Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York told CNA last week that the Catholic Church is currently facing many challenges, four being: the vocation to marriage, the state of Catholic parishes and schools, the great number of lapsed Catholics and finally the difficulties in a culture desperate to keep the Church and morals out of the public square.
Sitting down with CNA in Phoenix, Arizona during the 127th annual Knights of Columbus convention, the archbishop noted that while he loves his new assignment as the Archbishop of New York, his archdiocese of 2.6 million Catholics, as well as the Church in the United States, is currently facing some serious challenges.
“Oh, there’s tons of challenges, my Lord, there’s never any dearth of challenges,” the archbishop began, explaining that the basic challenge for all Catholics is the same one that Jesus gave on Pentecost Sunday: “Go out to the world and preach the Gospel.”
The archbishop then broke down Jesus’ words into four practical challenges the Church currently faces in preaching the Gospel to all people, the first being the instability of marriage and family.
“That’s where we have the real vocation crisis,” he remarked, noting that “only 50% of our Catholic young people are getting married.”
“We have a vocation crisis to life-long, life-giving, loving, faithful marriage. If we take care of that one, we’ll have all the priests and nuns we need for the church,” Dolan said.
The second challenge the Church faces, according to Archbishop Dolan, is that it must “maintain and strengthen the blessed infrastructure that we have in the Catholic Church in the United States.” This infrastructure, the parishes, schools, religious education programs, Catholic Charities and hospitals, has “fortified the Church” for “over 200 years.” Now, however, these same institutions are struggling because of their size and cost.
The aim isn’t only to maintain them, he continued, they need to be strengthened because “now more than ever does the Church need a public face.”
The Church needs to have a good public profile because there are “a lot of people out there who would like to exclude the Church from any type of public witness and we can’t let that happen,” the Archbishop of New York said.
Moving on to the third challenge for the U.S. Catholic Church, Dolan simply described it as reaching out and inviting our people home.
“It scares the life out of me when I find out that second most identifiable religious grouping on the religious landscape of the United States are people who say, ‘I used to be a Catholic.’”
We bishops have to do something about this, he insisted. “We have to say, ‘no, look, there is no such thing as a former Catholic. Your Catholicism is, as a matter of fact, in your DNA. And whether you like it or not you’re born into it just like you’re born into a natural family.’”
Now, he continued, “you might say, ‘I’m ticked off at my natural family, I’m not hanging around with them anymore, I’ve got things to work out.’ But you’re still a member of that family and sooner or later you usually make your peace with it and go home.”
In comparison, “the Church is our supernatural family,” he explained, “you might be upset with it, you might not be showing up for Sunday dinner, you might be mad at it about a couple of things…but you’re still a member.”
The Church “is your supernatural family, and, darn it, we need you and want you to come back home. You’re always welcome,” Dolan offered.
The final challenge the he listed is confronting “a culture” with many “strident voices who want to keep” God, morals, virtue and the Church “out of the public square.”
He explained that those voices will say that “religious is fine as an individual hobby… but don’t enforce it on the rest of us.”
However, Dolan argued, without the voice of the Church, “our public square is reduced if the Church isn’t part of it, and what makes America great is that religion has always had a strong, respected place at the table.” Those who want to exclude the voice of the Church, he said, are involved in “galloping secularism.”
He explained: “There are those movers and shakers in society that want to take the teeth out of religion and we can’t let that happen” because America, individuals, the world and culture would be much worse off.
“We’ve got something to say, and darn it, we want to say it,” he stated.