After two long days of watching Archbishop Timothy Dolan, I’m coming to think of him largely as…
Yes, he loves to talk about baseball and food. He loves being around people. And he seems to genuinely enjoy mixing it up with the media.
But it all comes down to the same thing: preaching.
When he tells stories, when he answers reporters’ questions, he’s preaching.
His whole ballgame is preaching what he considers to be the truths of Roman Catholicism. He just does it in his own user-friendly, highly engaging way.
That makes him, I would think, an effective preacher.
Consider some statements he made at yesterday morning’s press conference.
Asked whether he would be a reformer of some sort, bringing change, he answered with a direct NO.
“On substance,” he said, “I couldn’t change things if I wanted to.”
On the contrary, it seems, Dolan believes that the way to reach people — the way to reel in Catholics who have drifted away — is to preach the faith more directly. Cut out the fat. Get right to it.
He openly wondered whether the Catholic Church in the U.S. has become too “subjective” in its teachings, perhaps tweaking things here or there to adjust to the times.
Evangelical megachurches, he said, might be doing well because they don’t tweak. They tell it like it is.
That’s what the new archbishop plans to do.
I always hate to boil things down to the old liberal/conservative scale, but Dolan is promising to be more conservative. He’s putting it right out there.
He will preach as an evangelical preacher might: This is what we believe. This is the truth. Try it and you will live a happier and more fulfilling life.
One thing that makes Dolan special is that he preaches with confidence. That’s why he is not afraid to take reporters’ questions and answer them as he sees fit.
When someone asked him about the decline of Catholic practice, he said: “Thanks for asking a tough question. Thanks for not throwing softballs.”
He said that being a priest — and committing oneself to a life of faith — is “one of the most freeing, liberating, joyful” ways to live. He said that priests have to live that way so that people will see it and feel it.
He’s an example for all of New York now.
That’s why Tim Dolan will be out there. He’ll be out there, showing his joyfulness and confidence and constantly preaching the unchanging truths of his faith — which he’ll talk about and explain, but which are not really up for discussion.