Saturday, October 6, 2007

Cardinal George on Catholics and Culture

Cardinal Francis George is soon to be the president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. I once had the privilege of hearing this articulate and astute man speak on the challenges of the Catholic Church in America which, rising out of an immigrant population, needs to create culture authentic to its beliefs and traditions to forge strong roots here.

In an interview with John Allen, he said:
[W]e created alternatives to the mainstream institutions. They were never, I think, ghetto institutions, because they prepared people to take their place in mainstream society. They didn’t try to cut them off from it, but to prepare people to take their place in the mainstream precisely as Catholics. Once they succeeded, then the value of those very institutions seemed to be lessened, and the institutions themselves said it’s important for us to be mainstream, and to no longer be so identifiably Catholic. So they’re porous in ways that they weren’t before....

The generations coming now, the second generation of the Vietnamese, the second and third generation of Hispanics, are not assimilated in the same way. This is sometimes for linguistic reasons, or because the family is still far more able to protect them from some of the influences towards individualism that the older generations of Catholics who are here longer don’t find necessary, or don’t have any longer. So it all depends. To talk about Catholics in general is difficult. You have to ask which groups, how long have they been here, what are they doing. I suppose what the bishop you mention is talking about is more those third, fourth, fifth, sixth generation Irish, Germans, Italians, some Poles, whose only culture is that of this country. The Catholic subculture that was developed by those institutions isn’t very strong in their lives. We’ve reduced the tension between faith and culture, and there’s always tension. There has to be.

It should be an interesting ride.

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