MILWAUKEE — New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan returned to Milwaukee Thursday, Sept. 5 for the 10th anniversary of the Pallium Lecture, the catechetical series he started in 2003.
People were already lining up at the main doors of the Milwaukee Theatre by 4:30 p.m. in anticipation of the 7 p.m. talk, “Who Do You Say That I Am? Encountering Christ and Responding to Christ through His Living Body, the Church,” the theme of Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki’s recently published pastoral letter.
The 4,000 seats filled well before the night began, a steady hum of chatter and flashes from cameras filled the room until 6:59 p.m. when applause erupted as Cardinal Dolan took the stage with Archbishop Listecki and Fr. Paul Hartmann, judicial vicar for the archdiocese and president of Catholic Memorial High School, Waukesha.
Following a prayer service, planned by Michael J. Batcho, director of music at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Fr. Hartmann introduced the “man of great ideas … willing to stand elbow to elbow with New York City cops and firemen, bankers and butchers, immigrants and indigents and, most importantly these last few years, he’s been willing to go head to head with, well, we won’t mention him,” he said, referring to President Barack Obama.
Armed with suggestions to fight challenges facing the church and his usual humor, Cardinal Dolan took the stage.
“Yeah, I might be in the Big Apple now – you know what? Nothing goes better with an apple than a piece of Wisconsin cheddar and, for that matter, a beer and a brat as well,” he laughed.
He welcomed the chance to return to the archdiocese to which he was appointed about 11 years “and 50 pounds ago.”
Series began in 2003
Cardinal Dolan recalled the beginnings of the Pallium Lecture series, the result of the announcement in 2002 that he would be installed as Archbishop of Milwaukee. He was told he could travel to Rome to receive the pallium from Blessed Pope John Paul II on June 29 that year, four days after the announcement, but before he was installed in August 2002.
Audience welcomes cardinal's message, humor
MILWAUKEE — Marilyn and Bill Burns, parishioners at St. John Vianney Parish, Brookfield, were at Irish Fest when then-Archbishop Dolan spoke the first time.
He asked if he could wait.
“I said, ‘I would like to use this year to build up to the reception of the pallium, to meet and listen to my people, to learn to love them and hopefully for them to learn to accept and to love me and I’d like to form them in what the pallium means. …’” he recalled, holding up the circular band of white wool with two pendants, one hanging in front and one behind, symbolizing the twin responsibilities of shepherding the flock entrusted to each metropolitan archbishop and fostering communion with the Vicar of Christ, now being kept at Holy Hill in Hubertus.
“This pallium means the world to me because it was through it I was yoked to you in a bond that I celebrated. The yoke that I had with you, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, a yoke of love – boy, that was a high point in my life and, well, I’m just so happy to be back to deliver a lecture,” he said.
Jesus, church are ‘package deal’
He began by explaining that Jesus and the church are synonymous, “a package deal,” that like Archbishop Listecki wrote in his pastoral letter on church, there is no freelance Christianity.
“We live in a post-church world,” he said, explaining people want to believe but not to belong, spirituality without religion, and Christ without his church.
“And for us as Catholics, that’s impossible. …” he said, describing Jesus as the head and the church, the body.
“The very purpose of the Pallium Lectures as Fr. Paul (Hartmann) outlined, was to speak about issues with contemporary importance in the life of the church, and I would propose to all of you at this 10th anniversary Pallium Lecture this evening that this is perhaps the most itching pastoral challenge that we as Catholics face today; the world no longer sees the need for the church,” Cardinal Dolan said.
He acknowledged growth in the church, but said he must be realistic in also acknowledging the number one pastoral problem – that more and more people don’t see the intrinsic, necessary connection between Jesus and the church, he said.
“Now, what are we going to do about it?” he said.
Cardinal proposes three roads
Cardinal Dolan proposed three roads Catholics might take to regain a sense of the mystery and awe of the church and the intrinsic connection, through renewed apologetics and a recovered sense of repentance.
“I would like to suggest that we begin to stress a new model of the church, maybe the church as my/our spiritual family,” Cardinal Dolan said, explaining it’s more than an institution, a clearly defined set of creedal and moral convictions, the sacraments, and a good place to pray and worship.
“Catholicism is in our DNA. It’s in our bones, it’s in our genes. We might drift from our spiritual family for awhile, just as we do with our human family. We might get mad at our supernatural family … but with the church, our supernatural family, like our earthly human family, we never leave it,” he said.
Cardinal Dolan suggested Catholics place a renewed emphasis on apologetics, “credibly, convincingly and compellingly” defending the faith.
He shared the story of a couple approaching him to ask what they did wrong in raising their son. Though they baptized him, sent him to Catholic schools, never missed Mass and took faith seriously, he turned away from the faith in college after his roommate told him how wrong and misguided it was.
“I asked, ‘What do we as a church do wrong?’ We have failed to equip our young people, ourselves, with the art of credibly, convincingly and compellingly defending and presenting our beloved faith; that roommate’s congregation did not,” Cardinal Dolan said.
He explained people need more than ever “the ability to defend stupid attacks” with a humble, cheerful, confident, rational grounding in the faith.
Church must admit sins
He also said the church needs to admit its sins.
“It’s not a bad idea to fess up to the sinful side of the church, because we need a repentant church. Admit it. Admit it – one of the major reasons, if not the most pressing, that we have a growing number of ex-Catholics is because they have been shocked, saddened and nauseated by sinful actions of Catholics, including her clergy….,” he said.
As imperfect, sloppy, awkward and corrupt the church’s human side may be, it is still the true church, the cardinal said.
“You see, we admit her flaws and we love her all the more because she is Christ on the cross,” he explained.
The church is sinful because its members are sinners, he said.
“In spite of her flaws, in spite of the scandals, in spite of the difficulties,” Cardinal Dolan said, “we love her more because we believe in one, holy, Catholic and apostolic church. We believe she gives us the answer to the question Jesus asks, ‘Who do people say that I am?’ What would we ever know of him without her?” Tracy Rusch, Catholic Herald Staff