Cardinal Francis George Visits North Park University, Addresses Catholic Social Teaching

Cardinal Francis George
From left, North Park President David Parkyn, Cardinal Francis George and Provost Joseph Jones met prior to the cardinal’s lecture.

Cardinal delivers 11th annual Kermit Zarley Lecture

CHICAGO (October 13, 2011) – Cardinal Francis George, OMI, archbishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago, visited North Park University Oct. 11 to speak about Catholic social teaching. He said he was "deeply honored" to be invited to present the annual Kermit Zarley Lecture at the University's Anderson Chapel, and recalled when he celebrated a Catholic mass several years ago in Spanish at the chapel.

"That was a reminder to me of the evolution of North Park University, which has become a vital part of the culture and intellectual life in Chicago, reaching far beyond that and affecting so many people," he said.

The cardinal said the Catholic Church's social doctrine "is proposed as principles and values that can sustain a society worthy of the human person." He emphasized that Catholic social teaching focuses on people in relationships, particularly families, and he emphasized the importance of establishing and maintaining trust among people.

The family is "the basic social unit," Cardinal George said. "On almost any issue that comes along, you ask how this will affect the family. Protection of the family is a primary governing principle of a lot of Catholic social teaching."

The cardinal addressed his topic in two parts, focusing on several principles and values in Catholic social teaching, and commenting on how those characteristics are related to globalization. "That's a phenomenon that affects everything," he said, noting that when he was young, the U.S. economy was self-sufficient in the years after World War II. Those days are long past, he said, due in large part to cultural changes and advances in communication.

Cardinal George said that when he was a graduate student in the late 1960s, he recalled seeing a magazine cover with the first-ever photograph of the entire earth from space, taken by astronauts on Apollo 8. "For a moment, it struck many of us that this is what it is – this small, precious, very beautiful piece of jade in the darkness of space is our home, home to all of us. That was the beginning of the ecological movement, which says that everything you do affects everything else. It fits into a principle of Catholic social teaching that we are all related to one another because we are related to God," he said.

The cardinal emphasized the importance of trust in maintaining a vibrant society, noting that many people have difficulty with trust, particularly with institutions such as the church and government. But he explained that if people exchange gifts – share resources – and reciprocate, eventually an atmosphere of trust is established.

President Parkyn, Cardinal Francis George, Provost Jones
Cardinal Francis George addresses the audience in Anderson Chapel at North Park University.

"In that kind of atmosphere, you have a decent society," he said. "It's the dissolution of trust that creates the end of society. In order to build it up, you have to go back to giving and reciprocity, and therefore, it becomes a matter of who is trustworthy. That is more important than anything else." The cardinal emphasized his point by telling a story about how neighbors living in the former Cabrini Green public housing complex relied on mutual trust to keep their families safe.

"You may have all the things you need, but unless they're accompanied with people and trusting relationships, you don't have a society. It isn't a society unless there's trust among people," Cardinal George said.

The cardinal concluded by commenting that "the deepest truth" is communio, or sharing the gifts in communion. "All things and all people are ordered to God, and ordered in love to one another," he said.

More than 100 students, faculty, staff and visitors attended the lecture. Cardinal George has led the 2.3 million-member Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago since 1997, and he is a former president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The Kermit Zarley Lecture series is sponsored by the North Park University Biblical and Theological Studies Department. The series is named for Kermit Zarley, a professional golfer, with an interest in biblical and theological studies. Zarley provided support for the lecture series which North Park University has hosted the series since its inception in 2001.


For further information or resources, contact John Brooks, Director of Media Relations and News, via email or at (773) 244-5522. Learn more about North Park University.