No Earthquake in Rome, Cardinal Dolan Emphasizes Continuing Conversation, Not Doctrinal Shifts

No Earthquake in Rome, Cardinal Dolan Emphasizes Continuing Conversation, Not Doctrinal Shifts October 13, 2014

Commenting on some of the headlines covering the synod on the family and the working summary document that was released and discussed today, New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan emphasized that doctrine isn’t being changed in Rome right now.

On his weekly radio show, Dolan was joined Fr. Jonathan Morris from the Archdiocese of New York and Nigeria’s Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama — who has some choice words for Western insistence that aid be contingent on adopting Western sexual mores. Kaigama stressed the fact that it is but a mere conversation and one that will be ongoing for a year. “We were just looking at it!,” he said. “A draft is a draft. It’s a draft; draft means you are still working on it.” somewhat perplexed by media reaction, and that it was even released “I wonder what that is going to achieve,” he said. About expectations, the archbishop made clear: “There’s nothing definitive that is going to be issued from this synod.”

More from the conversation on the Catholic Channel on Sirius Monday:

Father Morris: “We’re seeing the headlines coming out that there is a ‘pastoral earthquake’ going on in Rome right now, in the Vatican, in which the Church has a brand new approach, for example, to homosexual couples who are living together, who may be married civilly. And it seems as if the Church has changed its approach completely on some of these major moral issues, at least if you read the headlines. You were there, I’d like to get your perspective. Is there a ‘pastoral earthquake’ happening right now?”

Cardinal Dolan: “What do they call it, the Richter Scale, for earthquakes? I didn’t feel it moving this morning. We had a great conversation on this relatio, which is a draft, an attempt to kind of sum up what was said by the bishops of the world last week. It was very honest and many of the bishops said, oh, this is a great draft, a good idea, but it’s not the final word and we’re going to have a lot to say about it. And there were some that said we probably in our final statement need to be much more assertive about the timeless teaching of the Church. I didn’t see anything earthquake. It’s pretty much the teaching of the Church that while any acts, any sexual acts outside the loving, faithful, life-giving bond of a man and a women in marriage is contrary to what God intends – that’s timeless Church teaching – but on the other hand we treat people that are unable to live up to that teaching with immense dignity and respect. That’s always been the Church’s teaching. An articulation of that today was there in the relatio but I don‘t know if that’s dramatic and I don’t know if that’s the final way it is going to be expressed.”

Archbishop Kaigama: “The synod is not a referendum. We’re not here to vote on this, on that. It’s a discussion, a conversation about our faith. And it is a year-long conversation because we are having another synod in October next year. What we decide or talk about now is also going to be part of what we shall talk about in a year’s time. So there’s nothing definitive that is going to be issued from this synod in the sense that this is the law, this is the doctrine, we change all the doctrines, change everything. No, no, I don’t think that is the aim of this synod. It is about talking.”


Cardinal Dolan: “First of all a synod can’t change doctrine. Nobody can. And a synod is more conversational. I mean, if the Holy Father wanted to give serious consideration to some point of established Church doctrine or discipline it would take an Ecumenical Council to do that. This is more bishops getting together to speak about pastoral challenges. So to change doctrine is not part of our agenda.”

There’s, of course, an added element to interesting and import to Cardinal Dolan’s comments given he’s recently been in the news for not stepping down as grand marshal of the St. Patrick’s Day parade after they announced that an NBC group could march with an “Out” banner. In a recent discussion at the North American Pontifical College in Rome with the news website Crux, he said that he had no interest in seeing Church teaching change.

Talking about the synod itself last week, Cardinal Dolan said: “The bishops of the world at times, they can move me to tears, because they are pastors. They are pastors, they know their people well. They know their country well. They know their situation well. They are speaking with immense love and tenderness about their people, especially about their broken people. It moves them — it moves us — when we see people who are outside the Church.” The fact that only 50 percent of “our young people” in the U.S. approach the sacrament of marriage “bothers and challenges” the bishops from the U.S., he said.

Dolan himself has long been an advocate of civil language and a new apologetics of the kind Catholic Voices has offered. So much of what Pope Francis does is inviting. But inviting to what? The wedding feast of the lamb in the New Jerusalem, for which your life here on earth must be conformed to Christ. In order for that to happen, you have to encounter Him. Pope Francis is opening doors for that encounter. That’s not to simply feel good about what you’re doing, but to give more, to love in radical self-surrender, because of that encounter with Christ who died for our salvation.

Dolan commented last week that the conversation was blunt but not panicked. Don’t panic, pray, could be a good guide to further discussions …

(I wrote about this morning’s news here and here on National Review Online today.)

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