Members of the local media had about 10 minutes to ask Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan candid questions during a press conference held nearly two hours before his Mass of Thanksgiving at the Basilica of Holy Hill in Hubertus on April 28.
The former Milwaukee archbishop entered the room on the second floor of the Monastery Café about 26 minutes after the scheduled 2 p.m. start time, with strong handshakes and his signature greetings of “Hi, everybody, how are ya?” before taking questions ranging from politics and sexual abuse victims’ concerns to health care and the meaning of making Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world.
Immediately, Cardinal Dolan responded to a question regarding the assertion by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., that his budget is in line with Catholic social teaching. Cardinal Dolan said the congressman “became a good friend here in Wisconsin” apart from the political scene and he has “a lot of admiration for him.” By highlighting the principle of subsidiarity, one side of Catholic social justice teaching that shies away from big government and says it’s best if work is done at the level closest to the people – by families, neighborhoods, churches, volunteer organizations, local governments, Ryan has “reminded us of the two poles of Catholic social justice teaching,” Cardinal Dolan said.
“Congressman Ryan, I think, has highlighted the principal of subsidiarity, which I would say, maybe in the past 30 to 35 years, has not been highlighted in the presentation of the church’s social justice.”
He also said that Ryan shouldn’t be afraid of the criticism that he hasn’t focused enough on the other side – solidarity, or the idea that Catholics need to stick together and “always embrace and take care of those who might not be taken care of by anybody else.”
Ryan was one of several prominent elected officials at that day’s Mass. Others included U.S. Rep. James Sensenbrenner, Gov. Scott Walker and Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke.
Asked what he would say to some of his critics, namely sexual abuse victims who say he left a lot of work undone, Cardinal Dolan said he tried his best, but “they probably have a point.”
“I think, thanks to a lot of people in this archdiocese, we made great progress when it came to healing, and when it came to honesty and candor and making sure that the tough promises the bishops made in the Dallas Charter were implemented with vigor in this archdiocese,” he said, adding that while progress was made, there are still pains that need to be eased.
Regarding the “contraception issue” and the Obama Administration’s Department of Health and Human Services contraceptive mandate, Cardinal Dolan said the issue was much larger than contraception.
“This is not an issue about contraception; it’s an issue about religious freedom. …” he said. “That’s what we’re upset about – that HHS has attempted to define the extent, the constraints of the church’s ministry, and we’re saying, well, not only does that bother us as Catholics because it’s going to keep us from doing the work that everybody appreciates, it bothers us as Americans, because we kind of think that it violates the First Amendment.”
On a lighter note, Cardinal Dolan said he was honored to be named to Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world, but that it didn’t mean “all that much.” He elicited laughter from the group when he said he thought they confused his name with New York Jets’ backup quarterback Tim Tebow, or New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, because he’s “so big,” before answering seriously that his work isn’t about him.
“It’s not about Tim Dolan; it’s about Christ and his church,” he said. “If I can use that honor to kind of, to bring some luster and some attention and some good attention – positive attention – to the cause of Christ and his church, bravo, bring it on, but I don’t need another plaque.”
Why was it important for him to return to Milwaukee for a Mass of Thanksgiving?
“Because I love the people here and I felt at home here,” he said. “As I’m going to say tonight in my sermon, yes, I’m a St. Louisan. Yes, I’m archbishop of New York, but when this St. Louisan and this archbishop of New York knelt before the successor of St. Peter, Pope Benedict XVI (on Feb. 18) and when the pope put the red hat on me, he was also putting the red hat on the Milwaukeean. … So, not only did I want to come back out of charity, because I love these people, I wanted to come back because of justice, because I owe them a big thank you for all that they did for me.”