Cardinal Dolan: All Are Welcome, But. . .

Cardinal Timothy Dolan
Cardinal Timothy Dolan

Cardinal Timothy Dolan made headlines at the beginning of April because he acknowledged that the church could do better in terms of outreach to lesbian and gay people.   Commentators all over the U.S. offered him suggestions as to how he could begin better outreach. A month later, though, and Dolan has not shown any evidence of following any of this advice.  Instead, he  has offered a blog post on hospitality which offers, quite frankly, a bizarre notion of welcome, and he particularly mentions lesbian and gay people in this unusual message.

On his personal blog, Dolan recounts a story from his childhood when his playmate, Freddie, was invited to dinner, but first admonished to wash his hands before eating.   While he claims that as a child he was excited that his friend was welcome, he also notes that he learned the lesson that “All are welcome, but. . . .”  And he thinks that is a good lesson to learn.  His words:

“Simple enough . . . common sense . . . you are a most welcome and respected member now of our table, our household, dad was saying, but, there are a few very natural expectations this family has.  Like, wash your hands!…

“So it is with the supernatural family we call the Church:all are welcome!

“But, welcome to what?  To a community that will love and respect you, but which has rather clear expectations defining it, revealed by God in the Bible, through His Son, Jesus, instilled in the human heart, and taught by His Church.”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t find this notion to be welcoming at all.  I find it condescending.  Dolan continues:

“We love and respect everyone . . . but that doesn’t necessarily mean we love and respect their actions.

“Who  a person is?  We love and respect him or her . . .

“What a person does?  Truth may require that we tell the person we love that such actions are not consonant with what God has revealed.

“We can never judge a person . . . but, we can judge a person’s actions.”

So, Dolan wants an escape clause:  he still wants to be able to sit in judgment about something.  Humans judge.  It’s part of our condition.  But when we are trying to offer a welcome, we do best to check our judgments, and instead observe and listen in holy dialogue.  We do best to take off our shoes on the holy ground of someone else’s life and experiences.

Dolan doesn’t see it this way.  In his view, he has the right to tell people that they are dirty, and then the presumption of calling that a welcome:

“Freddie and I were loved and welcomed at our family table, but the clear expectation was, no dirty hands!”

And then, most stingingly, Dolan offers examples of people that the church wants to welcome while at the same time standing in judgment of :  alcoholics,  greedy businessmen, exploitative capitalists, women who’ve had an abortion, and. . . . lesbian and gay people.    Does he not see how offensive that notion is to include lesbian and gay people with those who are physically challenged or who have moral choices to make?  Being gay or lesbian is not an activity or an action or a choice one makes.

Another offensive angle on this commentary is the Scripture story that Dolan uses to justify his prejudice–the woman caught in adultery (John 8: 1-11):

Jesus did it best.  Remember the woman caught in adultery?  The elders were going to stone her.  At the words of Jesus, they walked away.

“Is there no one left to condemn you?”  the Lord tenderly asked the accused woman.

“No one, Sir,” she whispered.

“Neither do I condemn you,” Jesus concluded.  “Now go, but sin no more.”

Hate the sin; love the sinner . . .

Another lesson to be learned from this story is that religious people can often let their penchant for judgment get the better of them and forget that love and welcome are more important than judgment.  And also that Jesus does not condemn her, even before he knows whether or not she will continue her patterns.

I recommend to Dolan (and to others) to read the ground-breaking book, Jesus, An Historical Approximation (Convivium Press, 2009), in which Spanish theologian Jose Pagola, proves the idea that Jesus’ model of ministry was to welcome all people–even those the religious authorities called sinners–and tell them that they are loved by an all-gracious God, regardless of whether or not they will decide to refrain from what others might consider sin.   That  is what welcome is all about.  Welcome with no “buts” or conditions.

Cardinal Dolan has a long way to go to learn about welcoming not only LGBT people, but all people, too.  We all have to continually learn this lesson for ourselves, and practice it fearlessly and generously.

New Ways Ministry repeats its offer to meet with Cardinal Dolan to help him understand effective ways of pastoral outreach to LGBT people.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry



59 thoughts on “Cardinal Dolan: All Are Welcome, But. . .

  1. matteoamasiello April 26, 2013 / 1:57 pm

    It’s the sad”hate the sin not the sinner” false idea which makes me question the motives in the hearts of those who espouse it. EVEN if the expectation was that same-sex attraction was a sin (which I don’t believe it to be) there is no acceptance of those who are possessed by this sin. The Cardinal seems to say that you can be a part of the church only if you are not gay, lesbian, transgender,etc. and not act on these impulses and that…what?…Jesus will change you. Now there are those in the church who say they will be celibate even if they have same-sex attraction. I don’t knock their decision. They have as much right as those who want to participate in the church and “act” on the impulse. But the issue is true acceptance which the church does not practice. The Church is nowhere near Acceptance which comes before Affirmation. It is just sad..

  2. pjnugent April 26, 2013 / 2:16 pm

    Ju\st more Dolan. Nothing new or surprising.

  3. Larry Quirk April 26, 2013 / 2:22 pm

    This is just another sign that the hierarchy will not change. They are really only trying to put a smily face on discrimination. Hopefully, GLBT folks will not be taken in by Dolan’s deceit.

  4. freecatholic808 April 26, 2013 / 3:15 pm

    The hypocrisy and condescension of the church towards the LGBT community and to women is not surprising. The church leadership consists of people like Dolan who will not let go of odious orthodoxy–and leave it enshrined in doctrine. This is shameful and people in the pews should keep telling them it is—-I hope Dolan accepts your offer of a meeting–if he is willing to listen and not just patronize.

  5. jono113 April 26, 2013 / 3:25 pm

    “Who a person is … we love and respect him or her ….” No, you don’t. Dolan sees the person’s sexuality as something that can be separated from the person. It can’t; and as long as he can’t respect and honor that as part of God’s creation, he cannot honor and respect the person. Most GLBT see through this latter=day Manichaeian dualism and reject it.

  6. Catherine B April 26, 2013 / 3:37 pm

    How about Bishops that are under investigation for moving child molester priests around. Are the dirty?

  7. Bob Burns April 26, 2013 / 6:31 pm

    I just knew there had to be another side to Cardinal Dolan’s statement. He was on TV not preaching in church.

  8. Fran Rossi Szpylczyn April 26, 2013 / 6:39 pm

    All I can think of is Fr. Greg Boyle SJ saying things like “Humility says ‘How can I serve you.’ Hubris says, ‘Here’s how you fix yourself.’” He is not speaking directly to LGBT issues, but his words, like his actions, stretch far, far beyond his ministry. This is how Jesus is revealed to me.

  9. Stephen April 26, 2013 / 6:42 pm

    Please don’t take anything this man says seriously….and we have a better chance of Jesus returning tomorrow than Dolan working New Ways..just saying lol

    All the more reason to thank God for people like you guys.

  10. Linda Karle-Nelson April 26, 2013 / 7:11 pm

    What a ridiculous comparison of the “Freddy, You must wash your hands ” story and the half-baked
    welcome of LGBT folks IF they don’t act on their very humanly and godly given need to love another.

  11. Bill Welch April 26, 2013 / 8:17 pm

    Cardinal Dolan’s harking back to Freddie’s washing of hands is a simplistic way of saying “You are welcome at the table and in our house, but you are subject to our house rules and must abide by them.” It is a conditioned rather than unconditional welcome.

    • Bill Welch April 27, 2013 / 7:13 am

      I should add that such expressed attitudes, treatment and modus operandi by Cardinal Dolan and his allied cohorts contribute to the deepening loss of trust, confidence and respect of our church hierarchy by me and other people of God.

  12. Annette Magjuka April 26, 2013 / 8:53 pm

    The church (Jesus Christ) is not wrong. Dolan and his ilk are wrong. We are to love unconditionally, not judge. We are to welcome ALL to our table. We are all part of the body of Christ. The Holy Spirit is busy doing work in the hearts of Catholics everywhere. We will not tolerate the hatred that Dolan espouses.

    • James May 4, 2013 / 2:02 pm

      No mere human being has the capacity to love unconditionally, only God can. Once we stop expecting unconditional love from humans and groups of humans we will all be much happier. We’re fallen, sinful human beings, all of us.

      • matteoamasiello May 4, 2013 / 4:22 pm

        James I love everyone unconditionally.

      • James May 4, 2013 / 5:48 pm

        No mere human being, mere mortal, has the capacity for unconditional love because of original sin. There will always be conditions; we’re all sinners.

  13. Chaplain Bill April 26, 2013 / 9:00 pm

    Am I the only one or do others find the “Freddy story’ infantile and patronizing? Not just to gay folks but to anyone with half a brain?

    • Bill Welch April 27, 2013 / 7:15 am

      I concur.

  14. Colleen May 4, 2013 / 9:15 am

    Whoops! Left out “Holy.” Never mind, no one will notice. Dolan’s theology lacks rigor. Consider what Jesus said about hand washing and what defiles.

  15. James May 4, 2013 / 1:50 pm

    While there are some legitimate concerns about what Cardinal Dolan has said his words are not only referring to gays and lesbians and it’s really not even intended to be aimed at sin (real or perceived sin). His comments are about living in the Church, being welcomed to the Church as a Mom welcomes her children to the table; the washing of hands analogy was not really aimed at sin it was aimed at being called to live a certain way as disciples. He could just have easily used the image of eating your veggies or not chewing with your mouth open or talking with your mouth full. All of us, every one, is a sinner. No one is exempt from that. Straight, gay, lesbian, trans, clergy, religious, lay faithful. It seems you’re putting controversy where one does not belong. If I were Cardinal Dolan I would stand with the “dirty hands” folks tomorrow with my hands dirty as well. The man is sincere in his hospitality. Trust that.

    • jono113 May 4, 2013 / 3:49 pm

      Rather than posing as the “father,” the head of the house whom all must obey, he could have said: “come, let us wash together.” He could have changed the whole tone from judging to welcoming.

      • Bill Welch May 4, 2013 / 8:25 pm

        Excellent suggestion! Will it happen?

      • James May 4, 2013 / 9:23 pm

        I see him posing as a shepherd rather than a father, but he is a father as well. I don’t see him as calling for people to obey him but to obey Jesus Christ.

      • matteoamasiello May 5, 2013 / 8:51 am

        He’s nothing to me as are most of the clergy.

      • Evans Juice Julce May 6, 2013 / 12:32 pm

        He actually does this when he points out his flawed rebellion in his seminary days. He realizes now what he didn’t realize then about the necessity of philosophy.

        What he is saying is that our development and understanding of the rules and systems above always continue to grow and deepen.

        A child thinks his parents love him, as he grows older he comes to recognize his parents’ love, to appreciate it, then to cherish it.

        It’s not always recognizable in being grounded. But it is recognizable when he himself has to instruct his own children.

        The Church didn’t dream up the beauty and necessity of the union of a man and a woman overnight. And she won’t throw it out because others disagrees. We’ve spent 2000 years have our saints’ blood shed becuase people “disagreed.”

      • Annette Magjuka May 6, 2013 / 1:57 pm

        Evans, when you refer to Dolan’s “flawed rebellion in his seminary days,” I think this is an endorsement of lifelong conscience formation. Many Catholics have been on a path of constant, lifelong conscience formation for their entire lifetimes, and have come to the conclusion with the guidance of the Holy Spirit that is is right and good for GLBT brothers and sisters to be full participants in the mystical body of Christ, including the right to receive all sacraments. This is what I believe, this is what I will champion. No one, no human being, should try to make another person act against conscience. That is why most Catholics will fight for justice for GLBT people.

  16. BrianofMidtown May 5, 2013 / 12:24 pm

    Being a straight man that is catholic I have always wondered why we have leaders in the church that say such awful things. This broke the camels back for my family. We will be looking for another faith to follow without having so much hate. Mr. Dolan, this is not how things we’re intended.

    • defenceofdemoskratos May 5, 2013 / 5:46 pm

      Brian, don’t leave the Church, this is Christ’s true church. ++ Dolan didn’t mean to offend or demean anyon

      • Larry Quirk May 5, 2013 / 7:16 pm

        Brian should find a new church if that is what he needs to move along on his spiritual journey. We are as individuals responsible for our own path to God.

        What everyone seems to miss is that Dolan is not a true pastor. He is a corporate wonk for the church. He knows exactly what he wants to say and what position he wants to take. He, like some other prelates are now taking what seems to be softened stances because that is how they percieve the wind in blowing in from Rome. Where is the real pastoral outreach to gays and lesbians? Dont look to Dolan because it does not exist in his fancy palace.

      • Luke May 6, 2013 / 12:38 pm

        Larry, “Judge not lest ye be Judged”, you should not ++Dolan (or anyone else for that matter)

      • Larry Quirk May 6, 2013 / 3:53 pm

        But Luke, Dolan and the hierarchy judge gay and lesbian folks everyday and try their hardest to make us second class catholics. It is fair judgment to call out to Dolan and the very flawed hierarchy when they do not advance the cause of love and will not listen or dialogue.

      • Luke May 7, 2013 / 4:09 am

        Larry the Bishops do not judge homosexuals as individuals they simply judge homosexual actions. They do not intend to make anyone feel like second class citizens.

      • matteoamasiello May 7, 2013 / 7:10 am

        Luke, sorry to inform you but there is nothing sinful about homosexuality. God made EVERYONE exactly the way they are. The bible does not address homosexuality as we know it to be. It may have been perceived as wrong, but here’s another thing…they were living in another time and in another culture when they made this error. They were not stupid but where limited in their understanding about what it means to be a human being. We need to put aside our fear and evolve and get over this primitive way of approaching the Divine.

      • Larry Quirk May 7, 2013 / 8:34 am

        Dear Luke, You miss the point and thus fall into the trap that the Church set long ago – love the sinner hate the sin. But gay men and woman are made in God’s image and deserve a loving relationship and to be able to express that love physically and in the committed relationship of marriage. To say otherwise demeans the love that gay people have. The offical Church simply wants gay folks to sit in the back of the church and live half lives because the hierarchy will not recognize that love is love in whatever form. That is how they make us second class citizens. And if you have any doubts about that and if you have been following what the Church has said even since the late 80’s you will see the disordered and sometimes outright vile things the official Church has said about gay people.

      • Annette Magjuka May 7, 2013 / 9:26 am

        Since we are Catholic and we know that GLBT human beings were made by God in His image and are loved by Him as we all are, we simply must not allow indignities to go unchallenged. It is our obligation as faithful Catholics to stand up for justice, love, and inclusion. That is what many Catholics are doing. It hurts GLBT people when the words “intrinsically disordered” are used to refer to the personal and intimate relationships they have with their partners. It is a choice to use these words, it is a choice to exclude GLBT human beings from full participation in the sacraments of their church. Baptized Catholics should be able to participate fully and when the church is wrong, the faithful must rise up–as we are doing now–and say NO. I stand with my GLBT brothers and sisters, and not only for them. It is for my own immortal soul. I know what I am required to do. I am required to speak out against injustice, against hate, and against ignorance. The hierarchical “rules” cannot trump the clear and unequivocal charge Jesus gave us: Love your brother as yourself. Well, obviously, I would not like it if someone called my 36 year marriage and intimacy with my husband “intrinsically disordered.” This is a no-brainer for me. It is rude, demeaning, and immoral to call our GLBT brothers’ and sisters’ intimacy “disordered.” It is exclusionary. We are commanded to be inclusive. We are not to marginalize “the other.” GLBT persons are not “the other.” They are beloved children of God, as we all are.

      • matteoamasiello May 7, 2013 / 9:34 am


        Amen! Your mention of the other resonated and stopped me in my tracks. Thomas Keating echoed what is embedded in scripture. We are all commanded. Not asked or invited. Commanded by God to recognize the other. If we do this, then we are supposed to become one with the other. Then we come to the realization that there is no other. This is what Fr. Keating emphasizes all of which make up the totality if scripture. If we fail to love the other, then we don’t love ourselves.

      • Luke May 7, 2013 / 9:59 am

        I m afraid I disagree with Matteo and Annette in that I think it is possible to hold orthodox Catholic views whilst still recognising and loving the “other”

      • matteoamasiello May 7, 2013 / 10:18 am

        Luke I happen to be very familiar with the history of Christianity both east and west and find inspiration in the numerous figures of the tradition. I also place them in their historical context and accept that not everything they say can be measured in the light of the Resurrection. They’re human like me. I also don’t take them as do authoritative that I have to participate in ignorance and superstiruon. My obedience is with Jesys and NOT any sinful human whatever their office. I won’t follow anyone to hell. I take what they say and weigh it with my own conscience which is clear. I am also tolerant of homophobia posing as love because I respect the Christ within even the most hateful person who expresses such homophobic and disgusting remarks about the LGBT community, women, non-Catholics, non-Christians and nonbelievers Gods table is big enough for everyone sorry but that’s a fact. And I hope that the one you despise the most is seated next to you do you and those who think like you can learn something of Gods grace and unconditiknsl love,

    • Annette Magjuka May 7, 2013 / 10:50 am

      The point is that by the authority of Jesus Christ, there is no “other.” When we humans try to make someone “the other,” we are going against what we are commanded to do. We are to engage in lifelong conscience formation through prayer and study, reflection and reconciliation. We must hold ourselves accountable. The Holy Spirit has been sent to guide us and to let us know at a “gut level” what is right. This is our conscience, and the Holy Spirit has made me absolutely sure of the necessity to stop allowing GLBT people to be verbally assaulted (“intrinsically disordered”), demeaned, and marginalized. I must speak out. My immortal soul depends on it. And this is not despite the fact that I am Catholic, it is because I am Catholic.

  17. Evans Juice Julce May 6, 2013 / 12:27 pm

    Has anyone here actually read the Cardinal’s post? I’m glad our church historian taught us to go to the primary source. The cardinal listed homosexual acts together with contraception, abortion, sex before marriage, theft, immigration injustice, and several other things which the Church recognizes as evil. Everyone, jumping onto a rickety bandwagon, wants to condemn him for one point.

    I wonder: with his views, with his effort to uphold the world-wide, consistent Catholic teaching, is he welcome at your table?

    • jono113 May 6, 2013 / 1:02 pm

      Everyone jumps on Dolan for one point because that is the point this website is all about. Yes, I have read the original post. No, neither he nor any other hierarch would be welcome at my table as long as he continues to devalue me as a human person who is intrinsically disordered.

      • Annette Magjuka May 6, 2013 / 1:48 pm

        Cardinal Dolan is welcome at my table. I would welcome him as Christ would have me do. But as a lifelong Catholic who knows that many Catholics use contraception, have had abortions, have had premarital sex, and have engaged in homosexual acts, I must as a matter of conscience, speak up for the inclusion of all to the table of the Lord. I do not think that any of these acts in and of themselves makes someone in the state of mortal sin. I certainly do not consider GLBT people to be “intrinsically disordered.” Those in a mutually loving, committed relationship are not in a state of sin. I think most Catholics believe this, and have been made more certain by the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. I think it is our obligation as Catholics to fight for social justice for all–women, immigrants, GLBT people–all people–whether the injustice comes from within or outside of the church. We are to love one another with all our hearts, minds and souls. We fight for justice not despite being Catholic, but because of it.

  18. Patrick M. Ziegenhorn May 7, 2013 / 12:50 pm

    What about the priests and bishops who were part of the sexual coverup? I think the Cardinal needs to realize that he is living in a glass house and he should not be throwihg stones.

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