At long last, the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George has definitively affirmed what exactly he said in relation to the much-quoted statement about him dying in his bed, and his successors dying imprisoned and martyred.
I first heard the quote used by a Catholic speaker sometime in 2010. If you’re a Catholic reader or conference attendee, you’ve no doubt heard it as well. It’s taken on rather mythic proportions… so much so, that I suspected that it might not be factual. The quote has even made its way into the Cardinal’s Wikipedia entry.
With the publication of Cardinal George’s most recent Catholic New World column, the source has not only been found, but confirmed by the man who originally uttered the statement.
Cardinal George confirms that he said it, and also adds that the quote has most frequently been used without his important follow-up sentence.
Here’s the salient section from the Cardinal’s column.
“Speaking a few years ago to a group of priests, entirely outside of the current political debate, I was trying to express in overly dramatic fashion what the complete secularization of our society could bring,” writes the Cardinal. “I was responding to a question and I never wrote down what I said, but the words were captured on somebody’s smart phone and have now gone viral on Wikipedia and elsewhere in the electronic communications world. I am (correctly) quoted as saying that I expected to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. What is omitted from the reports is a final phrase I added about the bishop who follows a possibly martyred bishop: ‘His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.’ What I said is not ‘prophetic’ but a way to force people to think outside of the usual categories that limit and sometimes poison both private and public discourse.”
So, as a corrective, for all those writers and speakers out there desirous of using the quote, when used it should be used in its entirety.
“I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.”
Considering the fact that Cardinal George is speaking from Chicago, that infamous fons et origo of corruption, I am not at all certain that he was being overly dramatic.
Click here to listen to Fr. Josiah Trenham’s Orthodox Christian approach to the onslaught of secularism, via Ancient Faith Radio: