|Archbishop Timothy Dolan, of New York.|
November 14, 2011. Baltimore, MD. Here below is the full
text of the Presidential Address given at the USCCB autumn plenary assembly by
the president, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York. A video
of the talk is available at this link (Morning
Session I), starting at 39:30 minutes.
* * *
Jesus and His Church must be the passion of our
My brother bishops: it is with that stunningly simple exhortation
of Blessed Pope John II that I begin my remarks
to you this morning.
“Love for Jesus and His Church must
be the passion of our lives!”
You and I have as
our sacred duty, arising from our intimate sacramental union with
Jesus, the Good Shepherd, to love, cherish, care for, protect,
unite in truth, love, and faith . . . to
shepherd . . . His Church.
You and I believe with
all our heart and soul that Christ and His Church
That truth has been passed on to us from
our predecessors, the apostles, especially St. Paul, who learned that
equation on the Road to Damascus, who teaches so tenderly
that the Church is the bride of Christ, that the
Church is the body of Christ, that Christ and His
Church are one.
That truth has been defended by bishops before
us, sometimes and yet even today, at the cost of
“dungeon, fire, and sword.”
That truth -- that He, Christ, and
she, His Church, are one -- moistens our eyes and
puts a lump in our throat as we whisper with
De Lubac, “For what would I ever know of Him,
Each year we return to this premier see of
John Carroll to gather as brothers in service to Him
and to her. We do business, follow the agenda, vote
on documents, renew priorities and hear information reports.
But, one thing
we can’t help but remember, one lesson we knew before
we got off the plane, train, or car, something we
hardly needed to come to this venerable archdiocese to learn,
is that “love for Jesus and His Church must be
the passion of our lives!”
Perhaps, brethren, our most pressing pastoral
challenge today is to reclaim that truth, to restore the
luster, the credibility, the beauty of the Church “ever ancient,
ever new,” renewing her as the face of Jesus, just
as He is the face of God. Maybe our most
urgent pastoral priority is to lead our people to see,
meet, hear and embrace anew Jesus in and through His
Because, as the chilling statistics we cannot ignore tell us,
fewer and fewer of our beloved people -- to say
nothing about those outside the household of the faith --
are convinced that Jesus and His Church are one. As
Father Ronald Rolheiser wonders, we may be living in a
post-ecclesial era, as people seem to prefer
a King but not
a shepherd with no flock,
to believe without
a spiritual family with God as my father, as
long as I’m
the only child,
“spirituality” without religion
without the faithful
Christ without His Church.
So they drift from
her, get mad at the Church, grow lax, join another,
or just give it all up.
If this does not cause
us pastors to shudder, I do not know what will.
reasons are multiple and well-rehearsed, and we need to take
We are quick to add that good news about
the Church abounds as well, with evidence galore that the
majority of God’s People hold fast to the revealed wisdom
that Christ and His Church are one, with particularly refreshing
news that young people, new converts, and new arrivals, are
still magnetized by that truth, so clear to many of
us only three months ago in Madrid, or six months
ago at the Easter Vigil, or daily in the wonderfully
deep and radiant faith of Catholic immigrants who are still
a most welcome -- -- while sadly harassed -- --
gift to the Church and the land we love.
pressing challenge to us it remains . . . to
renew the appeal of the Church, and the Catholic conviction
that Christ and His Church are one.
Next year, which we
eagerly anticipate as a Year of Faith, marks a half-century
since the opening of the Second Vatican Council, which showed
us how the Church summons the world foreward, not backward.
world would often have us believe that culture is light
years ahead of a languishing, moribund Church.
But, of course, we
realize the opposite is the case: the Church invites the
world to a fresh, original place, not a musty or
outdated one. It is always a risk for the world
to hear the Church, for she dares the world to
“cast out to the deep,” to foster and protect the
inviolable dignity of the human person and human life; to
acknowledge the truth about life ingrained in reason and nature;
to protect marriage and family; to embrace those suffering and
struggling; to prefer service to selfishness; and never to stifle
the liberty to quench the deep down thirst for the
divine that the poets, philosophers, and peasants of the earth
know to be what really makes us genuinely human.
loves God’s world like His only begotten Son did. She
says yes to everything that is good, decent, honorable and
ennobling about the world, and only says no when the
world itself negates the dignity of the human person .
. . and, as Father Robert Barron reminds us, “saying
‘no’ to a ‘no’ results in a ‘yes ’!”
our own beloved people, and the world itself, to see
Jesus and His Church as one is, of course, the
task of the New Evangelization. Pope Benedict will undoubtedly speak
to us about this during our nearing ad limina visits,
and we eagerly anticipate as well next autumn’s Synod on
the New Evangelization. Jesus first called fishermen and then transformed
them into shepherds. The New Evangelization prompts us to reclaim
the role of fishermen. Perhaps we should begin to carry
fishing poles instead of croziers.
Two simple observations might be timely
as we as successors of the apostles embrace this urgent
task of inviting our people and our world to see
Jesus and His Church as one.
First, we resist the temptation
to approach the Church as merely a system of organizational
energy and support that requires maintenance.
As the Holy Father remarked
just recently in his homeland of Germany, “Many see only
the outward form of the Church. This makes the Church
appear as merely one of the many organizations within a
democratic society, whose criteria and laws are then applied to
. . . evaluating and dealing, with such a complex
entity of the ‘Church’.”
The Church we passionately love is hardly
some cumbersome, outmoded club of sticklers, with a medieval bureaucracy,
silly human rules on fancy letterhead, one more movement rife
with squabbles, opinions, and disagreement.
The Church is Jesus -- teaching,
healing, saving, serving, inviting; Jesus often "bruised, derided, cursed, defiled."
Church is a communio, a supernatural family. Most of us,
praise God, are born into it, as we are into
our human families. So, the Church is in our spiritual
DNA. The Church is our home, our family.
In The Power
and the Glory, when the young girl asks him why
he just doesn’t renounce his Catholic faith, the un-named “Whisky
“That’s impossible! There’s no way! It’s out of my
Graham Greene narrates: “The child listened intently. She then said,
‘Oh, I see, like a birthmark’.”
To use a Catholic word,
Bingo! Our Church is like a birthmark. Founded by Christ,
the Church had her beginning at Pentecost, but her origin
is from the Trinity. Yes, her beginning is in history,
as was the incarnation, but her origin is outside of
Our urgent task to reclaim “love of Jesus and His
Church as the passion of our lives” summons us not
into ourselves but to Our Lord. Jesus prefers prophets, not
programs; saints, not solutions; conversion of hearts, not calls to
action; prayer, not protests: Verbum Dei rather than our verbage.
calls us to be His children, saved by our oldest
brother, Jesus, in a supernatural family called the Church.
here’s number two: since we are a spiritual family, we
should hardly be surprised that the Church has troubles, problems
. . . to use the talk-show vocabulary, that our
supernatural family has some “dysfunction.”
As Dorothy Day remarked: "The Church
is the radiant bride of Christ; but her members at
times act more like the scarlet woman of Babylon."
seem, brother bishops, that the world wants us to forget
every Church-teaching except for the one truth our culture is
exuberantly eager to embrace and trumpet: the sinfulness of her
members! That’s the one Catholic doctrine to which society bows
its head and genuflects with crusading devotion!
We profess it, too.
With contrition and deep regret, we acknowledge that the members
of the Church -- starting with us -- are sinners!
big difference: we who believe in Jesus Christ and His
one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church interpret the sinfulness of
her members not as a reason to dismiss the Church
or her eternal truths, but to embrace her all the
more! The sinfulness of the members of the Church reminds
us precisely how much we need the Church. The sinfulness
of her members is never an excuse, but a plea,
to place ourselves at His wounded side on Calvary from
which flows the sacramental life of the Church.
Like Him, she,
too, has wounds. Instead of running from them, or hiding
them, or denying them, she may be best showing them,
like He did that first Easter night.
As Monsignor John
Tracy Ellis used to introduce his courses on Church history,
“Ladies and gentlemen, be prepared to discover that the Mystical
Body of Christ has a lot of warts.”
And we passionately
love our bride with wrinkles, warts, and wounds all the
We bishops repent as well. At least twice a day
-- at Mass, and at compline -- we ask Divine
mercy. Often do we approach the Sacrament of Penance.
both sides of the Catholic ideological spectrum at last agree
upon is the answer to this question: who’s to blame
for people getting mad at or leaving the Church? Their
. . . nice to meet you! We’re the
cause, they never tire of telling us.
Less shrill voices might
comfort us by assuring us that’s not true. Nice to
hear . . .
But we are still sincere in often
praying “mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa” -- and
we don´t have to wait for the First Sunday of
Advent to do it.
As Gregory the Great observed fifteen centuries
ago: "the Church is fittingly pictured as dawn . .
. dawn only hints that night is over. It does
not reveal the full radiance of the day. While it
indeed dispels the darkness and welcomes the light, it presents
both of them . . . so does the Church."
thanks for listening.
I look out at shepherds, fishermen, leaders, friends.
look out at 300 brothers each of whom has a
ring on his finger, because we’re spoken for, we’re married.
episcopal consecration has configured us so intimately to Jesus that
He shares with us His bride, the Church.
There’s nothing we
enjoy doing more than helping our people, and everybody else,
get to know Him and her better. That´s our job
Because . . . “Love for Jesus and His Church
is the passion of our lives!”