so many Catholic bishops are doing when they claim that their religious liberty is being curtailed because of pro-LGBT laws?  Aren’t they claiming “victim” status?  Isn’t George guilty of exactly the thing he accuses his opponents of doing?

The cardinal presided at the 25th anniversary Mass for Chicago’s Archdiocesan Gay and Lesbian Outreach (AGLO), and he was greeted by about 25 protesters from the Gay Liberation Network and the Rainbow Sash Movement (RSM).  The latter group is composed of Catholics who present themselves for communion while wearing a rainbow sash, indicating that they believe in the full equality of LGBT people and that they disagree with the hierarchy’s prohibition of sexual activity between person’s of the same gender.  When the RSM’s director, Joe Murray, went to the cardinal for communion, he was refused.

Joe Murray

Joe Murray

The Windy City Times reported:

“Murray stood up with his back to Cardinal George during parts of the Mass, and then he went up with the estimated 200 others in attendance to receive communion. George refused him, and Murray walked away with his hands open and empty, showing the congregants that he had been denied.

“But in an emotional show of solidarity, Brenna C. Cronin, who had already received her communion as part of the church choir, went back up and took another communion wafer (called a Host) and brought it to Murray herself.

” ‘One of my brothers, a member of my community, who is a full and equal member of the body of Christ, was denied communion. So I got back in line and I brought him communion, as I would for anyone else,’ Cronin told Windy City Times after the Mass. Cronin, who is a lesbian, has been involved with AGLO for two years and is also a cantor.

” ‘I was denied communion by the Cardinal,’ Murray said after. ‘I turned to Christ, I walked back open handed, and showed the community that I was denied communion, and Christ, in his mercy, sent me a priest [Cronin] to give me communion.’ “

The news story indicates that some in the congregation supported Murray’s action, while others were critical of it.  You can read the entire news account here.  It contains additional comments from both George and Murray.

What do you think?  Was George right in denying communion?  Was Murray right in presenting himself for communion?  Was the anniversary Mass an appropriate time for LGBT activists to protest George’s positions on LGBT issues?   Please make your thoughts known in the “Comments” section of this post.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related article:

May 1, 2013:  “Tension Emerges as AGLO Marks 25 Years”  Windy City Times

10 replies
  1. duckman44625
    duckman44625 says:

    If all persons who differ in their opinions with Church were denied Eucharist, the majority of Carholics would not be eligible in the “judgment” of clerics to receive and would be denied. All are welcome at the table of The Lord and in approaching for Communion reception, they are responding in conscience to the voice of the Holy Spirit to reception and full union in the sacrament of the Eucharist with our Savioir Brother, Jesus Christ. To paraphrase St. Paul: no power authority has been granted in heaven and earth which can cut us off from the Love of Christ. Bishops or priests who usurp such authority on the basis of HUMAN CHURCH DECREES do so to the peril of their own souls. Christ hated the hypocrisy and self- righteousness of the Pharisees. He no less hates/detests the same in His clergy who are supposed to be shepherds, guiding with His love/compassion…rejecting none…comforting and embracing ALL who approached Him in sincere Faith. Our Chutch hierarchy will have much to answer for to the Holy Spirit. As Francis I recently stated in a Sunday homily…no one may be barred from entering a church….no clergy has the authority to “box” Jesus…dispensing Him only to whom they judge “worthy”.

    • Friends
      Friends says:

      Wonderful post, “Duckman”! Needless to say, I am in complete agreement with your discernment. Something I’d like to propose — albeit as a purely personal opinion — is that Reception of the Eucharist might very well be viewed as an “Initiatory Sacrament”, like Baptism and Confirmation. If you’ve done all of these things once, you’ve fulfilled your initiatory requirements, and you aren’t required to keep doing them over and over again. Admittedly, the Eucharist is spiritually nourishing to many folks. I’m totally fine with this. But if you’ve got priests and bishops (like Cardinal George) telling you: “You are not eligible to receive Communion because you are in a faithfully-bonded, non-promiscuous loving commitment with a same-sex partner”, all I can say to them is: “Fine! Have it your way! I performed all of the requisite Catholic initiations, including First Communion. I’m a faithful Mass-attending practicing Catholic. Deal with it!” Other comments welcomed!

  2. Friends
    Friends says:

    Cardinal George has got some serious answering to do for his unpastoral — indeed his anti-pastoral — hatefulness and arrogance. He’s unfortunately a “Poster child” for everything that’s mean-spirited, wrong and counterproductive to the Church’s Prime Directive — which is to transmit God’s Love and God’s Healing to those who wish to grow closer to God. How two people who are faithfully bonding and sharing their lives and their love with one can be judged “wicked” or “perverted” in the view of God tells us nothing about God’s actual judgment of them. It tells us everything about the hatefulness and the sheer ignorance and malice and lack of fundamental human-heartedness of this “High Prince of God’s Church” who dares to make such a judgment in God’s Name. Fortunately, Pope Francis seems to “get” the problem, and is making helpful gestures toward healing the atrocities that his “Princes” are still committing. Cardinal George needs to call the “Home Office” and get his priorities in order, or he needs to resign.

  3. pjnugent
    pjnugent says:

    Of course, George was wrong to deny Eucharist to Joe Murray. If I understand the New Testament, Jesus didn’t reject anyone but the religious elite of his time – the Cardinal Georges of Jerusalem. I think Pope Francis has said as much recently, that Eucharist is not a reward for orthodoxy. St. Paul says it in today’s second reading from Galatians: “Through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus….There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is neither male and female [or gay nor straight] for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

    Eucharist is the principle way we, the Body of Christ, celebrate our community and our unity with Christ. It is both our source and sign of unity. If Joe is a believing Christian, he was properly presenting himself for Communion, and Brenna was certainly justified in securing a host for him.

    The celebration of the Eucharistic liturgy is not properly “used” as a vehicle for demonstration. But it seems to me, based on the information in your blog, that this liturgy was a celebration of the GLBT community, and entirely appropriate to effect, in part, by pointing out George’s ridiculous posture vis-à-vis the GLBT community he was presumably there to celebrate as well.

  4. K.T.
    K.T. says:

    I definitely agree with everyone else who has posted and I do not agree with Cardinal George’s actions so i don’t want my response to be taken the wrong way. I do want to comment on Duckman 44625’s comment “If all persons who differ in their opinions with Church were denied Eucharist, the majority of Carholics would not be eligible in the “judgment” of clerics to receive and would be denied.” I believe that if people that were pro choice or used birth control or supported anything that the catholic church goes against and made an outward sign such that Joe murray did, they would definitely be denied communion as well. I understand everyone’s right to protest but if someone is going to stand up with their back facing the front (as he has his right to do), then the human, fallible side of Cardinal George is more than likely going to be just as offended and do what he did. I may have misread but I don’t think anyone else was denied communion that wore their sashes but I also don’t know if they all had their backs turned.

    Again, I’m not agreeing with what Cardinal George did but I also think there should be a respect for the sanctity of the mass itself and to show reverence for the holy spirit working in the mass and in communion no matter who the celebrant is and the action of wearing the sashes and what that stood for as well as taking communion could have been enough without including the back turning. I know I wasn’t there and don’t understand the complete circumstances so please forgive me if I’m not understanding something but I am just going based on what was written in the blog. Suffice it to say, we are all sinners and in need of prayer…Cardinal George included.

  5. QuestionsfromaEwe
    QuestionsfromaEwe says:

    6 of the 9 US Supreme Court Justices are Catholic (Sotomayor, Scalia, Roberts, Thomas, Alito and Kennedy). 5 of them are very, very conservative Catholics at that (Scalia, Roberts, Thomas, Alito and Kennedy). Thus, Francis George’s fear about Catholics unable to serve as judges is unfounded. It is actually a bullying tactic to try to create the impression of being attacked in order to rally support for your cause…so that others will rise with you in “defending against” this non-existent threat. It is a way to try to make one’s offensive attack appear like a defensive tactic. It is reprehensible behavior for a non-Christian. It is unacceptable from Christians and invalidates George as any kind of leader amongst Christians. It will be impossible for the U.S. Supreme Court to offer any ruling that supports civil society same gender marriages without at least 2 Catholics (1 of whom must be a conservative Catholic) voting in favor on the recent same-gender marriage cases.

    • Friends
      Friends says:

      Just to comment: I graduated from Holy Cross (and later Yale), and I had some personal interactions with now-Justice Thomas — who was a Holy Cross student at the time — when he was in his “Black Panther” mode. Yes, he’s subsequently skewed to the conservative right. But he DID also practice as an Episcopalian for a while, so he’s not totally wedded to an ultra-conservative Roman Catholic ideology. I’ll be very interested to see how he votes on the gay marriage issue. In prior cases where he has voted outside of the conservative majority, the issues on the table have involved civil rights for minority groups. I’m cautiously optimistic that he’ll “do the right thing” once again in this case.

  6. Anton
    Anton says:

    WWJD is applicable here. At the Last Supper, Jesus gave communion to the one who was to betray him, to Peter, who denied him THREE TIMES, to all the others who ran away. He did not refuse being TOUCHED by a supposed “sinful woman” who wept on his feet and wiped them with her hair, offering the hospitality that his host, the Pharisee, refused to give him. Jesus there and then learned the importance of washing “the feet of one another.” THANK YOU JESUS!!! Hasten the day when I will NOT be denied the possibility of washing your feet. “What you have done/not done to the least of my brothers and sisters, you have done/not done to me.”

  7. Melecio Daniel Medina
    Melecio Daniel Medina says:

    As Prince of the Church let Cardinal Francis George answer the following question to Jesus: “Do you love me?” (George) “Feed my sheep” (Jesus said never deny any of God’s children.) Again Jesus ask the question, “Do you love me? (George) “Feed my sheep” (Jesus never said live by the letter of the law.) Then a third time Jesus would ask “Do you love me?” (George) “Feed my sheep.” (He never said use my words or your actions to promote denial to race or gender or sexual orientation but the Church does. I will pray for Cardinal Francis George to understand the mission of Jesus.


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