This letter was written on December 3, the feast of St. Francis Xavier.
Dear Cardinal Dolan,
In 2011, I was blessed to meet you at the Grotto of Lourdes in France. I was there as a malade, suffering from a serious illness.
I had just entered the small sacristy to prepare for Mass at the Grotto when the large figure inside the door turned around. Immediately recognizing you, I blurted out in surprise: “Wow! Bishop Dolan! You’re everywhere!” You smiled.
Your smile was disarming and your greeting warm. It felt as if I were meeting a kindly uncle. Finding some courage in this, I write you.
Your Eminence, I watched your interview with David Gregory on Meet the Press. I hope you don’t mind that I offer my thoughts on what I heard.
Moreover, it’s not just my thoughts: They are concerns which seem to be on the minds of many of the faithful—you know, ordinary Catholics like our parents and those with whom we grew up.
You probably have already heard of many people noting your words regarding the string of victories which opponents of the natural family have won. You said, regarding the legalization of same-sex marriage, that “maybe we have been ‘out-marketed.’”
I heard your homily that day in Lourdes. Here, right in front of me, the future cardinal of New York! In that holy place, you gave one of the sweetest homilies I have heard on Our Blessed Mother. A successor to the Apostles! You love the Holy Mother of God!
Thank you for the gift of that homily.
“Out-marketed.” I would imagine you may regret those words. The spread of the faith is not just up to our “marketing” of it. And, praise the Lord, we are not just left to our own devices to combat the evil of our day.
I know you stand with St. Paul who says: “My message and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of spirit and power.”
We may not be able to do much about Hollywood and the lies it peddles. It probably should not even be a concern of ours how we are “caricatured” by them or by politicians or by any other worldly “force.”
If they mocked Our Lord, they will mock us!
Perhaps it just boils down to the fact that we are not “opinion molders,” but Gospel proclaimers!
Your Eminence, I think that sometimes we sell ourselves short. Those who mis-characterize us may never be convinced of our charity. The love we possess springs from our encounter with Jesus. We are nourished by word and sacrament.
As you have noted, there is no other organization that has done more to help others than the Catholic Church.
Where criticism is valid, we are thankful and trust in the Lord to help us amend our ways. But should we allow the erroneous opinions of our detractors to keep us from pointing out that culture has departed from the way of life and our nation’s founding principles?
Are we not children of God . . . in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation? (Phil 2:15)
In the mid-1990s, I heard a Catholic man complain to a large number of priests gathered before him. He insisted that the Catholic Church was basically doing nothing to help AIDS victims. I’ll admit I was upset with his remarks. I was upset because I knew that our brothers and sisters in Christ were taking care of over 70 percent of those stricken with this disease throughout the world!
This person who was condemning the Church was also lobbying for what now has become a “stampede” for special rights for those with same-sex attraction. Should the priests gathered there be silenced in their preaching about what is good, holy, and pure? Should we become mute for the sake of an untruthful characterization of the good work of the faithful in every land?
Yes, Cardinal, it is a “tough battle.” But many would say it is all the more “tough” when we allow their slander to silence us. We should not let fear of their angry voices keep us from fulfilling our prophetic office.
I know, as you alluded to in the MTP interview, that there will be complaining on all sides of the debate over so-called “gay marriage.” Some will say we’re too solicitous of those identifying themselves as gay, whereas others will say we are not tolerant of them at all.
I would just ask: Are we becoming timid because those wanting legal recognition of unnatural unions unjustly say we’re mean or bigoted?
The book of Proverbs warns that “fear of others becomes a snare, but the one who trusts in the Lord is safe.”
I have spoken with the faithful after Mass in many parishes throughout the years and have found that, contrary to what certain “forces” may wish us to believe, the folks in the pews are not hearing about the evils of abortion, homosexual lifestyles, or contraception. Neither are they hearing about fornication, adultery, theft, or even our duties toward the poor from the pulpit.
When preaching what I would consider “Catholicism 101,” applying the gospel to life in light of the signs of the times, I have had multitudes of people say things like: “I have waited 35 years to hear that homily in this church! Thank you.”
It seems true that many ministers of the gospel can indeed say that, in their decades as a priests, “rare would be the times that I preached about abortion, so-called gay marriage, and the use of contraceptives.”
A majority of Catholics, according to polls, would tell you that all of the above grave sins are licit! Could that be, in part, because of our failure to admonish the sinner and instruct the ignorant? Can it be that we are failing to show mercy and love by not clearly addressing these iniquities?
It seems that if we do not present difficult moral truths to folks (as lovingly as we can, nicely “gift wrapped”), then we do not give them the opportunity to accept the saving power of the gospel. And, it may be that we are showing a certain lack of trust in the Good Lord to move the hearts He has prepared for the message we bring in His name.
Pope John Paul II was a great gift to the Church and the world. He gave of himself until the end. In his last book, Memory and Identity: Conversations at the Dawn of a Millennium, he wrote:
At this point, we cannot remain silent regarding a tragic question that is more pressing today than ever. The fall of the regimes built on ideologies of evil [Fascism, Communism, Marxism, etc.] put an end to the forms of extermination just mentioned in the countries concerned. However, there remains the legal extermination of human beings conceived but unborn. And in this case, that extermination is decreed by democratically elected parliaments, which invoke the notion of civil progress for society and for all humanity. Nor are other grave violations of God’s law lacking. I am thinking, for example, of the strong pressure from the European Parliament to recognize homosexual unions as an alternative type of family, with the right to adopt children. It is legitimate and even necessary to ask whether this is not the work of another ideology of evil, more subtle and hidden, perhaps, intent upon exploiting human rights themselves against man and against the family.
Dear Cardinal, if I were asked to survey the Catholic Church in America, and make a report to you, I would tell you that people are confused.
For example, it does not seem helpful that we ministers have equivocated on (or neglected to pronounce) central moral truths all the while giving rigidly dogmatic support for things about which reasonable people can legitimately differ.
In addition, regarding Obamacare: I myself do not understand how, if it lacked abortion and contraceptive coverage, the U.S. bishops could say they are the president’s “greatest supporters” and “cheerleaders” on this issue. This is especially so considering the serious difficulties which are becoming apparent.
People of goodwill forewarned us of the many problems we are starting to see with this comprehensive plan. Many of these people, from all walks of life and differing political views, want the same good things for the sick which the U.S. bishops desire. They understand that there is a moral duty to take care of the sick. It certainly is within the competency of bishops to lay out the moral obligations we have to those in need.
Our vision of faith and morals seems to become blurry, though, when mixed with too much economics, politics, and sociology.
The following is offered as a “view from the pews.” Many faithful are pained by an attitude which would bring a bishop to chastise an entire political party (the Republican party, by name, over immigration reform). Yet, there is no mention made that another political party has in its platform the promotion of the murder of babies by untold millions (the Democratic party by name: “The Democratic party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right . . . safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay. We oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.” DNC Platform.).
Your Eminence, you have many natural gifts. You are likeable, approachable, and welcoming with a joyful gift of humor. Many believe the Lord can use you in hugely remarkable ways! The joyful witness of your life will not undermine the hard truths which we are called to proclaim.
In the interview on MTP, you observed: “I think one of the appeals of Francis is he said, ‘We can’t be afraid to take some risks. We’ve got to dare. If we’re just timid, if we’re afraid, if we’re sticking in the sacristy and afraid to go out and engage people and meet people and take some chances in presenting the faith, we’re going to shrivel up and die.’”
The prophet Hosea spoke the message of the Lord: “My people are ruined for lack of knowledge!”
Our dearest Jesus tells us to fear not “for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.” (Luke 21:14)
So, in the words of Cardinal Bergoglio, now Pope Francis: “Defend the unborn against abortion even if they persecute you, calumniate you, set traps for you, take you to court, or kill you.”
And he courageously wrote regarding the present regrettable “stampede” toward Sodom: “Let’s not be naive, we’re not talking about a simple political battle; it is a destructive pretension against the plan of God. . . . We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.”
Your Eminence, I seem to want to shout from across the River Gave to you standing in that blessed Grotto at Lourdes: “Take some chances.” “Impart knowledge.” “We are with you, Cardinal Dolan!”
And from that sanctuary we hear a beautiful lady’s voice say to us and the whole world: “Penance! Penance! Penance!” and “I am the Immaculate Conception.”
The Papal Nuncio offered a message to you and your brother bishops last month. It seems to fit the Advent season. If I were Mr. Gregory, I’d like to know your thoughts on the address by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò.
Your Eminence, Cardinal Dolan, I would like to call your attention to the words then-Cardinal Wojtyla is reported to have given in an address during the Eucharistic Congress. It seems to be so profoundly prophetic:
We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has ever experienced. I do not think that the wide circle of the American society, or the whole wide circle of the Christian community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-church, between the gospel and the anti-gospel, between Christ and the anti-Christ. The confrontation lies within the plans of divine providence. It is, therefore, in God’s plan, and it must be a trial which the Church must take up, and face courageously.
Sincerely yours in the love of Jesus and Mary,
Father William Joseph Kuchinsky
Father William Kuchinsky is a diocesan priest, a member of the board of directors of American Life League, and spiritual advisor to the board.