Summit Speaker: Cardinal Dolan
Tim Drake chats with Cardinal Timothy Dolan, a speaker at the 2015 Legatus Summit . . .
Cardinal Timothy Dolan serves as the 10th and current archbishop of New York. He was president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops from 2010-2013. He previously served as archbishop of Milwaukee, auxiliary bishop of St. Louis, and rector of the Pontifical North American College in Rome. He spoke with Legatus editorial assistant Tim Drake.
You have a larger platform from which to speak than most bishops. Has that been a help or a hindrance in advancing the Good News?
It can be a help. I’m grateful for the tremendous infrastructure that I inherited — the schools, the hospitals, the Church, Catholic Charities. New York is big, so those are big. Keeping them all stable is a challenge. You have more people paying attention to you. If you make a blunder, it’s complicated. The major challenges are the constituencies. You have the media, entertainment, business, the Jewish community, all extremes. The Mass is offered in 31 different languages every Sunday in the archdiocese. It’s an icon of the Church. That’s a great source of consolation. It requires great zeal and energy; I pray I’m up to it.
You spent three years as USCCB president. What did you learn during that time?
I learned that three years is a long time. I was honored to serve. I learned a heightened respect for the work of the bishop’s conference. Our ancestors in faith were remarkably prudent in setting up an episcopal collegial tradition. The bishops are amazingly insightful and holy men. They speak their mind and are incredibly loyal. I left with respect for the Catholic family in the U.S., and with huge admiration for my brother bishops.
You wrote in the Wall Street Journal about Pope Francis’ comments on capitalism. How might Catholic business leaders best practice the compassionate capitalism you wrote about?
Business leaders — and I would include my flock here — do it. When you have committed Catholics who are successful business people, they know that there is no cleavage in our Catholic tradition between what we preach at Mass and what we do during the week.
The economy is hardly free of moral values; it’s shot through with moral values. I’m very impressed with Catholic business people. We hold a breakfast where hundreds of financiers come together to hear speakers on Catholic social teaching, morality, and being responsible in business. The very radiant teaching of our Holy Father is easily caricatured. That’s not fair.
The beauty of Catholic social teaching goes back to Pope Leo XIII. It’s a middle way between the two extremes of state socialism and unfettered capitalism. The Pope has been eloquent on that. Our business people know that. They know that the financial community suffers whenever there is gross immorality. They don’t want the Wolf of Wall Street. They recognize the need for moral values and prudent regulation. Once they understand what Pope Francis is saying, they say “we couldn’t agree all the more.”
You’ve engaged on religious liberty. Has the Church seen success in that area?
Our neighbors, fellow citizens, and those who express no faith at all have expressed high esteem in leading the protection for religious freedom. It’s a high value for us as Catholics, but a towering value for us as American citizens. We bishops are sensitive to the role we play. Others look to us for what to do.
Those in other countries really appreciate our high, glorious tradition of religious freedom, especially those who face aggressively secular governments that want to banish religion from the marketplace. We cherish our first freedom. We’ve spoken out and it’s had a lot of good effects.
The archdiocese is downsizing. How is that going?
Many dioceses are going through the same thing. We’re coming to a very important phase in our strategic pastoral plan. We know that we are probably going to have to make some very painful decisions about mergers.
Our business leaders encourage us to sound stewardship. They say that the way things have been going is not a sound way to pastor God’s people. We end up propping up parishes, and we can spend money better. They know the Church is not just a business, but it needs sound business practices. They’ve been wonderful supporters.
That does not hide the fact that the coming months will be very tough. To merge or close parishes always causes a tear. We have some tough days ahead. We already did it with our schools. We closed about one-seventh of our schools. Thankfully, we still have 180 that are stronger than ever, with better faculty, and they’re financially more stable. After two years of consultation on parish planning, we have a list of their recommendations. It’s likely that as many as two or three dozen may have to be merged.