We tend to forget that, despite our godless liberal reputation, the Catholic Church plays a huge role in the life of New York. It holds spiritual sway over millions of our citizens and owns some prime real estate, which always buys a seat at the power table. Historically its archbishop has been a prominent quasi-political figure, too; if the last archbishop, Eddie Egan, was not so assertive as Fulton Sheen or John J. O’Connor, it may have owed to the spirit of the times, to the pressing need to manage tougher financial issues than in the past, or to the lingering legacy of the scandals that were revealed in the his old Bridgeport, Connecticut diocese after he took the New York gig and may have kept him from adopting a higher profile.
Now, two years after Egan turned in his resignation, as required by Church law, Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy Dolan to take over. The 59-year-old Irish-American, who served in Milwaukee for six and a half years, jumped right into the saddle, co-celebrating Mass at St. Patrick’s this morning and giving a press conference.
The Times says Dolan has “disappointed advocates for victims of sexual abuse” — but what American bishop hasn’t? — while the Daily News says he “came out strongly against pedophile priests, publishing the names of 43 clergymen who were found to be abusers.” A commenter at the Catholic Commonweal site says, “I attended the 2004 Erasmus Lecture given by Dolan, sponsored by [conservative Catholic magazine] First Things. He was certainly a contrast to the domineering [Richard John] Neuhaus. He seemed refreshingly humble.” Others describe Dolan as a “glad-hander,” which would make a change from the distant Egan, and might charm a public that hasn’t seen Church management on the hustings for a while. Now let’s see how quickly Benedict makes him a cardinal. Photo via Archdiocese of Milwaukee.