The moment where I seriously dislike Cardinal George

This relates to my post earlier today. In the comments to that post people brought up some great points about how, after all, we must be fair to Cardinal George. I agree; I am never not for being fair to anyone. (And I hadn’t been unfair to the Cardinal in my post, insofar as in it I never mentioned my personal feelings at all.) Like I think most people do, I have a great deal of respect for Catholicism.  Of course I also understand all that’s wrong with it—but, again, fair is fair. Whenever possible I try not to throw out babies with bathwater.

The hubbub around Cardinal George happened as a result of this televised interview with him.

Give it a watch.

Pay particular attention to the moment (which begins at about 1:03) when Cardinal George responds to the interviewer asking him if his analogy to the KKK isn’t “a little strong.”

Watch George as he says, “It is. But you take a look at the rhetoric.”

Watch then as he drops his eyes, and very quickly says in a chickenshit little sing-song voice, “The rhetoric of the Ku Kluk Klan.”

He can’t even bring himself to say the name.

When you’re done with the whole thing, go back, and freeze the screen at 1:17, right after George says, “But you take a look at the rhetoric,” and before the interviewer says “What rhetoric?”

Look at the sheer, vile arrogance of his gaze.

There it is.

There’s the hatred.

There’s the evil, as pure as pure gets.

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  • sarah

    Well. I’m not in Chicago. I’m not in his Archdiocese. But y’know – I watched this, and I feel sorry for the guy. I certainly can’t despise him, and I’m queer and Catholic. That doesn’t take away anything from what he said, not at all. What he said was deplorable. I still think he should go, no later than his 75th birthday (and official retirement date) in just about three weeks. But I still feel compassion for him.

    I think there are men of a certain age in certain roles in the Church who entered the system ages ago, in a different lifetime, in a different world, really. I suspect that some of them may have made some sort of bargain with God, or with themselves, or with their own fears and demons, and they went into a system that is “not of this world” – in some good ways, but in other bad ones. It’s about power – but it’s also profoundly infantalizing. The world changed. The Church changed. They didn’t count on that, and they’re trying to hold the structure of what they’d believed together.

    Is that Cdl. George? I don’t know. That’s between him and God. But I do know that when I look at him, when I look at this video, I’m reminded of the Wizard of Oz, and the little old man behind the curtain, trying to keep the system together. You see arrogance? I see fear. I also am reminded of hearing him speak on other issues some years ago, before his health crisis (major surgery, and he was out for a few months, IIRC) – and I can barely believe this is the same guy.

    I can’t ever tell anyone to “go to hell” – not figuratively, not literally. Jesus didn’t put that in my job description. Indeed, he said something about “love your enemies”, but I don’t even see Cdl. George as my enemy. Just someone who was trying to play by the rules, and had the game change beautifully and by the grace of God, but just can’t go there himself. I believe he should retire – and the Vatican should immediately accept – and then he should go, and I pray that someday he finds peace.

  • Rev. Carl Johnson

    This cardinal is an abomination to the Word. He is not more fit to represent religious teachings than any other hate filled person. Resignation should be imminent. I wonder how many pedophile priests he castigated similarly under his watch? I’m betting ZERO. This kind of man does what he can to protect his institution, regardless of the facts of how that institution is hamrful to the Word and to those within his hearing.

  • Nicely said Sarah.

  • sorry, don’t see it.

  • Nancy

    Beautifully stated, Sarah!

  • Romans 12

    Bless those who persecute you. DON’T CURSE THEM; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!

    Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

    Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say,

    “I will take revenge;

    I will pay them back,”[g]

    says the Lord.


    “If your enemies are hungry, feed them.

    If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.

    In doing this, you will heap

    burning coals of shame on their heads.”

    Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.

    -Romans 12

  • Christopher Eshelman

    Beautiful response Sarah – thank you for your gracious and wise words. I think there’s a huge irony that this “go to hell” post isolating a moment when hatred wins follows immediately on the heels of a post on “how loving God becomes hating others.” I agree with so much of what John has to say, and yet more often than not leave his blog with the same sort of feeling I have when encountering folks like the Cardinal. This post finally let me figure out why – it’s that extra sad step of “go to hell.” The point where necessary disagreement and challenge crosses the line to a mere reversal of who is deciding who is in or out of the kingdom. Sarah has highlighted the better road.

  • He’s just NOT in touch with what is widely being accepted, love of each other no matter your orientation. Comparing gays to KKK is just wrong. And he’s teaching this to all those priests who are under him? He needs to retire immediately. He’s a racist.

  • totally Agree, Rev. Johnson. It’s shameful.

  • Really? Wow.

  • Kara

    I’ve no use for him or anyone who espouses the stuff he does, in my own life, anyway. But I, like others, don’t use “go to hell” as rhetoric. Having been told that I *am* going to hell makes it a turn of phrase I don’t use in any context. These are the folks who make us put our money where our mouths are when it comes to loving the enemy, those who persecute us. As much as he may hate me and everyone like me, it’s better (in my opinion) to sink energy into changing hearts, minds, and laws instead of being angry at people who will never change.

    Also, I don’t entirely get calls for him to resign. The Catholic church is virulently anti-gay. Gayness, for this fellow’s bosses, is the work of Satan. This isn’t radical to them, just to those of us who don’t buy it. He’s still doing fine at his job of endorsing Catholic orthodoxy, seems to me.

  • Nick Van Heeren via Facebook

    Yep, pretty disgusting and an incredibly stupid comparision.

  • sarah

    As someone who’s Catholic, went through Catholic school, has a kid in Catholic school, and is studying in a Catholic grad school right now, I beg to differ with the statement, “the Catholic church is virulently anti-gay.” Is the hierarchy? Yes. And is a lot of that based on a pretty scientifically unsound philosophy woven into Aquinas’ teachings on natural law? Yup. (Read James Alison for more on that; I don’t have time or space to get into that now.)

    BUT – here’s a poll from March about Catholic support for gay rights: – there’s better research from November, but I’ve gotta run and can’t dig it up now – maybe someone else can.

    It’s also worth noting that unlike many traditional Christian denominations, Catholic teaching officially says that homosexuality is not an illness or a disease, but is an innate trait. We don’t do that “ex-gay” stuff – not at all. “Gayness, for this fellow’s bosses, is the work of Satan” – simply not true. In fact, a guy in Boston who made the mistake of alluding to something of the sort in the local diocesan paper one week lost his job for saying it the next week – because it did not accurately represent Church teaching.

    Don’t get me wrong – there is a LOT of stuff messed up over here. I’m inside it – I see it, and plenty isn’t pretty. No need to fabricate other stuff that’s not true, though.

  • DR

    Doing good is calling arrogance “arrogance” and evil “evil”. Then it is stopping it.

  • DR

    Sarah I’m an active Catholic too and I need to challenge this. The Catholic church throws a substantial amount of financial and political weight behind preventing the legalization of gay marriage. I’m not sure how much more “anti-gay” you could get then preventing two people who want to devote their lives together from being married in the eyes of the law.

  • DR

    Christopher, anger is often a reason for people to distance themselves from the true rage, grief and disappointment at the evil done in the name of Jesus. While I understand your point of view, there is often a “tone police” or an “anger monitor” present during these conversations that scolds the *way* people express themselves instead of focusing on the *what* they are angry about.

    I disagree with Sarah as a fellow Catholic. We have a horrific track record in supporting gay rights and are one of its biggest opponents. According to the GLBT community? That’s “anti-gay”. And they get the last word on that definition, not us.

  • sarah

    The hierarchy does, yes. It’s why, since 2007, I’ve given nary a penny to anything that goes to anything they can use to fight equal marriage. (I don’t believe in “gay marriage”, btw – marriage is marriage.) On the ground, reality is often quite different. In the diocese in which I live, we have a group at a parish – not “Courage” (the silly 12-step official Catholic approach to homosexuality) – but an official LGBT ministry.

    Just as I refused to let what George Bush said or did be taken as representative of the views of US citizens as a whole, the stuff that a handful of bishops (and really, the ones who are activist on this are in the minority – they just get the press) do does not represent me. I identify more with my faith than my nation, frankly (what comes from having family in many countries).

    You’re an “active Catholic” – do you put money in the offering plate? Do you know where it goes? Do you know what you’re supporting?

    It’s not as simple as “Catholic Church hates gays”. Not at all.

  • sarah

    They? That’s me. I’m queer. Out. Please don’t speak for me.

  • DR

    It’s great that you’ve been able to reconcile your Catholic faith with your sexuality, that’s awesome, I don’t want to diminish that (I envy you, I can’t reconcile the two fully to the degree that I used to be and I’m a straight woman).

    With all due respect I find your compassion to be misplaced. He’s certainly fortunate to have it but I don’t find much productivity in giving an excuse for generational bigotry. I get it, I certainly don’t disagree with the “It was a different time” realities – – but the collective damage done to the GLBT community by the Catholic church is *massive* via the theology they do make public. I can’t go there with you.

  • DR

    I’m obviously not speaking for you but would you say that your perspective scales to the majority view? That doesn’t seem to be the case if one pays attention to the national dialogue.

  • DR

    What is your position on the Church’s role in preventing gay marriage? In your opinion, is that not “anti-gay”? I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on that.

  • Marie FishSquirrel Muchnik via Facebook

    Wow. OMG, WOW. I’m a Chicagoan and I’m PISSED. You arrogant s.o.b., Francis George. And yes, John, I do see it. I see it and I feel it; it’s a punch in the gut.

  • Dave Bowling

    John: Thanks for saying “Go to Hell” to him … if there is a hell, then he deserves the first place in line. Well, maybe Hitler and a few others deserve that spot, but you get my sentiment. I am in complete agreement with you about ignorant people (no matter what status, education, or position they may have in this life) that spout vile and evil thoughts. Especially those who are in a position to represent religion and Christ. I don’t think He would agree with them either.

  • DR

    The hierarchy does, yes.>>>

    Some recent data released from the Gallop poll on gay marriage (and I’m distinguishing that for what seems to be obvious reasons) said a large percentage of lay people who did vote against gay marriage in both NYC and California were Catholic lay people. While I appreciate the distinction you’re making, I don’t think it’s as distinct of set apart as you’re communicating.

    You’re an “active Catholic” – do you put money in the offering plate? Do you know where it goes? Do you know what you’re supporting?>>>

    No, I don’t give money to the Catholic church, nor will I go to any parish that is not considered gay-friendly.

    I appreciate the distinction you’re drawing between lay people and the heirarchy but I just don’t agree with it entirely. I think there’s collective responsibility that is tied to personal allegiance. For me as a Catholic, I have to take responsibility for my association with it and all that comes with being “Catholic”. I don’t get to pick and choose what others hold me responsible for – that I say I’m a Catholic means I’m in the tent.

  • Barbara A.T. Wilson via Facebook

    This arrogant, ignorant nimrod is so out of touch with reality I almost feel embarrassed for him—but then I remember he has done this to himself, he and his pederast brethren.

  • That Guy

    If there is a hell that is for punishment rather than correction does anyone really deserve it?

  • Dave Bowling

    Good thought … is there?

  • Back when he was archbishop of Portland, Ore., I went to hear George speak. On the subject of other Christian denominations, he said that the Roman Catholic Church had more of the “charism” of holiness than others. After the talk I went up to him and told him of my dismay at his statement. “Well, that’s the way the theological cookie crumbles,” he said.

    He’s the epitome of “Christian” arrogance, and this video only buttresses my low opinion of the man.

  • why doesn’t he tend to his child abuse problem in his church before making stupid accusations about other people. Uh, also, folks really like going to Saturday evening service, why not offer that? Or service after the parade. Parade doesn’t take 8 hours does it? Even the Rose Parade is done in time for lunch.

  • Ben Timmons via Facebook

    I must say, after he makes his hateful point, he looks in a strange way much like Dick Cheney. “nough said!

  • Brook

    Sounds like a man with something to hide.

  • Reed

    There’s a slight, smug little twitch of Frankie the G’s lips at the cited moment that’s quite repellent.

  • Kara

    I know wonderful Catholic queer folk and wonderful Catholic allies. I have nothing against Catholics. None of that changes the fact that the Catholic church, as an institution, is extremely anti-gay.

    This dude is part of the very hierarchy you’re talking about, which has shown over and over and over that it’s more than happy to demonize (sometimes literally) gay folk at every turn. So all I was trying to say is that there’s no reason for an anti-gay individual to resign from his position within an formally and publicly anti-gay power structure because of his anti-gay remarks. It’s bigger than him.

  • Ron Bower via Facebook

    John, I general agree with your view of gays and the church, but I didn’t see hatred in the cardinal’s eyes. I saw fear. Fear of the unknown and of what he can’t understand. This issue seems unfathomable to his generation of the church and I speak of the whole church, not just Catholics. I am sorry for their fear and hope God’s grace will someday reach them. I believe a younger generation of the church will have to lead the way in changing the church’s attitude. One of the Catholic church’s strengths and also it’s weakness is it’s reliance on tradition. However, as a Catholic I believe that it is living tradition. Each new generation has to come to terms with how to apply the traditions it has inherited given the circumstances of the present day. The Catholic church is like a great ship. It can be turned toward a new direction, but it takes time and perseverance to make the change…. That’s what I think, but like David Miller, I could be wrong. I am just another person in need of God’s grace and mercy.

  • Spider

    I’m Catholic and I’m pro-gay rights (right to marry, right to adopt, right to any sexual or relationship anyone chooses). And I’m not seeing the hatred you’re seeing.

    There *are* people in the gay liberation movement that are intensely anti-Catholic. Why pretend there isn’t?

  • Jonathan Mathieson via Facebook

    why do all pope’s and priests look the same…… they all resemble the emperor from star wars;)

  • Soulmentor

    Because their smug arrogance and lies about all sorts of events and people corrupt their souls.

    They remind me of The Portrait of Dorian Gray.

  • Soulmentor

    “You don’t want the Gay Liberation Movement to morph into something like the Ku Klux Klan …”

    No, we surely don ‘t and, tho I have NO respect for the RCC’s ignorantly arrogant social/political positions on several issues including gays, we should be fair to the Cardinal in this matter. If we parse his words fairly, he does NOT “compare” gays with the KKK, but suggests rather that we wouldn’t want them to become like that. I agree. Too bad he didn’t stop there. But he went on to allude to how the KKK viewed the RCC via their rhetoric and DID compare gays to THAT, and while it may be true of the more militant, cynical among us, it is not true of gays in general. His comparison was very careless, to put the most generous construction on it.

    John, your headline in yesterday’s blog was shamefully misleading, reminding me of the liberties Huff Post headliners are sometimes guilty of. ****Time to Resign for Cardinal “If You’re Gay, You’re KKK”?***** The Cardinal did NOT say that. Was it implied? Perhaps, but only perhaps. It should not have been in quotes. I know you are much better than that.

  • Soulmentor

    That hadn’t occurred to me. Quite right, down to the body language and vocal style. Arrogance looks the same in everyone.

  • Paula

    Just think, what if someone in a leadership position had gone on the tee-vee to say, “I’m worried about the Catholic Church morphing into something like the KKK.”

    “You take a look at the rehetoric, the rhetoric of the KKK.”

    Can you imagine the response? The Catholic-haters would have been emboldened — “that’s right, soon they’ll be buring crosses on lawns, thinking the rest of us are not fit to be their neighbors,” the threat of violence would be implied (who really remembers what the KKK said, it’s what they did we’re all familiar with.)

    It would have been appalling, it would have been scary, it would be called irresponsible and outrageous. And when some nutcase decided to act violently against gay people to “stop” them before they did something horrible, we’d have “rhetoric” like this to blame.

    Nope, I don’t think John overstated it at all.

  • Paula

    oops, “decided to act violently again ROMAN CATHOLICS before they did something horrible” is what I meant to say.

  • I was quoting Truth Wins Out.

    And really? “Shamefully?”


  • Paula

    Because saying someone is anti-Catholic and saying someone is like the Ku Klux Klan are two very different things. The Klan kidnapped and killed people. Forced people out of communities, and threatened and intimidated even those who were sympathetic to Black people.

    The gay rights movement has done nothing, repeat nothing, like that towards Roman Catholics. And to conflate these things is outragous and dangerous. Let’s be honest, a commitment to physically intimidating people is quite a bit different than stating, in the strongest possible language, that you don’t like what somebody believes. Otherwise the Republicans are going to have to accuse the Democrats, and vice versa, of (potentially) becoming like the Klan.

  • I’m still waiting to see this gay rhetoric that compares to that of the KKK…

    As a Christian, I’m quite used to being called stupid (oh… the flying spaghetti monster) by atheists. I’m slightly saddened by the fact that Dan Savage (whom I think is awesome) thinks I’m an idiot, but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t want me dead, or out of his country, or kept away from his son. That’s what the KKK wanted for black people, and that’s what some vehement anti-gay people want for gay people.

    I’m trying to be less angry when I see people do crappy things – less of the “get thee to hell” and more of the “oh God, please, please let them learn”.

  • Kimberly Moser Musci Phillips via Facebook

    @Ron: It may be fear in his eyes, but he–and others like him–twist that (?)fear into an incendiary doctrine of hate. And so it becomes more than simply a generational thing, because of his position of authority. And especially, for him to equate LGBTs civil rights claims w/ the most notorious anti-civil rights hate group in US history is both intellectually dishonest and a blatant revision/reversal of accepted common knowledge.

    If the man just admitted his (?)fear, it’d be alot easier to find a well of compassion for him. Because it would neutralize most of the toxic rhetoric he’s spewing. Instead, his comments reek of the same brimstone and sulfur smokescreens that surrounded the likes of anti-gay fundies TedHaggard and GeorgeRekers, before they were so spectacularly outed.

  • DR

    Because we can’t ask people who’ve been terribly hurt by the Catholic church to differentiate between Catholic lay people and the institution. Even if we’re pro-gay. It’s making it about us instead of the issue.

  • Kimberly – you basically said something that is so true: hate is born from fear.

  • Soulmentor

    OK… I concede error. Forgive me John.

  • Philthy

    Agreed. Mr Shore is grasping at straws and quite flagrantly. The essence of his argument? “Look at the sheer vile arrogance of his gaze. There it is. There is the evil as pure as pure gets.” Uhh, sorry John, but I don’t see it. The evil you’re seeing (evil is not actually visible) is apparently a result of a large splinter in your eye, obscuring your view and your objectivity.

  • DR

    There are a thousand different ways of looking at this. That you continue to attack John and others like him for seeing what he sees is starting to get kind of creepy – seriously.

    I don’t understand why those of you project so many of your own issues into this guy who happens to be a writer and a blogger. He’s not your pastor or anyone else’s, he’s entitled to talk about his own feelings on his own blog if he wants to. And he’s pretty careful to frame things fairly. That doesn’t mean he has to diminish his own opinion. That you and others consistently put him on this odd kind of pedestal and hold him accountable to your specific expectations and demands of what “objectivity” means (not that it even exists in matters of faith to begin with) is really bothering me.

    I wish you and others would choose to reset your expectations in a more realistic manner and stop with these attacks that are borne out of your own belief that you’re entitled to complain in the first place. This is a guy – a normal guy with a set of opinions, dislikes and biases like anyone else. He’s not put himself into the national spotlight, people have invited him in. He’s not paid to be your pastor or your priest. Stop demanding “objectivity” from someone who didn’t sign up to be your role model.

  • Lymis

    Sorry, no, the essence of the argument is hardly simply a focus on his gaze in a single moment of a single interview.

    It’s in context of an ongoing effort of publicly opposing equality for gay people – most recently regarding civil unions, but he’s vocally opposed other gay rights legislation in the past as well. Given that, given the hatefulness of these current statements, and given the whole tone of the interview, it’s not inappropriate to read into that gaze.

    Straws are being grasped at, but not by John.

  • Philthy

    Hi Paula!

    The bishop didn’t actually say that the LGBT community is “like the KKK”, and he didn’t even suggest it. He simply said – and I’m paraphrasing my understanding of his intent here – that he didn’t want the parade to become like parades that the KKK has had in the past where there were demonstrations against the Catholic Church at local parishes. That’s it. He even went out of his way to say that he respects the community and that respect is the foundation of dialogue with them.

  • LSS

    If you signed the petition, you get this message from the Cardinal Archbishop today.

    I’m still not buying it, especially if it was accurate that he made that statement AFTER the matter was resolved and the parade time was changed.

    Also there are many reasons to hold the parade on sunday instead of saturday OTHER than disrupting worship… For example, maybe more people had time off work. It would be hard to know if he’s right without research.

    ” The Chicago Gay Pride Parade has been organized and attended for many years without interfering with the worship of God in a Catholic church. When the 2012 Parade organizers announced a time and route change this year, it was apparent that the Parade would interfere with divine worship in a Catholic parish on the new route. When the pastor’s request for reconsideration of the plans was ignored, the organizers invited an obvious comparison to other groups who have historically attempted to stifle the religious freedom of the Catholic Church. One such organization is the Ku Klux Klan which, well into the 1940’s, paraded through American cities not only to interfere with Catholic worship but also to demonstrate that Catholics stand outside of the American consensus. It is not a precedent anyone should want to emulate.

    It is terribly wrong and sinful that gays and lesbians have been harassed and subjected to psychological and even physical harm. These tragedies can be addressed, however, without disturbing the organized and orderly public worship of God in a country that claims to be free. I am grateful that all parties concerned resolved this problem by moving the Parade’s start time so as not to conflict with the celebration of Mass that Sunday. “

  • Danielle Perata via Facebook

    That’s not just generational misgivings and misunderstandings. That is hatred, pure and simple. Hate stems from fear, certainly, but the choice to make that leap to hatred rather than trying to understand and have compassion is deliberate.

    We are endowed with the ability to choose how we respond to things we don’t understand. It is up to us to decide to look on those things outside of our understanding with fear or curiousity. And it is entirely within our power to choose love and compassion over hatred. You would hope a follower of Christ–a cardinal, no less–would understand the difference, for Christ most certainly teaches this.

    It has nothing to do with age.

  • Line Merrette Vincent

    I WAS Catholic. Until 1969. Humanae Vitae was just too much for me.

    I was 13 at the time.

    I don,t regret it.

    Ever since John XXIII died they have been in a hurry to get back to the old way. With each new Pope it gets worse.

    I hope Benedict is the last one.