April 19 event to look at Cardinal George’s final book

By Michelle Martin
Sunday, April 3, 2016

Catholics in Chicago can get a window into Cardinal George’s thinking at a reception for “A Godly Humanism: Clarifying the Hope that Lies Within” April 19.

The reception, which falls two days after the first anniversary of Cardinal George’s death, will include remarks by Gary A. Anderson, a theology professor at the University of Notre Dame; and Jean-Luc Marion, a Catholic studies and philosophy professor at the University of Chicago. It will be moderated by Anna Moreland, an associate professor of humanities at Villanova University.

The book, released in June 2015, was Cardinal George’s third in five years. Thomas Levergood, executive director of the Lumen Christi Institute, said the institute had hoped to host a Chicago reception earlier, but this was the earliest it came together.

The reception will be co-sponsored by the Archdiocese of Chicago, Mundelein Seminary, Catholic Theological Union and Relevant Radio.

Of Cardinal George’s three books, this is the one that takes on the relationship between intellectuals and the church, Levergood said, but it also might be the most accessible.

“This is the book that people should give to the intellectual in their family,” he said.

In a review that ran in the Catholic New World in September 2015, Robert Royal of the Faith & Reason Institute said Cardinal George’s book is important not just for Catholics.

“What he has to say is important to Catholics, to be sure, but also to the wider world at this moment. Clearly, the cardinal wanted to bring together things that many people in our time wrongly think are at odds: reason and faith, intelligence and holiness, ultimately God and man,” Royal wrote.

“He shows how those differing pairs relate, partly by describing the way they have functioned in his own rich and productive life as priest and bishop, but also in how they fit into what, by any fair description, is among the richest intellectual and cultural traditions in the world: Catholicism.”

Levergood agreed that “Godly Humanism” offers a window into the tradition within which Cardinal George labored.

“The book itself was a very good expression of the Catholic intellectual tradition, especially with John Paul II’s and Pope Benedict’s pontificates,” Levergood said. “I think it’s a very good resource for taking stock of the Catholic intellectual tradition as we move forward with Pope Francis.”

Cardinal George often emphasized the Catholic idea that relationship is central to existence, and much of Pope Francis’ pontificate has been dedicated to how people must be in right relationship with God, with the earth and with one another.

“That’s the point of contact,” he said.

Cardinal George, who was a philosopher before taking on a leadership role with his religious community the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, was seen as one of the preeminent intellectuals in the church, Levergood said.

“He was always at the heart of things,” he said.

Cardinal George was formed in the tradition of Thomas Aquinas, Levergood said. He decided to do his doctorate in American philosophy, because after reading American philosophers such as William James and a John Dewey, “his response was, ‘This is how I think,’” Levergood said. “He could do a kind of Catholic conversation with a critique of American philosophy.”

His second doctorate, in sacred theology, was in ecclesiology.

His career included being chairman of the philosophy department at Creighton University, and was expected to join the philosophy faculty at Catholic University of America, but then he was tapped to become vicar general for his community.

“That was something that transformed him, that gave him different horizons,” Levergood said, “both living in Rome and traveling to different Oblate communities around the world.”

Cardinal George had raised the idea of writing a memoir about his experiences visiting extremely poor people all over the world, Levergood said.

“That marked him deeply in ways that those of us who knew him in Chicago didn’t often see,” Levergood said. “He said they would welcome him as a priest and treat him with suspicion as an American.”

While all three of the books were largely drawn from papers and talks Cardinal George had already written, putting them together was never as simple as just gathering old material, Levergood said. “He wrote his own stuff, and he never stopped rewriting,” he said. “There were no ‘finished’ talks.”

Cardinal George did not finish the final draft of “A Godly Humanism” until nine days before his death. “He insisted even as he was dying on going through the manuscript twice,” Levergood said. “He said, ‘This is the last thing I’ll do.’”

The reception for “A Godly Humanism” is April 19, 5:15-7:15 p.m., at the University Club, 76 E. Monroe St. Cost is $50. For information or to register, visit


  • books
  • cardinal george
  • godly humanism
  • lumen christi institute

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