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Archived Online Discussion
Topic: The Difference God Makes: A Catholic Vision of Faith, Communion, and Culture
Date: 5-6 pm (ET)
on Friday, February 26, 2010
Carl Anderson
Supreme Knight
Cardinal Francis George, OMI
Archbishop of Chicago
Carl Anderson:
Good evening.  Please join me in welcoming Cardinal Francis George, Archibishop of Chicago to this discussion on his new book The Difference God Makes: A Catholic Vision of Faith, Communion and Culture.

Former State Warden Robert B. Camilleri
Honolulu, Hawaii
As Catholics and Knights of Columbus, how can we be men in the world but not of the world? Do you believe that relativism and the secularization of the culture will continue to be two of the biggest obstacles facing Roman Catholics during the 21st Century? Finally, what can Catholics and the Knights of Columbus do to reduce the relativism and secularization of the culture during the 21st Century?
Cardinal Francis George, OMI:

All disciples of Jesus are in the world but not of it, as was Jesus himself.  Fully one of us, immersed in the society of his time, his kingdom was not of this world.  As disciples of Jesus, we are to tell the truth about him, about ourselves and about the world, and to live consistently with the truths we know and profess.  That is the best formula for reducing relativism in knowledge and secularization in action.

John Rush
Atchison, Kansas, United States
Hello Mr. Anderson and Cardinal George. A poll released by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life this week found that while the Millennial generation is very open to belief in God, many are moving away from organized religion. ( What are your thoughts on this trend?
Carl Anderson:

The good news in looking at that poll and our Knights of Columbus/Marist Millennials poll is that this generation has a particular interest in marriage and spirituality those are their top interests. And as Pope Benedict pointed out to the Scottish bishops earlier this month, the Catholic Church has a unique and wonderful message on both of these issues. We need to take the time to make the most of this teaching moment that speaks directly to the lives of these young people, 65% of whom expressed openness to learning about their faith (show in our recent survey). The fact that they are interested in marriage and spirituality is a strong foundation for evangelization of this age group.

Albuquerque, NM
A frequent theme in the chapter on the laity is the necessity of proclaiming the distictiveness of the Church's message and the Catholic way of life. How do we do this without retreating into a Catholic ghetto or creating an exclusive Catholic subculture?
Carl Anderson:

The ghetto is not an option. The development of a strong catholic identity may involve in some part the development of a Catholic subculture. But this is tempered by Lumen Gentium 31which says that the laity has a responsibility to engage society and to work for the transformation of society according to Gospel values. So the mobility of the American society and the task of being engaged in it will prevent it from becoming an exclusive Catholic club.

Leah B
Metuchen, Mass.
What are the pitfalls that conservative Catholicism can fall into, and how to avoid them?
Carl Anderson:

The question isn't conservative or liberal. The question is an orthodox Catholicism which is capable of responding to contemporary challenges. The pitfall is to define ourselves in Enlightenment political categories - left, right, conservative, liberal - but the Catholic is to think with the mind of the church, to relate itself to the challenges of a changing contemporary culture, to seek to be relevant to that culture, and to seek to evangelize it.

Chris Kennedy
Highlands Ranch, CO, USA Council 10937
Much of the discussion from the United State Catholic Bishops implies that the only the only objection to the Current health care bill(s) are the life issue. On the Basis of Subsidiarity and the proper role of Government shouldn't it also be objected to? What is your view on this and is it well accepted among the US Catholic Bishops.
Cardinal Francis George, OMI:

There are many objections to the current bills under discussion, but the absolutes are the killing of the unborn and the aged: abortion and euthanasia. Killing isn't curing, and we should not all be paying for these procedures through taxation. Other objections that have been brought up in each of the bishops' interventions are cost-containment, the inclusion of immigrants, covering those with prior conditions of illness, etc. It would be good to read what the bishops have actually said rather than rely on those with different agendas who interpret what the bishops have said in order to discredit opinions they don't agree with. The bishops' voice is moral: everyone should be cared for and no one should be deliberately killed. How we care for everyone is a political question that the bishops do not speak to--we have no official position on the public option or single payer or the extent of dependence on hospitals and charitable organizations, etc. But the fact is that there are a lot of poor women who do not have adequate pre-natal care in this country. There are others who, because they are not insured, wait until their health has deteriorated before going to an emergency room, where care is expensive and often too late. There is a need for better and more adequate health care. The principle of subsidiarity is always balanced with the equally important principle of solidarity; the balance between them is one of prudential judgment on which people of good will can honestly differ. In those countries where there is a single payer system and the government pays directly for all health care (Italy, France, Germany, etc.), neither the Pope nor the local bishops have condemned the health care system as immoral. Such a system probably would not work in a federal republic such as ours, I believe, but that doesn't mean it would be immoral to argue for it. The means of deciding how health care is to be delivered are political; hence the importance for all to be involved in this discussion. But the decisions about means and agents are not questions the bishops should enter into in detail. Dissatisfaction with the bishops, from both left and right, usually stems less from concern for Catholic moral teaching than from the desire to coopt the Church for the political agenda of one side or the other.


Chris Buckley
Burlingame, Calif., USA
As an adult confirmed and from another flavor of Christianity, the hardest part about Catholicism for me is how closed off it remains to input from other disciplines. We say we're "in dialogue" with other faiths and sciences, but our theology is slow to incorporate new understandings of the universe (from quantum theory) and of the human person (especially regarding human sexuality). Our mode of dialogue seems to be a teaching one, not a listening one. Don't we have ANYTHING new to learn from the world? Is our doctrine only received through tradition?
Carl Anderson:

To the contrary, we might consider that since Vatican II the church has been engaged in a very serious dialogue. Il give three examples. John Paul II encyclical Fides et Ratio, his Theology of the Body, and Pope Benedict Regensburg lecture. As a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, I know from firsthand experience that the Pontifical Academies, including the Academy for Science, are continually engaged in a dialogue with science and technology. But this does not mean that the moral truths which have been taught are going to change as a result of that dialogue. There are some things that will never change based on cultural or scientific breakthroughs, such as respect for the dignity of the human person, and love of neighbor.

For example, on the abortion issue, there has been a dialogue over the last 40 years. There has been no change on the Church moral position, but in those 40 years as a fruit of this dialogue the Church has reached out in many new ways to women facing crisis pregnancies and women who had abortions. Additionally, during these years, science has borne out the truth that that Church has taught, that we are dealing with a human being. But during these years, the other side did not change.

Cardinal Francis George, OMI:

The Catholic church has official dialogues with almost every other "flavor" of Christianity and with all the major faiths on the face of the globe. The dialogue with the sciences takes place in universities, think tanks and every time a Catholic believer talks with someone not of the household of the faith. In a dialogue, both sides learn, or should do so. Sometimes, we might seem not to be listening because our interlocutors seem not to be interested and so we press a point. We should keep examining our conscience on this matter. But often the Church and her teaching are simply attacked for not accepting whatever comes down the current track, because the opposing viewpoint is utterly sure of its own position. For example, fifty years ago the immorality of homosexual genital actions was universally accepted by all Christians and most others. How has science "proven" that the concept of human nature all shared fifty years ago is now illegitimate? The Church's doctrine does develop, but the development has to be consistent with teaching that has come to us from the apostles. The acute points of difference these days are in the area of sexuality, because the unitive goal of sexual relations has been effectively separated from the pro-creative goal. In the area of the physical sciences, I don't believe that anything brought forward in the fields of quantum physics, or in evolutionary science, brings the essentials of Catholic doctrine into question.

Chris Kennedy
Highlands Ranch, CO, USA Council 10937
The way that much of the communication around Catholic Social Teaching is couched in 60's/70's counter culture language and symbolism. Does the Church hurt it's long term appeal by attempting to connect too closely with the popular images and issues of the present at the expense of the future?
Cardinal Francis George, OMI:

Catholic Social Teaching has its proper vocabulary and its basic principles pre-date the 1960s. The social problems change from generation to generation, but the principles and even the language remain much the same. The problems of protecting the family, of working for peace, of combating self-destructive behavior such as drug, alcohol or sexual addiction, the problems of hunger and homelessness are constant but are different in the way they can be addressed now as opposed to a generation or two ago. Their prevalence is also different. Many people would complain that the Church is not sufficiently connected to the issues of the present, so your observation is somewhat surprising.

Chris Kennedy
Highlands Ranch, CO, USA Council 10937
Dear Supreme Knight Anderson,

The Federal Government have impinged on many areas that traditionally belonged to Churches and Charities, this marginalizing organized religion. With the budget Crisis in Washington DC and in State Capitols around the country are the Knight and the Church in a position to step in if Governments pull the Leviathan back. This would seem important not only from a position of protecting the needy of society but also shining a light on the Gospel in action.
Carl Anderson:

The KofC was established at a time when there was no safety net to provide help in these situations, and we continuously do more in charity to this day. Last year alone we did 150 million dollars in charity. Traditionally, government has appreciated this contribution and has respected the religious identity of religious organizations that make such contributions. We should be concerned that the government continue to do so in the future.

College Park, Md
More than ever, Catholicism has taken on political dimensions, with socially liberal Catholics squaring off against social conservatives. How, if possible, do we depart from the left/right spectrum and recapture true communion?
Carl Anderson:

First I don think it is more than ever.I think it may have been greater in the 1960s. One place to begin is with study of the social doctrine of the church, and readers may wish to get a copy of the Compendium of the social doctrine. The challenge isn't to think conservative or liberal philosophy, but to think with the mind of the Church, to understand for example, that the pope who wrote Solicitudo Rei Socialis (on social justice) also wrote Evangelium Vitae (on life). The teaching of the church and of the papacy doesn have this inherent contradiction of which you are speaking. All Catholics are called to embrace the totality of the Church teaching, regardless of their own political philosophy, and it is a self-delusion to insist that one can depart from the moral teachings of the Church in significant ways and still consider oneself a good Catholic.

Chris Kennedy
Highlands Ranch, CO, USA Council 10937
In your chapter on Lay Ministry you referenced all of the depressing statistics about the number of priests being ordained versus those retiring. I read something a few years ago about the historical ratio of Priests to people in the congregation (I don't remember the source). The contention of the article was that post the industrial revolution there was an artificially high number of priests and that we are returning to historic levels, do you know if this is true and if so is there anything that we can learn from the pre-Industrial revolution church?
Cardinal Francis George, OMI:

Thanks for referencing the book. I'm sorry that I don't know about the statistics for ordained priests before the industrial revolution. The numbers of those ordained vary from place to place and time to time. After so many priests were killed in the French revolution, for example, the numbers of seminarians increased dramatically in France in the nineteenth century. Our country has continuously been dependent on priests arriving with immigrants, and dioceses in the south and the west received many priests, especially from Ireland, throughout the twentieth century, until a generation ago. When parts of our country were being settled and where Catholics were few, priests used to ride from village to village to celebrate Mass in the homes every month or so; this was mostly before the Civil War. Today, deacons do many services that used to be reserved to priests, and lay ecclesial ministers are trained and educated to help in various ways. Priests are ordained to headship, so the pastor is always an ordained priest; but the way of arranging ministries has varied historically. We need to keep praying that those whom the Lord is calling to ordained priesthood hear the call; the Lord does not abandon his people. We need to pray for those called to other vocations as well, so that together we may be God's holy people.

Edward Kasprzycki
Chicago, IL
In your book you talk about interreligious dialogue. I am all for this, however, if the other side comes into the equation playing fair. Given the recent scandals at the USCCB and at the Catholic Campaign for Human Dvelopment, how can Catholics keep turining the other cheeck?
Cardinal Francis George, OMI:

Interreligious dialogue is an exchange about beliefs; it doesn't depend upon the fact that each dialogue partner is free of faults.  If that were the demand, there would be few conversations, even between individuals.  Nonetheless, you are right to recognize that witness to the truth is more credible if moral failing and scandals of various sorts are being addressed.  The internal culture of the USCCB and the CCHD has been changing; many of the complaints are about events of years back.  Some, however, are not, and they are being addressed now.  Some of the criticism, it seems to me, serves an agenda that has little to do with the Gospel.  Much of it is made in a political fashion, as if the Church were to be reduced to a political party.  Some of it is hate-mongering, reminiscent of the most bigoted accusations made by enemies of the Church throughout the ages.  The USCCB is a creation of the Holy See and the Code of Canon Law.  Bishops belong by reason of their ordination.  When we use it well, it is pastorally helpful.  When mistakes are made, deliberately or not, correction is in order; but it should be made to the bishops and to the Holy See itself before it is made public.   Self-righteousness is a sign that something is spiritually amiss.

Bob Digan PGK
Lee, MA
Worthy Supreme Knight,

Many thanks also for your great book on Our Lady of Guadalupe: Mother of the Civilization of Love. Is your book and the good Cardinal's book available on e-books?
Carl Anderson:
Our Lady of Guadalupe: Mother of the Civilization of Love is indeed available as an e-Book.  You might want to reference this link for availability and cost. 

Cardinal Francis George, OMI:

Thanks for asking. I'm told that the publisher is making arrangement for the book to be available electronically. I'm not sure about Kindle. I just received one of these myself, so I'll look!

Carl Anderson:

Thank you for joining us for today's discussion. Please join us again on at March 30 at 5 p.m. (ET) for a discussion on Be a Man! by Father Larry Richards.

For more from Cardinal George about his new book, see his interview with Columbia Magazine:

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