Lord, To Whom Shall We Go? It's A Package Deal
By: Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan
March 23, 2023
He was a very intelligent man, a research scientist at a nearby corporation, and he wanted to become a Catholic. This probably had something to do with the reality that his wife, and the mother of his two young girls, was a committed member of the Church. Not that she was putting any pressure at all on him, quick was he to reassure me. He, a very good and moral man to be sure, but without any allegiance to a faith, believed strongly that it would be good for him to share the faith of his spouse, the Church into which his two children had been baptized.
So, off we went. These were the days prior to the RCIA (The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) and, like any other parish priest, I had, at any one time, three or four people who came to me separately, one evening a week, for what we called “instructions.”
This gentleman was a tough fish to haul in, and, even though he very much wanted to be a Catholic, he wanted to understand all the truths of the faith, and pushed me hard to help him comprehend. I enjoyed it very much. Far from a passive convert, he wanted faith and reason to gel, to come together, not to be at odds. Fair enough, I reassured him. That’s what the Church wants, too!
Finally, after seven or eight months, an hour or more each week, he joyfully confessed, “I believe! Count me in! This faith is consistent, it is like a symphony! It’s all integrated, as each of the Church’s beliefs and morals flow from each other. It’s a package deal!”
Yes, it is! Our creed, God’s revelation, and the Church’s system of what we believe and how we act is coherent, holistic, and logically integrated.
Nowhere is this more evident than in our defense of life. We believe that all life is sacred, a gift from God so special that it is eternal, deserving of dignity and reverence. Thus, from the first days of the Church, a defense of and respect for all human life has been a characteristic of those who followed Jesus in and through His Church.
While neighbors or observers of the earliest Christians might not have espoused their faith, they were amazed at how these believers cherished life: in the womb, in their children, in their marriage bond, in their abhorrence of violence, in their reluctance to fight in a war which seemed unjust, in their preference to forgive rather than seek revenge, in their solicitude for the sick, fragile, poor, the stranger, the elders, the dying—all whose life was in jeopardy or vulnerable.
Our respect for the sacredness of all life, our renowned and controversial “pro-life” morality, is consistent and coherent, a “package deal.”
Yes, we are committed to the human right to life of the fragile baby in the womb…and also to the waning, fading life of our grandparents as they near death;
You bet we are for our police officers who risk their own lives to defend ours, who put themselves in harm’s way to stop the violence that might crush the life of another…and also against a chair, a needle, a noose, or a chamber that would execute a criminal, however guilty;
Of course we are patriots who rise to the defense of our country when unjustly threatened or attacked…and also fervent for the preference of peace, while not “at any price,” with war only as a last resort;
Count on us to advocate for an economy with good, safe jobs, where virtue, thrift, and hard work are rewarded, and we can keep our money… and also on the side of the poor, unemployed, and weak;
There we are supporting secure borders, with some fair limits on those who cross them…but speaking up as well to make sure our laws are just, and that our duty to welcome immigrants and refugees in a reasonable, safe way continues to be a biblical and American legacy.
Look to us to insist that the Creator gave us creation to enjoy and use for our good… and that the same Creator instructed us to respect, not savage, the environment and the ecology He implanted in nature.
We enthusiastically agree with “Black Lives Matter,” sadly aware of the injustice our African-American neighbors have historically and continue to face…but we add as well, “All life—brown, yellow, white, blue—matters.”
We’ll agree with those who savor the right to bear arms…and also with those who work to outlaw assault weapons, restrict the abundance and cheap, easy availability of illegal guns, and curb the horror of the international arms trade.
Is this balance tough to put into practice? For sure!
Is this controversial, meaning we get blasted from one side or another, depending on the issue? Afraid so!
But, is this a consistent, coherent position that flows from what we believe about the inherent dignity and inviolability of human life? Yes!
It’s what Pope St. John Paul called a “culture of life.” It’s what Pope Francis terms a “consistent ethic of life.” It’s a “package deal!”
As Pope Benedict often commented, “Our faith is usually not an ‘either–or’, but a ‘both–and.’”
†Timothy Michael Cardinal Dolan
Archbishop of New York