Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam
During this Year of Faith, we could do well to reflect on Cardinal Dolan’s words (words of exceptional value, I think) to his fellow bishops, and by implication to all of us. They are contained in his address to the U.S. bishops’ conference (of which he is president) at the opening of their general assembly in Baltimore on November 12, 2012.
Instead of talking about “all the controversies and urgent matters for the Church right now”, the Cardinal called for each of us to “undergo their own conversion and renewal”, for which recourse to the sacrament of penance is essential.
“This is the sacrament of the new evangelization, for as Pope Benedict reminds us, ‘We cannot speak about the new evangelization without the sincere desire to conversion,'” he said.
He anticipated a not too favorable reaction. “I know I risk the criticism — I can hear it now: ‘With all the controversies and urgent matters for the church right now…can you believe it?’ To which I reply, ‘You better believe it! First things first!’”
If anybody knows about the controversies and urgent matters facing the Church, it is Cardinal Dolan. He is the object of well-focused and persistent attacks from every source seeking to destroy the Church’s influence on society. As the cardinal archbishop of New York, he deals with a culture obsessed with promoting abortion and other perversions. He deals with politicians who earn their spurs by defying the Church on a variety of life issues.
In that context he says “We cannot engage culture unless we let him (Jesus) first engage us, we cannot dialogue with others unless we first dialogue with him, and we cannot challenge unless we first allow him to challenge us.” It could hardly be stated more succinctly.
Cardinal Dolan made it clear that he was not just mouthing his own opinion. He was relaying the solemn teaching of the Church. He recalled the recent ad limina visits with the then Pope Benedict XVI. The Pope said, “As with all spiritual crises, whether of individuals or communities, we know that the ultimate answer can only be born of a searching, critical and ongoing self-assessment and con- version in the light of Christ’s truth.”
He also recalled the recent world Synod of Bishops. At the closing message of that event the bishops declared, “We bishops firmly believe that we must con- vert ourselves first to the power of Jesus Christ who alone can make all things new…With humility we recognize that the poverty and weaknesses of Jesus’ disciples, especially us, his ministers, weigh on the very credibility of the mis- sion.”
Finally he said, “We need the sacrament of penance because we are profoundly sorry for our faults, failures and our sins, serious obstacles to the new evangelization. But then we stand forgiven, resolute to return to the work entrusted to us — as evangelizers of the Gospel of mercy.” Again, even though he spoke to his fellow bishops, the message certainly applies to each and every one of us.
May God bless you.
Father Patrick Lee