Thursday, November 1, 2012

Cardinal Dolan - What Were You Thinking?

November 1 is the beautiful holy day known as All Saints Day, a day to honor all the saints in heaven, both those known and unknown.  The Church is comprised of three different communities:  the Church Militant, which is the Church here on earth; the Church Suffering, which is the poor souls in Purgatory who are being cleansed of their sins; and the Church Triumphant, which is the saints in heaven, whose Feast Day we celebrate today.  This is a day to honor all of those who can say as the Apostle Paul wrote in II Tim 4:7 - " I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith."  It is a wonderful day of celebration for those who toiled faithfully while on earth through many and severe trials and a day to give hope and encouragement to all of us who are still in exile on this earth.

We in the New York area certainly felt the effects of that exile in the last couple of days with Hurricane Sandy.  Many hundreds of thousands lost their homes and other property, and at least 74 people (and still counting) lost their lives in this terrible storm.  However, the storm actually incapacitated a relatively small portion of the New York Archdiocese, whose bishop is Timothy Cardinal Dolan.  The main areas affected by the storm were southern Manhattan and Staten Island, which is south of Manhattan.  Below is a map showing the entire New York Archdiocese, which consists of the counties of New York (Manhattan), The Bronx, and Staten Island (Richmond County), as well as Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster, and Westchester. Next to map of the Archdiocese is a map showing the area that was most severely affected by Hurricane Sandy, which is Staten Island and the southern half of Manhattan:

      The Archdiocese of New York                  The  Affected Area in Red
There were also a few areas in the Bronx, which is north of Manhattan, that were also severely impacted, such as City Island.  But despite the fact that only a small area of the Archdiocese was incapacitated, Cardinal Dolan has excused ALL of this area from the obligation to observe All Saints Day.  

NEW YORK -- The head of the New York Archdiocese says it is OK to skip mass on All Saints Day in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan says he's dispensing people from their obligation to go to church on the holiday [this should say holy day].
 He says they should only go if their safety is not at risk.
Sandy left many neighborhoods in the dark and littered with trees and electrical wires.
Dolan said it was a time to pray and mourn for those who died, were injured or left homeless as a result of the storm.
He said he also was praying "in thanksgiving for all the heroic service of so many entrusted with our protection."
Timothy Cardinal Dolan
Much more of New Jersey was impacted by Hurricane Sandy than the Archdiocese of New York, and I don't see any of those bishops telling the faithful to forget about All Saints Day.  No one expects those who are cut off from the world without electricity, food or water or any means to get around to attend Mass on this day.  No one who has suffered tremendous loss of property or even worse would be expected to find their way to Church today.  

But c'mon! To give a blanket "amnesty" as it were to all Catholics who choose not to go to Mass is going too far, and I think it is actually spiritually harmful.  The Church has designated these days as holy days for good reason - to keep us mindful of the spiritual and to keep our thoughts on things above and not on things of this earth.  His Eminence has a right to lift this obligation, but I would think that would be more in cases of war or when a large majority of the area simply can't make it to Mass.  Manhattan itself has Catholic churches every few blocks, and many of them have Masses all day long, especially on a holy day.  Unless they are physically incapacitated, no one in Manhattan has a reason to miss Mass.  

I live in the Diocese of Brooklyn, and therefore Cardinal Dolan is not my bishop. Anything he says and does has no impact on me personally.  There were actually rather large portions of the Brooklyn/Queens Diocese that were affected by Hurricane Sandy.  Breezy Point, where about 100 homes were burned down, is a prime example.  But my bishop, Nicholas DiMarzio, did not lift the obligation for this day.  [UPDATE:  Bishop DiMarzio, as pointed out in the comments below, actually did lift the obligation in his diocese.  Although parts of the diocese did suffer tremendous damage, other sections, such as where I live, didn't even lose power.  The hurricane is no reason for anyone where I live to miss Mass.]

For whatever it's worth, which admittedly isn't much, I'm using this opportunity to register my strong disapproval with Cardinal Dolan's decision to basically suspend All Saints Day for the faithful in the New York Archdiocese.  I hope that all Catholics under Cardinal Dolan will still find it important to go to Church and attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and be surrounded by many of the saints whom we are honoring on this day.


  1. I live in Northern Westchester county. Many of the towns here are without power, have trees blocking the roads, no traffic lights, etc. The area affected by Sandy covers more than just SI and lower Manhattan. You are wrong about that.

    Cardinal Dolan did the right thing in dispensing the obligation. I tried to go to the 7am Mass in my parish, but there was no Mass due to lack of power. There is no other time I can go. I am grateful I don't have to worry about mortal sin due to the wise decision of our Archbishop.

  2. But how do you explain that no other bishops in this area made this decision? You certainly would have not to worry about mortal sin if you can't go to Mass. As I wrote, no one who has been severely impacted in any way by the hurricane would be expected to go to Mass today. But I can tell you that the many Catholics in the City and in other counties that were not as severely affected by Sandy should not be exempted from Mass. Manhattan has Catholic Churches everywhere, and most of them above 23rd Street will be open for business today.

    This was not a wise decision on the Cardinal's part.

  3. I thinks this helps those whose consciences would be burdened even if they legitimately could not get to Mass or might try to go even if it was dangerous for them to do so. Of course for some will still feel like they sinned. Disagree if you want (hey, it's your blog)but I am grateful.

  4. I appreciate your opinion, but I think that neither you nor Cardinal Dolan are giving people enough credit for having common sense. I think most people would realize if it's not safe for them to try to go to Mass and wouldn't go. The other bishops in this area seem to think people can figure it out for themselves. Why doesn't Cardinal Dolan feel that way?

    My concern is for the many, many Catholics who could get to Mass with no problem and will use this as an excuse not to go. As I say, in the City, Catholic churches are everywhere and are open, some even with no electricity. Buses are running throughout the City and the subways are running above 34th Street. And they're free today. There is no reason for able bodied Catholics in Manhattan not to go to Mass.

    1. Be sure to ask your bishop.

  5. Ok, Brian, I owe you a mea culpa. Bishop DiMarzio did lift the obligation for today. This is the first I've seen it. For anyone who is interested:

    From Brian's link, this is what Bishop DiMarzio wrote:

    "“It goes without saying that the obligation to attend Mass today and tomorrow for All Saints Day has been lifted."

    I also found that the Allentown, Pennsylvania bishop lifted the obligation. Interestingly, I did not find any for Long Island, which was hit pretty bad, nor any for New Jersey, which really got slammed.

    I still have to say that while I understand why Bishop DiMarzio and Cardinal Dolan lifted the obligation, I still disagree with it. I had absolutely no problem getting to Mass today.

    I should have figured that Bishop DiMarzio would lift the obligation because he and Cardinal Dolan tend to work together.

    But again, I do a mea culpa with the caveat that I still disagree with the decision. More people than not are able to get to Mass. The bishops should have at least said that while it will not be a mortal sin to miss Mass, that if you are able to attend, you should.

    One thing I would hasten to add. For those who don't know the obligation has been lifted, and still decide of their own free will and not because of extenuating circumstances, not to fulfill the Holy Day obligation to attend Mass, they may very well be guilty of mortal sin.

    Thanks for the info, Brian.

    1. It was hard to find info on dioceses decisions on lifting the obligation. I only found out about Bishop DiMarzio from Dea. Greg Kandra. Another thing this points to is how dioceses get information out about such things as lifting obligation on Holy Days. Do they inform parishes and then rely on them to get the message to the parishioners? This is complicated when there are power outages, etc. Our parish had a note on the door of the Church that the 7am Mass was cancelled due to lack of power. (At least it wasn't 95 theses!).

    2. You bring up some good points. For those especially without power and not much access to the media, how would they ever know that the obligation had been cancelled? Seems to me that if someone had been adversely affected by the Hurricane and could not get around, they could not be held accountable. Missing a holy day of obligation is sin if we miss Mass without an excuse. Likewise, if everything is pretty much normal, as it was in my part of Brooklyn, it would be wrong to miss Mass.

      So what was the purpose of making an announcement as these two bishops did?

      (At least it wasn't 95 theses!) LOL


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