.- 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 âmarriageâ 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 âa communicator.â
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 âcontroversial moral issues.â
When questioned about whether or not he would be an âagent of change,â on issues where society disagreed with the Church, Dolan firmly stated that as a bishop his âgoal is to change [the faithfulâs] 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.â
He added that what may change is the style, but not the âsubstance.â
The Archbishop called the issue of declining Mass attendance in New York a âbigeeâ and criticized the phenomenon of people desiring to be spiritual, without belonging to a specific religion. Dolan said people âwant to believe without belongingâ and âthey donât mind being the sheep, but without a shepherd. They donât mind the family, as long as theyâre the only child. They donât see the need for a church. They donât see the need for organized religion.â
Archbishop Dolan also said the Church had some areas to improve upon, mentioning the need to ask, âHave 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?â
âYoung people want the teachings of the church preached convincingly, even if they donât embrace all of those teachingsâ he stated.
He also said religious vocations must be communicated to young people as âone of the most freeing, liberating, joyful styles of life that you can lead,â and not as oppressive. He cited a recent visit to a community of cloistered, contemplative religious women who by societyâs standards should be âcrabby, should be dour, who should be oppressed,â but found them to be âthe most free, joyful, loving, happiest women youâd ever meet.â
âTrue freedom is the liberty to do whatever we ought, not the freedom to do whatever we want,â he said. âWe are at our best when we give away freely whatâs most inside of us.â
Touching on illegal immigration, the archbishop said the Church has long been a sanctuary for those in need, and cited his own Irish roots. âThe parish, the Churchâ is the first place they go, he said, but added that today's challengeânow that the Church is a âsettled, accepted religionââis to âreviveâ an âenergetic solicitude for the immigrants that are coming today.â The Church must be a place immigrants can look to âfor care, for support, for love,â Dolan said.
Asked if he would use his position as a âbully pulpitâ to challenge politicians on âsame-sex marriage,â he responded that he didnât like the use of the term âbully pulpit.â The term, he said, implied being âaggressive and mean and sharp and bitter.â Instead, he would continue to âpreach the truthâ and âapply the immutable teachings of Jesus and his Church to contemporary situationsâ including same-sex marriage.
Yet he also stressed that he will not âshy away from [controversial topics] and wonât sidestep them.â He promised to articulate the Churchâs position and remain âactive and presentâ on principles related to faith and morals.