Morley Safer of CBS’ 60 Minutes spent some time talking with one of my favorite Catholics, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York. Dolan is a gregarious Irishman with a smile that doesn’t quit, a magnetism that holds your attention, an eloquence that instructs without overburdening, and honesty and fidelity that inspire.
My final semester in seminary began with a 5-day silent retreat with Archbishop Dolan, then of Milwaukee, as retreat-master. I had the privilege of a few 15- minute one-on-one sessions with him. I’ve met few people as genuine and magnetic.
The main thrust of the interview was Dolan’s gift of the gab, his magnetic personality, openness, and, of course, his unwavering “conservatism.” The topics were typical: sex abuse scandal, women’s ordination, abortion and contraception, priestly celibacy, and how the Church in America reverses the trend of Catholics no longer simply calling themselves “bad Catholics,” but actually declaring that they are no longer part of the Church.
All in all a great piece but it had some real head-shaker moments. I love lines like this one from old-guard liberal Morley Safer:
But if you think that Dolan is going to push for changes in those doctrines and beliefs, think again: despite the jolly, open demeanor, he’s about as conservative as they come.
(That’s supposed to be a drawback to liking him.)
Safer pressed on, as though the “liberal” positions were obviously the right ones, and the only ones someone with Dolan’s charisma ought to tend toward.
No question that you’re conciliatory, that you like to dialogue, but underneath that you’re an old-fashioned conservative; I mean, in the sense of a right-wing conservative.
Dolan hits this one out of the park.
I would bristle at being termed “right-wing,” but if somebody means enthusiastically committed and grateful for the timeless heritage of the Church, and feeling that my best service is when I try to preserve that and pass that on in its fullness and beauty and radiance, I’m a conservative, no doubt.
The exchange shows that folks like Morley Safer and the liberals who still largely run most of the major media outlets still don’t understand the liberating power of truth, humility, and especially the comfort in knowing the timelessness of Catholic truth.
Beyond that, however, is the assumption that in the Church, there is a “right-wing” position, which presently holds sway, and a “left-wing” position that is equally valid and may eventually win out. As though eventually in conclave or synod or council, the bishops will vote to allow women’s ordination, gay marriage, or any other liberal cause celebre. Dissenters on core doctrinal matters will always be dissenters.
This next video is from the “60 Minutes Overtime” Website, so while it has some great tidbits from the interview, it’s more of a story about the story, with another reporter reporting on Morley’s report and interviewing him about his interview with Dolan.
(Click “Continue Reading” not “Read Entire Post”)
More in-depth, and very accessible, answers to doctrinal questions come through on this one, but the “meta-discussion,” in which another reporter interviews Safer is also interesting.
Says Safer about Dolan: “He is a genuinely jovial, life-embracing, people loving man. There’s no question of that.”
The reporter does pointedly refer to the “right to gay marriage.” Interesting Orwellian re-cast of the language there, no?
But Dolan’s defense of the definition of marriage and the danger of tampering with the definition is instructive. Safer offered that allowing gay marriage wouldn’t attack heterosexual marriage, and wouldn’t alter the definition that much. Dolan came back with, “Where would, then, the tampering stop? I love my mom. But I don’t have the right to to marry her. Okay? So there are certain rights and attractions in life that are very beautiful, and very noble, but don’t entitle you to marriage.”
The rest went to women’s ordination, priestly celibacy, the Church being ever young while operating in every age.
The end was about his “salesmanship.” I appreciate what they mean by “salesmanship,” but it seems like such a tawdry term to use for evangelization.
The interview was what I expected from Dolan, and from Safer. Old-guard liberals expect those who adhere to Church teachings to be aloof, temperamental, irritated, and unapproachable, annoyed that someone would challenge their authority.
Dolan is just about the opposite of those things. Dolan, and a number of the other new-guard American bishops, are accessible, articulate, eager teachers, who recognize the great liberty that comes with preaching Christ, and him crucified, in and through the teachings of the Church, with a smile. They recognize that Christ is the worker of the work, they are the vessel. They recognize that the message is all important, not their personal advancement. They recognize that if they do their level best to cling to Christ, He will accomplish great things through them. And these realizations bring great liberty and joy.
In spite of his central role in setting right what has been damaged by the sex abuse crisis, and in spite of having the responsibility of the Archdiocese of New York and the presidency of the USCCB, he remains one of the most light-spirited, gregarious, accessible, inspiring people you will ever meet.
Chesterton said, “Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.” Dolan has been described as “cherubic,” which referred more to his build and red cheeks, but…