To Whom Shall We Go?

Our nation and our city can be very proud of is its long history as a welcome home for immigrants, respecting religious freedom, beliefs, and practices. Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Patterson, and many other civic and religious leaders have recently eloquently reminded us of this noble heritage.

As New Yorkers today, we also know that we’re still healing from the wounds of 9/11, so poignantly symbolized at Ground Zero, where many of the sons and daughters of these same immigrant families died tragically at the hands of extremists diametrically opposed to every ideal that has made us great.

We want to be careful not to frame our discussion about the proposed Islamic Center in New York as a choice between religious freedom, on the one hand, and completing our own healing, on the other.  Both of these duties are good and both are equally necessary.

Sometimes, how we do things is as important as what we do. 

Never has this been truer than in our present discussion, where civility and regard for the dignity of others must be our priority. 

Presuming the worst in others always puts dialogue at risk; mutual respect is basis of all good listening.   

This is a good time for  all of New York, in its varied cultural, ethnic, and religious communities, to come together in thoughtful and respectful exchange so our real healing can begin.  Although I have no strong sentiment about what should be decided about the eventual where  of the Islamic Center, I do have strong convictions about how such a discussion should be reached: civilly and charitably.  The hot-heads on either side must not dominate.  While I’m hardly an expert in this area, and there are certainly far more competent voices than mine, the Archdiocese of New York would be honored to be part of any such conversations.

Pope John Paul II’s life was an example of how this kind of good will can resolve centuries-old hatreds, building new bridges between Christians, Jews and Muslims. In this same spirit, the Archdiocese of New York hopes to cooperate with other religious leaders in laying  the groundwork for a long-term relationship with the City’s diverse Islamic groups, extending the hand of friendship long overdue between both of our communities.  Similarly, now is the time for all of us to rededicate ourselves to binding up the unhealed wounds of 9/11, and to consoling the ongoing suffering of its survivors.

As the tenth anniversary of 9/11 approaches, our challenge as New Yorkers is clear:  to keep our proud heritage of religious freedom and a warm hospitality to newcomers alive, so that the twin goods of both welcoming and healing are never left unbalanced.

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11 Responses to “To Whom Shall We Go?”

  1. Irene says:

    Our Archdiocese recently experienced it’s own difficult controversy with the proposed Islamic community center in the old convent in Staten Island. That debate seemed to be as cruel as uncharitable the one over the WTC. Are there any lessons learned from that experience that could constructively inform this broader debate?

  2. Thank you for a very reasoned analysis regarding the mosque so close to Ground Zero. Some public figures have hid their support of the mosque in guise of the legal basis for it. This avoids the issue of the appropriateness of the location. Your offer of moderation of the situation and Gov. Patterson’s effforts are to be commended. Rejection of such thus far by the property developer and the Islamic leadership leaves me wondering the real reasons behind the choice of this special location.

  3. Sue Widemark says:

    Well, here’s another fan letter! I so love your blog… you always come out with something wonderful just when we need it! I’ve quoted the blog you did on immigration umpteen times… I’ve already shared the link to this blog above. As usual, you are profound and insightful! Thanks so much!!!

  4. Northcountry1 says:

    Archbishop Dolan
    Although I disagree with you about many things (especially what I consider your blinders about the NY Times and our church’s sexual abuse crisis) I applaud your reasoned approach to this issue. Yes, it is a matter of religious freedom and Mayor Bloomberg should be applauded for his stand. But it is also, in this instance, an emotional matter for many New Yorkers. Irish Catholics and Jews should be very careful about this matter. My ancestors suffered because of their religion. There can be a reasoned solution and I hope you, Archbishop Dolan, are part of that and that in this instance you represent the best in our church.

  5. Mary says:

    No doubt Pope John Paul’s experience of World War II shaped him. As Archbishop of Krakow he pastured in the face of Communist persecution. Then in 1979 while Communist officials watched from the windows of nearby hotels, the pope gave what George Weigel called the greatest sermon of his life. He addressed over a million Poles (probably including one or two hotheads!) calling them to witness God in the suffering of Poland.

    New Yorkers have been shaped mightily by what happened to us on September 11. If then we did not know Islam, now, 9 years later, we do have some idea of what the Koran teaches and how our God, unlike
    Allah, is Father.

    When suddenly in the name of bridge-building, we are suffering again and this time accused of intolerance — we are deeply hurt. We need you Archbishop Dolan. We need you to shepherd us. To dialogue with us. To defend us. To feed us. We are not worried about the Muslims. This is our time. We want you. We want God. Shepherd us.

  6. Robert Fox says:

    When I was a teen ager growing up… my dear mother used to tell me ‘Son… the hottest places in Hell are reserved for those that remain neutral during a crisis’.

    If one follows the money trail behind this proposed Mosque/cultural centre… one becomes more and more concerned as to the intent of it’s proponents.

    If Catholic men were really men… (and I mean men in the most Marian sense of the word), they would quickly but politely oppose this horrendous affrontery to Our Lord.

    Dear Arch Bishop: Nature abhors a vacuum. The loss of certitude in Our Lord as King of civilization is what has brought America, France, England and Germany to this point.

    Decades of warm fuzzy theology have created an empty space in the lives and hearts of men. Islam will naturally attempt to fill the void as has happened in the past when Christian leaders begin to doubt that they are the Church militant.

    I respectfully ask you to think about Lepanto. There is no finer example in history regarding how followers of Jesus Chrust must act when faced with the fog of emasculated syncretism. The alternative to Lepanto, is a kind of false irenicism which historically has been the hallmark of dechristianization.

    Robert Fox
    Diocese of Rockville Centre, Long Island, NY

  7. Nadine M. Chiffriller says:

    It seems to me that the location is very insensitive to the families of the victims of 9/11. While I did not personally lose a loved one on that tragic day, I know many people who did and I believe that another site should be choosen for the new mosque. The wounds of 9/11 are very slow to heal and I believe that building a mosque this close to the former world trade center site would be a slap in the face to all the innocent souls lost on that tragic day. They certainly have the right to build a house of worship, however, I don’t belive this is the right location for it. Build it somewhere else.

  8. Steve says:

    With all due respect to Archbishop Dolan, religious dialogue is only possible if all sides are acting in good faith. There is very strong reasons to believe that Imam Rauf, the man behind the proposed mosque, is not being fully forthcoming regarding his intentions for the Cordoba Initiative. In fact, he is quoted in Arabic on March 24, 2010 as saying:”I don’t believe in religious dialogue.”

    I would direct those interested to an article by Andrew McCarthy, the prosecutor of the 1993 World Trade Center terrorists:
    It shows a very different motivation and agenda than the one the main stream media has Rauf promoting.

    I would strongly caution Archbishop Dolan to learn more about all the players involved, before allowing his office to be used to promote religious tolerance that has little chance of being reciprocated.

  9. It’s great to see you take a position of peace between the two sides, Archbishop Dolan. I’m sure that is what Jesus would want us all to do. It’s not typical to see a representative from the Catholic Church stand up and take a neutral stance so I applaud your efforts. Didn’t the Pope ask all pastors to go online 6 months ago

    Archbishop Dolan, It’s cool that your staff has helped you put up a blog. And while I know you probably won’t see my reply, I am going to write it here anyway.

    I see a real disconnect with people and the Church. Have you heard of Paster Pete Wilson and his blog I believe what he is preaching is what we all should be hearing about God and our responsibility to God. You may not use YouTube, but it’s a powerful tool in communicating. See Pete Wilson (watch from time 7:16 to 8:31)

    I think a lot of Catholics would return to the church if they felt there was spiritual guidance for everyday life.

  10. Theresa Angelillo says:

    With all due respect, Archbishop Dolan,I’m very disappointed with your “very careful,” politically correct response to the Ground Zero mosque situation. Your call for “dialogue” will fall on deaf Muslim ears…..they will refuse to relocate….their religious zeal, and Islamic agenda will not allow it.

    I’m a 57 year-old native New Yorker, educated in the Catholic school system from K-12th grade…it is that very education that teaches me that although we “turn the other cheek” and “love one another,” we have to be wise and recognize the “wolf in sheep’s clothing” and not “cast our pearls before swine.” St. Paul tells us to put on the armor of God for we fight principalities which are not of this world. Radical Islams take their orders from those very principalities.

    It is disheartening enough to be a teacher in the public school system and have to deal with the stifling of the spiritual voice and the current, systemic bashing of Christianity, while witnessing how Islam is being put on a pedestal. I see it EVERY DAY!! I’m out there in the trenches, finding ways to keep Judeo-Christian principles in my curriculum. Shouldn’t you be doing the same?

    Please sir, if you are our shepherd, take a stand for your flock….examine who and what is behind this Cordoba Initiative. It isn’t good. The Holy Father doesn’t think its a good idea and uses sensitivity to the feelings of others as a perfect reason for them to withdraw. Follow his lead, won’t you?

  11. Kristen Niemuth says:

    Hi Archbishop Dolan. Just Kristen Niemuth from Wisconsin. I want you to know I still pray the Rosary for you daily, and will support you no matter what.

    In Christ,
    Kristen Niemuth