Saturday, March 15, 2014

Bravo to Cardinal Dolan

The Catholic blogosphere has been pretty much apoplectic over Timothy Cardinal Dolan's comment on Meet the Press on Sunday which he made when asked about football player Michael Sam announcing he is homosexual. From nbcnewyork.com:
"Good for him," Dolan said in an interview with NBC's "Meet the Press" airing Sunday.
"I would have no sense of judgment on him," Dolan continued. "God bless ya. I don't think, look, the same Bible that tells us, that teaches us well about the virtues of chastity and the virtue of fidelity and marriage also tells us not to judge people. So I would say, 'Bravo.'"
The Catholic blogosphere, almost without exception, condemned this statement and came very close to calling Cardinal Dolan an apostate.  They say that he has basically condoned the sin of homosexuality by telling the world that there is nothing wrong with it.

Interestingly, that is not what the secular world thought at all, especially the gay community.  The Advocate, the website for the gay magazine, very matter of factly reported this statement by Cardinal Dolan with no comment.  But its readers had comments, and not one of them (with the exception of a religious zealot) felt that Cardinal Dolan was condoning the gay lifestyle:



Another gay website, washingtonblade.com,, reported on the interview in an article entitled, "N.Y. Archbishop Uncomfortable With Civil Unions." This article basically went right over the "bravo" comment, concentrating more on the part of the interview where Cardinal Dolan said he could not support civil unions. From the article:
"Dolan’s main point during his “Meet the Press” was that Francis was shrewdly adapting the message of the church in a time when public sentiment is changing, but church doctrine remains the same.

“And so Francis is reminding us, look, if we come across as some crabby, nay saying shrill, we’re not gonna win anybody. If we come across as a loving, embracing holy mother church who says, “Come on in. We love you. We need you. We want you. And once you get to know us, then maybe we can invite you to the conversion of heart that is at the core of the gospel. And then maybe we can talk about changing behavior. That’s a very effective pedagogy.”
Also from the article:
"Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, chided Dolan for his remarks, saying they were contrary to the position of the pope.
“Since Day 1 of this papacy, Cardinal Dolan has sought to minimize the teachings of Francis and the new and welcome message of inclusion, but the Cardinal is out of step with the Pope, out of step with the great majority of American Catholics who support the freedom to marry, and out of step with the true values of love and the Golden Rule,” Wolfson said.
Wolfson has completely misrepresented Pope Francis in his rush to condemn Cardinal Dolan. However, the point is that Cardinal Dolan can't win. He gets hit by Catholics who say he is condoning homosexuality, and he gets hit by homosexuals who say he refuses to accept them.

There is no way both sides on this issue can be right. So what is the truth?

Like most people, I didn't know what to make of Cardinal Dolan's statement at first.  But I am learning that we should never be quick to judge.  Pope Francis, in the interview given to America magazine, made a very wise statement in regard to rash judgments:
I am always wary of decisions made hastily. I am always wary of the first decision, that is, the first thing that comes to my mind if I have to make a decision. This is usually the wrong thing. I have to wait and assess, looking deep into myself, taking the necessary time. The wisdom of discernment redeems the necessary ambiguity of life and helps us find the most appropriate means, which do not always coincide with what looks great and strong.
The gospels show us that our Lord was constantly misunderstood and misinterpreted. He would make a controversial statement such as "You must eat my body and drink my blood or you have no life in you," and people would become very offended and walk away from Him. They would not humbly admit that they did not understand the statement and give Our Lord a chance to explain or wait for his words to become clear. They decided for themselves that he was wrong. Isaiah 66:2 tells us: "But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word." Part of the definition of "humble and contrite" can be found in Proverbs 3:5 - "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding." It has been my experience that trusting in my own "understanding" will more than likely lead me to the wrong conclusions.

As I wrote above, Cardinal Dolan's statement did not sound good to me when I first heard it.  But instead of making a quick judgment on it, I gave it some thought. Cardinal Dolan, in his comment, said that the bible tells us not to judge. That made me think of the story of the woman taken in adultery and brought to Christ. From John 8:3-11:
"The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
11 “No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
Most people will point out the very last line of this story when Jesus said, "Go and sin no more." They will say (and have said to me), "See, Christ rebuked her. He didn't let her get away with it." But take notice when Jesus said this. He waited until everyone had left and he was alone with the woman. Only then did he mention that she needed to change.  Neither did Jesus wait for the woman to ask for forgiveness.  He extended his forgiveness to her without any signs of repentance on her part.  And he did this without condemning her in any way.

It is interesting to note that the only ones to whom our Lord ever said any words of condemnation were the Pharisees, the religious leaders of the day who held themselves out as sinless and showed no mercy or compassion to anyone else. Never once did our Lord condemn any of those we would consider great sinners, such as this woman in the story. Our Lord did not even condemn Judas, the one who betrayed him. However, you can be sure that if Christ was walking the earth in our time and acted towards "sinners" as shown in the Gospels, the Catholic blogosphere would, in no uncertain terms, label Him as an apostate who is destroying the teachings of the church.

The Catholic blogosphere is always taking Cardinal Dolan to task for not condemning sinners. They jumped all over him when he refused to say that Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Catholic who supports abortion and homosexuality, is not a Catholic in good standing. From the New York Times:
"Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan did not intend to question Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s standing in the Roman Catholic Church, despite the governor’s support for abortion rights, the cardinal’s spokesman said on Wednesday.
The spokesman, Joseph Zwilling, was seeking to clarify comments the cardinal made in a radio interview on Tuesday, when the cardinal said, in response to a question about Mr. Cuomo’s standing in the church, that “that’s one of the things the governor and I talk about.”
But on Wednesday, Mr. Zwilling said that the cardinal, who is the archbishop of New York, “would not, and did not, suggest the governor might not be a Catholic in good standing going forward.”
Mr. Zwilling also said that another of Cardinal Dolan’s remarks — “That’s something that I talk turkey with him about” — was meant to address the issue of abortion, not “the governor’s faith.”
“I do realize that was part of the question he was asked, and so I do understand how the answer could have been misinterpreted,” Mr. Zwilling said in an e-mail. “But I assure you that was not what the cardinal was saying.”
I find this story very much echoing the story of the woman taken in adultery.  There is no doubt that she had committed a great sin, and at that time, she was subject to stoning under the law.  Yet, our Lord refused to condemn her.  And there is no doubt that Andrew Cuomo stands in opposition to many of the major teachings of the Catholic Church.  He supports abortion and in fact wants to expand it here in New York so that abortions can be performed right up to the time of birth.  Cuomo is also a big supporter of same sex marriage, and it was his support that drove this bill in New York State.  And in his personal life, Gov Cuomo has a live-in relationship with his girlfriend.  These are certainly not the actions of a Catholic in good standing.

So how can Cardinal Dolan make such a statement about the governor?  Cardinal Dolan has made it very clear that he is in complete opposition to the positions of Governor Cuomo.  But, like our Lord, he will not chastise Cuomo in public.  I bolded those last words because that is pertinent to understanding what His Eminence is doing and to understanding the whole message of mercy as exemplified by Jesus Christ.

I think a good example of this is shown in another supposedly "scandalous" act in which the Cardinal was involved. Vice President Joseph Biden, another Catholic supporter of abortion and homosexuality, came to Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral last year, and received communion right under the nose of Cardinal Dolan. Michael Voris, in his usual manner, made a special Vortex episode condemning the Cardinal, which I wrote about HERE. Cardinal Dolan did not say or do anything to Biden in public. But after Mass, he and the vice president went to "coffee" for a private chat. Is it coincidence that Biden has not presented himself for communion since that time? I don't think so.

In an article from a Patheos blog, which you can read HERE, Sarah Bailey quotes from a Newsweek article about Cardinal Dolan:
Dolan insists that it’s not a fight he wanted. He arrived on the national stage with the reputation of a conciliator, one who believes that the church should not be in the business of weeding out those who dispute some of its teachings. As archbishop of Milwaukee, he disagreed with those bishops who advised punishment of politicians (by denial of holy communion or parishioners’ votes) who supported policies the church opposes. … [Dolan says,] “I would be one that would much prefer to sit down with people, to say, let’s sit down and talk about this, let me try to be a pastor first, let me try a conversion of heart.
Our Lord did not condemn sinners in public, Pope Francis does not condemn sinners in public, and Cardinal Dolan does not condemn sinners in public.  You may say, what about Canon 915, which forbids communion to those who go against teachings of the Church.  To that I answer, why didn't Christ agree to condemn the woman taken in the act of committing adultery?  After all, there was no doubt of her guilt.  Our Lord did not condemn her, but he did admonish her IN PRIVATE to go and sin no more.  That seems to be the method that Cardinal Dolan wishes to use.

It is always easy to sit on the sidelines and see everything in black and white.  It is easy to say one thing is wrong and the other is right, and to judge every situation alike.  The problem is all people are different, all situations are different.  Thank God that He judges each one of us individually.  He looks at our particular situation and the extenuating circumstances.

Consider the woman taken in adultery in the story from the Gospels.  Maybe she lived in an abusive marriage with a husband who constantly mistreated her, and then someone came along who had shown kindness to her.  Her response was wrong, but wouldn't her circumstances mitigate some of her sin?

Michael Sam
Cardinal Dolan knew nothing about Michael Sam. He has no idea what led Michael Sam to become a homosexual. Many homosexuals enter into that lifestyle as the result of childhood abuse. Many come from extremely dysfunctional families that kept them from full emotional development. Michael Sam obviously feels that he is doing what is right for him, and there is no way he is going to listen to anyone tell him otherwise. Isn't it more likely he will respond to understanding, love and mercy than to someone telling him he is wrong, a message he has no doubt heard many times in his life?

I will give one more example from the Gospels. This concerns Christ's last moments on earth as a mortal human being. He was dying on the cross surrounded by two thieves. At the beginning of the crucifixion, both thieves mocked and insulted him. However, as the afternoon progressed, one thief, known as Dismas, had a complete change of heart. He rebuked the other thief and then reached out to the dying Christ and said, remember me when you come into your kingdom.


What brought about this complete transformation, one so complete that Christ promised Dismas he would be in heaven that day? Dismas watched as Our Lord was surrounded by those cheering on his death, and Dismas saw Christ respond not with condemnation but with love and forgiveness. And even when the thieves were mocking him, Christ did not rebuke them in any way. The only rebuke they received from Christ was the lack of condemnation. Would Dismas have repented so completely if Our Lord had instead turned to him and said, you are a sinner and you need to repent? This would have much more likely pushed him completely into his sin and he would have spiritually perished.
 
We must also take notice that the other thief was not moved at all by the show of our Lord's compassion, which says that not everyone will respond to mercy.  But that surely does not mean we should not show mercy as our Lord did.  

We all need to take the advice of Pope Francis and not be so quick to make rash judgments.  The world does not need our condemnation but needs what we have been given, which is the love, mercy and forgiveness of Jesus Christ.

“And so Francis is reminding us, look, if we come across as some crabby, nay saying shrill, we’re not gonna win anybody. If we come across as a loving, embracing holy mother church who says, “Come on in. We love you. We need you. We want you. And once you get to know us, then maybe we can invite you to the conversion of heart that is at the core of the gospel. And then maybe we can talk about changing behavior. That’s a very effective pedagogy.
Timothy Cardinal Dolan

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