Timothy Dolan Calls on Milwaukee Catholics to Embrace Church, Despite Flaws
By Annysa Johnson
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
September 5, 2013
|New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan (right) laughs during his introduction with Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki before addressing before a full crowd Thursday at the Milwaukee Theatre in Milwaukee.
New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan called on Milwaukee-area Catholics Thursday to embrace the church as their spiritual family — despite its flaws — and to fight those forces in the secular culture that would seek to destroy it.
"Are you prepared to defend your faith from those who would take it from us?" Dolan asked an enthusiastic and near-sold-out audience at the Milwaukee Theatre.
"These liberators might be the late night talk show hosts, classmates of our kids ... or editorial page journalists who misunderstand the beauty of our Catholic faith," he said. "Are we prepared to engage them ... to live and die for the church? That, my friends, is apologetics. And that, my friends, we need more than ever."
The former archbishop of Milwaukee and one of the nation's most influential American prelates was the featured speaker for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee's 10th annual Pallium Lecture series, which he founded during his tenure here. Thursday's talk, which stressed the beauty and mystery of the church, as well as its sins, gave local Catholics insight into Dolan's role as the Vatican's point man for what it calls the new evangelization to spread the faith.
Archbishop Jerome Listecki started the evening with a prayer service, which with the choir took on the air of a high liturgy. And Father Paul Hartmann, judicial vicar of the archdiocese and president of Catholic Memorial High School in Waukesha, acknowledged the large crowd, saying that for Dolan, "This is probably just another Sunday at St. Patrick's Cathedral. And ... for (Milwaukee Auxiliary) Bishop Don Hying, this is a fan club meeting."
Dolan was not the only cardinal in the house. He gave a nod to Milwaukee native Cardinal James Harvey, the former head of the papal household, who earlier in the day presided at Mass at Catholic Memorial.
Dolan drew standing ovations and thunderous applause throughout the evening, engaging the crowd as usual with his jovial mix of self-deprecating humor and references to sports and beer. The event was less overtly political than Dolan's spring 2012 Mass at Holy Hill when he introduced conservative politicians to applause. The only reference to a pol, however unnamed, this time around was by Hartmann in touting Dolan's ability to go toe-to-toe with the nation's "cultural elite whether comedians, reporters, actors or the press."
"And he was been willing to go head-to-head with, well, we won't mention him," Hartmann said to thunderous applause in a not-so-veiled reference to President Barack Obama.
Dolan decried the decline in church membership, calling it "perhaps the most itching pastoral challenge we have as Catholics today."
He called for a new model of the church as a spiritual family, rather than an institution.
"For most of us Catholics, we are born into the church. Catholicism is in our DNA, our bones, our genes," he said. "We might drift from our spiritual family for a while, just as do with human family. At times, we are scandalized or confused by it. But it is our family, our home."
The cardinal also acknowledged the church's flaws, saying, "Where sin abounds, there is grace."
"It's not a bad idea to fess up to the sinful side of the church," Dolan said.
"In her human side, the church can be imperfect, sloppy and corrupt. We admit her flaws, but we love her all the more because she is Christ on the cross."