We asked New York's Cardinal Timothy Dolan for his reaction to the interview with Pope Francis published last week in America. Here's what he had to say about it:

America: Many found Pope's Francis' words blunt and more than a little shocking. What was your gut reaction?
Dolan: My gut reaction?  "Yippie!" I wanted to sing out a loud “Alleluia!” For one, I was so exhilarated that a Pope would even sit down for such a lengthy, personal interview. All of us take risks in doing this—as I am right now with you—but it’s worth the risk. Then, to have a Pope get so personal about his style of prayer, his models of holiness, his hopes and frustrations. It reminded of an ancient title for the bishop of Rome, Servant of the Servants of God. He’s not aloof from us, above us. To use his words, he’s walking with us.

How do you think U.S. bishops will respond?
The jury’s back: We bishops welcome and applaud his remarks. We bishops have placed the new evangelization as our top priority, as both Blessed John Paul II and Pope-emeritus Benedict asked us. We realize that perception is a pivotal factor in the effectiveness of that sacred task. If the church is perceived as crabby, nagging, hung-up on a few “pet peeves,” or judgmental, as unjust and inaccurate as that perception might be, we can’t evangelize very well.  What Pope Francis has done is popped the blister of that perception, and we bishops cheer him on.  We are about a yes,  not about a no.

Some, who have felt marginalized by the church, have found great hope in the interview. Others, who prefer perhaps a more disciplined, doctrinally oriented church, have apparently been thrown for a loop by them. Are both sides missing something or is it possible that his positions could lead to even more discord within the church, rather than the healing Pope Francis seems to be seeking?
Yeah, both sides miss something, or, rather, someone. Pope Francis is probably frustrated that all the attention is on him, his interview, his statements. He wants the attention on Jesus. What he’s really telling us is, first things first!  Seek ye first…! If we emphasize Jesus, His Person, teaching, salvation, invitation, death and resurrection, everything else works out. My friend, Father Bob Barron, observes that, when he helps a foreign visitor who wants to understand baseball, he doesn’t start with a technicality like the infield fly rule. Start with the beauty, majesty, poetry, legend of the drama of the game! That’s what the Holy Father is suggesting: Start with Jesus, the way, the truth, the life. Start with the Truth, not the consequences!

You have certainly been considered a welcoming face of the church in your day-to-day ministry, but based on the pope’s comments, are you reconsidering any aspect of your strategy, if that’s the right word, of engagement with American culture, secularlists, lapsed Catholics, regular pew sitters?
Thanks. I hope so. I’m a rookie compared to Francis. Yes, his observations on discernment move me. I’m always worried about where God seems to be absent. But Francis reminds me He’s always there, I’m just not noticing Him. That takes discernment. Where is He as I decide to merge a parish? Where is He as I mull over the budget? Where is He as I worry about dwindling Mass attendance. Pope Francis claims He’s there! In all those neuralgic areas where we think He’s sleeping…No. He’s there. I better discern that presence and that direction.

Comments

J Cosgrove | 10/9/2013 - 9:36am

A little off topic but it does concern what Cardinal Dolan is doing. At Mass last weekend it was announced for those parishes in the Archdiocese of New York that they would have to submit a plan for their future. There would be three outcomes for a parish,

1 - they would share resources with neighboring parishes. The individual parishes would still have a pastor but they would combine services with other parishes that normally would be part of the individual parish.

2 - they would combine with a neighboring parish and only have one pastor. This pastor would assume the duties of pastor for more than one parish. The pastor relaying this said one of his seminary friends is in Albany and has 5 parishes that he is in charge of.

3 - a parish would be closed and its resources would be then used by other parishes.

This has already happened with schools as there have been numerous schools closed in recent years. I was at Mass in Rockland County and the pastor said that there are now 5 Catholic schools in Rockland as 2 have closed for this school year. This phenomenon is going on in all the counties. I live in Westchester and our parish school closed three years ago and the school in the next parish closed for this school year. All schools will be regional except for possibly a few very large parishes.

KEN CHAISON | 10/8/2013 - 2:28pm

All pretty words that mean little. When they stop beating up on gays who just want equality, when they stop beating up on the boy scouts, when they stop beating up on Catholic hospitals that perform abortions to save the life of the mother, when they turn over ALL the files of pedophile priests, including those still in ministry today, and when the bishops who have enabled them are all gone from the church, and when women are no longer second class citizens in the church, THEN you can trust what they say. Until then, there cannot be any trust. Even now there is a continuing investigation of nuns who have done nothing wrong, but no investigation of the bishops and former bishops who conspired against their flock, by sending pedophiles from parish to parish and between diocese. Nice words do not make it all go away.

Tim O'Leary | 10/8/2013 - 8:35pm

Ken - you don't even have pretty words. To use your own phrase, when you and other bloggers below stop "beating up on" the clergy, then I will believe that they really want to follow Pope Francis in the Church (as opposed to win political battles). When you and others bear false witness by lumping all bishops with the pedophiles, while culpably ignoring (covering up) its incidence in public schools and elsewhere, then I will believe you actually care about sexual abuse. And whenever you decide to stop voting for pro-abortionist politicians, I will believe you and others really care about the children. The rest is hypocrisy.

MICHAEL GRIFFIN | 9/27/2013 - 2:33pm

Amazing how quickly Cardinal Dolan has pivoted in his positions. The republican strategists are going to be disappointed if he keeps following the lead of Pope Francis!

charles harrison | 9/24/2013 - 9:56pm

Good for the Cardinal. I'm reminded of a Freudian slip he made in a Sunday homily a few months back when he cited the author of The Imitation as Thomas Merton before correcting himself. He's vocal on the cause of Dorothy Day. This is great.

BRUCE SNOWDEN | 9/24/2013 - 4:18pm

I like Cardinal Dolan's responses to Kevin Clarke's question on Pope Francis. I like especially that His Eminence is "always worried about where God seems to be absent." something we all tend to worry about I think "faithlessly" as God is everywhere, ever present even in the darkness, reflective of Scripture's assurance that, "With God light and darkness are the same." Holy Father Francis reminds us, "He's there!"

This of course takes Faith, which is essentially a "dark light" but thankfully in fact a "light" allowing perception where only darkness prevails ,a "light" that may cast shadows of fright on the jagged walls of the tunnel of life, but which through Faith's perception allows one to recognize those shadows as none other than the Shadows of the Trinitarian God saying, "Trust Me!" As with Abraham often we see the "back of God" walking away as it were, testing Faith, deepening Faith, the only way to more clearly recognize the presence of God everywhere and in everything!

Minus the lucidity that the "dark light" of Faith provides, everything equals zero. So, how important is Faith which like a muscle when exercised, grows stronger! God bless Cardinal Dolan! God bless Pope Francis! God bless AMERICA for its insightful commitment to the New Evangelization, that permeates all that the Holy Father says and does!

Marie Rehbein | 9/24/2013 - 2:31pm

Not surprising that a "company man" would be so supportive of his new boss even though the pope is clearly contradicting the approach this bishop and most others have been taking ever since the Republican strategists have been courting them. Pope Francis is probably not frustrated that the attention is on him, because it's giving him a chance to say the kinds of things that haven't been said for a long, long time.

Vince Killoran | 9/24/2013 - 1:12pm

I await the naming of bishops who will reflect this pastoral approach.

Frank Bergen | 9/24/2013 - 1:03pm

Pretty innocuous! Would that Clarke had asked some more pointed questions. After all, Dolan is for the moment president of USCCB, chosen two years ago because the presumptive president-elect, Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, was deemed by the brethren not sufficiently conservative. My questions would have been: are you ready to accept the Obama administration's reasonable compromise regarding inclusion of contraceptive services in health insurance plans? Are you ready to lead your conference and to encourage election of a successor who will lead it away from opposition to marriage equality? And will you advocate for publicly distinguishing between civil marriage and sacramental matrimony as it pertains to same sex couples, just as you do for heterosexual couples, denying sacramentality to those who don't meet the church's standards but not claiming they can't be civilly married?

KATHLEEN HOPKINS | 9/25/2013 - 12:31pm

My thoughts exactly.