Archbishop Timothy Dolan delivered his first presidential address to the full plenary of the USCCB today since taking the helm of the bishops’ conference last year.
“Love for Jesus and His Church must be the passion of our lives,” Dolan began, quoting Blessed John Paul II, moving into a discourse on the necessary connection between Christ and the Church, quoting the great theologian Henri deLubac, “For what would I ever know of Him, without her?” Dolan acknowledged the difficulty this linkage has faced in recent years, saying, “Because, as the chilling statistics we cannot ignore tell us, fewer and fewer of our beloved people – to say nothing about those outside the household of the faith – are convinced that Jesus and His Church are one.”
Many commentators anticipated Dolan would discuss the issue of religious liberty at some length, but it was scarcely mentioned in his text. Instead, he focused on the need for the Church to focus on evangelization and a re-presentation of the Church as the vehicle for the encounter with Christ: “The Church we passionately love is hardly some cumbersome, outmoded club of sticklers, with a medieval bureaucracy, silly human rules on fancy letterhead, one more movement rife with squabbles, opinions, and disagreement. The Church is Jesus – teaching, healing, saving, serving, inviting; Jesus often ‘bruised, derided, cursed, defiled.’”
Dolan went on to acknowledge some of the problems facing the Church. “Since we are a spiritual family, we should hardly be surprised that the Church has troubles, problems…As Dorothy Day remarked: ‘The Church is the radiant bride of Christ; but her members at times act more like the scarlet women of Babylon.’” Dolan also quoted his mentor, the late Monsignor John Tracy Ellis, noting that Ellis “used to introduce his courses on Church history, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, be prepared to discover that the Mystical Body of Christ has a lot of warts.’ And we passionately love our bride with wrinkles, warts and wounds all the more.”
If some were expecting a declaration of war against the Obama administration on the issue of religious liberty, this was not it.