Photo: Cardinal Francis E. George is pictured in a 2013 photo. (CNS photo/Karen Callaway, Catholic New World)
The late Cardinal Francis George, “one of the leading intellectual and moral forces for good in our country,” has left a legacy that will serve the Church and the nation for years to come, Bishop William Murphy said of his long-time friend as he accepted a posthumous award on the Cardinal’s behalf May 15 in Washington, D.C.
In “a wealth of speeches, homilies, essays and books,” Bishop Murphy said, Cardinal George “offered a vision that all of us continue to appreciate and seek to fulfill. His commentaries on the challenges the Church faces in an increasingly secularized society earned him the attention and respect of all fair-minded people, and, again, it is my conviction his observations continue to have a value that goes beyond the immediate challenges of the issues of the day. ”
Accepting the Alliance Defending Liberty’s Edwin Meese III Originalism and Religious Liberty Award on behalf of Cardinal George, Bishop Murphy gave special attention to the Cardinal’s 2010 address at Brigham Young University.
“At Salt Lake City that February 23,” Bishop Murphy recounted, “Cardinal George shared with his hearers the Catholic understanding of religious freedom, addressed the current threats to that freedom and called Mormons and Catholics ‘to stand together with other defenders of conscience and the public exercise of religion.’
“He reminded them and us that ‘The lesson of American history is that churches and other religious bodies prosper in a nation and in a social order that respects religious freedom and recognizes that civil government should never stand between the consciences and the religious practices of its citizens and Almighty God,’” Bishop Murphy said.
“The Cardinal reaffirmed the centrality of family for the social good and the priority of the person and his/her rights and responsibilities as sovereign before any other social institution, including the government. Finally, he insisted that ‘civil laws and obligations should protect that personal freedom; the basis of it all is religious freedom because it is our relationship to God that determines our relationship with everyone else.’”
“He and I have been friends for 40 years, a friendship begun in Rome where he became first my counselor and then my friend,” Bishop Murphy said. “That friendship has enriched my life as a priest, bishop and, I hope, faithful disciple with him in service to God’s truth and love for all humankind.”
“In the name of my brother Catholic bishops and, indeed, all those in our Church who hold Cardinal George’s memory in esteem,” Bishop Murphy told those gathered, “I thank you for conferring this honor on him posthumously and I pledge to you that my brother bishops and I are one with you in the important service you render to religious freedom and its defense, a noble service you give to our nation and to the world.”