Cardinal Dolan and the New Evangelization

The irrepressibly effervescent personality of Cardinal Timothy Dolan may tempt some to think of the archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops as the latest in a line of glad-handing Irish-American prelates, long on blarney and short on depth. Succumbing to that temptation would be a very serious mistake. For Cardinal Dolan is a man of formidable intelligence, a historian trained in the school of the lateJohnTracy Ellis, dean of the classic historians of Catholicism in theUnitedStates.

That historian’s-eye view of the contemporary scene and its antecedents in the immediate past, linked to a deep insight into the meaning of Vatican II and the pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, produced a remarkable speech to the College of Cardinals on Feb. 17, the day before Dolan received his red hat. Like everything else Cardinal Dolan does, his speech that day was delivered with brio, and it was that bubbling energy that got most of the press attention. Yet Dolan’s key proposal—that the Church is entering a new phase of its history—was a bold one, and may set the terms of discussion for the Church of the future:

“As John Paul II taught in Redemptoris Missio, the Church does not ‘have a mission,’ as if ‘mission’ were one of many things the Church does.

No, the Church is a mission, and each us of who names Jesus as Lord and Savior should measure ourselves by our mission-effectiveness. Over the 50 years since the convocation of the Council, we have seen the Church pass through the last stages of the Counter-Reformation and rediscover itself as a missionary enterprise. In some venues, this has meant a new discovery of the Gospel. In once-catechized lands, it has meant a re-evangelization that sets out from the shallow waters of institutional maintenance, and as JohnPaul II instructedus in Novo Millennio Ineunte, puts out ‘into the deep for a catch. In many of the countries represented in this college, the ambient public culture once transmitted the Gospel, but does so no more. In those circumstances, the proclamation of the Gospel—the deliberate invitation to enter into friendship with the Lord Jesus—must be at the very center of the Catholic life of all of our people. But in all circumstances, the Second Vatican Council and the two great popes who have given it an authoritative interpretation are calling us to call our people to think of themselves as missionaries and evangelists.”

As we approach the 50th anniversary of the convocation of Vatican II, which will be marked on Oct. 11, the Church should remember that BlessedJohn XXIII wanted the Second Vatican Council to be a new Pentecost: a moment to re-experience the freshness of the Gospel and the burning desire to share the Good News that animated the first Christians. BlessedJohn Paul II, a man of the Council, called the Church to a similar encounter with the fire of the Holy Spirit: he led the Church through the Pentecostal experience of the Great Jubilee of 2000 so that we might come to know ourselves again as a Church in mission, a Church for mission. By inviting us into friendship with Jesus Christ, who is always our contemporary, Benedict XVI, another man of the Council, has given that mission a personal and holy face: the face of the Lord, who reveals to us both the countenance of the Merciful Father and the truth about our humanity.

The Second Vatican Council, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI have invited us to Galilee, that we might go out from there to the ends of the earth, bringing the Gospel of God’s passionate love for humanity to a world yearning for truth. Cardinal Dolan’s address to the college of cardinals was an extended and moving reminder that everyone in the Church must ask for the grace and strength to accept that invitation to Galilee: to be the witnesses to Christ that all of us were baptized to be.

George Weigel


George Weigel is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., and the author, most recently, of The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II⎯The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy.

  • Bob Langelius, Sr.

        George Weigel is pretty high on the new Cardinal,  attributing to him a wondrous insight as demonstrated by his recent speech to the College of Cardinals.
        I fail to be impressed by the vivacity or insight of that missive.
        I feel that the Cardinals “call to arms” is childishly naive in it’s basic understanding of what Catholicism is actually confronted with here in the U.S., and why this challenge has reached such magnitude!
        Yes! Catholics are challenged. He is apparently hoping, that a motivated “grass roots” effort by the folks in the pew’s is going to offset a historically flawed philosophy of USCCB , he is much mistaken and in my estimation naive.                     
        The years that have been spent teaching the “BIBLE” from the pulpits and trying to emulate Protestant methodology were misspent. 
        While the Bible studies were  going on, the homosexual and porn cultures were on the march nationwide, and were greeted, not by vocal abhorrence, but by the USCCB’s acceptance and even support!
        Rather than challenging the onslaught with Catechism,  they chose to demonstrate a charitable and “inclusive” mentality and opened the doors of the church to these  formidable “vipers” of the devil!
        Am I to presume Cardinal Dolan really believes these cancers are to be excised, now, by the newly motivated but hopelessly untrained Catholics listening in the pews and questioning the silence from the pulpits!
         Recent activities within the Federal Government have exposed a frightening disregard for the Constitutionally protected “God Given” right, to “freedom of religion”!
        Cardinal Dolan’s response is to adopt a “wait and see” attitude!
         While purported “Catholic”  politicians (Pelosi, Sebelius), are driving this unique attack against religious freedom in general and against the Catholic church in particular, the nascent “USCCB”‘s (headed by Cardinal Dolan) strategy is to sit back and “wait it out”!! 
         Cardinal Dolan has many charismatic attributes and “…from those with much, much is expected…”!
         The Church in the united States is at a precipice, and we don’t need any “Rah-Rah”!! We need
    an intellectually effective, religiously oriented, and compelling counter attack!
         We need that intellect to become obviously and vociferously involved in what appears to be the ultimate challenge to “Catholicism” right here in the United States! Right Now!!!
         So far I’m unimpressed but hopeful the New Cardinal has the answer, and hopefully we will have the opportunity to be exposed to it shortly!
         As this is a critical election year, time is NOT on the side of the tardy!
        Hopefully yours,
        Robert Langelius, Sr.
        White Plains, NY

    • Alex

      “The years that have been spent teaching the “BIBLE” from the pulpits and trying to emulate Protestant methodology were misspent.”

      Authentically preaching the Bible, the Word of God, is the solution to modern social ills.

      Instead, most sermons seem to be endless variations of “Jesus loves you,” “Open your hearts” or other fluffy stuff. This is why Catholics are so susceptible to the secular world’s opinions & misinformation.

      • Bob Langelius, Sr.

             Alex, The Bible is surely the “Word of God”. and knowledge of it’s contents is admirable!
              Please considser of the benefit to the laity if, for all those years, we had been taught the real meaning of marital love, conjugal responsibilities and the moral dangers of contraception, the insidious degradation of abortion!
              Consider if  there had been a concerted effort by the church to intervene in the proliferation of pornography, and a challenge was made by the USCCB to the legislation that provides a “protected” platform for the homosexual recruiting now going on in the public school arena!
              Consider how better prepared Catholics would be if they were as trained for the upcoming “battle” as our enemy has been!
              Yes the Bible has it’s value but we are now in the war for souls and freedom, and we need ammunition and valorous leaders for the fight     
              I don’t see any such leadership in my platoon!
              Bob Langelius, Sr.

  • Alex

    I would just add one word, “modern,” to your first sentence and say:  “glad-handing (modern) Irish-American prelates, long on blarney and short on depth.”

    This is to differentiate the often disappointing modern Irish-American prelates from the great ones of the past like Fulton Sheen, etc.  

  • Mraiello

    New Evangelization?  Until he and his brother bishops and priests tackle contraception, homosexuality, premarital sex and pornography, a “New Evangelization” will be only a tird replica of what has transpired for the last 40 years.

    • Bob Langelius, Sr.

             When did you hear ANY voice, from the Pulpit speak of contraception,  or of masturbation, a more common and debilitating activity?
             What help could be afforded to those in need!
            These are really difficult but common concerns to the lay catholic, especially when non-Catholics treat them as  humorous and innocuous activities!
              Why are these  left to “On-Line” lay people to challenge, and then, only if you have the correct website??      
              My “Gripe” is, lay Catholics feel abandoned to their own interpretations of what is correct and alone in the battle against BIG MEDIA.
              Where are our BIG HITTERS in this battle??
      Bob Langelius

      • Mraiello

        As a result of the silence of the church, we have lost our culture.  We are no longer a Judeo-Christian society.  When we push God out, our society and country will end.  God help us!

  • The insufferable Weigel never quits peddling his neo-Cath agenda no matter how discredited.

  • Edward725

    Give Cardinal Dolan a chance, guys.  I think he’s only gotten started.

    Ed Higgins

    • Bob Langelius, Sr.

            You are right Ed, BUT, the good Cardinal HAS the helm! He’s on watch and the rock is dead ahead!!  You can’t enlist a “Committee”!
             The problems are not of recent emergence, they are malignant, and if unknown by the “Chairman” at this time, he’s the wrong person!
             Bob Langelius  

      • Edward725

        Bob,  I remain hopeful.  Cardinal Dolan appears to be an intellectually gifted and outspoken person who has already taken on the President and the NY Times, two virulentl anti-Catholic forces in this country.   I  pray he goes on the offensive, educates all Catholics, by his words and example, as to the reality of the hatred of the Church coming from so many quarters.  I know that many, many Catholics need to be shocked awake as to the ongoing attempts to destroy the Church.  I hope Cardinal Dolan is the man todo this, to expose and publicize, loudly!, what we have been up against for the past 50 years in America.

        Ed Higgins

  • bobbylang

     Amen to that!!

  • Thomas J. Ryan

    Cardinal Dolan was mentored by Bishop Matthew Clark. Enough said