Pope Francis's comments on the clergy sexual abuse scandal that has rocked the church for decades, focusing on Catholic leaders rather than victims caught in the crisis, was not a misstep, Cardinal Timothy Dolan said Thursday.
The pope directly addressed the sex scandal during his speech Wednesday to U.S. Bishops in Washington, praising bishops for their "courage" and "generous commitment to bring healing to victims — in the knowledge that in healing we too are healed."
While the speech drew criticism from advocates who argued it should have focused more on the victims, Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, described the pope’s speech as “beautiful” and said it set the right tone.
“He spoke about the courage, he spoke about the ongoing sorrow and most importantly, he spoke about the fact that we can never drop our vigilance,” said Dolan, the former president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. “We’ve always got to be as vigorous as we are now.”
Dolan spoke just hours before he was expected to welcome the pope to New York. The trip to the Big Apple marks the pope’s second full day in the United States and follows a trip to Capitol Hill, where he became the first pope ever to make a speech before Congress.
On Wednesday, Pope Francis during his visit to the White House addressed controversial topics like immigration and climate change, but Dolan said the pontiff’s style is to tackle principles, not politics.
“One of the ways you make a point is by affirming the positive. You complement the good you see in a student and then everybody else says, ‘Oh, we want to match that,’” he said. “So I think he’s going to praise the United states for what’s always been our most noble and uplifting virtues of the worlds, and in the meantime, offer a subtle examination of conscience, like we’re going to say, ‘Uh oh. Are we living up to that?’”
Dolan said he has spent months preparing for the papal visit and has been so immersed in the details that he didn't feel a sense of enthusiasm for the arrival until Wednesday, when he walked around St. Patrick's Cathedral and spoke to members of the crowd excited for the visit.
"I met all the people. They’re excitement is contagious. Now they’ve got me on a high," he said.