Listen to Cardinal George

As we pray for the soul of Cardinal Francis E. George this week and give thanks for all he meant to the Catholic Church, perhaps the next best thing we can do is reflect on his teaching. And for Catholics of the Diocese of Peoria, a good beginning would be remembering what Cardinal George told us when he visited central Illinois — which was often.

His words are timeless.

In 2003, for example, Cardinal George was here to accept the Diocese of Peoria’s highest honor, the Archbishop John Lancaster Spalding Medal. His keynote address at the Peoria Civic Center is worth excerpting especially as the U.S. Supreme Court is about to take up same-sex marriage cases from four states on April 28.

In his talk, Cardinal George said the courts are quickly becoming “enemies of human liberty” because “any dimension of human experience” is now subject to scrutiny by the judicial system, including marriage.

“There are no limits to what judges can decide,” he said. “If government is not limited, then it is not a democracy and we are not a free people.” Because the law rests on “the opinions of nine unelected judges . . . who are never answerable to the people in any way,” America is becoming a “dictatorship of judges.” Responding to a decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Court that year to overturn a ban on same-sex marriage, Cardinal George said the court took it upon itself to redefine marriage, “which the state didn’t invent, nor did the church — God invented it.”

Cardinal George’s advice to University of Illinois graduates in 2009 bears repeating to those about to graduate in 2015. (The photo above is from that visit.) In the Facebook era, he said in a homily at St. John’s Catholic Newman Center on campus that May, we need to remember that friendship is deeper than following someone on social media. That’s a contact, not a friendship.

“Contacts need to develop into relationships, and relationships into friendships,” he told the students.

“Friendship takes time and patience,” and is marked by taking seriously what our friend takes seriously. In the case of friendship with the Lord, “what Jesus wants is that we obey the Father and love one another in his name.”

Later that year he addressed the priests of the diocese at their annual assembly days. While those remarks were closed to the press, in an interview with The Catholic Post Cardinal George encouraged prayer for priests.

“Go out of your way to show appreciation for the sacrifices priests make,” he said. That is timely advice as the diocese prepares to ordain six new priests next month.

We would do well to go out of our way in the coming days to show appreciation for the sacrifices of Cardinal George by remembering him in prayer, of course, but also by reflecting on his teaching and example. — Thomas J. Dermody

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