Mayor Emanuel plays rough and tough with Cardinal George

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Francis Cardinal George speaking at the Interfaith Coalition to Restore the Water Fee Exemption press conference at the St. Paul Church of God in Christ
  • Brian Jackson/Sun-Times
  • Francis Cardinal George speaking at the Interfaith Coalition to Restore the Water Fee Exemption press conference at the St. Paul Church of God in Christ
Far be it from me—a secular humanist from way, way back—to criticize someone for criticizing the head of the Chicago archdiocese.

But I can't think of what Cardinal George did to generate the fusillade recently directed his way by Alderman Patrick O'Connor—except for criticizing one of Mayor Emanuel's policies.

It generally doesn't take much more than that.

Cardinal George's joined a coalition of other religious leaders, lobbying Mayor Emanuel to bring back at least a portion of the exemption that guarded not for profits from paying water bills.

Here—read all about it.

I don't like paying water bills any more than anyone else. And I really don't like that our water bills feed a slush fund that pays for things having nothing to do with water.

That said, I think it's pretty crummy to make not-for-profits, who serve the poor or the down-and-out (like shelters and food pantries), divert money from their important services to pay to use water.

They used to be exempted from the water bill. Mayor Emanuel took away their exemption.

I've got to the give the mayor credit for this—a lot of the not-for-profits, like the big universities and hospitals, clearly didn't deserve the water bill exemption. So good job, Mr. Mayor, for making the big boys pay.

But Cardinal George and his allies want the mayor to give smaller not-for-profits a bigger break on their bills.

In an attempt to build support, they held a press conference, which prompted Alderman O'Connor to lace into the church regarding its handling of pedophile priests.

"The church has so many internal problems, they ought to satisfy their own problems and they ought to address the things that are in the papers every day and stop talking about free water," O'Connor told Fran Spielman of the Sun-Times. "Quit saying, they handled things right in the past."

And so on.

OK, there's a lot of things I might want to debate with Cardinal George—like the church's attitude toward gay marriage or stem cell research or abortion rights.

But helping the poor and down-and-out? I mean, I'd have thought that's the one thing we all agree clergy ought to be doing.

Besides, what does the church's pedophilia scandal have to do with escalating water bills that might drive homeless shelters out of business?

Apparently, there's helping the poor. And there's helping this administration crush the poor. Which seems to be the reigning social policy of the day around here.

Anyway, that'll teach you, Cardinal George, to take a stand against the mayor.

The interesting thing is that they made sure that the alderman beating up on Cardinal George was a white Catholic. Irish, to boot.

It reminds me of the time they had to rough up Stacy Davis Gates, the political activities director for the Chicago Teachers Union, who was testifying against school closings at a city council hearing.

Gates is a black woman. So the mayor's people made sure that the alderman doing the dirty work was also African-American—in this case, Alderman Anthony Beale.

I'll say this about our mayor. He may rule Chicago like a schoolyard bully. But at least he's politically correct.

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