Pope Francis’ trip to the United States will give the Argentine pontiff a good “slice” of the “delicious pie” of Catholic America.
In an exclusive interview with the Register last week, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, stated this when speaking on how his city will offer the Pope a unique opportunity to learn about Catholicism in the U.S.
The American prelate also stressed to the Register how “pivotal” upholding marriage and family values are and how Francis comes to the country to celebrate the family.
Moreover, Cardinal Dolan explains his prediction that Francis may urge American Catholics to look back to their roots and make an examination of conscience, as well as responds to questions on the Pope’s words on capitalism in Laudato Si, stating that Francis’ attack on the idolatry of money “should shock none of us.”
Your Eminence, while we know the Holy Father is coming to the United States primarily for the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, could you please speak about the importance of this New York leg of the trip? What are your hopes for it?
Yes, the World Meeting of Families in Philly: That’s the main reason for Pope Francis’ visit. I am glad it is, not only because Philadelphia has worked extraordinarily hard, but also because marriage and the family are so pivotal today. It’s very important to us — the bishops, pastors — in the United States. You probably remember as a journalist that it was Pope Benedict who said he wanted to come to Philly for the meeting. So it’s been planned for a long time.
We are very glad Pope Francis chose us to be part of this. ... First, New York has a great legacy here of welcoming popes. … So we really would have been sad had our beloved Pope Francis not come. Second, because he’s been so open and humble in saying how he wants to learn about the Catholic community in the country, we feel — and even people outside of New York, gruntingly, recognize this — that, in a way, New York is an icon of what you would find throughout the Catholic Church in the United States: its diversity, the priority we place on Catholic charities and evangelization, its friendship with the interreligious and ecumenical community. So, bravo! We are thrilled he’s coming and hope it will help him in his desire to appreciate and comprehend the Church in the U.S. better. We believe, along with Philadelphia and Washington, that we will give Francis a good “slice” of this delicious pie that we call Catholic America.
In Laudato Si, the Holy Father had some harsh words against abuses in the capitalistic system. Some have felt offended. As archbishop of New York, the home of Wall Street, what do you believe the Holy Father has intended with his words?
I think what the Holy Father intends to do is to teach as Jesus did. If you were to find someone who speaks sharply about the dangers of worshipping money, you only have to go to Jesus. So that the Holy Father would speak very bluntly and very realistically about the idolatry of money should shock none of us. It’s a sacred responsibility to speak in the name of Jesus. He does it with particular effectiveness. And point number 2: Criticism of unfettered, uncontrolled, irresponsible capitalism hardly started with Pope Francis. … His predecessors were very vocal about this, too. They’ve been incisive in warnings about uncontrolled, unfettered capitalism, as, by the way, they have been of the other extreme — an unfettered socialism, that, in its Godless form, we call communism. The brilliance of the Catholic wisdom is this “via media.” […] Pope Francis has done this beautifully, but he’s not alone in that.
Pope Francis says he’s no expert on political or economic systems, but he is one on what God has revealed about the use of this world’s resources and values. He reminds that money and political systems are a means to an end and that when they become ends in themselves, either … in cut-throat capitalism or in a runaway socialism, you’ve got trouble.
So that’s where he is at. It shouldn’t startle us. Different popes emphasize different things. Pope John Paul II did similarly because he was very familiar with the ruthless oppression of the other extreme, namely socialism. He was very eloquent reminding of us of those excesses. Pope Francis is reminding us, as Benedict did beautifully, of the dangers of the other side. Instead of trying to parse what he is saying and trying to delude it by saying, “Oh well, we just have to put it into context,” we just have to listen to him and try to take to heart what he is saying. We have to be grateful that we have got a Pope who, in the true tradition of an Old Testament prophet, and in the true tradition of the greatest prophet of all, Jesus, is not afraid to say some tough things.
What themes do you think Pope Francis is likely to hone in on? Some speculate he’ll call on the powers in the U.S. to respond further to the world’s humanitarian crises, that he’ll address the diminishing of religious freedom in a nation built on it, and urge the faithful, especially in New York, the “city that never sleeps,” to make time in their busy schedules, for prayer, Mass and family. Do you think he will speak on these?
All of the above. And we know he is coming as a pastor, as an apostle, as an evangelist. He is coming as the successor of Peter. Those who only think he is here to give a partisan or political message, or to talk about the hot, burning issues, are going to be disappointed when, most of the time, he’s talking about Jesus, God, grace, mercy, the sacraments, the Church, raising our kids, staying faithful and pursuing virtue. He’s a pastor. Now, he’s going to draw in some implications from that. He will probably apply the light of the Gospel to the marketplace, to the international situation. He’ll likely recall for us the nobility, the towering power and worth of America’s contribution to the world … that we are looked upon as an example of religious freedom, of how the world knows of the Statue of Liberty and the welcome we’ve given to the immigrant, how we’ve been generous to the poor, how we’ve been a peacekeeper and have helped nations achieve liberty and stability. And in recalling and thanking God for that, he is also likely to in some way suggest an examination of conscience as to whether or not we are doing that now. It’s going to be good and worth listening to.
Cardinal Dolan, do you worry the visit will be politicized?
Not by him, but by others. That will be interesting — because both sides will find something to cry about and applaud about.
As we draw to a close, Your Eminence, anything else you would like to add?
Pope Francis has told me: “You’re all interested in seeing me and listening to me. I am interested in seeing you and listening to you.” So I am going to be fascinated by his impressions and what he sees and senses here.
Deborah Lubov is a Vatican correspondent, accredited to the Holy See and
based in the Vatican, who reports primarily for Zenit News Agency.
She is in the United States to cover the papal trip.