Reporting Jay Levine
CHICAGO (CBS) – Chicago Archbishop Cardinal Francis George is looking ahead, expressing hope he’s winning his second bout with cancer.
CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine spoke with the cardinal about what he’s been through the past for months, and George seemed upbeat and optimistic.
Although the cardinal is tired at times, and disappointed at having to cut back his public schedule due to a weakened immune system from his chemotherapy, all in all, George seemed better than you might expect.
Told he looks good, the cardinal joked, “That’s what everybody says. I get no sympathy.”
“Kindness is enough, and I get a lot of that,” he added.
His monthly chemotherapy treatments at Loyola University Medical Center have left him a bit weak, but apparently improved.
“The big question is then, is it working? And the preliminary scans have been very, very hopeful,” he said.
This is the cardinal’s second with cancer. He was diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2006; this past summer, he was diagnosed with kidney cancer.
But he said he’s given no thought to stepping down, at least temporarily, while fighting for his life.
“Bishops can’t do that temporarily,” he said. “If you can’t do the job, you should step aside, period.”
But what if he can’t do the job for a few months?
“How do you know that? I mean, you’d never know that: I’ll be back in six months. I don’t know that. I don’t know if I’ll be alive in six months, really,” he said.
But said he hopes he will, and that the time until the Pope accepts his resignation in a year or two will be productive.
“I’ve tried to do my job, done some things well, some things less well. The next person will come along and do his job, too,” George said.
His biggest challenge, and also his biggest disappointment, he admitted, was dealing with the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandal.
“I thought we had it all under control, and the controls failed, and that was a huge shock to me,” the cardinal said.
He was referring to West Side priest Rev. Dan McCormack, who was arrested in early 2006 on charges of criminal sexual assault, and ended up pleading guilty and serving a prison sentence on those charges. The Archdiocese has paid a $3.2 million settlement to a victim of McCormack, who sued the church for allegedly failing to remove McCormack from having contact with children even though they had knowledge of the alleged abuse.
Asked what he would like people to say about him after he leaves his job, George said, “He tried to be a good bishop. That’s all. That’s plenty.”
The fact is Cardinal George has been one of the most influential bishops in the world, as the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. He’s well-respected at the Vatican, and was once considered “papabili,” which is the Italian term for a possible candidate for Pope.
But his plan for retirement is much more modest. The lifelong Chicagan wants the one-on-one contact with parishioners from hearing confessions at Holy Name Cathedral.