Saint Thomas Aquinas

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Cardinal Dolan's Address and Anti-Triumphalism

I was listening to EWTN radio on Sirius a couple of weeks ago and the host of one of the shows was raving over the address given by Archbishop Dolan just before his in-cardination. The host spent the better part of the show talking about how great the address was. So I was curious and exited to go find it and read it. I read over it a couple of times, and although some of it was marginally inspiring, it was in my opinion nothing exceptional. More perplexing however was part of the text towards the middle of the address, under point #2, which seemed to me to be quite a downer. It essentially killed the rest of it for me. The Archbishop went onto an anti-triumphalism note, which completely turned me off. As you may know, many of the modernist "new theologians" have often lauded this "anti-triumphalist" attitude. What is triumphalism? It is properly defined as, "the attitude that one religious creed is superior to all other." Well, isn't that the Church's position? Isn't that Jesus' position? Are we not as Catholics supposed to be proud of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ our King, and proclaim Him as the King of Kings to all nations? Is this a bad thing? In reading Archbishop Dolan's remarks you would think so at certain points. In fact he almost seems to contradict himself at points during the address, pointing to Cardinal Newman and his opposition to liberalism, while at the same time making it seem that we should not act too proud of our faith. As I often have said, the writing style of those in the Church today often speak in a cryptic form, not that of the scholastics of old. Also, on a side note, I am aware that "triumphalism" has been used as an insulting term to define arrogance and superiority of a group of people or an organization. Yet, when I think of past Popes wearing the tiara or being carried in the chair in Saint Peter's, I do not think of that as arrogant, but as symbolic of the Vicar of Christ on Earth. That being said, let me continue.

As I read through Archbishop Dolan's address he referred frequently about the importance of a "new evangelization." So far so good. But soon after his introduction, in his second point he states, "After the Council, the good news was that triumphalism in the Church was dead." Really? This is the good news? He continues and gives yet another baffling exclamation, "The bad news was that, so was confidence! We are convinced, confident, and courageous in the New Evangelization because of the power of the Person sending us on mission — who happens to be the second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity – because of the truth of the message, and the deep down openness in even the most secularized of people to the divine." You would think that before the Council the second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity was on a long vacation. Dolan then ups the anti a bit further. "Confident, yes! Triumphant, never!" What is that supposed to mean? Were all of the popes before the Council mere triumphalist maniacs void of the second Person of the Trinity? The Church is never going to be triumphant in her mission? We should not act as if she is ever going to be triumphant? What is he saying here? Well, the next sentence kind of put the icing on the cake, and from this point on, the rest of the address was tarnished for me. "What keeps us from the swagger and arrogance of triumphalism is a recognition of what Pope Paul VI taught in Evangelii Nuntiandi: the Church herself needs evangelization!" For me, he may as well have called every Pope before Paul VI a swaggering arrogant triumphalist in need of conversion. I do not get the point here. Sure, he was addressing the Cardinals and the Pope, and perhaps he had some hidden intention directed at them, but I fail to see what it was.

Sure, there are always people in the Church who are in need of conversion. That being said, the Church herself in what she proclaims is never void of the absolute truth, and we should be proclaiming it from the rooftops. When Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man cometh to the Father, but by me" was he a "triumphalist?" How about the infallible declaration of Vatican I, "The Roman church possesses a pre-eminence of ordinary power over every other church, and that this jurisdictional power of the Roman pontiff is both episcopal and immediate...In this way, by unity with the Roman pontiff in communion and in profession of the same faith, the church of Christ becomes one flock under one supreme shepherd. This is the teaching of the catholic truth, and no one can depart from it without endangering his faith and salvation." Was that triumphalism as well? We can only speculate what the Archbishop had in mind further, but this anti-triumphalism escapade was at best out of place, and at worst an insult to the entire Church before the "Council." I  for one am tired of hearing about how life since the "Council" has been the best thing since sliced bread.

The Archbishop continued on to talk about how secularism had choked the seed of faith. While secularism is surely a problem, it was largely the bishops who let secularism into the Church in the first place by being "anti-triumphant" towards the one true Catholic faith. He also talked about how poorly the faithful had been catechized, which is again, not the fault of secularism per se, but those in charge of catechizing. Dolan quotes the infamous theologian with modernist impulses, Henri De Lubac in referring to the new Church. He talks of a new Church, one that had apparently in some "venues" once lost the gospel only to newly rediscover it. "Over the fifty years since the convocation of the Council, we have seen the Church pass through the last stages of the Counter-Reformation and rediscover itself as a missionary enterprise. In some venues, this has meant a new discovery of the Gospel." Again, all of this talk can make it seem that the Church was a barren wasteland before the "Council." Why is it so important to put everything down before the "Council" for the bishops these days? Does the newly minted Cardinal really think that his generation of bishops has surpassed that of those many generations before him? I would hope not, because as they say, the proof is in the pudding. We must face the fact that we (That includes Cardinal Dolan) are the ones in crisis now, not them. Those arrogant swaggering triumphalists were the ones warning our future generation that this crisis was going to happen if modernism was not opposed with every ounce of strength that we had. As we know, it was not, and so now our generation is the one with the crisis.

Before closing here, I do not want to make it seem that everything that Archbishop Dolan had to say was worthless, nor that I do not respect his late stance against the HHS mandate. On the contrary, in the address he affirmed some important qualities which must accompany evangelization, which is joy and love. He referred to the many martyrs of the Church and how important they are for the faith. He is right in pointing out that many times we evangelize with a heavy hand rather than with the virtue of true charity. He is also forthright and prudent in making all of these valid points. The problem for me is that he seems to imply that all of this had been lacking in the Church before the Council, which was apparently caught up in this "triumphalism." Perhaps I am reading a bit into this? If my assessment regarding his stance on triumphalism is correct, I would beg to differ with him on that point. The many Saints that we had living and proclaiming the Gospel before the Council attests to the fact that there was nothing wrong with Catholic triumphalism. It is not an opposite or an ant-thesis to Christian charity to proclaim that Jesus and His one Church is where the one truth can be found. It is not a bad thing to point out that all who remain outside of the Church, including all other religions are grossly lacking in the truth, and do not offer salvation to mankind. It is not wrong to have all of the rich tradition of symbolism that our faith contains that points to this reality. It is also I think an error to even imply that the Church has ever been lacking in proclaiming the Gospel, as if she had lost it and then rediscovered it again. These are my thoughts on the address, perhaps you may or may not agree with me. Check out the address for yourself linked above, and if you like leave your thoughts in the comment box. I am curious to see how others perceive this anti-triumphalist portion of the address, and how it fits into the whole.

I would like to leave you with a quote from the encyclical by Pope Pius XI titled, 'Mortalium Animos.'

...But, all the same, although many non-Catholics may be found who loudly preach fraternal communion in Christ Jesus, yet you will find none at all to whom it ever occurs to submit to and obey the Vicar of Jesus Christ either in His capacity as a teacher or as a governor. Meanwhile they affirm that they would willingly treat with the Church of Rome, but on equal terms, that is as equals with an equal: but even if they could so act. it does not seem open to doubt that any pact into which they might enter would not compel them to turn from those opinions which are still the reason why they err and stray from the one fold of Christ. 
8. This being so, it is clear that the Apostolic See cannot on any terms take part in their assemblies, nor is it anyway lawful for Catholics either to support or to work for such enterprises; for if they do so they will be giving countenance to a false Christianity, quite alien to the one Church of Christ. Shall We suffer, what would indeed be iniquitous, the truth, and a truth divinely revealed, to be made a subject for compromise? For here there is question of defending revealed truth. Jesus Christ sent His Apostles into the whole world in order that they might permeate all nations with the Gospel faith, and, lest they should err, He willed beforehand that they should be taught by the Holy Ghost:[15] has then this doctrine of the Apostles completely vanished away, or sometimes been obscured, in the Church, whose ruler and defense is God Himself? If our Redeemer plainly said that His Gospel was to continue not only during the times of the Apostles, but also till future ages, is it possible that the object of faith should in the process of time become so obscure and uncertain, that it would be necessary to-day to tolerate opinions which are even incompatible one with another? If this were true, we should have to confess that the coming of the Holy Ghost on the Apostles, and the perpetual indwelling of the same Spirit in the Church, and the very preaching of Jesus Christ, have several centuries ago, lost all their efficacy and use, to affirm which would be blasphemy.


Adrienne said...

Cardinal Dolan lost me when he told Obama that either he remove the HHS mandate or within two years all the Catholic hospitals would be closed (or something similar), as though those were the only two choices.

Wrong, Cardinal Dolan. Abandoning our hospitals is exactly what this administration wants.

The correct answer is simply to say, "No, we will not comply." Let Obama throw a few bishops and cardinals in jail and see how that works for him.

Cardinal Dolan is playing with the big boys and he's losing.

Matthew Bellisario said...

The problem was that Dolan trusted Obama in the first place. Hopefully he will not cave at this point. What did you think of the address?

Adrienne said...

The easiest comment would be to agree with just about everything you've said (and quite well, too!)

Steve "scotju" Dalton said...

Dolan doesn't impress me. He's not the brightest bulb in the lamp. He was snookered by the politicans in New York that no gay marriage laws would be passed. We know how that turned out! If he anti-triumphalist, he might as well put an "L" for loser on his brow, because if you don't believe the faith will (and must)prevail, that's what you are.