At a recent regional synod of Catholic bishops from nine Amazonian countries called by Pope Francis, the majority of bishops called for the ordination of married men as priests to address the clergy shortage in the region, and also for the Vatican to reopen a debate on ordaining women as deacons.
The historic proposal, which would upend centuries of Roman Catholic tradition, has been criticized by some conservatives and traditionalists. But Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York City, who described the synod as an “anything-goes roundtable and conversation,” said Tuesday that he was glad the issue had been brought up.
Appearing on “CBS This Morning,” Cardinal Dolan said, “I’m glad they talked about it. We act like it’s a big secret, but heck, my barber asks me why priests can’t get married.”
“Would you like there to be a Mrs. Dolan?” asked co-host Gayle King.
“What are you doing tonight?” Dolan replied. “Look, I would love to be married and have kids. But you know what? Pope Paul VI said you shouldn’t be a celibate if you don’t want to be married and have kids. Celibates are different than bachelors; celibates want to be a father and want to be a spouse, and they transfer it to their allegiance to the church, which is their family.
“So, a desire to be a father and a husband is a healthy, normal, beautiful thing. And I’ve got it. But do I regret not being married? Well, I might miss it, but right now, celibacy I find to be extraordinarily rewarding and liberating.”
Dolan, who has just written a new book, “Who Do You Say I Am?: Daily Reflections on the Bible, the Saints, and the Answer That Is Christ” (Crown), was asked about a decline in the percentage of Americans who consider themselves religious.
Co-host Tony Dokoupil asked, “I think indisputably one of the reasons why is people look at these sex abuse scandals that the Catholic Church has been plunged into, and they wonder – and I say this as somebody who has three generations of Catholics in New York, stopped with my generation– I ask you as a journalist, but also as somebody with that lineage, how could this have happened, and why the Catholic Church and not Islam or Judaism or evangelical Christianity? Why did this engulf your religion in particular?”
“Sometimes we wonder that ourselves,” Cardinal Dolan replied, “because as a matter of fact, it has engulfed all faiths, all levels of society and culture. It’s a cultural societal problem. It’s laser-beamed on us because, rightly, people expect more of the church. And when the church falls and commits this kind of nauseating sin, it’s going to bring more attention to it, and it should. Not only have we in the past committed these sins, we’re hypocritical because we’re the ones that have preached against it. And it just upsets people that the very ones that are preaching against it have been guilty of it.”
Co-host Anthony Mason asked Dolan, “At one point your mother was embarrassed to be a Catholic?”
“Oh, my Lord! My own mom, who is in a beautiful assisted living out in Washington, Missouri, she said, ‘I’m not going down to the dining room.’ Most of the time, she said, ‘Oh, they’re asking about you, your son who’s the priest.'”
“What did you say to your mother?” Mason asked.
“I said, ‘Mom, I’m embarrassed, too. We’re all embarrassed.’ Out of this embarrassment, I trust, is going to come renewal, hope, and reform. And I think it is.”
He said that there already has been tangible reform in the wake of the scandal.
“Those changes started in 2002 with what we call the Dallas Charter,” Dolan said. “There was a tsunami shift in 2002 that the church said, ‘Hey, you know what? We’ve been an example of what not to do in the past. Now we need to be an example of what to do.’ And the past 17, 18 years, there would be tangible, verifiable data that we are ahead of this and that we’ve cleaned up our act.”
Last year, Cardinal Dolan asked a federal judge, Barbara Jones, to study the church’s progress: “I asked, ‘My people still don’t seem to believe us that we have reformed and cleaned this up. Would you do a scrupulous study of all the procedures that we’ve done in the Archdiocese of New York? Here’s the key, no records are barred, and report back in a year.’ And she did. She said, ‘I give the Archdiocese of New York an A. They have kept their promises.’
“So, boy, it was bad in the past. But I think now, I hope, we’re a sign of reform and the way to handle this.”
Dolan was then asked about the status of Monsignor John Paddock, who was accused of molesting at least five boys for more than a decade. He stepped down, but was allowed to continue working. This came after accusations first surfaced about ten years ago.
“The first one we looked [into], the D.A. looked into, forensic outside investigators looked, and it went to the lay review board to say this charge is not credible. So he was allowed back in. You’re right, of late, other accusations came in.
“There’s a lot of people accused, but there has to be some type of substantiation. That having been said, we finally said, ‘John, this is not good. There’s accusations coming in. Yes, we have to look for substantiation. In the meantime, you need to step aside.’
“What we’ve promised is that no priest against whom there’s been a substantiated allegation can ever again serve in ministry.”
Dokoupil asked, “Are you still supporting Paddock financially?”
“Yes, we are,” he replied. “Yeah. He’s still innocent until proven guilty.”
Recently in New York, The Child Victims Act went into effect, giving sexual abuse survivors, barred by the statute of limitations, against their alleged perpetrators, and institutions like the Boy Scouts, schools and the Catholic Church.
Mason asked, “Since the statute of limitations has been lifted, how many more lawsuits have been filed?”
“We had already entered into the independent reconciliation and compensation program; that’s four years old – that has been praised by victims and the public alike,” Dolan said. “And in that, there were about 350 victims that came forward and reported a sense of resolution and finality, and were grateful to the church.”
- “Who Do You Say I Am?: Daily Reflections on the Bible, the Saints, and the Answer That Is Christ” by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan (Crown), available in Hardcover, eBook and Audio Formats, available via Amazon