New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan said in an interview that he has "no sense of judgment" on NFL prospect Michael Sam who announced in February that he is gay, and also commented on Pope Francis' recent remarks that he could be open to civil unions.
"Good for him. I would have no sense of judgment on him. God bless ya … Look, the same Bible that … teaches us well about the virtues of chastity and the virtue of fidelity and marriage also tells us not to judge people. So I would say, 'Bravo,'" Dolan said on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday, when asked for his views on the issue.
The defensive lineman's announcement in February has paved the way for him to become the first public gay player in the NFL, making him the subject of much discussion.
In a wide-ranging interview, Dolan talked about a number of topics surrounding the Vatican, including Pope Francis' recent remarks in an Italian newspaper where he suggested that he could be open to some cases of civil unions.
"Matrimony is between a man and a woman," the pope said in an article by theCorriere della Sera last week but added that "diverse situations of cohabitation [are] driven by the need to regulate economic aspects among persons, as for instance to assure medical care."
When asked about how the Roman Catholic Church could move forward regarding civil unions, Dolan highlighted that Francis didn't come right out and approve such unions, but urged that instead of condemnation, the church ask questions as to why they appeal to certain people.
Dolan noted that civil unions would make him uncomfortable because they could water down the traditional definition of marriage.
"I don't think marriage between one man and one woman forever leading to life and love, that's not something that's just a religious, sacramental concern. You bet it is that … that's how God has elevated it, to making a sacrament," the N.Y. cardinal explained.
"But it's also the building block of society and culture. So it belongs to culture. And if we water down that sacred meaning of marriage in any way, I worry that not only the church would suffer, I worry that culture and society would."
Dolan also discussed the controversy of sex abuse around the Vatican, which has been criticized by the United Nations in recent reports, and praised Francis for standing up for the church and reminding people that it has acted with "transparency and responsibility."
"The church will always have to do more as humanity has to do more. And we're a part of humanity here," he added.
"Catholic people say, 'But why is it the church alone that is being kicked around? This is a societal problem, a cultural problem. It afflicts families, every institution, every religion.' 'We're rather grateful that our church, which was an example of what not to do in the past, in the last 12, 13, 14 years has become an example of what to do.'"
When asked again about the Catholic Church's defense of traditional marriage at a time when society is increasingly becoming more in favor of gay marriage, Dolan affirmed that the church has vowed to stick to its teachings, regardless of the changing attitudes.
"From the more left side of society, we may be taking some sucker punches because of our views on the redefinition of marriage and the sacredness of human life in the womb. We're taking it from the other side when it comes to immigration, when it comes to capital punishment, when it comes to the rights of the poor," the cardinal said.
He attempted to sum up the church's response to this criticism by adding: "Look, we don't take our agenda from the polls. We don't take our agenda from what the world is saying. Our agenda is given to us by the God who made us, and we must be faithful to Him instead of what we're hearing from the world."