First Things revisits Archbishop Timothy Dolan’s reflections on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and its role in American religious and political life, past, present, and future.
It was originally published in 2005, but deserves renewed scrutiny because Dolan was recently installed as the leader the Archdiocese of New York, widely perceived as the preeminent American see.
And his observations happen to be relevant to the Notre Dame controversy (see Michael Miller’s post below); and to the ongoing question of interpreting Catholic social teaching in the context of American politics (see Fr. Sirico’s post below.)
Bishops seem to sense that a return to the John Carroll-John England style of leadership might be in order. Above all, these patriarchs were concerned with building the Catholic Church in the United States. Bishops today increasingly ask whether it is now necessary to rebuild the Church in America, through reform and renewal. They wonder if we need to start internally, concentrating first on pastoral issues such as widespread catechetical illiteracy, the collapse of marriage and family life, the restoration of a “culture of life,” genuine liturgical reform, a return to the sacrament of penance, a national commitment to obey the third commandment, and the promotion of authentic renewal in the lives of our priests and religious…