On Monday afternoon, a packed house in the Atrium gathered to hear our distinguished speaker, His Eminence Edward Cardinal Egan, for the annual Center for Labor and Employment Law lecture. Dean Simons briefly introduced His Eminence, with Professor Gregory giving an introduction to the lecture. Professor Gregory explained that originally Caridnal Egan’s discussion would be focused on Title VII and human rights; however, it had evolved based on a recent lecture given at the Harvard Club. His Eminence then began his lecture explaining that it would be broken up into three parts, first, his own friendship with Pope Francis; second, a brief review of the Pontiff’s history; and third, the doctrinal directions in which he believes Pope Francis will lead the church.
On February 21st, 2001, Pope John Paul II ordained Egan as a cardinal and amongst the College of Cardinals in this group was Pope Francis. Cardinal Egan was immediately asked to direct the next group of Cardinals to be ordained in October. However, this assignment was disrupted by a pivotal moment during his tenure as archbishop of NYC – September 11th—and the resultant fallout from this terrorist attack. Mayor Giuliani asked for Cardinal Egan’s help during 9/11 by first going to Ground Zero to attend to the dead, and then by going to St. Vincent to help the wounded. Soon after, Cardinal Egan was back in Rome to prepare the new cardinal class.
Cardinal Egan discussed the process of preparing for the new cardinal class and the many administrative duties he took on. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio (now Pope Francis) came to Cardinal Egan and said he could only imagine what he had been through during the aftermath of 9/11 and offered Egan any support he needed for this new group of cardinals. This began their friendship. On breaks they would talk about their shared interest in classical music. Pope Francis even reached out to Cardinal Egan on the day after the Metropolitan Opera opening, sending him a letter about Renee Fleming’s performance. Cardinal Egan had previously connected then Cardinal Bergoglio with Ms. Fleming, who sent him recordings of her solos from La Traviata.
During the time they spent together post 9/11, His Eminence Cardinal Egan believed His Eminence Cardinal Bergoglio to be a quiet, thoughtful, and genuine Jesuit and a wise, learned man with a kind heart. Though Cardinal Egan did not take part in the Papal Conclave, he was happy that Cardinal Bergoglio was chosen. When the new Pope Francis appeared, His Eminence’s face portrayed his delight on live television. During his lecture, Cardinal Egan reflected on the change in his old friend since they had met in 2001, Pope Francis had become less reserved. When they met again after the Papal Conclave, Pope Francis asked Cardinal Egan to pray for him, “At least three times a day.” Cardinal Egan asked us to continue with prayers for the pope. Based on Cardinal Egan’s recollection, after their meeting Pope Francis started to walk away, he then stopped and said, “Say hello to Madame Fleming.”
Cardinal Egan then provided a brief biography of Pope Francis including his family background; Pope Francis was from an Italian immigrant family living in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He studied to be a chemical technician, entered an archdiocesan seminary, and three years later he entered the Society of Jesus where he taught psychology and literature. Cardinal Bergoglio was named Auxiliary Bishop of Buenos Aires in 1992, when the city was struggling through financial challenges. He had a simple lifestyle as the archbishop, living in a 4-room building next to cathedral. He cooked his own food, took public transportation and frequently consoled families of “Los Desaparecidos” in Argentina.
His Eminence Cardinal Egan provided a reasoning as to the Pope’s appointment by stating that he is recognized as man of prayer who has handled daunting situations in his own country very well. As an advisor of several offices in the Vatican, the address he gave to cardinals before the voting process began was considered to be a speech of Christ-like commitment to the Church. Cardinal Egan also said that many news outlets have called him “the most popular leader in the world.”
Regarding his tenure as Pope, Cardinal Egan discussed the focus that Pope Francis has taken on controversial social justice issues. His spirit and love for caring for the poor has caught attention of the world and Pope Francis treated this topic at length in his paper published on November 24th 2013, Apostolic Exhortation, Pope Francis, On the Proclamation of the Gospel in Today’s World. His Eminence Cardinal Egan called this a clear apostolic document that discusses key social issues and noted that it is a passionate plea to open eyes to the mistreatment through exclusion, especially the poor. Cardinal Egan clarified that although some may find Pope Francis’s message controversial and groundbreaking, it is not a departure from recent church doctrine. Cardinal Egan reflected that the tone with which the messages have been delivered may not be what people are used to.
Cardinal Egan delved into several topics that the Pope has discussed including: abortion, homosexuality, and divorced Catholic’s receiving communion. With regard to abortion, the Pope is clear that we must represent the unborn and ensure that their lives are preserved. With regard to homosexuality, Cardinal Egan explains that Pope Francis sees homosexual acts as morally wrong, yet his response about homosexual people is “who am I to judge them.”
While discussing divorced or remarried Catholics, Cardinal Egan explained that there is some discussion currently about simplifying the marriage process and annulment process, including looking at the strategy of the Orthodox Church or absolving couples after consultation with proper clergy. His Eminence Cardinal Egan is waiting to hear any clarifications that Church scholars and theologians can provide and said he would agree if the thesis is sound. He also stated that the next Senate of Bishops meeting in October 2015 would continue to discuss this topic.
Cardinal Egan’s talk was an in-depth look at the Pope, his beginnings as Cardinal Bergoglio and an exploration of what his future may bring to the Church. At the end of Cardinal Egan’s discussion, Father Whalen spearheaded the Q&A portion of the event. Dr. Charles Russo, Law School Class of 1983, and Panzer Chair at the University of Dayton School of Education asked what advice Cardinal Egan would give the pope regarding dealing with the media to get his point across clearly. Cardinal Egan laughed and said he would tell the Pope to ask someone else! Sarah Mannix ’15 asked if Egan had any advice for recent and futures graduates on how to carry the message of the church through our legal practice. The Cardinal replied that he would ask young lawyers use their analytical skills to help other lay people analyze and evaluate right and wrong.
Cardinal Egan was an engaging and thoughtful speaker who shed light on the new leader of the Catholic Church. The Cardinal’s address was a memorable event and he was truly a fitting distinguished guest for the Center’s lecture series.