New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan said that "sinful" clergy behavior is one of the main reasons people are leaving Roman Catholicism but called on believers to hold on to the Church despite its flaws, during a speaking engagement in Milwaukee, Wis., on Thursday.
"It's not a bad idea to fess up to the sinful side of the church," Dolan said, who is currently the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and served as Milwaukee Archbishop's between 2002 and 2009.
"In her human side, the church can be imperfect, sloppy and corrupt. We admit her flaws, but we love her all the more because she is Christ on the cross."
While he did not address specifics, Dolan noted that one of the biggest problems for the 1.3 billion member Church is dealing with the "sinful" behavior of clergy and other Church members, The Associated Press reported. He admitted that some Catholics have left the church because "they have been shocked, saddened and nauseated" by this "sinful behavior," and said that Catholics should not hide from that.
The NY Archbishop called on fellow believers, however, to defend the faith "from those who would take it from us."
"These liberators might be the late night talk show hosts, classmates of our kids ... or editorial page journalists who misunderstand the beauty of our Catholic faith," Dolan continued, according to the Journal Sentinel. "Are we prepared to engage them ... to live and die for the church? That, my friends, is apologetics. And that, my friends, we need more than ever."
Dolan argued that the Catholic Church should try to model itself as a spiritual family rather than an institution.
"For most of us Catholics, we are born into the church. Catholicism is in our DNA, our bones, our genes," he continued. "We might drift from our spiritual family for a while, just as (we) do with human family. At times, we are scandalized or confused by it. But it is our family, our home."
In July, depositions released by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee shared details of how priests, including Dolan, handled several cases relating to child abuse by clergy, including one in 2003 where the Archdiocese asked the Vatican to remove a priest who had been found to have repeatedly abused children.
"Responding to victim-survivors, taking action against priest-abusers, and working to implement policies to protect children, were some of the most difficult, challenging, and moving events of the 6 ½ years that I served as Archbishop of Milwaukee," Dolan wrote in a statement.
"One of the principles that guided me during that time was the need for transparency and openness, which is why I not only welcomed the deposition as a chance to go on-the-record with how we responded to the clergy sexual abuse crisis during my years in Milwaukee, but also encouraged that it be released."