On Sunday, 20 March, 2011, CBS’s “60 Minutes” program had a piece on Archbishop Timothy Michael Dolan, who has become known as “America’s Pope.” The 61-year-old archbishop of New York was initially presented as a jovial, sociable man whose demeanor is clearly a factor in his popularity within the church and elsewhere. He is notable in not flinching in dealing with the priest abuse issue. Indeed, he appears to have been deeply involved with that issue and in working some of the accused.
However, when asked by Morley Safer about his stance on the most controversial issues the catholic church currently faces, we discover that, for all his ebullience, Archbishop Dolan’s positions reflect utter orthodoxy:
What appears to be going on here is the RC church attempting to put a friendlier face on what remains a continuing unwillingness to alter its positions on the issues which have the distinct potential in the long term of either tearing the church apart or rendering it so irrelevant as to obviate its future influence on the world stage. Archbishop Dolan himself stated that he wished to make the church appear to be less of a “scold,” while maintaining its invariant authoritarian attitude. So the church wants to appear to be less of a bully while not changing in the slightest at its foundation.
Fifty years ago, such an approach might have met little questioning or challenge. Since the child abuse scandal, however, scrutiny of religion in general and the catholic church in particular is far more intense, and the reaction of both catholics and non-catholics to such attempts at conciliation is liable to be far more vulnerable to the current events which call the RC church’s integrity into question. The attitude reflected by Archbishop Dolan may be convivial and welcoming, but it is ultimately superficial. Certainly, one may trap more flies with honey than with vinegar, but the trap remains a trap.