Cardinal Timothy Dolan

In the midst of all the celebrations this week I’d like to take a moment to recall that on the recent 10th anniversary of 9/11, new Cardinal Timothy Dolan chose not to honor Father Mychal Judge, the first recorded victim of that godforsaken 2001 attack, and a man that many now call the Saint of 9/11.

It was a glaring omission considering what he still means to the Irish American community, the city’s brave firefighters and to many other communities in New York.

I bring it up now because the deafening silence that marked the commemoration of the admired gay priest stands in sharp contrast to the international pomp and circumstance attending Cardinal Dolan's ascendancy this month.

People who knew and loved Father Mychal know he wasn't fond of publicity, preferring to do his good work under the radar and behind the scenes, but in contrast Cardinal Dolan is never far from our front pages.

Admirers and critics alike have called Dolan a longstanding company man who does not act in accordance with his own conscience, but rather out of obedience to the Pope. That's why he's wearing a red hat now, they claim. In conservative circles like the Catholic Church, toeing the line has always been more immediately rewarding than saying what you actually think.

Dolan's recent elevation also stands in sharp contrast to the increasing isolation of Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin, who has consistently put his conscience before the company with predictable results.
Martin has said he felt isolated, which is clerical speak for ignored, over his alarm about the sex abuse crisis in Ireland. His awareness that he was being overlooked turned out to be correct.

In contrast to Dolan, Martin put his heart and soul into dealing with the clerical abuse issue in Ireland since coming to Dublin in 2003.

Had he been made a cardinal it would have been viewed as a ringing endorsement from Pope Benedict for his determination to put abuse victims before the church.

Of course, that didn't happen.

Martin has said there are groups in the Vatican and the Irish hierarchy that are still trying to undermine all child protection measures.

“What do you do,” asked Martin, “when you have got groups either in the Vatican or in Ireland who try to undermine what is being done or simply refuse to understand what is being done?"
So no red hat for Archbishop Martin, then. Speaking up gets you frozen out.

It’s hard to know what the ordinary Irish Mass-goer makes of this yet, but it’s a source of amazement to many that church authorities have consistently placed the institution over the individuals who were harmed by it.

Meanwhile, Dolan's admirers here know he has the credentials and the smarts to achieve the top post in the Vatican. And they want to see him elected Pope because those in the know within his inner circle believe that once he has to answer to no higher earthly authority, he will finally show his true colors.

Dolan is not the archconservative he appears to be, say his supporters. His elevation to the papacy could result in some extraordinarily positive changes for Catholic women and even for gay Catholics.

I have my doubts about all that. I really don’t doubt the sincerity of those within his inner circle, but to date Dolan has done nothing to suggest he’s anything other than a doctrinal conservative of the first order; it explains why he’s a cardinal now, after all.

In November 2011, while he was still an archbishop, Dolan sent a letter to President Obama threatening “a national conflict between church and state of enormous proportions” if the administration took any steps to repeal the recently ruled unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act.

Those really don’t sound like the words of a secret conciliator to me. Those are fighting words.

Dolan continued, “We as bishops of the Catholic Church recognize the immeasurable personal dignity and equal worth of all individuals, including those with same-sex attraction, and we reject all hatred and unjust treatment against any person.”

But what is a call to deny same-sex couples the countless legal benefits received at the state and federal level, if not unjust treatment?

Being proficient at talking out both sides of his mouth has seen Dolan’s career blossom, but it makes for a conflicted moral code.

Sometimes to do the right thing is also to do the unpopular thing. It’s having the courage to stand on principal that marks the difference between yes men and no men.