Cardinal Dolan shares fondness for St. Louis, speaks of religious liberty at press conference

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Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan seemed more like an old friend than a high-ranking prelate at the podium for a press conference in St. Louis May 6, prior to his Mass of Thanksgiving at the Cathedral Basilica of
St. Louis.

Accompanied by Archbishop Robert J. Carlson, Cardinal Dolan met with members of the press at the Catholic Education Center, next door to the cathedral basilica in the Central West End.

Describing St. Louis as being in his "spiritual DNA," Cardinal Dolan started the meeting by rehashing his busy schedule since he arrived here May 4 — including a baptism Friday night for the month-old twins of his niece Shalia, held at St. Francis Borgia Parish in Washington, and a First Communion with his niece, Kathleen, at Little Flower Parish in Richmond Heights.

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To watch the Mass of Thanksgiving vis live streaming video, see archstl.org/dolan-live

 

"You talk about a happy weekend," he remarked, adding that it's his family who keeps him coming back to St. Louis.

He quickly switched to the topic of religious liberty, which has been at the forefront of discussion in recent months as a result of the Department of Health and Human Services' mandate that most health plans must include contraception, sterilization and some abortion-inducing drugs free of charge, even if the employer is morally opposed to such services.

Cardinal Dolan, who recently was named one of Time Magazine's "100 Most Influential People in the World," has become a spokesperson of sorts on the issue. Most recently he noted that Catholics and others who oppose the government mandate face a struggle, but victory can be achieved through persistence.

He offered a a word of gratitude to the Catholic laity for their involvement in the issue, adding that they are the ones who are leading the way. The Second Vatican Council, he added, gives a reminder that when it comes to political responsibility, "the bishops speak principles, but it's our committed lay Catholics who are there on the front lines."

Last month, the U.S. bishops released a statement, "Our First, Most Cherished Liberty," which among other things, calls for "a fortnight for freedom" of prayer, fasting and catechesis to increase understanding of the meaning of religious liberty. It will be held from June 21, the vigil of the feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, to July 4, U.S. Independence Day.

The statement also called on American Catholics to resist unjust laws "as a duty of citizenship and an obligation of faith."

At the press conference, Cardinal Dolan explained that resistance is "as old as the American Revolution. ... All of the great reform movements in American history are faith-based, religiously based. It's part of our American heritage to resist an unjust law."

Citing the work already being done by American Catholics in resisting unjust laws against the dignity of human beings, through the work being done in the pro-life movement, similarly, "now you've got Catholics united with other Christians, with Jews — with men and women of every religion or none at all — who are uniting in resistance against what we feel is an unjust law."

Cardinal Dolan went back to reflecting on his youth growing up in St. Louis at Holy Infant Parish in Ballwin, and the strong sense of Catholic identity in his hometown.

"The parish was not just the place where we went for school and Sunday Mass, it was the sort of center of our lives, culturally, socially. The neighborhood ... we all kind of gelled together. It almost made Catholicism part of the air that I breathe.

He brought that concept with him, he said, as he's moved along to other dioceses as a bishop and now cardinal.

"There's a cohesion, there's a loyalty, there's a joy in Catholic identity. I tell you, I haven't seen it anywhere else," he said of St. Louis. 

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