Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
September 28, 2009
The Church must nurture its youth
Younger generation seeks freedom in faith, says Cardinal Francis George
WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ
Cardinal Francis George says widespread individualism presents a challenge to the Church.
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON - The Church today needs to nurture a younger generation that is striving to find its freedom through religious faith, says the archbishop of Chicago.
An earlier generation tried to find its freedom in the world, not through the Church, Cardinal Francis George told reporters Sept. 22.
But today more young people are looking for their freedom through the Church, the cardinal said. "That's what we have to keep nurturing."
George, an Oblate of Mary Immaculate who has been archbishop of Chicago since 1997 and is currently president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, was asked to describe some of the main challenges facing the Church today.
SIN AND SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS
"You always deal with sin and the self-righteousness that goes with it," he said. The Church always needs to address the roots of sin in people's hearts.
But beyond that, there are societal problems, such as "the sense of individualism," which, he said, may be different in Canada than in the U.S.
"The idea that the individual can pursue his or her dream at all costs and has a right to do so, on the one hand, makes the U.S. a very creative society and, on the other hand, can lead to violence."
The Church needs to help people see that the good life is not one solely focused on material things, George said. "As people become wealthier, sometimes they think their wealth protects them."
The Church must encourage an understanding that the good life has a transcendent goal, an eternal destiny. "It must do it in such a way that you're not beating people over the head with the Bible or the catechism or anything else."
People appreciate that the Church does a lot of good in society, he said. They see the good social services, hospitals, schools and cemeteries that it runs.
"Behind that, however, there is Christ's call to leave everything and follow him that is not so well understood, even by Catholics at times."
George spoke with reporters before addressing a gala banquet to raise funds for construction of the new St. Joseph Seminary and Newman Theological College.
VISITED CANADIAN NORTH
A native of Chicago, he took his theological studies at the University of Ottawa. Later, as a member of the Oblates' international governing council, he visited Oblate ministries in Edmonton and the Canadian North.
The cardinal said the priesthood has gone through a time of intense purification.
"It's a really good time to be a priest," he said. "The mission of the Church is more important, I believe, than ever."
The Church, George said, has "a role to play in the conversation" about changing laws in society. It offers not only Catholic principles, but also a perspective on the common good for the whole human race.
The culture is suffering from "a misinterpretation of freedom," he said. "That is a challenge for preaching the Gospel as well as for good citizenship."
In the U.S., the bishops are currently speaking out in the national health care debate, in favour of universal health care and against government-funded abortion.
UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE
"Bishops talk to principles, not to details. The principles are that everybody should be cared for - there should be universal health care. The second principle is that no one should be deliberately killed."
It seems clear that the government is moving towards providing more health coverage in the future than in the past, he said. As for abortion, "The president has spoken very well; now we'll see what happens."
Noting that he is not a Canadian citizen, George would not speak directly on the bill to legalize euthanasia currently before the House of Commons.
But he made clear the Church's belief that the state should not be directly involved in killing people.
"Euthanasia is not health care, it's killing," he said. "It's a distortion of the doctor's role which is to preserve life, not to kill people."
George said the Church can contribute to reversing a decline in respect for life by, first, attending to bills that come before legislators. "The law is an important teacher."
"The other way is to shape people so they can live in peace. That's where the family is important."
The Church strives in many ways to strengthen family life. Families "are schools of love where you learn you are not the most important person in the universe. There you learn what it means to love your neighbour as yourself."