Summary of Cardinal George's Comments
To Members of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council
As is customary, the Cardinal has submitted a series of questions (issues) to the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council (APC) for its reflection and input. Members of the APC draw on local Parish Pastoral Council and Deanery discussions, as well as their own perspectives, for responses to these questions. Standing committees of the APC discuss and prepare recommendations for the Cardinal to review prior to the APC’s general meeting.
These responses are presented at an APC meeting and Cardinal George then offers his reaction to these ideas and recommendations. This year’s first issue – Values of the Catholic faith are coming to be defined as outside some current trends or “values” of mainstream American culture (e.g. abortion, immigration policy, gay marriage, etc.). How can parishes pro-actively work to ensure that the American consensus does not exclude the values of the universal Catholic faith? – was discussed at the APC general meeting on November 17, 2012, in which the Cardinal and approximately 45 APC delegates participated.
CLARIFYING “UNIVERSAL CATHOLIC VALUES”
All of the APC standing committee reports included catechesis at all age levels as one of their prioritized responses. In the open discussion many members expressed, either their own or their constituents’ lack of clarity as to what “universal Catholic values” were and how they differed from those of mainstream American culture. The Cardinal expressed surprise at this lack of understanding, since our own results showed that people knew the faith even if they questioned it. He affirmed that Catholic values are embodied in the person of Jesus Christ, in Scripture, in the Creeds, and the Catechism. They inform how we think and act. Mysteries of faith are often reduced to “rules” by our legalistic society and often formulated negatively by the media (e.g. a “ban” on same sex marriage; “refusing” priesthood to women). American values are becoming increasingly secularized. There will always be tension between mainstream culture and our values. We need to work to keep the tension between the two flexible enough to coexist in our society. We need to focus on universal truths and rely on human reason to shape our opinions and values. If we don’t strike a proper balance between “mainstream” cultural values and our own, we may face the challenge of not being able to live publicly as believers.
LIVING AND SHARING THE FAITH
Further discussions revealed that perhaps the values of the Catholic faith are known but are difficult to articulate. Our Catholic values are demonstrated in our people by the way they live their lives. Evangelization is the job of everyone; we need to be willing to confront our fellow citizens when necessary. Efforts to bring about the conversion of society must never be abandoned in the interest of establishing comity.
The Church needs to make better use of various social media to provide witness and personal testimony in order to reach young people, thus helping them form faith filled values to serve them their entire lives.
DOROTHY DAY AS A FAITH-FULL WITNESS
Cardinal George concluded his remarks by mentioning that at the recently concluded meeting of the USCCB, he had voted in favor of advancing the cause of Dorothy Day toward possible canonization. She was co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement, a radical pacifist who decried participation in all war, a fierce critic of capitalism but no friend of socialism. She remained very intent on the Works of Mercy and individual concern for the poor after her conversion. The Cardinal said that she embodies for him the question we had before us that day—namely, how to ensure that the American consensus does not exclude the values of the universal Catholic faith. She lived a life of witness to the faith and died well, as a very holy lady.
The Cardinal thanked the APC for the conversation, calling it one of the best we’ve had.