The Catholic Bishops have elected the New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan as its spokesperson and. This is more of the rightward march of the Catholic church. Dolan has been a colorful and involved archbishop for New York. He has spoken out gay marriage and of course abortion rights, condemning both. Perhaps not surprising for Catholics. But his election over the more moderate Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tuscon was a shot across the bow.
According to an article by David Gibson of Politics Daily:
The defeat of Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, who had been vice-president of the conference and therefore expected to become the next president by longstanding tradition, was chalked up at least in part to a last-minute campaign by conservative Catholic activists who resurrected charges that Kicanas ignored indications of sexual problems by a seminarian who was later ordained and became a notorious child abuser.
Conservatives also dislike Kicanas’ reputation as a moderate who favors dialogue and persuasion over the more bully pulpit pronouncements of churchmen like Chicago Cardinal Francis George, the outgoing president, or Dolan, a media-friendly but outspoken figure who became head of the New York archdiocese only last year.
Dolan is among the newer appointees like our own Los Angeles, Jose Gomez who will take over from Roger Cardinal Mahoney in March. These are smart men who represent the church as it has been shaped by the increasing rightward tilt of John Paul II and the present Pope Benedict.
He is media savvy and Dolan will I am sure take every opportunity to articulate the Vatican’s position. But what is interesting is that two years ago lost the election as Vice-chairman to Kicanas! So his election not only flies in the face of tradition because the vice-chair usually becomes chair of the Bishops but it is revenge from two years ago. Political strategy plain and simple. And this should tell us all we need to know.
Ironically, Archbishop Dolan agreed to help interfaith leaders come together in the aftermath of the NY ground zero mosque controversy. He offered to be the point person to bring people together on both sides. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal Dolan said: “We can’t let fanatics on either side take over.”
While this is commendable it will be interesting to have such a person as the head of such a powerful group of Catholic bishops. Interfaith dialog will be even more important as the Catholic church moves to the right politically and becomes more vocal. For liberal Jews engaged in dialogue with Catholics since Vatican II, we have had many strong ties and areas of agreement even as we disagreed about many fundamental issues. With Dolan heading the Bishops’ chair let’s pray that dialog and cooperation continue.