Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, the president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, recently drew attention to Archbishop Charles Chaput’s sobering assessment of the state of the Church in Philadelphia, where Archbishop Chaput was installed less than a year ago.
The bad news from what was once one of America’s strongest and proudest Catholic communities never seems to stop. Last month one of the archdiocese’s former top officials for clergy assignments was convicted on one charge of child endangerment, and the trial showcased multiple unedifying incidents in archdiocesan administration. This month, the former chief financial officer of the archdiocese pleaded guilty in court that she had embezzled nearly a million dollars. And the archdiocese also announced a wave of job cuts in the chancery, and warned of major budgetary shortfalls.
Cardinal Dolan called for prayers for Philadelphia Catholics and their archbishop, and said he was “stopped cold” by one aspect of Archbishop Chaput’s assessment: that Philadelphia today is “really a mission territory.”
“And, guess what?” Cardinal Dolan said in a column published on his blog. “Our beloved Archdiocese of New York is also mission territory!
“True, thank God, we sure do not face the tsunami of current problems Philadelphia does. Our financial picture is tight but solvent, our Catholic population actually growing, and extensive layoffs, shut-down of parishes, schools, and services, hardly anticipated.
But, we are a mission territory, too. Every diocese is. And every committed Catholic is a missionary.
This is at the heart of what Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI call the New Evangelization. ... Maybe, we have gotten way too smug. We have taken our Catholic faith for granted. As Archbishop Chaput observed, the big problem is a dullness that has ‘seeped into church life, and the cynicism and resentment that naturally follow it. ... These problems kill a Christian love. ... They choke off a real life of faith.’
Cardinal Dolan cited a column written by our publisher, Greg Erlandson, in our July 8 issue, in which he notes that “more and more residents of the Western world are simply wandering away from their faith, which means that what is happening in Philadelphia is but a microcosm of a much more disturbing erosion.”
Cardinal Dolan issues a series of challenges to Catholics, which apply just as well in your parish and home as in Philadelphia or New York:
“No more taking our Catholic faith for granted!
“No more relaxing in the great things the Church has accomplished in the past!
“Cynicism is replaced by confidence ...
“Hand-wringing by hand-folding ...
“Dullness by daring ...”
Read the whole thing on his blog. And let me know your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.