Monday, January 16, 2006

Out of the Windy City

Cardinal George sat down with a reporter and gave what is an annual interview. It ranges from the cardinal's participation in the conclave to sex abuse and its aftermath in Chicago.

From informed sources, I have heard only good things about Cardinal George's straight-forward style. Some tidbits:

"I noticed when I got back, because it was so closely followed -- and because they had that shot of me on CNN that everyone seemed to have seen -- people seem to recognize me more now," George says laughing. He's talking about some famous footage of him, dressed in cardinal red, standing on one of the balconies of St. Peter's Basilica, after Pope Benedict XVI greeted the crowds in the square below for the first time.

George lingered a long while -- he was perhaps the last cardinal to go back inside the basilica -- surveying the scene below him. Before he walked inside, the cardinal brushed his hands together in a sweeping motion, a gesture some observers believed was his way of saying "my work here is done." In reality, he was just knocking some dust from the balcony's stone railing off his hands. (Although, truth be told, one of his assistants has since informed me that it was pigeon droppings, not dust.)

On the homosexual document and the visitations:

"The document itself goes back almost 10 years. The visitations grew out of the discussions in April 2002 between the [American] cardinals and the [Vatican] curia," about the sexual abuse crisis in the United States. "We said, 'If you do this [publish the document during the visitations -J], it will be taken as a commentary on the visitations and we'll get into this whole business that the gay community is so sensitive to of, 'You're blaming us for the pedophilia.'"

The Vatican's response to his pleas? Tough noogies, basically.

"Their response was, 'Well, we're sorry about that, but this is a universal document. It's not directed at the United States. It's directed to the whole church. So we're gonna do it.' They have their own schedule," George says matter-of-factly.

On the sex abuse crisis:

"That level of anger can't be sustained indefinitely," George says. "You get worn out. So that's just exhaustion maybe. I don't want to say it's over, because it's not. But even if it were, I shouldn't be the one to say it. I have no credibility saying that; it would be defensive.

"I would say, on the basis of what the statisticians tell me, is that it's contained. It's not over, but it's contained. It will never be over for the victims, even with healing. And I've talked to a lot of them," he says, quietly. "And if it's not over for them, it's not over for us."

Read the complete article 'That month in Rome' not soon forgotten from The Chicago Sun-Times.

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