Monday, December 7, 2009

What The World Needs Now: An Interview with Francis Cardinal George.

An interview with Francis Cardinal George at Catholic Metanarrative. It's long; I've included two questions/answers below regarding church and state and the family unit:

Columbia: How is the relationship between church and state affected by the modern understanding of freedom, rights and voluntary association?

Cardinal George:
The relationship between church and state is a constitutional way of talking about what is far deeper, namely faith and culture, which is the way Pope John Paul II used to raise the question. If we forget that man is a social being, first of all, and we begin to think we are antagonistic beings in competition with others in order to establish our rights, then the separation between church and state necessarily becomes antagonistic rather than one of cooperation.

In the beginning there was cooperation because the spheres were delimited, and the church was free to pursue its own life without interference from the state. In the last 50 years there has been more interference by the state in the life of the church, and freedom of religion has been reinterpreted to mean freedom of individuals to express themselves using religious terms -- but never to do that publicly because it may somehow infringe the rights of others who want to be free of religion. This has created a situation of antagonism that wasn't there before.

There is also a trend in contemporary society to see marriage and family as exclusively voluntary, rather than as natural institutions.

Cardinal George:
It is true, in fact, that you choose freely to marry someone, but once you do, that relationship is normative for the rest of your life. Marriage means growing not only to live with someone but also through someone else, having their self-consciousness become part of your self-consciousness.

The same thing is true of the Church, where we bring into our self-consciousness the mind of Christ, as St. Paul says, and therefore everyone whom Christ loves. The Church is a network of relationships, called communion, and the human race is a network of relationships, called solidarity. The two should complement one another. At that point there is no separation; there is cooperation, a recognition of difference -- and the difference is important. The Church isn't just a department of state, and the state shouldn't make itself into a kind of church, which is sometimes our temptation here in America.

Meanwhile, many immigrants come to the United States with a sense of family that is still very strong. They come here so they can send money back to their family, not in order to pursue their own goals. Behind this is a sense that the family is the basic unit of society in ways that aren't always true for Americans, who think that individuals and their rights are the basic unit.



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