Weeks after returning from Vatican City, where he helped elect a new pope for a worldwide church that is struggling with declining numbers and controversy over social issues, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan said on two morning talk shows on Easter Sunday that the Roman Catholic Church could be more welcoming of gays and lesbians despite its opposition to same-sex marriage.
In prerecorded interviews with George Stephanopoulos on the ABC News program “This Week” and Bob Schieffer on “Face the Nation” on CBS, Cardinal Dolan, the archbishop of New York and one of the leading voices of the Catholic Church in the United States, did not suggest any changes in church teaching. He defined marriage as “one man, one woman, forever, to bring about new life,” but, he told Mr. Stephanopoulos, “we’ve got to do better to see that our defense of marriage is not reduced to an attack on gay people.”
“And I admit, we haven’t been too good at that,” the cardinal continued. “We try our darnedest to make sure we’re not an anti-anybody.”
Speaking just days after the Supreme Court heard arguments in two same-sex marriage cases, Mr. Stephanopoulos asked Cardinal Dolan what he could say to gays and lesbians who felt excluded from the church.
“Well, the first thing I’d say to them is: ‘I love you, too. And God loves you. And you are made in God’s image and likeness. And — and we — we want your happiness. But — and you’re entitled to friendship,’ ” Cardinal Dolan said. “But we also know that God has told us that the way to happiness, that — especially when it comes to sexual love — that is intended only for a man and woman in marriage, where children can come about naturally.”
He gave a similar answer on “Face the Nation” when Mr. Schieffer questioned him about whether the church would embrace more liberal teachings as public opinion shifts.
The cardinal acknowledged that the church had a problem staying relevant: “How to remain faithful to what we believe are God-given, revealed, settled, unchanging principles without losing our people, who more and more question them.”
“I think what we can’t tamper with what God has revealed,” he added. But, he said, “we can try to do better in the way we present them with more credibility and in a more compelling way.”
During Easter Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan, Cardinal Dolan hinted at more sweeping changes. And he hailed a rebirth of the church as Pope Francis celebrated his first Easter Mass in St. Peter’s Square.
“The church, with a capital C, is undergoing renewal, repair, resurrection,” he said. “I kind of think we’re seeing it today in a particularly fresh and new way with our beloved new Holy Father.”