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Cardinal Dolan's -- er -- Defense?


Update 2:44 PM 4/29/13: I have added in the complete video of Cardinal Dolan's speech below:


I was stunned. This was not the stoic "defense" of life and liberty principles I was expecting. It was something brilliantly different. Cardinal Timothy Dolan was about as "defensive" as an explosive locomotive with blinding light is to the onrushing darkness of a tunnel.

Like many, I was at the Wilberforce Award ceremony expecting this heroic defender of freedom of conscience in the HHS affair to show us how he was leading the nation's bishops in a magnificent "stand" against the U.S. government, even to the point of civil disobedience, if necessary. The U.S. bishops have been superlative in the fight against the recent HHS mandate efforts to force institutions and small businesses to pay for abortifacients for their employees, arguing that the owners or directors would feel they would become ministers of death in complying. We were waiting with bated breath to see what the cardinal was going to say.

He started off the evening not by saying, but by DOING.

I hadn't noticed the famously affable cleric approaching my table area until I looked up to an explosion of joyful banter and laughter as Dolan raised the infant daughter of one of my coworkers into the air and proclaimed with pure joy how beautiful and wonderful the little child was. I had previously seen him slapping backs and joking in the foyer as he approached the banquet hall, but this was an entirely different magnitude of joy. His face was radiant as he held the baby. He treated the occasion like it was a celebration of the song of life and he was the lead singer.

Not many minutes later he was on the podium, accepting the award. As he got into the main part of his speech, he told about a young couple (Dolan's own nephew and his wife) whose lives had been radically changed from what he termed "self-referential" to something far better by the arrival of a child. He pointed out that they were no longer living for themselves, but for the baby.

"My friends, that's precisely how it should be. That's how God intended it to be. That's what we call a culture of life. The human project is about babies. A man and a woman are made for babies. Culture is about babies. Our lives are at their best when centered not on ourselves, but upon -- [pause] -- babies. . . . Culture is simply humanity's best effort to protect the baby . . ."

As he continued to speak it suddenly dawned on me. Rather than standing and defending traditional doctrines concerning the sanctity of life, Christian teachings of the one-man-one-woman nature of marriage and the freedom to teach and protect the same in public life, Dolan had already moved past that to celebration of the genius of God in creating marriage and new life.  His was no behind-the-walls siege mentality like that which we have seen many religious conservatives adopt. This was more of a "Glory-to-God-look-how-MAGNIFICENT-this-is" outburst. It was not a stodgy stand on centuries-old dogma or historical studies. It was, rather, a testimony full of smiles and laughter, and totally in the moment. I looked around the room. Even the young people were mesmerized.

This is what has been missing in the debate. Not so much what marriage isn't, but what it is. Not so much what a beating heart in the womb isn't, but exuberant celebration of what it is. Not so much a defiant "You can't force me to violate my conscience" as a "How could I do anything but shout to the world the WONDER of what it IS!"

I left the room shaking my head and smiling to myself. What I had witnessed was about as much a "defense" as sending in RG III with his best receivers against a high school team would be. To the cardinal, it is not about winning an argument, even winsomely. The argument is won. It is time to shout it to the world with joy -- and celebrate!



Update 2:44 PM 4/29/13: I have added in the complete video of Cardinal Dolan's speech below:
(Complete) Cardinal Dolan's Acceptance Speech [17:40]


Comments:

It's my understanding that the Muslim population in Europe is considerably above the replacement rate.

This self-hatred thing is certainly perverse, isn't it? I work with a bunch of PhDs in Life Sciences, and quite a significant proportion of them are childless. (Then again, so am I...)
Lee, if I remember already-married would-be priests are allowed to keep their wives. If they are allowed to become priests in the first place. This is more common among non-Latins like the Orthodox, Celtic, and(someone will brief me),Copts. You don't have to murder your wife to become a priest though that sounds like an interesting plot for a cop show.

Clerical celibacy is I believe, considered a political ordinance fitting the needs of the Church as a political body rather then a Law of God and was originally intended to keep the Church above clan politics. On the other hand, I believe I have heard the rationale that priests when they administer mass are considered liasons between God and the Church, and as the Church is married to Christ, a married priest would imply polygamy. By that logic of course, all priests should be female so whatever. So maybe it is more that there is more of a problem with married priests then married monks.

I have always maintained that celebate clerics are a comfort when chastity is preached toward The Unlucky, especially as the Catholic Church absolutely forbids, er, "compensation", which is still a matter of debate among Protestants.

Nonetheless a lot of the arguments for celibacy and universally male priests seem rather opaque. Perhaps the best argument is simply, "It's a religion, of course it's esoteric. What's the problem?"

As for Cardinal Dolan celebrating what he cannot have, that may well be. I have read someone speculating that that was why St. Francis liked nativity scenes.
Continuing on the same vein as Lee...

We're seeing the result of self-hatred in the West. A number of countries are dangerously below replacement levels (Italy, Germany to name two).

Here in the USA, we're moving toward it too.
Um, (cough) Mo, . . . I'm not Catholic myself, but I think most priests and especially cardinals take a vow of celibacy. So Cardinal Dolan its celebrating that which he cannot himself have. I believe his perspective is larger than the individual. And I'm reasonably certain he would be quick to comfort the childless - and the spouse-less. I hope to _What To Expect When No One's Expecting_ soon, to see what clues it holds for a culture that sees itself as not worth reproducing. And I continue to pray that those who long for marriage and family would have their longings fulfilled - as God intended.

Thank you, Alan! I've sometimes wondered what kind of priest Rolley could have been; now, I know.
"The human project is about babies."

While I appreciate this article and agree with the life-giving message in it, let's not take it too far.

The human project is not about babies. It's about the lordship of Christ in all areas of life and in all of humanity, whether you are lucky enough to have marriage and babies or whether you are not.

Let's not exalt family to a place higher than even God Himself gives it.
Awesome, Alan! What a great gust of Joie de Vivre your post and Cardinal Dolan's actions are! Thank you.