Sheil fireside hosts Chicago archbishop

Susan Du

The archbishop of Chicago spoke with about 60 Northwestern students and Evanston residents at the Sheil Catholic Center on Monday about the complexities of being young and Catholic in an increasingly secular world.

Seated before the fireplace at the lower level of Sheil, Cardinal Francis George spoke about where he finds truth and splendor in his ministry and then answered questions from students on topics ranging from the credibility of the Bible to women in priesthood to the role of religion in politics.

Students mainly quizzed the archbishop on how religion is relevant to modern day youth. The archbishop said busyness is the main obstacle to spirtual life at college.

“We’re all busy people. Young people are involved with school, sports…. Sports are more organized than religion is nowadays,” the archbishop said. “In the face of aggressive secularism, it’s difficult to determine how the church fits into modern life.”

Sheil invites the archbishop to speak every few years, said Joe Paolelli, who helped organize the fireside.

“There’s no huge disconnect between church hierarchy and ordinary members,” the Weinberg senior said. “The archbishop’s job is to engage the faithful.”

As to whether NU’s rather secular atmosphere is ideal for the archbishop to come into, Paolelli said the event is geared toward people who are engaged in lives of faith, even if they’re a small number.

“For someone who knows what he believes, there’s no fear of entering an ideologically hostile setting,” he said. “And provided people have an open mind, it may also be an invitation for non-religious people to think about similar issues in their own lives.”

The archbishop’s fireside was part of Sheil’s Veritas et Splendor series, which features speakers on the theme of finding truth in faith.

On the subject of truth, the archbishop said he doesn’t necessarily conceptualize truth any differently than anyone else. Rather, he simply sees it as the constant attainment of knowledge for personal betterment.

“The truth you possess is perfective of yourself,” the archbishop said. “You’re a better person if you know the truth about yourself and others and about God. Our whole lives are dedicated to the pursuit of truth, and the benefit is that we get to learn more and more about things.”

The archbishop also addressed how opinions of the church have changed in light of recent sex abuse scandals and terrorist activity throughout the world conducted in the name of religion.

“You have to remember when you get to morality, it’s a pragmatic exercise,” he said. “You have to weigh the consequences of every situation. There is no absolute good or bad. But then again, that’s an absolute statement in itself.”

Regarding the credibility of the Bible, the archbishop encouraged students to “trust in God” because the Bible is not the word of God so much as it simply bears witness to what God has done.

“The gospel was preached before it was written,” he said. “Don’t trust the written page. Trust the living history of the faith.”

The archbishop said the issue of whether or not to allow women into priesthood was not a question of women’s ability to do the job but church tradition.

Similarly, he voiced support for the status quo related to gay rights to marriage.

“Gays and lesbians are not excluded from the church,” the archbishop said. “If they feel they are excluded, it is only because they have decided to exclude themselves until the church decides to accept their practices. You can’t demand that in order for me to love you, you must approve of everything I do. No one has the right to do that.”

McCormick freshman Frank Kaufhold said he thought the fireside was an interesting opportunity.

“I’m open-minded, and I’m just here to listen,” Kaufhold said.

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