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Cardinal George on "Meet the Press" re gay marriage, women, abortion: "Suddenly these become cultural imperatives?

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WASHINGTON--Chicago's Cardinal Francis George , appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday said the appointment of Pope Francis--the first pope from the Americas--means the Catholic Church is "global, truly, in fact as well as in intentionality."

George spoke to "Meet the Press" host David Gregory from Rome, where he has been for the election of the Pope and where he remains in advance of the inaugural mass Tuesday for Pope Francis. Vice President Joe Biden, leading the presidential delegation, departed Sunday for Rome.

Gregory asked George about support for gay marriage, a greater role for women in the church and less opposition to abortion and contraception--and how Pope Francis can "resolve that tension."

The cardinal said there may not be a resolution--and wondered why the issues are so prominent now.

"Well, I'm not sure you can resolve it as a matter of principle. All those issues weren't around 50 years ago. What has happened to our culture that suddenly these become cultural imperatives? And in history, when you take a look at the societies that come and go, and countries come and go, when the chips are down people will always go with their society..... And those that don't are the minority, very often.

On the sexual abuse scandal, George was asked what Pope Francis will do to "come to terms with sexual abuse in the church, that begins to close the chapter for the church?"

George said there is some difficulty in writing the final chapter.

"As far as the scandal itself, everyone that we know of who has done this, whether bishop or priest, is out of public ministry and will remain out. That was because we had to change the law to do that, and it took some time. He supports that. And then we have to be sure that it won't happen again, as much as we possibly can, and then stay with the victims. But the structures are in place now.

"The code of canon law has been changed. The thing is that every time there's a new report, then everything happens "yesterday" instead of 20 or 30 years ago, which is often the case now," Francis said.

CLICK BELOW FOR THE TRANSCIPT

below, rush transcript from NBS'c "Meet the Press"

NBC NEWS - MEET THE PRESS
"3.17.13"
INTERVIEW WITH CARDINAL FRANCIS GEORGE
ROUNDTABLE, PART ONE: FMR. GOV. FRANK KEATING,
FMR. LT. GOV. KATHLEEN KENNEDY, ANA NAVARRO
CHRIS MATTHEWS
BUDGET SEGMENT: REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN,
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY
ROUNDTABLE, PART TWO: FMR. GOV. FRANK KEATING,
FMR. LT. GOV. KATHLEEN KENNEDY, ANA NAVARRO
CHRIS MATTHEWS, GOV. SCOTT WALKER
CORRESPONDENT: DAVID GREGORY
PRODUCER: BETSY FISCHER MARTIN
NO MEDIA ID
DAVID GREGORY:
09:01:18:00 Good Sunday morning. A busy first weekend for the new pope, meeting the press yesterday for the first time. And this morning, an impromptu appearance near the Vatican, greeting surprised well-wishers, delivering a Greek homily at the Vatican small parish church. And then moments ago, before a large crowd gathered in St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis gave his first weekly blessing.

09:01:38:00 And another first this morning: His first papal tweet: "Dear friends," he writes, "I thank you from my heart and I ask you to continue to pray for me." Joining us this morning from Rome, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago. Your Eminence, welcome to Meet the Press.
CARDINAL FRANCIS GEORGE:
09:01:55:00 Thank you, David. Good morning.
DAVID GREGORY:
09:01:56:00 I want to begin by asking you what you think Pope Francis can do right away that will define his papacy.
CARDINAL FRANCIS GEORGE:
09:02:06:00 I think what he's doing now, that is the style is the substance. And, while they're small gestures, they indicate an attitude towards reality and towards the governance of the church that is very important in the long run. Secondly, what he really has to do is to make some important decisions about who are going to be his closest collaborators as he moves forward in his papacy.
DAVID GREGORY:
09:02:28:00 There is the administration of the church. There is the sexual abuse scandal. What is probably foremost on the minds of Catholics in this country is what does he mean to America? What does a pope from the Americas mean to the United States, particularly with a growing Latino population here?
CARDINAL FRANCIS GEORGE:
09:02:47:00 Well, I think you said that very well, David: He means very much to the Latino population because, even though many priests in the United States have learning Spanish to take care of a growing number of Spanish-speaking parishioners in the first generation, at least, it's never quite the same to know the language as it is to know the culture. So he comes from the culture, with the language, and that will be a source of great encouragement, I'm sure, for all of us, but especially for them. Beyond that, for the universal church, it means that we are global, truly, in fact as well as in intentionality. And so the crossing of the water to the Americas is a very historic moment, isn't it?
DAVID GREGORY:
09:03:24:00 How he speaks about America is interesting as well. I can remember being a young reporter in the early '90s, covering Pope John Paul II's visit to Denver with a youth group from New Mexico at the time, when I was covering him. What a beloved figure he was, (there with President Clinton of course) and more beloved even than his successor, Pope Benedict. What, in your judgment, as you know this pope, can he/should he do to cultivate that relationship with this country?
CARDINAL FRANCIS GEORGE:
09:03:56:00 Well, I was a very young bishop at the time, Bishop of Yakima, in Washington State. And that was the first time I went to a world. You stay with a whole lot of young people who have sold tacos endlessly in order to afford a chartered bus. And I was very deeply moved by it because they were. And I saw the way in which he transformed their lives. It had a huge impact on that small diocese in central Washington State, a rural diocese, when they returned home.

09:04:18:00 But Pope Benedict was not as extroverted, obviously. He was a very shy man, a good man, a kind man, but he had difficulty showing that in public, so used was he to talking to books as much as to people. And this man is a pastor, first and foremost. He spent all his life being close to people, especially the poor. First of all, close to his own brothers in his own religious society, and then also to the people that he served in a very large diocese, Buenos Aires, in very difficult times.

09:04:46:00 So he's a man of integrity, and that shines through. Even when he has to say, "This isn't what Christ wants," he says it apparently in a way that people can at least hear it, even if they don't agree with him. And that's an important pastoral note that I hope we'll all learn from in the years to come.
DAVID GREGORY:
09:05:02:00 As a management matter, as a crisis management matter, what does Pope Francis do to come to terms with sexual abuse in the church, that begins to close the chapter for the church?
CARDINAL FRANCIS GEORGE:
09:05:16:00 Well, "close that chapter," none of us can as long as there are victims because you have to accompany them, if they're willing to be accompanied. Some of them have such deep hurt that they can't trust the church to accompany them, but we have to keep doing that.

09:05:27:00 As far as the scandal itself, everyone that we know of who has done this, whether bishop or priest, is out of public ministry and will remain out. That was because we had to change the law to do that, and it took some time. He supports that. And then we have to be sure that it won't happen again, as much as we possibly can, and then stay with the victims. But the structures are in place now. The code of canon law has been changed. The thing is that every time there's a new report, then everything happens "yesterday" instead of 20 or 30 years ago, which is often the case now.
DAVID GREGORY:
09:06:03:00 The issue I think for a lot of American Catholics of the impact that Pope Francis can have on cultural and political debates in America. Gary Bower, the evangelical leader in the United States, wrote something for USA Today this week that caught my attention, and I'll share with our audience.

09:06:20:00 He writes, "As an evangelical, I was delighted that the last two popes were moral and theological giants. John Paul II and Benedict XVI introduced a new evangelical period for the Catholic Church, an era in which the Catholic Church offered a confident rebuttal to the false promises of the secular world." How would you like to see Pope Francis influence American political debates? And we have so many of them now, whether it's abortion or gay marriage. How would you like to see that impact?
CARDINAL FRANCIS GEORGE:
09:06:53:00 I think he simply has to preach the Gospel, and then do it in a way that is accessible. And the Holy Spirit makes the impact, we believe. Conversion of hearts and minds is not something any pope or any preacher can do. It depends upon God's grace. But you have to keep preaching the Gospel and do it with integrity, and he'll certainly do that.

09:07:13:00 Your preaching is now in a context where, in a sense, you could say, "There is no God, and Freud is his prophet." Well, for the sake of sexual liberation, we're willing to let a lot of other liberties go, and I'm not sure we realize what's going on. I think he'll help us to realize it better and we'll see what happens. We can only trust that the Lord is still with his people and loves the world that his son died to save.
DAVID GREGORY:
09:07:35:00 But, Your Eminence, isn't that part of the struggle? What you're speaking about is preaching from the Gospels. So many Catholics in this country see that tension between church doctrine and their own life experience, their own consciences that are leading them in a different direction. Whether there's a majority of Catholics in America who support gay marriage, those who call for a greater role for women in the church, who are less opposed to abortion or even contraception; how does he resolve that tension?
CARDINAL FRANCIS GEORGE:
09:08:04:00 Well, I'm not sure you can resolve it as a matter of principle. All those issues weren't around 50 years ago. What has happened to our culture that suddenly these become cultural imperatives? And in history, when you take a look at the societies that come and go, and countries come and go, when the chips are down people will always go with their society (usually, not always). And those that don't are the minority, very often.

09:08:27:00 What we want to do is to create a society, through dialogue, that isn't quite as much at odds with the Gospel of Jesus Christ as it seems ours has become, at times at least. So the phenomenon you're talking about is not new; again, however, the church is universal. And so, you know, we have to stay with the entire church, and we have to stay with categories that aren't cultural. "Conservative" and "liberal" are the categories you use; you'll be using them today. Our categories are "what is true" and "what is false." And then what's the evidence for that.
DAVID GREGORY:
09:08:56:00 I have to ask you, in closing, if you could describe the sense of spiritual renewal that you feel with Pope Francis. I'm not Catholic, but I was certainly caught up in that sense of renewal that I think Catholics and non-Catholics feel alike when you have such an important transition like this.
CARDINAL FRANCIS GEORGE:
09:09:14:00 Well, all I can say is that, during the conclave, I felt personally a deep sense of the presence of the Lord. Even as you vote and you write that name, you have to be sure that you're free. That you're not doing it for self-interests. And you have to be sure that the man you're electing is free to do the ministry. So in that freedom, there will be renewal, I believe.
DAVID GREGORY:
09:09:35:00 Your Eminence, we appreciate your time very much this morning.
CARDINAL FRANCIS GEORGE:
09:09:39:00 Thank you, David. Good being with you.
DAVID GREGORY:
09:09:40:00 Thank you.
CARDINAL FRANCIS GEORGE:
09:09:40:00 God bless you.
DAVID GREGORY:
09:09:41:00 Thank you.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on March 17, 2013 9:25 AM.

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