Cardinal George: Next pope must embrace zero tolerance for sex abuse

Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago speaks during a press conference at the Pontifical North American College in Rome March 4. Cardinal George and Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington spoke after attending the first general congregation meeting of th e world's cardinals at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago speaks during a press conference at the Pontifical North American College in Rome March 4. Cardinal George and Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington spoke after attending the first general congregation meeting of th e world’s cardinals at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The next pope must be “very aware” of the need for vigilance in preventing clergy sex abuse and accept a policy of “zero tolerance” as the universal law of the church, said Chicago’s Cardinal Francis E. George.

The cardinal, who will vote in the upcoming papal election, spoke to journalists March 4 between sessions of the first day of pre-conclave meetings at the Vatican.

Asked if he would consider a candidate’s approach to “sexual misconduct by clergy” when choosing the next pope, Cardinal George said “that will be an important issue” because sex abuse is a “terrible wound on the body of the church.”

“Whoever’s elected pope,” the cardinal said, “obviously has to accept the universal code of the church now, which is zero tolerance for anyone who has ever abused a minor child, (who) therefore may not remain in public ministry in the church. So that has to be accepted.”

“I think that will not be a problem,” he added. “There’s a deep-seated conviction, certainly on the part of anyone who’s a pastor in a diocese, that this has to be continually addressed.”

The cardinal noted that U.S. bishops lobbied to make their own zero-tolerance policy part of the church’s canon law and convinced bishops’ conferences in other countries, such as India, to adopt similar norms.

Although the “incidence of abuse is practically zero right now as far as we can tell,” the cardinal said, “there are still the victims. And the wound, therefore, is deep in their hearts and minds very often, and as long as it’s with them it’s with all of us, and that will last for a long time. So the next pope has to be very aware of this.”

Cardinal George, 76, also replied to a question about Scottish Cardinal Keith O’Brien, 74, who announced Feb. 25 that he would not participate in the upcoming conclave because he did not want media attention focused on him. The announcement followed reports that three priests and a former priest had accused him of “inappropriate conduct” with them going back to the 1980s.

On March 3, Cardinal O’Brien publicly asked forgiveness for “times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal,” and announced that he would “play no further part in the public life of the Catholic Church in Scotland.”

“It’s a tragic moment for him, certainly,” Cardinal George said. “The tragic moment was when he was guilty of misconduct and then the consequence has played itself out now.

“I’m not sure that the personal tragedy of a particular cardinal will have much influence on the discussion” among cardinals, he added, “but that remains to be seen.”

— By Francis X. Rocca Catholic News Service


  1. Everyone seems to be overlooking a very important distinction in the Cardinal O’Brien case. He never abused or mistreated children in any way, nor did he break any laws. Nor has he been accused of such. Sexual misbehavior between adults does not seem to me to be a matter for public discourse. These men were adults and why are they whining after 30 years, a week before a Conclave? Come on! And all at once? Clearly they are paid off or have an ulterior motive. Moral failings in an otherwise successful 50-year career are a matter between the sinner and his confessor. I don’t know why this is even being taken seriously.

  2. Well, here we are again with this “Catholic news” service showcasing the so-called moderate, church-changing celebrities of the American subversion. Isn’t it interesting that this “Catholic news” service can always showcase the new-age proponents of pseudo-catholicism, thereby according them a degree of credibility they just do not deserve.

    Take, for example, Cardinal George of Chicago. He is the fellow who still lets a demon named john fleger run around the Midwest, damning the Catholic Church and working full time to destroy it, while still calling himself a Catholic priest. He allows females who call themselves “nuns” to do the same thing. Mr. George is the former chair of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) who allowed various committees to give hundreds of millions of Catholic dollars to pro-abort, anti-Catholic groups around the globe; who allowed lay employees who headed those committees to sit as directors on various pro-abortion groups that were receiving our Catholic dollars; who had the USCCB write and distribute a voting guide booklet in 2008 that distorted Catholic doctrine and the teachings of Christ with the specific goal of leading Catholic voters to the satanic den of Barack Hussein Obama (from Chicago) and the American Party of Death; who sent his scandal-ridden protégé to the Diocese of Tucson to mislead Catholic voters while shielding the anti-Catholic pro-death politicians who call themselves Catholics; and who is allowing the City of Chicago to shut down long-standing Catholic ministries because they will not accommodate homosexual deviancy

    Might this “Catholic news” service have an agenda in its “reporting?”

    I strongly suggest that you Phoenix Catholics thank God daily that you have a real Catholic Bishop, and invite you to read about another real Catholic Bishop (not in chicago).


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