In his first meeting with the New York press, Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan pledged to bring Catholics back to Mass, increase vocations, preach the truth and not sidestep controversial issues like gay “marriage” or abortion.
Dolan, the former Archbishop of Milwaukee who recently became the head of the second largest archdiocese in the U.S., began his first press conference by promising to be “a communicator.”
In his first day on the job, Dolan said he will sit down with trusted advisers to discover what strategies have worked in the past and what is the most effective way to communicate the positions of the Church on “controversial moral issues.”
When questioned about whether or not he would be an “agent of change,” on issues where society disagreed with the Church, Dolan firmly stated that as a bishop his “goal is to change [the faithful’s] lives to be in conformity with Jesus and his Church, not to change the teachings of Jesus and the church to be in conformity with what we want.”
He added that what may change is the style, but not the “substance.”
The Archbishop called the issue of declining Mass attendance in New York a “bigee” and criticized the phenomenon of people desiring to be spiritual, without belonging to a specific religion. Dolan said people “want to believe without belonging” and “they don’t mind being the sheep, but without a shepherd. They don’t mind the family, as long as they’re the only child. They don’t see the need for a church. They don’t see the need for organized religion.”
Archbishop Dolan also said the Church had some areas to improve upon, mentioning the need to ask, “Have we passed on the truth to people, or have we gotten a little too subjective, and too much into diluting, watering down the essentials of the faith?”
“Young people want the teachings of the church preached convincingly, even if they don’t embrace all of those teachings” he stated.
He also said religious vocations must be communicated to young people as “one of the most freeing, liberating, joyful styles of life that you can lead,” and not as oppressive. He cited a recent visit to a community of cloistered, contemplative religious women who by society’s standards should be “crabby, should be dour, who should be oppressed,” but found them to be “the most free, joyful, loving, happiest women you’d ever meet.”
“True freedom is the liberty to do whatever we ought, not the freedom to do whatever we want,” he said. “We are at our best when we give away freely what’s most inside of us.”
Touching on illegal immigration, the archbishop said the Church has long been a sanctuary for those in need, and cited his own Irish roots. “The parish, the Church” is the first place they go, he said, but added that today's challenge—now that the Church is a “settled, accepted religion”–is to “revive” an “energetic solicitude for the immigrants that are coming today.” The Church must be a place immigrants can look to “for care, for support, for love,” Dolan said.
Asked if he would use his position as a “bully pulpit” to challenge politicians on “same-sex marriage,” he responded that he didn’t like the use of the term “bully pulpit.” The term, he said, implied being “aggressive and mean and sharp and bitter.” Instead, he would continue to “preach the truth” and “apply the immutable teachings of Jesus and his Church to contemporary situations” including same-sex marriage.
Yet he also stressed that he will not “shy away from [controversial topics] and won’t sidestep them.” He promised to articulate the Church’s position and remain “active and present” on principles related to faith and morals.