Pastoral Challenges

I almost passed up reading it, an article on a recent meeting Pope Benedict XVI had with his brother bishops from the African nations of Angola and São Tomé.

The headline indicated that the Holy Father had spoken to them of three pointed pastoral challenges in Africa.  Nothing here applicable to me, I concluded.  But I’m sure glad I read on . . .

The first challenge facing these brave African bishops, observed the Successor of St. Peter, was that many Catholic couples were “living together” instead of pledging a lifelong, loving, faithful, life-giving union in the sacrament of matrimony.  Not that good for the couple, the children, the Church, or society, concluded the Pope.

Problem number two, the Pontiff went on, was that, while more and more Africans were, thank God, converting to Jesus and His Church, many were having trouble leaving behind sinful, destructive practices of the dominant culture, such as, tragically, abortion, infanticide, and killing of fragile elders.

Three, Pope Benedict worried about a sense of “exclusion and division” in African life in these two nations.  Seems as if ethnic and tribal loyalties can trump the Christian emphasis on the unity of God’s children and our sacred duty to embrace and welcome people different from us.

Well, well, well . . .  after reading the papal address to his brother bishops from Angola, I concluded, “We’re not that different from Africa!”  The Holy Father could make those same three points to us when we bishops from America begin our ad limina visits to him this very week!

Yes, for one, we worry about the “dumbing down” of marriage in American society:  cohabitation, divorce, lack of fidelity, a contraceptive mentality, attempts to redefine the very essence of marriage.  We worry about this as people of faith, since it’s contrary to our Creator’s design; we worry about this as American citizens, since the crumbling of marriage and family is the major cause of social ills.

Two, we Catholics in America, apparently, like our brothers and sisters in Angola, often take our cues from culture rather than from Jesus and His Church.  The very scourges mentioned by the Pope as anti-gospel, potent cultural forces in Africa — extermination of babies (pre-born and just-born) and fragile elderly (euthanasia) — are present here, too.

Finally, I’ll be: the Africans aren’t the only ones, Holy Father, who need a warning about “exclusion.”  I’m afraid we Americans are busy knocking down the Statue of Liberty here, as those candidates who most blister the immigrant and refugee in their stump speeches get the most lusty applause.  The American hand traditionally extended in a welcome has now been turned into a fist.

Holy Father, we bishops of New York will be with you in Rome in two weeks.  You could actually dust off the excellent address you gave our brothers from Angola a couple of weeks ago and give it to us as well.  We need to hear it, too!


11 Responses to “Pastoral Challenges”

  1. Mary says:

    The Statue of Liberty deserves to be knocked down.

    Woe to you Africans and Mexicans and others who are tired and poor…you come here for “freedom”. What you’ll get is Obamacare. That means services for birth control, contraception and sterilization. It’s the American way of eliminating you with your consent. The politicians of NY from the Governor on down have designed it so that the your success story now means that your children will end up in the drains of the abortion mills.

    My fist is not shaking at the tired and the poor, Archbishop Dolan, but rather at the political policies (which you seem comfortable with) that look like they are full of compassion but are ultimately deadly deceptions.

  2. Irene says:

    I think the Pope will also want to discuss with the American bishops the recent report from the Vatican calling for an overhaul of the world’s financial systems so that economics and finance might begin to serve the common good. I think that report is especially relevant to the US.

  3. Anne says:

    I totally agree with you here, Archbishop Dolan. Great article!

  4. K. Sundaram says:

    What a refreshing approach it would be if the Holy Father did not have to restate the problem, because the Bishops would tell the Holy Father what they are going to do to foster a true reform in America. One can see all the above just by reading the Drudge Report or the daily dose of New Advent. American Catholics need a sense that we are serious about the need for reform to happen in each person with an urgent and meaningful call to reconcilliation not minced in the watered down language that sounds like an invitation to a feeling good experience at common table instead of a holy mystery. With all the misery seen in our society, in our schools that everyone defends by asking for more money for the same corrupt curricula, in our entertainment and in the crowded family courthouses througout America, how can anyone believe we are serious when there is only one hour for confessions with one priest in a parish? How can we truly mean what we say when people have no idea they don’t have to advance in the spiritual life all by themselves? In the land of plenty, we lack the important things out of ignorance, indifference and example. Time to start the treatment, we have defined the illness enough already.

  5. David M. Allen says:

    The Kansas City Star magazine won’t allow the Catholic League to print an ad to defend Bishop Finn, who is under heavy scrutiny. Are bishops going to defend him?

  6. hanh says:

    May I ask about the speeches that get the most lusty applause – were they about “immigrant and refugee” or were they about “illegal immigrants”?

    Dear Archbishop, I sincerely beg you to look at this issue from other viewpoints, besides that of the poor illegal immigrants, such as the legal immigrants who follow the process; the honest farmers who hire legal migrant workers, pay their insurance, how are they to compete with those who do not have such expenses; the honest workers who are squeezed financially to support an overburdened system.

    But even if you don’t agree with those of us who condemn “illegal immigrants”, please don’t mischaracterize our position. Thank you.

  7. Seymour Wildman says:

    Dear Archbishop Dolan,
    I don’t understand how these two thoughts coexist : 1) worrying about ” “living together” instead of pledging a lifelong, loving, faithful, life-giving union” , 2) worrying about “attempts to redefine the very essence of marriage. .contrary to our Creator’s design”

    As a grandfather I can tell you that marriage equality strengthens marriage and family. There is no longer a need for awkward explanations or definitions, my daughter’s spouse is a member of the family. She is our daughter-in-law. Her parents are my daughter’s in-laws, also now part of our family. The last two years following their wonderful marriage ceremony, fully attended and supported by all family and friends, have been very natural. When it came to choosing between religion (and there were many represented) and family, family won out hands down! What about the kids? Well, there is no need to explain the relationship of daughter and daughter-in-law to our grandchildren. They attended the wedding! They fully understand. These our their “aunties”, members of their family and by the way, favorite members! I wish I could convey to you how much better marriage equality is to the alternative. I don’t understand the opposition it! Opposing marriage equality weakens both family and marriage. Every society on earth has approximately the same distribution of sexual orientations, as far back in history as we can determine. It is a human attribute driven by chance. Marriage equality would be a plus in Africa, too!

  8. Christopher Fish says:

    Dear bishop:
    have you seen or heard of this issue in your own back?

    The promotions of co-habitation and GLBT lifestyle as a ‘acceptable’ way of life is to be staged at ‘sacred heart catholic school in new York’

    how can we speak with integrity if we don’t act with it? How can we bring unity if we are unwilling to stand up for what we say is right and not allow our schools and institutions to be used as staging grounds for public attracts against our own community?

  9. Angie says:

    My sentiments Archbishop Dolan, thank you for acknowledging what others won’t. But I also believe that we need to educate our community and in years to come we may be able to turn the situation around.

  10. AndyP/Doria2 says:

    Keep fighting the good fight Your Excellency. The flock will follow a true shepherd. Homosexual marriage, contraception, and abortion have been, are, and will remain the defining issues of our day.

    American Cardinal Burke is trying to lead the way but it seems that too many leaders in our heirarchy are not listening.

    Your leadership is needed today more than ever.

  11. Frederick.Oakeley says:

    If the Church had been more supportive of civil partnerships in which gay people sought to live in constancy and fidelity, we would be more able to make the distinction between Christian Marriage and the current proposal. In a world faced with climate change caused by our failure to care for God’s world: social injustice caused by our greed: and financial chaos directly resulting from the immorality of Wall Street and our great financial institutions, the Bishop’s exclusive concentration on contraception and gay marriage looks a little partial.