Archbp. Dolan on the challenges we face as a Church

From CNA comes this piece about what Archbp. Dolan of New York thinks we are facing.

My emphases and comments.

N.Y. archbishop takes stock of challenges in the American Catholic Church

Phoenix, Ariz., Aug 13, 2009 / 12:33 am (CNA).- 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. [WDTPRS has been talking about this incessantly:  It is about our Catholic identity.  If we don't know who we are, we won't have anything compelling to say in the public square.  Why would anyone bother to listen, if we don't have anything to say?]

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. [Do I hear an "Amen!"?]

“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 [1] 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.  [Chicken - egg conundrum?]

The [2] 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.”  [He ties this into the "public square" issue... and he is right.]

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.  [Do I have an "Amen!"?]

Moving on to the [3] 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.’”  [I have had this conversation many times with a friend of mine.  I am constantly stressing the need to get our people home.]

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 [4] 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.”  [That is what prominent Catholics, such as politicians, say.  This is the sort of thing which Speaker Pelosi would say... VP Biden.  "We can't push our values on other people who don't share them." Again.. we have a serious identity problem.]

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.

 

I whole heartedly endorse what the Archbishop says here.

I will add another note, specially about the last point.

Here is part of what I wrote after the Notre Shame Debacle:

I urge all priests and bishops who read this blog with any slight quaver of resonance or benevolence, to consider this with care:

If you sense that something quite serious and important is going on right now, for the love of God rethink your approach to how you foster Holy Church’s proper public worship.

Do all in your power and through your influence to foster a worship of God which conforms not to worldly goals – as praiseworthy as they may be in a world still dominated by its dire prince – but rather to the real point of religion: an encounter with mystery

Our worship must become more and more focused on the one who is Other.  Seek what is truly above in your rites and raise people to encounter mystery.

You will be challenged and reviled, blocked and attacked as you do.  You will be worn down and afraid under the weight of resistance.

But I think that to save the world we must save the liturgy.

Sunday reaffirmed this for me. 

They can’t compete with the fullness of Catholic liturgy and sound preaching.

Reforming the liturgy along the lines Pope Benedict has proposed may be the most loving and effective option we have in these ever hotter times.

People will have to keep working very much in the sphere of the secular.  Of course!  Our inward Catholic Christian identity must find outward expression and bring concrete fruits.

But I think the real work now – where we will make some effective headway – must be done at the level of our public worship.

In the present circumstances, we are not going to argue most people out of danger or error.  But together we can draw them in and along and back through worship.

So long as we remain doctrinally faithful and active in works of mercy both spiritual and especially temporal, if we get our public worship together we will have a strong bastion against error

Holy Catholic worship will be an attractive force for conversion.

We need to foster worship which stuns, which leaves the newcomer, long-time practicing Catholic, above all the fallen-away simply thunder stuck.  Worship must at some point leave people speechless in awe.  We need language and music and gesture which in its beauty floods the mind with light even while it swells the heart to bursting.

The more people encounter mystery through liturgy, the more hollow will clang the false or incomplete messages of those who have strayed from the good path, either to the left or to the right.  

Our goal must be that which is good and beautiful because it is true, that which reflects what is of God, not man’s image merely.  Give us mystery, not fabrications smacking of the world, fallen and transitory.

Fathers, and you Reverend Bishops, if anything of alarm has sounded in your hearts and minds of late, rethink your approach to our worship.  Examine your approach with an eye on the signs of the times.  Take a new approach. 

The approach we have had least last few decades isn’t getting it done.  Really … it isn’t

Going neither left nor right along the road toward the Lord, even as He comes to us, take the flock now deeper, now higher on that path, but always to encounter the mystery which distinguishes truly Catholic liturgy… and therefore true Catholics.

Lines are being drawn, sides taken, choices made.

More than ever we need what Christ, the true Actor of our liturgy, desires to offer us through Holy Church’s worship.

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24 Responses to Archbp. Dolan on the challenges we face as a Church

  1. I am glad that he mentioned the vocation to marriage first. I honestly believe this is the biggest crisis facing the Church, far greater, and interconnected with, the priestly vocations crisis. If the Church rediscovers the vocation to marriage and all that it entails, including the openness to life and the responsibility of the parents to raise their children in the Catholic faith, I believe we will automatically see an increase in religious and priestly vocations. The human family is under attack, by Satan and by the world, and we need the vocation of marriage reaffirmed. Marriage is the sign and symbol of our salvation as it reflects the marriage between Christ and the Church, and the Church needs to see the beauty of this vocation rediscovered.

  2. Natasa says:

    It is interesting how those people who want to keep religion out of public square are more than happy to impose their own secular views and morals on others.

  3. jfk03 says:

    The Archbishop’s great gift is the ability to sum things up in a few words, to make his point in direct, clear terms which the ordinary person can understand. He is right on all counts.

    At the risk of making odious comparisons, I used to attend a TLM parish in a small town. When I return from time to time, I see a church full of gray heads. This parish is dying off; it has and is contracepting itself out of existence. I joined an Eastern Catholic parish several years back because the new priest at my old parish was not preaching the apostolic faith and there were incessant liturgical abuses. (The two seem to go hand-in-hand.)

    The Eastern churches were not so directly affected by the highjacking of Vatican II. The Divine Liturgy is almost entirely in English except for a few words of Greek and Slavonic during Pascha. That is true of most Orthodox churches in the US. The Sunday morning liturgy is almost entirely sung and (including Matins and Divine Liturgy) takes about three hours. The priest preaches the Apostolic faith. He talks about the reality of sin, contraception, abortion, the importance of family, the importance of the Liturgy as a teacher, how we as Christians are participating in a heavenly event when we partake of the Holy Mysteries. He insists that all parishioners go to confession regularly. As a result, my new parish (which is small) is literally crawling with children. AND it has produced vocations to the priesthood.

    God bless Archbishop Dolan, and may the American Catholic Church rediscover its roots. Yes, it is all about identity.

  4. jfk03 says:

    CORRECTION:
    In my previous post I said I used to attend a TLM parish in a small town. I meant to say NO parish.

  5. momoften says:

    Archbishop Dolan is so right on so many accounts, and he is not afraid to say it. Now, if priests would preach it and people would only listen. God Bless him!

  6. Mitchell NY says:

    We know how many thousands, perhaps tens of thousands claim to be former Catholics because of the changes they saw in the Liturgy and Mass..A TLM Mass here and there in NYC with 2.6 million Catholics hardly speaks stability to anyone who left for these reasons..Maybe openly advocating traditional Masses throughout the city would help give these people a sense of longing to go back, because it seems like it is all around again, a normal part of Catholic life that they may miss…I mean the more visible, the more difficult it is to ignore the signs and whispers of the soul..As it exists now, people feel it is a temporary thing. They do not want to go back to something that may not be around in the future or be marginalized because of it..Bishop Dolan needs to help bring back a sense of what we lost in general in order to call back those who have exited for the reason above.

  7. irishgirl says:

    Bravo, Archbishop Dolan! I like the way he talks!

    And kudos to your post too, Father Z!

    But I DETEST the term ‘American Catholic Church’! No such thing-it should be called ‘Roman Catholic Church in America’!

  8. TomG says:

    “The Divine Liturgy is almost entirely in English except for a few words of Greek and Slavonic during Pascha. That is true of most Orthodox churches in the US”

    jfk03: Did you mean Orthodox or Eastern Rite Catholic? I haven’t attended a liturgy for either; just curious.

  9. Roland de Chanson says:

    I also agree with Archbishop Dolan. But I would reorder somewhat the emphasis. The protestantization of the Mass and Sacraments is the root cause of the cancer that debilitates the Church.

    Catholicism is indeed a family – the DNA analogy is apt. But it is the paterfamilias who once compromised with the world and the children merely followed his example. The cure is for this Pope, il Papa, to publicly and frequently celebrate the True Mass, which is in fact not a forma extra ordinem nor the usus antiquior but rather the true ordo missae and the usus solus. It is the duty and privilege of the paterfamilias to pass on the ancient patrimony to his progeny. Let him then teach as the Lord did, by deed as well as by word.

    Propalam atque persaepe! (publicly and frequently.)

    Francisce, domum refice meam ubique ruentem. (Francis, repair My house which is everywhere in ruin.)

    Who was it that said “Save the Liturgy, save the world”? Serva Liturgiam, mundum serva. ;-)

  10. TJM says:

    Although I agree with Archbishop Dolan’s words, until an American bishop publicly excommunicates a pro-abortion “catholic” politician, that’s all they
    are:words. If healthcare “reform” is voted upon, and includes funding for abortion, and if a “Catholic” congressman votes for it, the American bishops
    will have a fine opportunity to put their words into action (Faith without action is meaningless). Tom

  11. Jason Keener says:

    Kudos to Archbishop Dolan!

    I would just like to add that I think some of the Church’s problems will take care of themselves once the liturgical situation is taken care of. For too many years now, the primary exposure to the Catholic Faith for Catholics has come by way of sloppy and banal parish liturgies that do little to inspire people on to serious Catholic living. Save the Liturgy! Save the Church!

  12. lorakeidel says:

    The mystery of the liturgy is what attracted me to the Church in 1960 and it is what I weep for now. Catholicism was baptised into my DNA way back then but I am in serious need of gene therapy.
    An example is in our parish church that is devoid of most Catholic decoration except a small Marian mural with a votive candle rack in front of it. One Sunday I walked over to it, wanting to pray for my children and light a candle for them. All of the candles were lit and donations were literally spilling over the donation box and stuffed in any space available – not just coins but dollar bills. I realized that was a symbol of what has been done – people were being starved of their mystery and devotion. (Ironically,we get sermons about increasing our donations to the parish and yet here were donations that no one had even bothered to gather.)
    Don’t they see that the little votive candle rack is a symbol of the parishioners asking for mystery in their church and devotion that fosters real prayer and true community?

  13. amylpav22 says:

    I sure miss Archbishop Dolan here in Milwaukee. I’m glad he does, however, have a bigger bullhorn now that he’s in New York.

  14. Dr. Eric says:

    Straight outta St. Louis!

    Kenrick-Glennon has shown that the Seminary can produce good priests and bishops.

    I think that part of this is a problem with commitment and this is mostly to blame on contraception. As we well know, before the widespread availability of “the pill” a man had to be much more cautious about what he did after dark-so to speak. So, if he wanted to be with a woman (and vice-versa of course) he had better be very certain that he wanted to commit to this woman (and vice-versa.) Now, there’s no responsibility for the act, and therefore no commitment. Pretty soon the non commitment trickles down into other areas. You get a lack of vocations, lack of marriages, divorce, business partnerships break up, etc…

  15. THREEHEARTS says:

    As usual we look and see what is right but it is not the root cause. Look around we have the young people desperate to learn the Church and what she stands for. What is missing is good catechesis. Have any of you ever asked young people even the older ones, what does the does exist as after the consecration? Have any of you ever asked does the Mass forgive sins. I have written elsewhere on the four answers I have been given including an astounding one from a priest.
    What is missing in the Church is a good orthodox catechesis when people look to convert.I have been present at one of the eight times I was a god parent when I priest was teaching from the new catechism an no way would he say go to confession before communion. He was so angry as I constantly brought him back to where he had to say it. He shouted out I resent your questions. Too many false prophets teach the catechism so many only in the Church 5 minutes

  16. jfk03 says:

    Tom G,
    I was speaking about my own parish. My impression is that most OCA (Orthodox Church of America) parishes serve the Divine Liturgy in the vernacular, although there are some Russian churches that use Slavonic. I believe most Eastern Catholic Churches use the vernacular, though many of them are ethnic so vernacular does not necessarily mean English. But I am not an expert and am only giving you what I have heard from others.

  17. Oliver Hayes says:

    When Archbishop Dolan refers to the “strident voices who want to keep” God, morals, virtue and the Church “out of the public square.”, he has hit on the simple fact that it imperative for the success of the secularist project to deny the church a public forum for debate. That is, by maintaining total dominance of the media and the means of communication, and complete denial of participation in the social and political process (which effectively means that the church cannot legitimately exist in society). Secularism depends not on rational argument, but entirely on consensus, and any rational debate concerning its legitimacy is fatal to it. The simple and blunt truth is either the secularists will lose the battle (now their media stranglehold has been broken by the internet), or they will win by eliminating freedom of speech and comminication and bringing about a wholesale persecution of the church.

  18. Agnes says:

    AMEN, your Excellency! AMEN, Father!

    Chicken – and – egg conundrum. Yes, the CLERGY absolutely MUST get their heads on straight in regards to public worship, Penance (as commented on in another post), and un-muddy the roles of their sacred duties (The MASS, the Sacraments, bringing Holy Communion/the continuous rite to the sick, and so on). Concentrating on the “sacred square” inspires the LAITY to be more bold in face of the public square. Let us be the ones to fight the demons out there but see to the spiritual hunger of your people! We absolutely need to be spiritually strengthened in order to be able to do much of anything in the world and while we ultimately need to take responsibility for our own spiritual lives, we absolutely need the help of our priests.

    No family – No priest – No Sacraments – No family – repeat.

  19. Tom in NY says:

    Get your J.M. Vianney bio. He fought (3) and (4) to win. It’s also likely he fought (1) person-to-person in confessional. He founded a charitable (La Providence) which he was able to maintain (2). And don’t forget the 20th century achievements of Nelson Baker; his charitables are still very active. RPs and laity, it can be done.
    Salutationes omnibus.

  20. Traductora says:

    I agree that the liturgy is very important, and a lot of the huge number of “I used to be Catholic” folks I have met identify the change in the liturgy as the reason they left the Church.

    In addition, something that disturbs me is the fact that women’s active religious orders rejected the two things that would be most important to us now: teaching and medical care. The Catholic school system is struggling because it never had to pay going wages until the demise or withdrawal of the women’s religious orders that used to staff them. The same is true of Catholic hospitals. At the same time, the loss of the charism of these groups resulted in their own demise. A local diocesan order I know used to be an absolute powerhouse in education, and then after Vat II, the sisters decided that education was not “using their full potential” and went off to be pastoral assistants, social workers employed by the state, and goodness only knows what else. They also dumped their community life. The result? Not a one under 60 now and not a vocation for decades.

  21. Traductora says:

    I agree that the liturgy is very important, and a lot of the huge number of “I used to be Catholic” folks I have met identify the change in the liturgy as the reason they left the Church.

    In addition, something that disturbs me is the fact that women’s active religious orders rejected the two things that would be most important to us now: education and medical care. The Catholic school system is struggling because it never had to pay going wages until the demise or withdrawal of the women’s religious orders that used to staff them. The same is true of Catholic hospitals. At the same time, the loss of the charism of these groups resulted in their own demise. A local diocesan order I know used to be an absolute powerhouse in education, and then after Vat II, the sisters decided that education was not “using their full potential” and went off to be pastoral assistants, social workers employed by the state, and goodness only knows what else. They also dumped their community life. The result? Not a one under 60 now and not a vocation for decades.

  22. thefeds says:

    I usually read rather than read and comment, but a thought just occured to me when reading about how “catholic” politicians like to say that they don’t have a right to push their values on others who don’t share them. What about the Gospel admonition against putting your light under a wicker basket. When we stop allowing our values to illuminate the issues of the day, that is exactly what we are guilty of! Place your light on a stand, so that all can see the Truth clearly!

  23. staggering but still standing says:

    Amen!

  24. Agnes says:

    Staggering but still standing, we will hold you up in prayer. May God give all of us the grace to persevere in our vocations!