Reams of private Vatican correspondence published in a new Italian best-seller reportedly include a plea by Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George, urging the Vatican to halt an award to Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn for abolishing the death penalty.
George appears to play a minor role in the real-life Vatican whodunit that the Italian press has dubbed “Vatileaks.” Late last month, the pope’s butler was arrested on suspicions that he leaked private letters, including some addressed to Pope Benedict XVI. Those letters reportedly appear in “Your Holiness: The Secret Papers of Benedict XVI,” a new book in which Italian writer Gianluigi Nuzzi airs a boatload of Vatican dirty laundry and hints of a real-life conspiracy akin to a Dan Brown novel.
According to Vatican expert John Allen, the book includes what Nuzzi claims is an encrypted 2011 cable from the Apostolic Nuncio in Washington relaying a plea from George to Benedict’s Secretary of State. George asks that the Vatican official step in and block the Rome-based Community of Sant'Egidio from giving an award to Roman Catholic governor Quinn, Allen said.
Sant'Egidio, a Catholic movement that promotes peace, fights poverty and helps run George’s titular parish in Rome, St. Bartholomew, apparently planned to honor Quinn for abolishing the death penalty in Illinois.
The memo, apparently sent in March of last year from the Apostolic Nuncio, said that the cardinal and bishops felt the honor was "inopportune" because of Quinn’s support for gay marriage and legalized abortion. The memo also noted the state’s refusal to renew foster care contracts with Catholic Charities in Illinois because the agencies would not license same-sex couples as prospective foster parents.
Colleen Dolan, a spokeswoman for the cardinal, said George knew about his cameo in the book. But she would not confirm or deny whether the memo was fact or fiction.
“A private conversation between the cardinal and the nuncio -- that’s equal to a conversation with the pope in form,” Dolan said. “I couldn’t comment on that.”
But the scenario is not outside the realm of possibility, she said.
“There’s a policy where the U.S. church does not encourage awards to be given to people whose policies are opposite of church teaching like abortion,” Dolan said. “Remember the Obama thing at Notre Dame? It’s the same thing.”
Quinn's spokeswoman said the governor was unable to go to Rome to receive the award. She would not say whether the laurel was rescinded or Quinn simply had a conflict on his calendar.
A representative for the Community of Sant'Egidio could not be reached for comment.
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