I was a day late, but I got around last night to watching Benedict Groeschel’s interview with Archbishop Dolan on EWTN.
It was Groeschel’s Sunday Night Live show, which airs at 7 p.m. most weeks from St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers. (I probably would have attended if it wasn’t on Father’s Day. My kids wouldn’t have understood.)
You can watch it on Saturday at 5 p.m.
There were a lot of bellylaughs from Dolan, as you would expect. And some funny asides and quirky moments from Father Benedict, who has recovered well from a stroke of a few months ago but clearly doesn’t have the energy he did a few years back.
The show started with Groeshel calling his guest “my boss” and mistakenly calling him “your eminence” at one point.
“Some of these guys become cardinals,” Groeschel said with a shrug.
Most of the show focused on this being the Year of the Priest.
“One of the more towering pastoral challenges we have is to reclaim a sense of joy in the priesthood and a sense of appreciation for the gift of the priesthood in the church,” Dolan said. “I think this Year of the Priest might allow us to do that.”
He continued: “For the past 40 years, what do we have? A lot of questioning. A lot of criticism. A lot of scandal. A lot of departures from the priesthood. Who knows what that is all about. But that has left wounds in the priesthood.
“What you gently see coming about in the life of the church, I think, is a rediscovery of the mystery, the message, of the priesthood. And I’m thinking this Year of the Priest might be a real booster shot to accomplish that in the church universal. I’m raring to go for this.”
Even more so than usual, Dolan spoke with a barely containable…exuberance.
He talked about leaving Thursday for Rome to receive his pallium from the pope (the pallium being a wool vestment that goes to metropolitan archbishops who oversee neighboring dioceses in limited ways).
Sunday happened to be Groeschel’s 50th anniversary as a priest. He and Dolan reminisced a bit about the “beautiful early days” before Vatican II made things nutty.
Groeschel: “I think the vocation ceased to be and what happened is it became a job or a profession. Don’t ever call the priesthood a profession.”
The duo talked a lot about the declining numbers of vocations to the priesthood. Dolan offered an explanation that I’ve heard many times: “The problem is not that the Lord isn’t calling. He is calling. The problem is that we’re not listening.”
When Groeshel said that as a boy, he wanted to be a fireman, Dolan responded: “Well, you’re still saving the people from fire!”
Dolan laughed long and hard. I mean hard.
When he calmed a bit, Dolan said that he thought one reason that we have fewer priests is that fewer men are taught by nuns as children — a very plausible point.
Dolan said that the key — and he told me this several times in an interview — is that priests have to go about their lives with joy. Parents will not want their boys to become priests if their parish priests seem uninspired and tired all the time.
“Who wants to join a group of crabs?” he said, laughing. “Some of us have become that way.”
They talked a bit about the rise of a “new atheism,” which Dolan said might be a good thing if it shakes up the faithful. “I wonder if for too long we maybe coasted…” he said.
Groeshel started a conversation about what it means to be an orthodox Catholic. He said he did not like to be called conservative: “Conservative means preserving the status quo. I think the status quo should be dynamited.”
Groeschel said he has started a campaign to get nuns to wear habits, and acknowledged that he has gotten at least one angry letter from a dissenting nun.
He also came down hard on Catholic colleges and universities that do a poor job “representing the Catholic faith.” Dolan grimaced when Groeschel brought it up.
Groeschel came up with this unique, Groeschelian statement:
“I would think there is a special place in purgatory for those who run so-called Catholic colleges and universities that are not really living up to it. And when they get there in purgatory, they have bubble-gum flavored soda and Twinkies to live off for a long, long time.”
Well, the Archbishop of New York responded without missing a beat: “I wouldn’t mind that. I like Hostess Twinkies.”