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The Archbishop of Charm


“There’s a perception out there that the Catholic Church has deep pockets,” Dolan responds. “That’s what we were worried about, that the Catholic Church is being unfairly targeted.” He also argues that the notion of the church as a hotbed of abuse is outdated: “Nobody is handling [the problem] more aggressively. And I don’t think society gives us credit for that.”

Then, of course, there is gay marriage. Dolan stands to become cardinal soon, and by the time his tenure here ends, which may not be for decades, it’s quite possible that something like half of the states in the union will have legalized same-sex marriage—New York surely among them. Dolan explains the church’s intractable position on this issue by describing homosexuality as a compulsion that should be controlled, much the same way as premarital sex should be. Forget about gay and straight sex; both are wrong, he says, simply because they take place outside the confines of marriage.

“If you have been gay your whole life and feel that that’s the way God made you, God bless you,” Dolan says. “But I would still say that that doesn’t mean you should act on that. I would happen to say, for instance, that God made me with a pretty short temper. Now, I still think God loves me, but I can’t act on that. I would think that God made me with a particular soft spot in my heart for a martini. Now, I’d better be careful about that.”

So, I ask, is being gay a character flaw?

“Yeah, it would be,” Dolan says—his smile broadening. “And we are all born with certain character flaws, aren’t we?”

But this leaves gay men and lesbians no choice but to form sexual partnerships that will always be seen as sinful. Isn’t that unfair?

Dolan takes a moment to think this over. “There’s no option,” he agrees, still smiling. “But I don’t know if that’s unfairness.”

Sex, he goes on to say, is not a human right, even if modern culture has made it appear that way. But this, he adds, is actually good news. His eyes light up. He seems excited—both by what he’s saying and by the fresh way he’s found to say it.

“The church—this hopeless romantic that she is—holds that sexual love is so exalted that it is the very mirror of the passion and the intimate excitement that God has for us and our relationship. We actually believe that when a man and a woman say ‘I do’ forever, that our love will be faithful, forever freeing, liberating, life-giving. We believe they mean it and they can do it! That’s exciting, that’s enriching, that’s ennobling. That’s a big, fat yes—yes!”


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