Sex scandal shamed Catholic Church, Cardinal says

Dalia Naamani-Goldman

Cardinal Francis George answered questions about the Catholic Church scandal, celibacy and problems in the legal system as part of a dialogue Wednesday afternoon on Northwestern’s Chicago Campus.

Loren Ghiglione, dean of the Medill School of Journalism, moderated “Conversation with the Cardinal,” which was held in Lincoln Hall of the Law School. Nearly 100 people came to hear the Archbishop of the Chicago Archdiocese speak about controversial issues in the church.

The Cardinal said the scandal involving clergy’s sexual misconduct shamed the entire Catholic community.

“I find myself not only ashamed, but shaken,” the Cardinal said.

But he said only 1.4 or 1.5 percent of priests have been involved with any sexual misconduct. The Cardinal also spoke about the media’s coverage of the scandal.

“The scandal is our fault and it should be reported,” he said. Coverage has been responsible, he said, but the media often repeated old allegations and wrote “silly editorials.”

Ghiglione asked the Cardinal to address the issue of celibacy and the possibility of changing the church’s law. The Cardinal said the Catholic Church could change the celibacy policy, but the “fundamental problem (of fewer seminarians) wouldn’t necessarily be solved.”

The Cardinal said more men might choose to become priests if celibacy no longer was required, but said that priests may come to the priesthood for the wrong reasons.

The Cardinal also spoke about the ban on women’s ordination.

“(The issue) can’t be ignored,” he said. But it is based on the sacramental system; it is a “mystery of faith,” he said.

The conversation also included discussion about abortion rights and the legal system. The Cardinal said he is concerned the church is increasingly labeled “extremist” because of its anti-abortion stance.

Regarding the decline in weekly church attendance, the Cardinal said American culture has changed. Now only about 25 percent of Chicago-area Catholics attend church regularly, he said.

On a more personal level, the Cardinal talked about his battle with polio as an adolescent and the influence it has had on his life.

“You have to live without resentments; they’re more crippling than any disease,” he said.

The Cardinal also spoke about his experiences as a priest in Mississippi. He said he became more aware of racism because of his interaction with the Freedom Fighters and the local community.

Camille Nowik,mother of Kirsten Nowik, a Medill senior, attended the talk and said the Cardinal is focused on moral issues and is responsive to the needs of the Church community.

“He’s very knowledgeable and down to earth,” Camille Nowik said. “He’s a good, honest and open man.”