Cardinal Francis George of Chicago has turned down an invitation to the Irish Fellowship Club’s St. Patrick Day dinner, and speculation is rife that it is because Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny is the main speaker, the Chicago Sun Times has reported.
Kenny lashed out at the Vatican in a widely reported attack last year over their refusal to cooperate in the inquiry into child sexual abuse in the diocese of Cloyne in Cork.
Then, late last year, the Irish government decided to close their Vatican Embassy in a move widely seen as related to the strong criticism of the Vatican role in the sex abuse scandals.
Now Cardinal George has refused an invitation to the prestigious St.Patrick’s eve event on March 16th run by an organization with deeply Catholic roots and a major donor to Catholic charities
His spokesman told the Chicago Sun Times that he has a previous engagement at a youth retreat at a local high school -- widely seen as a lesser event.
The Sun Times asks: “Has Cardinal George now become the latest participant in the 'cold war' between Ireland and the Vatican over... the Catholic Church’s failure to tell the truth about its major sexual-abuse scandal there?"
The prestigious Irish Fellowship Club has deeply Catholic roots and raises funds for scholarships for Catholic schools. It is the main organization for top Irish American political and business leaders.
The two other main honorees at their dinner are Catholic priests. The club will also be honoring this year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade Grand Marshal, Rev. Clete Kiley, Director for immigration Policy at UniteHere and Guest of Honor,Rev. Jack Clair, Assistant Executive Director, Misericordia Home and Special Honoree Mercy Home for Boys & Girls.
Cardinal George is no stranger to controversy. Earlier this year George compared the Gay Rights movement to the Ku Klux Klan when a dispute over a parade passing a Catholic Church erupted.
"You know, you don't want the gay liberation movement to morph into something like the Ku Klux Klan, demonstrating in the streets against Catholicism,"he said.
He later apologized, saying he was “truly sorry.”
The 74-year-old George, a conservative, is said to be very close to Pope Benedict.