All Are Welcome!

It was a lesson I began to learn when I was seven or eight . . .

My buddy Freddie from across the street and I were playing outside.  Mom called me for supper.

“Can Freddie stay and eat supper with us?”  I asked.

“He’d sure be welcome, if it’s okay with his mom and dad,” she replied.

“Thanks, Mrs. Dolan,” Freddie replied.  “I’m sure it’s okay, because mom and dad are out, and the babysitter was just going to make me a sandwich whenever I came in.”

I was so proud and happy.  Freddie was welcome in our house, at our table.  We both rushed in and sat down.

“Freddie, glad you’re here,” dad remarked, “but . . . looks like you and Tim better go wash your hands before you eat.”

Simple enough . . . common sense . . . you are a most welcome and respected member now of our table, our household, dad was saying, but, there are a few very natural expectations this family has.  Like, wash your hands!…

So it is with the supernatural family we call the Church:  all are welcome!

But, welcome to what?  To a community that will love and respect you, but which has rather clear expectations defining it, revealed by God in the Bible, through His Son, Jesus, instilled in the human heart, and taught by His Church.

The Church is Catholic . . . that means all are welcome;

The Church is one . . . that means we have a Person — Jesus — and His moral teaching that unite us;

The Church is apostolic . . . that means that His teaching was entrusted to His apostles, and carefully handed-on by His Church.  The sacred duty of the Church is to invite people, challenge people, to live the message and teachings of Jesus.

This balance can cause some tensions.  Freddie and I were loved and welcomed at our family table, but the clear expectation was, no dirty hands!

Blessed John Paul II used to say that the best way to love someone was to tell them the truth:  To teach the truth with love.  Jesus did that — He was love and truth in His very person — and so does His Church.

We love and respect everyone . . . but that doesn’t necessarily mean we love and respect their actions.

Who  a person is?  We love and respect him or her . . .

What a person does?  Truth may require that we tell the person we love that such actions are not consonant with what God has revealed.

We can never judge a person . . . but, we can judge a person’s actions.

Jesus did it best.  Remember the woman caught in adultery?  The elders were going to stone her.  At the words of Jesus, they walked away.

“Is there no one left to condemn you?”  the Lord tenderly asked the accused woman.

“No one, Sir,” she whispered.

“Neither do I condemn you,” Jesus concluded.  “Now go, but sin no more.”

Hate the sin; love the sinner . . .

In my senior year of college, I led a delegation to the rector arguing that it was time to drop the “outmoded” expectation that we seminarians be required to major in philosophy.  Those “revolutionary” days — this was 1971 — required, we insisted, that we future priests be specialists in more “relevant” areas such as psychology or sociology.

The rector, a wise man, listened carefully and patiently.  He thanked us and asked for some time to think and consult about our demand.

A week later he called us back and told us that the philosophy requirement would remain.  (I’m now sure glad he did, by the way!)  One of the more fiery students piped-up, “See, you never listen to us!  You do not respect us.”

The rector calmly explained “Just because I do not agree with you, or do not accept your proposal, does not mean that I did not listen, nor that I do not love and respect you.”

Not a bad philosophy lesson, by the way!

So, for example, the Church loves, welcomes, and respects the alcoholic . . . but would not condone his binge;

The Church loves, welcomes, and respects a prominent business leader…but would not condone his or her failure to pay a just wage to a migrant worker;

The Church loves, welcomes, and respects a young couple in love . . . but would challenge their decision to “live together” before marriage;

The Church loves, welcomes, and respects a woman who has had an abortion, and the man who fathered the child and encouraged the abortion . . . but would be united with them in mourning and regretting that deadly choice;

The Church loves, welcomes, and respects a woman or man with a same-sex attraction . . .  while reminding him or her of our clear teaching that, while the condition of homosexuality is no sin at all, still, God’s teaching is clear that sexual acts are reserved for a man and woman united in the lifelong, life-giving, faithful, loving bond of marriage.

The Church loves, welcomes, and respects wealthy people, while prophetically teaching the at-times-uncomfortable virtue of justice and charity towards the poor.

We are part of a Church where, yes, all are welcome, but, no, not a Church of anything goes.

Remember last Sunday’s moving gospel of Jesus, the Good Shepherd?  An effective pastor cherishes, protects, feeds, and leads his flock, while welcoming his sheep into the fold.  But . . . he will not let them wander off and do whatever or go wherever the sheep might want to go.  His duty is to bring them back and rescue them from danger.

This shepherd is still trying to learn how to be like that, to love all without ever compromising the truth.


24 Responses to “All Are Welcome!”

  1. Adrian Yanez says:

    To speak the Truth is to Love. To li8ve the Truth makes it easier to say the Truth.

  2. Joan says:

    Beautifully and clearly stated, Your Eminence.
    As a dear priest once stated, “Same rules for everyone!”
    God’s Catholic Church is our treasure.

  3. Joe Nichols says:

    “The Church loves, welcomes, and respects wealthy people, while prophetically teaching the at-times-uncomfortable virtue of justice and charity towards the poor.”

    The Church, and particularly the Cardinals, and particularly you, Cardinal Dolan has a problem of perception of which I truly believe you and the ‘Princes of the Church” are oblivious. Many more Catholics than you think look upon the ostentatious display of wealth by you and many of the Cardinals as nothing short of obscene.

    I am a Catholic. I have my faults. But like most, we do not have Madison Avenue addresses, chauffeurs, housekeepers, etc. The Al Smith dinner and its concept where you and your predecessors have given a platform to anti-Catholic politicians “just for the fun of it” is disgusting. Can you not think of a better way to raise funds than to send the youth a message of “oh, that politician is allright, even though he is pro-abortion, Cardinal Dolan gave them a public platform. It must be acceptable.”

    I know that the “princes of the Church” have to wake up. Instead of lecturing me on my wealth, I think it is high time for a bit of self-examination on the part of the Cardinals. Do you really wonder why the world is turning away from you fellows? Do you really, really wonder why it is harder and harder for us to talk to our children and not have it thrown back in our faces about how ostentatiously the Cardinals live and that they are hypocrites?

    I just don’t think that the careerist Cardinals have it in them to change. They speak a great game, but can’t play.

  4. John Corey says:

    Your Eminience Cardinal Dolan,

    Thank you for writing “All are Welcome” and for being a good shepherd by giving us this fatherly reminder. How would you reconcile your article with this?:

    What response to this does Charity demand; does the Truth demand. Is this an opportunity to confront the culture and let the Light of Christ shine, no matter the consequences?

  5. James Suntum,SF says:

    Several comments:
    – The analogy doesn’t hold because there are no easy remedies.
    – People who are “welcome” on the condition they remedy their conditions of life first aren’t really welcome and they know it and stay away.
    – People who are “welcome” but not allowed to participate fully or receive communion aren’t really welcome and they know it and stay away.
    – The conflartion of the “Person of Jesus” with the “moral teachings of the Church isn’t valid – they are not the same.
    – The Person of Jesus welcomes everybody to full participation including communion and then teaches, challenges and loves them into growth while continuing to treat them as full-fledged members of the family.

  6. Mary says:

    Should we love, welcome and respect the wolves? What is our armor made of? Sugar and spice and everything nice?

  7. Irene says:

    I am a NYC Catholic and I would rather the $177 million we plan on spending to renovate our cathedral be used instead to feed the hungry and clothe the naked.

    We could then, by example, “prophetically teach the at-times-uncomfortable virtue of justice and charity towards the poor” and move closer to Pope Francis’ desire for a”poor church for the poor”.

  8. Kevin Flynn says:

    If you’ll forgive this heathen and pagan from pointing out, but Jesus said not one thing about homosexuality… and what the Catholic Church has to say about the teachings of Jesus and what it actually does seems to be a long way apart, never mind what Jesus actually meant by what he is reputed to have said.

    “All are welcome in the house of my father” is rather different from “all are welcome, provided they abide by our rules, do as we say and agree with what we say is right”. Which, folksy homilies aside, is what you are saying.

    Although, if I recall correctly, Jesus did have rather a lot to say about those who stored up material wealth and turned temples into robbers dens… and the Catholic Church surely has done that.

  9. Vlad says:

    Since the condition of homosexuality is not a sin, then why is a person who has been baptized and without sin cannot be united in a life-long, life-giving (adoption or fertilization), loving, faithful bond of marriage?

  10. Diane says:

    Your comparison of the immoral actions of the six groups of people who are “welcome” is flawed. Gays and Lesbians are born Gay and Lesbian. How radical would it be if you not only respected Gays and Lesbians – as you say you do – but also accept that their actions are not immoral? Practicing in Denver

  11. Ranji Bercegeay says:

    Here’s what you should be saying. And make your words have truth by your actions. Pope Francis needs to make a visit to the US and do a little employment contract evaluations.

    All Christian churches should have this in any publication and on their doors as you enter:
    All are welcome!
    We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, gay, filthy rich, dirt poor, y no habla ingles. We extend a special welcome to those who are crying newborns, skinny as a rail, or could afford to lose a few pounds. We welcome you if you sing like Andrea Bocelli or like our pastor who can’t carry a note in a bucket. You’re welcome here if you’re just browsing, just woke up, or just got out of jail. We don’t care if you’re more Catholic than the Pope, or haven’t been in church since little Joey’s baptism. We extend a special welcome to those who are over 60 but not grown up yet, and to teenagers who are growing up too fast. We welcome soccer moms, NASCAR dads, starving artists, tree-huggers, latte-sippers, vegetarians, junk-food eaters. We welcome those who are in recovery or still addicted. We welcome you if you’re having problems, or you’re down in the dumps, or you don’t like “organized religion;” we’ve been there too. If you blew all your offering money at the casino, you’re welcome here. We offer a special welcome to those who think the earth is flat, who work hard, don’t work, can’t spell, or come because grandma is in town and wanted to go to church. We welcome those who are inked, pierced, or both. We offer a special welcome to those who could use a prayer right now, had religion shoved down your throat as a kid, or got lost in traffic and wound up here by mistake. We welcome tourists, seekers, doubters, bleeding hearts . . . and you! All are welcome!” Wouldn’t the world be a better place? 

  12. Lou says:

    ummm – I think there is a story of Jesus who forgot to wash his hands. He used that time to teach a lesson about clean hearts.

  13. Eileen says:

    I am disappointed in this. When I invite a guest, I do not judge him or his hands. Cardinal Dolan was only talking about being at the Mass and not receiving Communion. I sin. Every day. Sometimes I don’t even regret it. Today, I rolled my eyes at a clerk–I was rude–I was impatient. Okay, maybe now I regret it because I admitted it, but I may still show at Mass with sin on my soul and not regret it. Don’t you? Do you remember every little lie, every sneer at a driver, every harsh word you spoke to your spouse, and confess it BEFORE you go to Mass? Every single person in the church would have had to go to confession and have rememembered and confessed every sin before Sunday. That doesn’t happen. I show up with sin on my soul and still attend Mass–and I don’t really regret lying to my kid that the ice cream store was closed on Saturday when in fact it wasn’t. I am guessing you do the same–sit in the pew with some unkindness that you don’t regret because you don’t even remember it– because you are human and that’s why I love you. So, actually, if my guest were to say that they did not want to wash their hands, I would still allow them to sit at my table anyway. I might not like it–might not want them to pass a roll, but I would look the other way. Why? Because judgement of sin is not mine. Does god forgive? I don’t know. That’s her business. I don’t believe homosexuality is a sin. I just don’t. Maybe you do. Okay. Maybe god does and I am wrong. Okay. Fair enough. Maybe it is a sin. I don’t think so, but maybe. Since when is Church only for non-sinners? Might as well remove all the pews. Plenty of people in them sinning and not regretting. Shut it down because we are all sinners–so instead of coming to god’s house in sin, we should all just stay away. THis is plain silly-talk.

  14. Daniel says:

    What kind of church are you building when sinners have to “wash their hands” first before they can come in and eat? Jesus said it’s not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick, that he hasn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners (Mark 2). Jesus first of all said to that woman “neither do I condemn you”. If you close your doors to people because they haven’t become righteous before entering aren’t you just making a dismal fail? Or have your holy things become much too holy and rarefied for ordinary humans with their failings?

  15. Bob says:

    Unlike the other “sinners” you give examples of, gays and lesbians are given no option of monogamous, loving, committed relationships with one another. You proscribe a life of lonely chastity. As I enter my 50’s I realize that the truly harsh requirement of the Church is not disallowing a “modern” libertine sex life…it’s actually disallowing gentle, loving souls to create committed loving relationships with each other and be there for each other as their parents die, as they themselves grow infirm, etc. Truly cruel.

  16. I am experiencing the sacrament of confession as an act of self harm, I am told a view of human sexuality that is not congruent with contemporary science. I believe that Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body is a beautiful document that has the potential to help us to create a good understanding of human sexuality. However, this has to be done in dialogue with science. Please, there was a moment in history when we has to understand that the earth revolves around the sun. This is that moment for us in understanding human sexuality, we are created in diversity. We approach the sacraments in equality.

  17. sorry for the typo; Jesus is calling people to the sacraments, the church must not stand in their way

  18. Linney says:

    This is absolutely beautiful. I almost cried. There are times where I am utterly disappointed in this church. This is certainly not one of them. All are indeed loved and welcome here.

  19. t. smith says:

    With such love as this a more honest hatred would almost be preferred When advocating someone’s return to church remember the fable of the chicken and the pig where in being prepped for a breakfast of bacon and eggs, the trepidation of the pig was obviously greater since the chicken may have been involved but the pig was fully committed. Likewise the animus towards gay people in the teachings of the church are so extreme (to the point that the writings of Pope Benedict are cited extensively as extreme prejudice in the findings of fact in the Californian Prop 8 case in federal court) that it rises to the level of assault on their personhood.
    May their friends and families advocate for them in loyal opposition but for the sake of their souls, let alone their self respect I would not expect them to embrace such a hollow welcome of willful ignorance. Self sacrifice may be noble but at some point it’s just masochism.

  20. Dan says:

    I am a 32yo gay catholic who is very active in the church. My father is a deacon, my mother is a director of music ministry. Thank goodness they have shown me more love & compassion than the Church.

    Here’s the bottom line: I appreciate that you welcome me. I appreciate that you accept me. But your compromise is that as a human being, I am not permitted to love who God designed me to love?

    God made me. Exactly as I am. Do you really believe that? Then dear Mother Church and it’s leadership, stop allowing fear to rule your house.

    I believe God wants me to experience a human, loving relationship just like everyone else. It will strengthen me as a person, it will help comfort me in times of sorrow, and it will nurture my mind & heart to go out into the world to help form loving disciples who will also change the world, as I try to do.

    The enlightened world is waking up. So many young & old friends of mine have left the Church. They hear these teachings and realize it is not relevant to their lives.

    After 32 years of being told to wash my hands, I think it’s time for me to leave and go where I am truly accepted, as God designed me: Someone that I can be proud of and not made to feel shame or regret. You can dress it up as neatly as you want, but at the end of the day, the Church makes us feel dirty.

    Dear Mother Church, leadership and Cardinal Dolan: sometimes a parent needs to be checked on their behavior. Time to lead by example and wash your dirty hands first. I am made in God’s image, and therefore am granted a full, human experience. The world is waking up. This is my “tough love” to you today.

  21. Chris says:

    Catholics need to know that there is a hell and a heaven. Being in this world should be all about Christ and not about themselves. It’s all about how God came to this world and saved our souls by allowing himslf to be nailed to a Cross. homosexual sin is a heinous sin and you must confess to a real priest in order to get to heaven, you cannot get to heaven with mortal sin on your soul or you cannot get to heaven with original sin still on your soul. You must be baptized. people need to pray and ask God for the gift of faith and to Our Lady for strength to fight the temptations of sin from the devil. We are in are in the end times and the church’s been infiltrated by Satan. The anti-christ will walk the earth three and a half years and much sin will be committed and many souls will go to hell if the one true God is not glorified here on earth. The Catholic mass has been destroyed by the modernists of vatican II. It’s a scaryworld out there where twelve year old boys can drum up porno sites on there I-phones. May God be with you all in these satin infested times.

  22. Julia Brandimarte says:

    People seem to be confusing “love” and sexual acts. The Church does not say that homosexuals cannot love each other; the Church holds to teachings that homosexual acts are immoral, just as fornication, adultery, and murder are immoral because God through Sacred Scripture said it (Cf Gen 19:1-29; Rom 1:24-27; 1 Cor 6:9-10; 1 Tim 1:10). The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains the teachings of Chastity and Homosexuality. (CCC 2357-2359). Yes, Jesus told the woman caught in adultery that He didn’t condemn her, but he also said to sin no more. (Jn 8:10-11) This is why we have the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Cardinal Dolan, please, as a shepherd of our souls, as a priest, reference the Sacred Scripture and the CCC in your posts. The Church is not a political entity or an administrative organization. She is our Mother Church, founded by Christ Himself, in charge of the eternal salvation of souls.

  23. Dan says:

    I would love for Cardinal Dolan and others to check out this wonderful blog post by a 20-something theology major from South Dakota. She and I share the same concern: it’s not about gay rights so much as it is about the survival of
    The Church in this country…

  24. Tom says:

    I truly believe that Pope Francis prepared his sermon of may 25 2013 after reading Cardinal Dolan’s blog post “All are Welcome.” Here’s an excerpt from the Pope’s beautiful sermon:

    And ‘there is always a temptation – said the Pope – “try and take possession of the Lord.” And he tells another story:

    “Think about a single mother who goes to church, in the parish and to the secretary she says: ‘I want my child baptized’. And then this Christian, this Christian says: ‘No, you cannot because you’re not married!’. But look, this girl who had the courage to carry her pregnancy and not to return her son to the sender, what is it? A closed door! This is not zeal! It is far from the Lord! It does not open doors! And so when we are on this street, have this attitude, we do not do good to people, the people, the People of God, but Jesus instituted the seven sacraments with this attitude and we are establishing the eighth: the sacrament of pastoral customs! “.

    “Jesus is indignant when he sees these things” – said the Pope – because those who suffer are “his faithful people, the people that he loves so much”

    “We think today of Jesus, who always wants us all to be closer to Him, we think of the Holy People of God, a simple people, who want to get closer to Jesus and we think of so many Christians of goodwill who are wrong and that instead of opening a door they close the door of goodwill … So we ask the Lord that all those who come to the Church find the doors open, find the doors open, open to meet this love of Jesus. We ask this grace. ”

    Text from page
    of the Vatican Radio website