Cardinal George reflects on Vatican II’s living legacy at SXU

Francis Cardinal George (center) with Saint Xavier University leaders: (L to R) Executive Director of University Ministry Graziano Marcheschi; Provost Paul DeVito; President Christine M. Wiseman, J.D.; and Director of the Office for Mission and Heritage/Director of the Center for Religion and Public Discourse Sr. Joy Clough, RSM.

Francis Cardinal George (center) with Saint Xavier University leaders: (L to R) Executive Director of University Ministry Graziano Marcheschi; Provost Paul DeVito; President Christine M. Wiseman, J.D.; and Director of the Office for Mission and Heritage/Director of the Center for Religion and Public Discourse Sr. Joy Clough, RSM.

Saint Xavier University (SXU) welcomed Archbishop of Chicago Francis Cardinal George yesterday as he offered his reflections about the living legacy of the Second Vatican Council for the concluding lecture of the University’s 2013-14 Catholic Colloquium series.

During the April 8 presentation titled “Vatican II and Its Consequences, Intended and Otherwise,” more than 100 people listened as Cardinal George discussed the Council’s decisions and the myriad ways, expected and unexpected, that it continues to shape and direct Catholic life.

Following his presentation, the Cardinal answered questions from the audience. He said the search for his successor has not yet begun, and also expressed regret that he would be unable to travel to Rome for the canonizations of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II due to his health. However, he said he plans to maintain his schedule for Holy Week and Easter services at Holy Name Cathedral.

The Cardinal delved into the history and purpose of Vatican II, a council that formally opened in 1962 under the leadership of Pope John XXIII. He explained that a primary reason for the Council was the Pope feared that the human race was on a path to self-destruction and sought to use the unity of the Church to restore the world.

“He was a man who saw a lot of suffering … The decades of war and fratricide, Nazism, racism, communism, and class warfare,” Cardinal George said. “They had forgotten God, of course, and they had forgotten that the human race is one human family.”

The Cardinal also disputed that the Council’s main goal was to help the Church catch up with the modern world.

“In a limited sense, that’s not totally false,” Cardinal George said. “The Church has to understand how the world is and understand how she has to change, not be a museum, in order to talk convincingly to the world.”

The Council also ushered in major changes to the Church itself, such as allowing councils composed of lay people to advise Catholic leaders. The Cardinal said one of the most significant changes was doing away with the centuries-old tradition of saying Mass in Latin in favor of common languages. He said this resulted in greater participation and more people getting involved with the service.

“Now, we have a much more dialogical form of worship,” Cardinal George said. “To go to the Tridentine mass was a beautiful experience … but there’s no dialogue. Once you get used to that – that you meet the Lord in dialogue – you begin to see that everything is dialogue, and that Mass is the highest form of dialogue with the Lord himself.”

The Cardinal also discussed some of the unintended consequences of the reforms of Vatican II, such as doctrinal struggles and dissolving collective customs. One notable example, Cardinal George said, was that the Bishops changed the concept of fasting during Lent. Previously, Catholics abstained from eating meat on Fridays as penance. But after the Council, the Bishops said people could choose an act of penance for themselves.

“The destruction of a custom that kept us together meant that the Church then shared ideas, we recited the same creed, there weren’t so many markers,” Cardinal George said. “In order to be a community, you have to share behaviors, not just ideas.”

As the first native Chicagoan to become the Archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal George serves 2.3 million parishioners of the third largest diocese in the country. He is one of the most prominent leaders in the American Roman Catholic Church and has evolved as the point person between American Catholicism and the Vatican on a host of issues.

Cardinal George’s presentation continued SXU’s observance of the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council. The Catholic Colloquium series is sponsored by SXU’s Office for Mission and Heritage. For more information, contact the Office for University Mission and Ministry at (773) 298-3900 or email Margaret Schroeder at mschroeder@sxu.edu.

Here’s a list of the extensive media coverage regarding Cardinal George’s talk: 

Post-event:

Pre-Event