Bishop Accountability
  Response from Cardinal Francis George to the Open Letter

Note from Fr. Richard Prendergast: On Monday, December 29, 2003, I received a call from Bishop Paprocki, the Episcopal Vicar for my part of the Archdiocese, ordering me to refrain from using any parish resources for personal opinions. He first said I was to remove the Open Letter from the parish web site, then said that the Cardinal had said, at the very least, I was to include his response. I am more than happy to include the Cardinal’s response to the Open Letter, which, although he made it available to the media the same day as the Open Letter, is not to be found on the Archdiocesan web site under news releases. Nonetheless, it is my hope that making these materials available for all those of good will can only serve to increase a healthy and helpful dialogue for all those affected by this pastoral concern which is shared by the Cardinal and those who signed the letter. Fr. Prendergast

December 19, 2003

Dear Father Prendergast,

Thank you for your courtesy in sending me a copy of your open letter to the bishops about the language of some Church documents speaking of homosexuality. Normally I don’t respond personally to an open letter addressed to a group, but your letter raises an important point and fails to address another. Hence, this response.

Your concern that language can make it difficult to welcome people is one I share. The Church speaks, in moral and doctrinal issues, a philosophical and theological language in a society that understands, at best, only psychological and political terms. Our language is exact, but it does not help us in welcoming men and women of homosexual orientation. It can seem lacking in respect. This is a pastoral problem and a source of anxiety for me as it is for you. It would be good to discuss it together.

Pastoring any group of people, however, means more than welcoming them. It also means calling them to conversion in Christ. This dimension of the pastoral life is absent from your letter. God is all-loving and all-forgiving; but he knows the difference between right and wrong, and he expects us to know it, to live accordingly and, as ordained priests, to preach the demands of the Gospel with integrity to every group and all people on their journey to holiness.

Pastors have to mediate the tension between welcoming people and calling them to change, to repent and convert and live according to Christ’s teaching transmitted by the Church. That tension is often resolved in practice by a pastor’s love for his people. I thank you for loving your people. If, however, you cannot resolve that tension between welcoming people as they are and still calling them to leave their sinfulness and become saints, or if you yourself do not accept the Church’s moral teaching on the moral use of the gift of sexuality, it would be all the more important for us to talk.

You and all the people you love and serve are daily in my prayers; please keep me in yours.

Fraternally yours in Christ,
Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I.
Archbishop of Chicago


Original material copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.