Cardinal Dolan and America’s troubled Catholic Church

Cardinal Timothy Dolan waves while processing through St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2012. (Seth Wenig — … Continued


Cardinal Timothy Dolan waves while processing through St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2012. (Seth Wenig — AP)

Cardinal Dolan, president of the USCCB, says he needs an “attractive, articulate, intelligent” woman as his personal spokesperson, claiming that “the days of fat, balding Irish bishops are over.” He has chosen Kim Daniels, a long-time effective advocate of conservative causes, and ex-personal domestic policy czar to Sarah Palin. Might one say that Daniels has gone “from Sarah Palin’s brain to Cardinal Dolan’s voice?” But her promotion also signals that the cardinal as head of the USCCB has had more failures than successes.

This is not to deny Dolan’s talents. Seldom has Catholic America had a prelate so effective with media. He uses lunch-pail comparisons to explain even the most complex of church teachings. He stood up to inquisitorial Catholic right-wingers and invited President Obama to the annual Al Smith Dinner. But I believe an honest appraisal would show that influence and respect for the USCCB is lower now than when Dolan assumed the office. These are moments when I think his leadership struck out.

Strike one was in allowing division between Catholic America’s religious sisters and the bishops. Perhaps he could not have controlled a Vatican investigation into the LCWR, but surely he could have influenced Rome’s maladroit handling. Moreover, the Nuns-On-the-Bus tour turned into a symbolic civil war with the sisters on one side and the bishops on the other. Dolan should have known his side would lose because the nuns have always held the warmest spot in Catholic hearts.

Strike two was in silence after the over-the-top comparisons by clerics like the Bishop of Peoria. who compared President Obama to Hitler and by laypersons like the Knights of Columbus’ Supreme Knight Carl Anderson who promoted Catholic resistance to Obama in the spirit of the Mexican Cristeros. The latter group of Catholics, it will be remembered gathered armed militias against the Mexican government and eventually assassinated a president. The legal principle here is “Qui tacuit, consentire,” and it means that silence is the same as acquiesce. This criticism extends to Bishop Finn of Kansas City who was found guilty of violating civil law and his own policy against pedophile clerics. By going easier on Catholic males than on the religious women battling for social justice on economic matters, Dolan widened the deepening rifts in Catholic America.

Strike three was allowing the Fortnight to Freedom to become identified with politicking for Mitt Romney. This effort had been spawned in the murky dark places of the Manhattan Declaration with obvious partisan intent. Tacking on the current immigration law as another instance of “religious persecution” was not enough to dislodge the public perception that the Fortnight was intended to instruct Catholics to vote for Republicans. This alliance with evangelicals was unfruitful. The original evangelical partners were a questionable crew embracing entrepreneurial pastors who raise fabulous amounts of money for partisan causes. Our Catholic tradition, however, obliges bishops to pastoral roles. When the bishops jumped into the same barrel with the right-wing pastors they diminished Catholic tradition. Dolan should have seen this coming. (Let me classify this as a “foul ball” so that the cardinal gets another swing.)

The last strike was in undercutting the policy of a full committee of the USCCB with contradictory statements by individual bishops. After the Social Justice Committee of the USCCB had condemned the Paul Ryan budget, Cardinal Dolan and Madison Bishop Robert Morlino rejected the conclusion that Ryan’s plan was outside Catholic teaching. Given new life, Ryan quickly dismissed his episcopal critics as “not all the bishops” happily trivializing the USCCB committee structure with his quip.

Once you break the code yourself, you give others license to do the same. Thus, while Dolan stated the need to consider more carefully the Obama remedy to the HHS mandate on February 2, 2013, Philadelphia’s Archbishop Chaput issued a statement on February 4, 2013 that jumped the gun, claiming total rejection came from “courage that gives prudence spine and results in right action, whatever the cost.” Two days later, Dolan said “me too.”

I consider it appalling that the president of the USCCB needs a personal spokesperson in addition to the USCCB’s resident Sister Mary Ann Walsh. Ensuring division among bishops to promote the influence of an individual cleric is never good.

  • lizziedw

    People should leave this cult in droves.

  • OutofmanyONE

    Many American RCs have open minds and do not fully agree with the RCC in all matters. Dolan and the other administers should take a long look in the mirror for what they have done as well as failed to do bearing in mind the real reasons for their doings. Why has so many RCs just stop going to church? The old days of hell fire damnation are gone with the control tactics of the past. If it was not for the good nuns and good priest, the RCC would come apart. What would Christ think of todays RCC?

  • E.m. England

    Forget a woman spokesperson … lets get a woman cardinal to sort this out!

  • Diogenes71

    The article is more Wapoop nonsense. The writer probably thinks someone cares what he thinks.

  • Orangutang

    And go where? To your cult?

  • Orangutang

    You mean many RCs today are adulterous. Claiming physical membership while holding opposing faiths. Married to the Christ in his Church and having affairs outside. Now that’s open mindedness. What does it take to be faithful? Honest inquiry, contemplation AND actually living the faith to verify its veracity, in other words it takes effort, just like any marriage. By the way, the teachings of the Church have nothing to do with how holy or not the priests and bishops are even though it would be a great witness to what they represent as long as their positions do not represent their personal musings in contrast to the mind of the Church. Yes, the mind of the Church is not the individuals who run it but that mind is propagated by same individuals and any Catholic who learns his faith properly can always tell Catholic truth when he sees it, both in word and in action. Christ, unlike us, is faithful and will never have an affair outside, he loves his Church forever whatever you might think.

  • Orangutang

    As long as a priest represents Christ the groom of his bride the Church a woman cannot be a priest since a woman cannot marry a woman as far as the Catholic mind is concerned. This is not about ability, like a job, it is about capacity as shown in nature. If you are hoping that the Church will one day take that the sexes are the same (which obviously are not, the male is not a female and vice versa) even though they are recognized as equal (equality is not the same thing as sameness) then you have an eternity to wait.

  • Orangutang

    Forgot to conclude… If there is not woman priest then there is no woman cardinal.

  • thebump

    The “Nuns-On-the-Bus” are pagan ideologues, hardly Christian much less Catholic. The only “warm spot” for them (at least in earthly life) would be on the extreme tip of the godless radical far left.

    The author feigns to eschew partisanship, but then approves the ridiculous attacks on Rep. Ryan, who is by far one of the most thoughtful and impressive Catholic public officials ever. Meanwhile, there is no scandal, no drone strike, no paean to Planned Parenthood, no attack on religious liberty that will ever shake the author’s fervent Obama worship.

    With all due respect, dear Archbishop Chaput is a vastly more effective pastor and spokesperson than Dolan.

  • thebump

    Actually, a cardinal need not be a cleric.

  • Elohist

    No, the editors of the Washington Post do. It’s nice to see someone take on the right-wing of Church leadership with facts and logic rather than ad hominem arguments. But then, logic and facts seem to go beyond your ken.

  • Elohist

    Nuns are pagans? That’s a whopper! I don’t have read any more of your comment to recognize the vacuity of your opinions. Actually, that is the point of the article: That Dolan has failed to unify the church. You are living proof of his failure and your professed hatred of nuns promoting Catholic social teaching evidences your sinful distance from the teachings of Jesus.

  • OutofmanyONE

    Orangutang, you sure read a lot of things into what is written. Christ did not write the teachings of the RCC but man. Many RCs do not fully agree with the teachings of the RCC. Just take birth control here in the USA. Ask them or look at their family size. Do you believe ever thing that you were taught before being a adult? Why are so many RCs in name only today? Note where in the world that the real new membership is coming from and where the RCs are becoming non practice members. Why?

  • ThomasBaum

    We are all supposed to “represent Christ” and all of the clergy are members of the “Church” just as all laity are members of the “Church” and according to “Catholic teaching”, the members of the “Church” are not limited to official members of the Catholic religion or for that matter to those that consider themself, Christian.

    The “Church” being the Body of Christ with Jesus being the Head of the Body, not the Priest, not the Bishop, not the Cardinal, not the Pope but Jesus and only Jesus.

  • ThomasBaum

    If one were to look at who Jesus seemed to have the most problem with, so to speak, wouldn’t that be the “religious leaders” of His Day with their “rules and regulations”?

    The simplicity of Jesus’s teachings is what truly seemed to baffle so many and continue to baffle so many.

    One of the things that Jesus tried to teach us was to think and Jesus’s invitation was to “Come follow Me”, pretty simple and straightforward, I would say.

  • ThomasBaum

    People should make their own decisions.

  • missingwisc

    All one needs to get through life is the golden rule. Takes care of everything.

  • chrisinwien

    Should the Catholic Church begin taking advice from atheists in the Post? Give me a break!

    And no, the Post will never take advice from faithful Catholics either. The Post would lose one of its most stalwart and wealthy factions, gay activists. Of course they hate Sarah Palin. She’s a model of heterosexuality, of motherhood, of joy (man, are homosexuals ever miserable: just look at their parades) — Sarah Palin is **pre**-political — she’s as natural as homosexuality ain’t!

    So forget the smarmy hijacking of moral language. Yeah, you really care about “divisions” among bishops or the religious vows taken by women religious. What a joke. You hate the Church and the Post hates the pope. Message received.

    By the way, Carl Anderson is a layman, not a “layperson,” and Bishop Jenky was right about Hitler: learn your history, Dude! It **can** happen here!

  • amelia45

    He has been a disappointment, hasn’t he. But, to tell the truth, I wonder if he really had a chance. We may be past the point that our bishops can claim the role they used to have in declaring what is the truth and in claiming a right to obedience. One of the big problems now, for me, is in the Church trying to impose Catholic dogma on those who work for them and on society in general. Catholics do not live in Catholic ghettoes or in a country that is predominantly Catholic. We all live together, in a society that depends on mutual respect for each other. And that includes the gay person who wants to have the same civil benefits in his/her marriage as a straight couple. It includes those who work for Catholic organizations who want to have health insurance that covers what they consider routine or necessary health care – like contraceptives or sterilization procedures.

    I don’t know where Catholicism is going, but I know many Catholics who are not going back into the childhood box the Church keeps trying to push them into.

  • kurt8

    “As long as a priest represents Christ the groom of his bride the Church a woman cannot be a priest since a woman cannot marry a woman as far as the Catholic mind is concerned.”

    As a Catholic layman, being a member of the Church puts me on the bride side of that marriage. You calling me a homo?

  • kurt8

    The one thing you used to be able to count on the Catholic bishops to do, no matter how conservative, is to stand on the side of the workingman. The previous Archbishop of New York, Cardinal O’Connor, was a great friend of labor.

    Omitted on the list of Dolan’s blunder is that he helped raise money for the right-wing, anti-labor “Manhattan Institute.” Why an Archbishop is raising money for a secular think tank is puzzling in itself when the Archdicoese is closing schools, parishes and charitable programs. But for some anti-labor outfit shows how far he has strayed.

  • Elohist

    Denying personhood to Carl Anderson…strange move! It’s not what Bishop Jenky said about Hitler that was wrong: it’s the lies he professed about the duly elected President of the United States, Barack Obama.

  • OutofmanyONE

    ThomasBaum, you hit the nail right on the head. The RCC should of listen to that German monk five hundred years ago instead of enhancing their man made rule book.

  • OutofmanyONE

    No employer can violate a emloyee’s Constitution rights.

  • leibowde84

    What gay pride parades are you talking about, buddy? They are always really fun and happy.

    Also, Sarah Palin cheated on her husband on multiple occasions. So, how exactly is she a model for anyone?

  • OutofmanyONE

    Kurt8, it be of interest of how many RCC administrators are of the GOP. Remember the DON’T GIVE COMMUNION TO KERRY movement?

  • MarkfromPA

    Excellent article with many good points made.

  • Ursula Adam

    Your Eminence, please post your beautiful commencement talk that you gave at Notre Dame.
    I would love to share it with my filly.
    I just love to hear you on the xm radio. You are such a beautiful person. May God hold you on the palm of His hand.
    Blessings
    Ursula Adam

  • Manwolf

    “are homosexuals ever miserable”
    _________________

    Not the ones I know. Only the closeted and dysfunctional ones that populate Catholic rectories and palaces are miserable. And no, those weren’t gay parades that you saw – it was Ratzinger’s twice-weekly procession around St. Peter’s Square. You really should get out more often.

  • robb63

    I gave up on this religion years ago and characters like
    Dolan only reinforce my choice. Female spokesperson indeed!