.- Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York addressed the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization at the Vatican on Oct. 11, speaking about how positive and negative aspects of life in the U.S. affect the prospects of the Catholic Church flourishing.
“Perhaps because of our youth, we have many reasons for hope and promise,” he said, comparing the Catholic Church in the U.S. to the ancient Christian presence in the Middle East and Europe.
He said the U.S. is “actually very religious,” citing high belief in God and the divinity of Jesus Christ. The country also benefits “immensely” from the immigration of devout Catholics from Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa and Asia.
“They bring us wonderful people with a vibrant faith, strong families, who, upon arrival in America, search for welcoming parishes, where they are faithful to Sunday Mass and the sacraments,” he said.
The bishops’ synod is meeting at the Vatican over the next three weeks to consider how to evangelize the contemporary world, especially those who are baptized but have drifted away from the Church.
Cardinal Dolan told the synod that the Church in the U.S. is “vigorous” in its educational and charitable endeavors, which he said make American Catholics “ambassadors of evangelization.”
Catholic teaching in the U.S. is “well known, if at times misunderstood or attacked.” The cardinal said even those who disagree with the Church “grudgingly admire” the Church’s “tenacious preaching” on human life, peace, justice and charity, care for the suffering and defense of marriage and the family.
He also listed several challenges.
“Especially toxic to the new evangelization is the fad to reduce religion to a hobby, limited to Sunday morning, and not a normative, positive influence on everything we do, dream, and dare,” he told the bishops. “Religion is personal, yes; but it is hardly private.”
He noted “vocal” anti-religious segments of society in parts of the entertainment industry, the press, academia and government.
“Such forces view faith — especially, pardon my thin-skin, the Catholic religion — as opposed to everything they see as liberating, enlightening, and progressive in the world, a repressive voice to be resisted and maligned,” Cardinal Dolan said.
He said the New Evangelization must respond and present faith in Jesus as “alive in his Church” and as “the premier force in history for all that is good, true, and beautiful in humanity.”
The cardinal also spoke of a decline in the willingness to participate in institutions.
He said many Americans say they have no trouble believing but do not want to belong to a church. This view seems “crazy” to Catholics who see that “Jesus Christ and his Church are one.”
He also criticized some Americans’ “chilling reduction of liberty to libertarianism” that either rejects concern for the needs of others, or embraces the idea that people “have the unfettered right to do whatever we want.”
Citing Pope John Paul II, the cardinal said that freedom is “the ability to do what we ought.” In response to views that reject this idea, he said the New Evangelization must connect freedom to “responsibility and reason.”
Cardinal Dolan lamented the “bureaucratic and judicial invasion” against religious liberty in the U.S., where the Catholic Church is presently fighting a federal mandate that requires many Catholic institutions to provide employees with free coverage for morally objectionable drugs and procedures.
“Recent intrusions upon the integrity of the Church, even presuming to define the nature of the Church’s ministers and ministries, imperil our right to live our faith, in obedience to Jesus, as a light to the world,” he said.
The cardinal concluded by thanking the ancient Churches for “evangelizing us.”
“Now, we Americans are honored to be partners with them in the new evangelization.”