Cardinal George releases book of essays

October 8, 2009 (CHICAGO) It's a collection of essays by Chicago's Catholic Archbishop. If there's a broad theme to the cardinal's writing it is relationships-- between people, cultures, religions and countries. ABC7 spoke with Cardinal George at his North Side residence, where it became clear that one hot-button topic is the relationship between the church and government.

"The separation of church and state is violated when government says, "Well we're talking about this now, you can't.' Nonsense. We're going to talk about it because it's moral," said Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago.

The cardinal believes there is a crucial conversation that must take place between Christians and Muslims. He calls it the most important conversation of the next century.

"Both universal faiths, and so there's tension that's built into it. And the question is: How do you control the tension, so it doesn't become violent?" said Cardinal George.

One way Cardinal George has shown his respect for Muslims is by joining Chicago Muslims at an Iftar dinner as they broke their fast during Ramadan.

"They're very concerned about families and we're concerned about families, too. So those are areas where we can cooperate even though we don't believe the same thing," said Cardinal George.

He told Catholic laypeople that they should "pray for courage" because "there are good reasons to be afraid." Not fear of cultural pressures or other religions. He said this is an in-house matter: the damage done by priest sexual abuse.

"I think the depth of the wound because the sexual abuse scandal has affected the trust between laypeople and priests and bishops, too. If that isn't healed enough to go along, then the church will dissolve, she won't be able to fulfill her mission," said Cardinal George.

"So that's the first fear. The second is: the church is discredited in some way; the legal system can be used to punish her, to deprive her of liberty, to despoil her, and there's a real possibility of that happening."

Does Cardinal George believe that is why so many people who call themselves Catholics don't attend church?

"It contributes to some extent, but trend not just reserved to Catholicism, that trend was beginning long before the sex abuse scandal broke open in 2002. In the way it did. So that would contribute, but I don't think it explains everything at all," said Cardinal George.

He believes the church has reached out to sexual abuse victims and now finds itself in a position to help those abused - whether by priests or someone else.

"So something good is coming out of that. There's a lot of wounded-ness out there caused by all kinds of factors. The church is supposed to bind up the wounds so we can all go forward together, so maybe this is another area we are to pay attention to because of our own sinfulness," Cardinal George said.

All of the cardinal's interview will air Sunday beginning at 8 a.m. on ABC7.

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