This week marks the one year anniversary of Pope Francis being elected to lead the Catholic Church. To honor the event, Meet the Press host David Gregory sat down with Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, and proceeded to berate him with numerous leftist questions about “changes” within the Catholic Church.
From the beginning, Gregory pressed Cardinal Dolan on the issue of gay marriage, and started the interview by misinterpreting Pope Francis’ comments on civil unions before asserting that, “Take the issue of gay rights-around the world. He even opened the door in an interview this week to the idea of accepting civil unions. Is that something you can see the church supporting?” [See video below.]
After Dolan pointed out that gay marriage is at odds with fundamental church teachings, Gregory tried again to push the issue, asking if “there will be a point at which there will be an explanation of action, not just teaching, but to say he seems to be setting a course for the church that makes the church open to certain changes. Maybe not doctrinal changes, but certain changes, inclusion of women in- in the hierarchy of the church, changes with regard to the view of divorce and taking communion- and even gay rights?”
Once again, Dolan stressed the importance of adhering to Church doctrine regarding social issues but Gregory wouldn’t let up, and for a third time asked the Archbishop could “you imagine the church might open the way to accepting civil unions and if “accepting civil unions” would “make you uncomfortable?”
Even though Archbishop Dolan warned about the dangers of redefining marriage, Gregory continued to hit Dolan from the left over the issue, this time bringing up the recently vetoed Arizona SB 1062 where Gregory asked “where do you stand on that, on this question of balance between civil liberties and freedom of religion? Do you think there’s an imbalance in our country right now?”
Dolan responded that “the distinction is a false one, right, as you'd be the first to know, because high among those civil rights would be freedom of religion. So once again, we’ve got to achieve this balance.” Unfortunately, Gregory couldn’t stop asking the Archbishop why the Catholic Church opposes gay marriage:
On the issue of same-sex marriage, you said the last time we spoke that you felt the church was being out-marketed. Do you feel that it is-- that views are changing so rapidly that church is going to-- is going to feel the power of that change, it must change if it's going to-- to keep people seeking god through the church?
In the course of fifteen minutes, the NBC host managed to press Dolan five times that the Catholic Church should give up its traditional marriage stance, and each time he gave the same, principled answer. Despite its contradiction to church teachings, liberals like Gregory wont' admit that the Catholic Church is not going to endorse gay marriage, but don’t expect them to stop trying to push their leftist agenda.
See relevant transcript below.
Meet the Press
March 9, 2014
10:50 a.m. Eastern
DAVID GREGORY: Welcome back. What a year it has been for Pope Francis, as he approaches his one-year anniversary as leader of the Catholic Church. The pope created some controversy a few days ago when he said no one has done more than the Vatican to address the abuse scandals that have plagued the Church for years. He also said the portrayal of him as some sort of superman, a star, is offensive. I sat down with the archbishop of New York, Timothy Dolan. In his revealing interview, he spoke his mind about the pope, the abuse scandals and same-sex marriage. Your eminence, thank you for having us to your home.
CARDINAL DOLAN: David, you're always welcome here. Thanks for--
GREGORY: Thank you--
DOLAN: --thanks for-- taking me seriously when I said, "Come on in." (LAUGH)
GREGORY: We're here. And what a year it's been for the Catholic Church and Pope Francis. What a reception. One year later, Pope Francis giving an interview this week saying, "Look, it's been a great reception (LAUGH), but I'm not superman." He almost found it offensive. Yet, at the same time, that reception is certainly something he'd like to use for the benefit of the church, wouldn't he?
DOLAN: Oh, he's a good teacher, so you're right. He knows the power symbol. He knows the power of audio-visual aids, as any good teacher does. So I think he's shrugging' and saying', "Look, I'm no better than anybody else. And don't make me a superman. But if this attention is comin' my way, I'm gonna use it and turn the attention to Jesus and his church." And I think he's doing' a splendid job of it.
GREGORY: It's not just the faithful, but it's also the Pope as a political influence around the world, and indeed in America. And I'm curious to know what the agenda is for him. Now that he's had his first year, where he'd like to dig in and have that influence. There has been some criticism coming his way where he might say things that stir the masses worldwide-- begging questions about what he means, and then there's a clarification. Is there a plan of action to that? Would he like to get some of these debates, particularly over social matters, started?
DOLAN: I think he would. And once again, I think that might be part of his shrewd strategy. You know, if he asks some pointed questions, if he leans people wondering and guessing, that's not bad. A good teacher does that too. We've all had good teachers that almost tease us, you know, to say, "Oh, I wonder what he meant. I hope he comes back to that. I hope he clarifies, gets us asking' questions and probing." I think that's part of his strategy.
GREGORY: But conservatives in America, some of the headlines, conservative U.S. Catholics feel left out by the Pope's embrace. Traditionalists increasingly fret over the Pope's style. One conservative commentator I read said that "The Pope is sowing seeds of confusion among the faithful." Take the issue of gay rights-- around the world. He even opened the door in an interview this week to the idea of accepting civil unions. Is that something you can see the church supporting?
DOLAN: He-- I-- for one, I haven't sensed that-- too much-- bristling among-- the conservatives. They honestly will say, "His style is a little different and might-- periodically cause us a little angst," but in general they too seem to be rejoicing in what you might call the evangelical fervor, the good interest in the life of the church.
So I haven't sensed a lot of massive discontent among-- among the conservative-- Catholics. He, as you know, Pope-- Pope Francis has tried his best not to let there be a cleavage between him and Pope Benedict because there might be the tendency in some to caric-- caricature each of them and almost set up-- a bit of-- of an antithesis.
And he keeps saying how much he loves Pope Benedict. He quotes from him. I think he's a shrewd man. He knows, David-- you know what his name is, Pontiff, that's what we Catholics call our Pope, which is the Latin word for bridge builder. And he's a Pontiff par excellence, a bridge builder.
GREGORY: Will there be a point at which there will be an expectation of action, not just debate, not just teaching, but to say he seems to be setting a course for the church that makes the church open to certain changes. Maybe not doctrinal changes, but certain changes, inclusion of women in-- in the hierarchy of the church, changes with regard to the view of divorce and taking communion-- and even gay rights?
DOLAN: Uh-huh. There are some who have said that, you are right. There are some, even his admirers, who have said, "Holy father, be careful." You know, there almost seems to be this huge sense of expectation among Catholics, and we're a little worried that their hopes might be dashed.
I think, though, we've got a Pope, David, that-- that does not think in terms of winning or losing. I think we've got a Pope-- that says, "I want to-- ask the right questions. I wanna point people to the place where they can get the answers, mainly not me," the Pope is saying', "but the church's teaching, our tradition, the bible, what god has told us. Let me point them to that. Let me ask the questions. Let me get the interest going. And let's-- and then let's try to revive god's people to passionately reclaim the truth that god has revealed." I think this is his pastoral strategy.
GREGORY: Do you imagine the church might open the way to accepting civil unions?
DOLAN: He mentioned-- I haven't see-- I'm-- I'm as eager as you are to-- read the-- the full extent of that interview. And if I saw the reports accurately, they-- he didn't come right out and say he was for them. Once again, in an extraordinarily-- sincere, open, nuanced way, he said, "I know that some people in some states have chosen this. We need to think about that and look into it and see the reasons that have driven them."
It wasn't as if he came out and approved them. But he-- he just in-- in a sensitivity that has won the heart of the world, he said, "Rather than quickly condemn them, let's see if-- let's-- let's just ask the questions as to why that has appealed to certain people--"
GREGORY: Would that make you uncomfortable?
DOLAN: The-- what, the civil unions?
DOLAN: I-- it would. It would, in a way, David. Because I don't think-- marriage, between-- one man and one woman forever leading to life and love, that's not something that's just a religious, sacramental concern. You bet it is that, and-- and we-- that's how god has elevated it, to making a sacrament.
But it's also the building block of society and culture. So it belongs to culture. And if-- and if we water down that sacred meaning of marriage in any way, I worry that not only the church would suffer, I worry that culture and society would.
GREGORY: In our politics now the culture wars are raging in different ways, whether it's about contraception, abortion, gay rights. And we've seen it come to a head in Arizona recently where there was a debate about-- whether the-- the government-- can force-- a non-religious corporation-- to-- to-- acknowledge-- certain rights-- even if they have different views religiously. Where do you stand on that, on this question of the balance between civil liberties and freedom of religion? Do you think there's an imbalance in our country right now?
DOLAN: I'm-- yes, I'm afraid there may be. We may be coming to that. Now keep in mind, the distinction is a false one, right, as you'd be the first to know, because high among those civil rights would be freedom of religion. So once again, we gotta achieve this balance.
Now, what we've heard-- what we've heard, David, in the-- in the recent rush to what you might call more liberal-- liberalizing laws on social issues, whether that be abortion, whether that be redefinition of marriage, you will hear the people immediately say, "Don't worry, we will never impede religions from the complete freedom that they need to exercise-- their faith, and even bring their values into the public square. So don't worry. We're not going to impede you. We're not going to intrude."
We hold our breath and say, "We're afraid we've learned the-- the hard way." What becomes tolerated -- quickly becomes obligatory for everybody. And then we feel frozen out. Whether that's happened yet, I wouldn't go that far. But I would have to admit a certain amount of-- of trepidation that perhaps we're now moving in that direction.
GREGORY: On the issue of same-sex marriage, you said the last time we spoke that you felt the church was being out-marketed. Do you feel that it is-- that views are changing so rapidly that church is going to-- is going to feel the power of that change, it must change if it's going to-- to keep people seeking god through the church?
DOLAN: Here-- you-- you ask-- you ask a good question, and you phrased it well. When you say-- seeking god and the church, when people seek god, they wanna know what god has taught, all right. And the church's sacred enterprise is not to conform its teaching to the values of the world, all right, as rapidly as they're changing.
The church's sacred task is to call us to conform our behavior to what god has revealed. Now that is tough, especially when the tide of public opinion is against us. But it's against us in a lot of areas-- David, as you will know. You're right. From the-- from the more left side of society, we may be takin' some-- sucker punches because of our views on the redefinition of marriage and the sacredness of human life in the womb. We're takin' it from the other side when it comes to immigration, when it comes to capital punishment, when it comes to the rights of the poor.
And the church more or less shrugs and say, "Look, we don't take our agenda from the polls. We don't take our agenda from what the world is saying. Our agenda is given to us by the god who made us, and we must be faithful to him instead of what we're-- what we're hearing' from the world."
That having been said, a shrewd pastor, and we sure got one in Pope Francis, will know, yeah, but one of the ways we-- we more effectively pass on god's teaching (NOISE) and god's revelation is by being somewhat sensitive to what the world is saying, what the world is feeling.
And so Francis is reminding us, look, if we come across as some crabby, nay-- nay saying shrill, we're not gonna win anybody. If we come across as a loving, embracing-- mother, holy mother church who says, "Come on in. We love you. We need you. We want you. And once you get to know us, then maybe we can invite you to the conversion of heart that is at the-- is at the core of the gospel. And then maybe we can talk about changing behavior. That's a very effective pedagogy.