Monday, November 5, 2012


   Recently Cardinal George of Chicago was quoted as saying, "I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square."  He attributes this dire outlook to the problems created by aggressive, anti-religious secularism.  A few years ago, the Cardinal was reported to have said to Pope Benedict XVI that the church in America is being besieged by our culture.  So without a doubt, he sees the church under attack by a dangerous enemy, namely, the everyday world in which we live.

   Let's take a look at secularism.  "Secular" means, "of the ages," or more clearly, of space/time.  The space/time world is the everyday world that God created.  It is the world of nature, people, families, communities, nations, education, work and business, religion, science and the arts.  Space/time by its nature is incomplete; the space/time world is and always will be incomplete.  Sadly, the world's incompleteness is exacerbated by sin.  The incomplete, sin-containing world is the world that Jesus came to save, to bring it forgiveness and make it complete, beginning here in space/time and reaching its fulfillment in eternity.

   An essential part of our spiritual life depends on how we view and relate to the everyday, space/time world.  Cardinal George sees it and relates to it as an enemy to be defeated; Vatican II saw it as a world to be related to in open humility and service, a world to be listened to, learned from, and taught, uplifted and corrected on its space/time journey to eternal completion.  Most certainly, sin is our enemy, but the sinful, space/time world it not our enemy.  It is ourselves.

   Certainly there are segments of our culture that militate against religion.  Here we must distinguish between attacks against religion and against faith itself.  They are not the same.  An attack against religion is not necessarily an atheistic attack.  In fact, in could be an attack by believers in defense of their faith.  Sadly, one outstanding example of this is the opposition many Catholics are expressing against the way their leaders are expressing  our religion today.  If Cardinal George's religion is built upon power-oriented control over the world (and the laity), then he will see the world's opposition to him and his religion in a self-aggrandizing, paranoid way.  I wonder if this view is behind his prediction that his successors will die in prison and as martyrs.  I fear that the truth is more likely to be that they too will die in bed, totally disregarded by disheartened Catholics who have simply walking away from those leaders' self-aggrandizing, paranoid kind of religion.

   The disheartened Catholics will have been abandoned by leaders like Cardinal George and his successors, leaders who should have helped them relate openly, humbly and prophetically to the everyday, secular world, to deeply and spiritually understand it, i.e., to read the signs of the times and see God's intentions for it, and therefore work to heal, complete and save the world in the all-loving grace of Christ.   


1 comment:

  1. Tony;
    Your continued insight into how our religious leaders operate within the world as we know it today continues to be very moving. Very well worth the time to sit back and ponder.

    One can only hope and pray that they will eventually be able to see the hope and pain of those who are just outside of their self imposed bubble.

    TomG - txman28