\"Archbishop

Archbishop Dolan of New York

An open letter to Archbishop Dolan

\"Archbishop

Archbishop Dolan of New York

Your Eminence,

Congratulations. This week, you were officially installed as New York's 13th Archbishop.

First and foremost, you are lucky, and not just because New York is a great town.  But if history is any indication, you will be the spiritual leader of New York's Catholic church for a long, long time.

That may be a blessing or a curse, but that's another story.

Your predecessor, Edward Cardinal Egan, has stated that he's glad simply to get out alive. After all, of the eight Irish Americans who preceded him in the job, all eight died while serving.

You are lucky because of those eight Irish Americans, most served over 15 years, with titans such as Cardinal Spellman serving nearly 30 years.

You come to New York at the relatively young age of 59. So, you will likely be with us for quite a while.

In all likelihood you will also, soon, be named a Cardinal in the Catholic Church, as New York's six previous archbishops were.  It is only fitting that you would represent the U.S. in Rome. New York's Archdiocese remains, in many ways, the most important in North America.

To your great credit, while the occasion of your installation was solemn, your sense of humor has also shined brightly. Plus, you didn't pull a Hillary Clinton and pretend you were a Yankee or Met fan. You are a St. Louis kid, so go on, root for your Cardinals. (A fitting team, that is, by the way.)

It was also great that you reached out to seven year-old Timothy Dolan, from the Irish stronghold parish of St. Barnabas in Woodlawn, the Bronx. He wrote you a letter and noted the two of you share the same name.

You invited him to an historic ceremony that will be covered by the world media.  A fine touch.
For all of this ceremony and fun, as you know, serious issues await you.

You have already begun to engage in serious debate. You have said that you plan to counter what you call "anti-Catholic bias." 

This is rooted, you noted, in the notion that people think Catholics are unenlightened, because of positions the church has taken on issues such as abortion and homosexuality.

It is true that, for centuries, Catholics have been thought of as literally un-American, because the center of their faith is in Rome. Immigrants such as the Irish were doubly cursed.

This anti-Catholic bias you speak of does, indeed, exist. However, I worry that you might be playing into it, so some degree, by commenting that President Obama should not have been invited to speak at Notre Dame University's commencement next month.

Even though the church disagrees with Obama on certain issues, shouldn't Notre Dame students be able to hear from him? Especially when so many Catholics voted for him? 

Either way, as you settle into New York, observers are wondering if you will be like John Cardinal O'Connor -- outspoken, confrontational -- or Edward Cardinal Egan -- aloof, business-minded.

I get the sense you know this already, but it bears repeating -- New York will only embrace you if you are simply yourself. That's why I say keep rooting for those Cardinals.

In the long run, you may or may not be New York's last Irish American  Archbishop.  This may be an occasion for mourning, but it is also true that people will look back on this amazing run of New York Irish leaders, stretching back to the time of the American Civil War.

They will wonder about the condition in which they left the New York Catholic Church, the American Catholic.

With all that in mind, all I can say is, good luck. You'll need it. Especially if, come October, the Cardinals meet the Mets in the playoffs.

***I'll be discussing "Irish Saints and Sinners" in Manhattan on Saturday April 18 at 2:30 p.m. at the Ottendorfer Branch Library, 135 Second Avenue. The same talk will be given Tuesday, April 21 at 6:30 p.m. at the Great Kills Branch Library, 56 Giffords Lane, Staten Island.

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