George correspondence cited in 'Vatileaks' scandal
6/5/2012 8:57:00 AM
By Manya A. Brachear, Chicago Tribune reporter
Private Vatican correspondence published in a new Italian best-seller reportedly includes a plea by Chicago's Cardinal Francis George that a Roman Catholic group drop plans to honor Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn over his work to abolish the death penalty.
Although George and Quinn agree on capital punishment, the cardinal has criticized the Roman Catholic governor for his support of abortion rights and same-sex civil unions.
The new book, "Your Holiness: The Secret Papers of Benedict XVI" by Italian writer Gianluigi Nuzzi, has caused a scandal labeled "Vatileaks" by the Italian press. Two weeks ago, the pope's butler was arrested on suspicion that he stole private letters, including some addressed to the pontiff.
According to John Allen, a Vatican analyst and columnist for the National Catholic Reporter newspaper, the book reveals what Nuzzi claims is an encrypted 2011 cable from the Apostolic Nuncio in Washington relaying an overture from George to the Holy See's Secretariat of State, headed by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.
In the cable, George asks that the Vatican office step in and block the Rome-based Community of Sant'Egidio from giving an award to Quinn, Allen said. Sant'Egidio, a Catholic movement that promotes peace and fights poverty, apparently planned to honor Quinn and a delegation from Illinois for abolishing the state's death penalty.
The memo, reportedly sent in March of last year by the Apostolic Nuncio, said the cardinal and bishops felt that the honor was "inopportune" because of Quinn's support for gay marriage and legalized abortion. The memo also notes the state's refusal to renew foster care contracts with Catholic Charities in Illinois because the agencies would not license same-sex couples as prospective foster parents.
Colleen Dolan, a spokeswoman for the cardinal, said George knows about his cameo in the book, but she would not confirm whether the memo was fact or fiction.
"A private conversation between the cardinal and the nuncio - that's equal to a conversation with the pope in form," Dolan said. "I couldn't comment on that."
But the scenario is not outside the realm of possibility, she said.
"There's a policy where the U.S. church does not encourage awards to be given to people whose policies are opposite of church teaching like abortion," Dolan said.
"Remember the Obama thing at Notre Dame? It's the same thing," she said, referring to a controversy over President Barack Obama, who supports abortion rights, delivering a 2009 commencement address at the Roman Catholic university.
When Quinn signed the death penalty ban into law last year, he said he turned to the Bible and the writings of George's predecessor, the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin.
Brooke Anderson, a Quinn spokeswoman, said the governor received an invitation to a celebration in Rome "to honor his political courage," but he was unable to make the trip. She does not know if the invitation was rescinded, but said a delegation of Illinois legislators did attend the celebration last fall, including Rep. Karen Yarbrough, D-Maywood, a chief sponsor of the bill banning capital punishment.
Yarbrough, who like the governor supports abortion rights and civil unions, said there was never any indication that the governor bowed out gracefully to avoid controversy.
"Quite frankly, I was disappointed he wasn't able to go," she said.
A representative for the Community of Sant'Egidio could not be reached for comment.
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