Cardinal George Hospitalized... And Embattled
In a statement, archdiocesan Chancellor Jimmy Lago said: "The archbishop of Chicago went to Loyola University Medical Center this afternoon for tests relating to some continuing dizziness he experienced prior to his recent trip to New Zealand and Rome. As a precautionary measure, he is expected to stay overnight so that his doctor may complete these tests."Francis George, who turned 69 last week, is the youngest American cardinal, head of the country's second-largest See and vice-president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Hospital and church officials declined to provide further information Thursday.
Before leaving for New Zealand, George met with the Tribune editorial board to propose a plan to tap state funds for Catholic schools.
At that Jan. 11 meeting, George said he had not been feeling well recently.
Before heading to the hospital, George defended his curia's handling of an abuse case against a priest who remained in active parish ministry despite having been accused last year:
"The archdiocese, despite many requests, has still not received either the police interview of last August or any allegation against Father McCormack that could be used to begin an investigation on our part," George said. " ... It seems to me morally wrong to insist that anyone should be punished on the basis of a story that could not be investigated. If this were the practice, no one would be safe."The critique of George voiced in today's Sun-Times by Illinois Appellate Judge Anne Burke, the second head of the USCCB's National Lay Review Board on sex abuse, is strong enough to make anyone dizzy
Prosecutors informed the archdiocese of the allegation in September when they determined they lacked enough evidence to charge the priest. However, they did not share any details of their investigation with the archdiocese, said police and prosecutors.
"He's the ultimate person in charge here," Burke said. "He's never had the intent, I think, to abide by [the zero-tolerance policy] other than in words. I'm hoping this is at least a wake-up call."Remember that no less than the same Anne Burke came away with a very positive impression of Cardinal Ratzinger when she met with him in 2004, calling herself "thrilled" at his election as Pope.
The threshold for what constitutes a "credible allegation of abuse" for the church is much lower than in a criminal context, and several priests from the Chicago archdiocese have been removed from ministry for allegations of abuse -- some decades old -- that were never criminally prosecuted, she said.
"Is it more probable than not? Is there some reasonable inference that we can believe that something happened?" she said, describing the low bar for what constitutes "credible" in church circles.
"We don't know until there is an investigation. But let's face it: Can we trust the archdiocese to do an investigation anyway? I don't think so," Burke said.
Remember, too, that it wasn't the most popular thing to call oneself "thrilled" on election day....
"We had an outstanding dialogue. He listened. The fact that he was even willing to speak with a group of lay people on this subject was outstanding in my mind at the time...."So Ratzi is following up, and Chicago isn't....
According to Judge Burke, this was not a rubber stamp meeting filled with pleasantries, it was quite frank.
"So it was a definite interview, an interrogation so to speak, but it was on two sides. He had just as many questions of us. They had as many questions of us as we had of them," Burke said.
Based upon that interpersonal experience with Ratzinger, Burke believes the new pontiff will be a bridge builder, despite concern from some quarters that Benedict the Sixteenth will be unwavering and uncompromising in his positions.
"The Catholic Church is not about revolutions. We've never had revolutions, but we have had evolutions. I believe this is the beginning step to that. I would just ask people to reserve their opinions and be patient," said Burke.
Aside from actually meeting with them, Burke says she was especially impressed by Ratzinger because he followed up on the recommendations made by the board.
Roma, we have a problem.
PHOTO: AP File/Aynsley Floyd