Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York told the press this week he believes the major challenge facing U.S. bishops now is halting the massive exodus of Roman Catholics from the church.
Archbishop Dolan, a conservative Catholic who was elected president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops last week, told the press that bishops would not stop speaking out on hot button issues like abortion, same-sex marriage and immigration.
But Dolan said it was also time for the Church here to recognize that one-third of Americans born and baptized Catholic have now left the church.
"The bishops are saying we need to make sure our house is in order as a church. We need to recover our vigor," Archbishop Dolan told the press. "Then we can be of better service to the world and to our culture."
Dolan was loudly criticized last week by two Church abuse victims’ advocacy groups who said he had failed to post lists of priests removed from their ministry for accusations of abuse that were credible.
Dolan replied that his newspaper, Catholic New York, had identified the priests in question as they were removed, and that he believed that was sufficient.
James Carroll, a columnist for the Boston Globe and Scholar-in-Residence at Suffolk University, has lamented Dolan's selection to head the U.S. bishops.
"The election that made Dolan the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was unusual because the favorite for the job, Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, was cast aside—an unprecedented insult to a sitting vice president," Carroll wrote this week.
"But Kicanas was regarded as a "social justice" Catholic, one whose moral concern extended to more than abortion and gay marriage. Timothy Dolan's job is to put the best face on the reactionary hierarchy's slow motion act of self-destruction. The surest sign of this crisis is Dolan's jovial conviction that there is no crisis."
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