Religion & Public Life With Mark Silk

TDolan.jpgWilliamDonohue01-s.jpgI’m afraid to say that His Merry Rotundity Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, is bidding fair to turn into the ecclesiastical twin of His Grumpy Bullyship William Donohue, president of the Catholic League. They’re both of a size, and though when they show up on your doorstep it’s Tim the Good Cop and Bill the Bad, sure it’s the same agenda that they have.

Most recently, Dolan has taken to his blog to berate the New York Times for anti-Catholicism once again. The Gray Lady’s latest sins, from its October 15 issue, are an undignified photo of a nun in a theater listing of The Divine Sister, a play by Charles Busch; and Holland Cotter’s positive review of an exhibit of posters produced by ACT UP, the radical group that engaged in a range of agit-prop activities to dramatize the AIDS epidemic in the last decades of the last century.

Dolan, for his part, is indulging in a bit of agit-prop himself. The Divine Sister is not, as he suggests, the second coming of Maria Monk, but a send-up of Hollywood versions of nuns that, as the Times Ben Brantley put it in his review of the play, displays “a canny awareness of how mass culture has
exploited our suspicions of those who live in religious orders.” Ah, but the good archbishop wants to take up cudgels on behalf of “the most noble women around.” So how did he feel about Laurie Goodstein’s article on the Vatican’s Apostolic Visitation into alleged deviations from orthodoxy on the part of those noble women? Why not take up a cudgel or two on their behalf against that inquisition?

With respect to ACT UP, Dolan rehearses the organization’s bitter assaults on the Catholic Church in general and New York’s Cardinal O’Connor in particular. Cotter’s review doesn’t note these, pointing instead to the organization’s protests at the New York Stock Exchange, CBS News, the White House, and the Bush summer compound at Kennebunkport. ACT UP protested wherever it saw powers-that-be.

I don’t exactly know what it is the Dolan would have the Times do. Avoid reviewing plays that deal with nuns and popular culture? Bar from its pages any organization that disrespects his church? Do penance by urging the Empire State Building to light itself up for Mother Teresa?

A friend of mine who’s a priest in Dolan’s old Milwaukee archdiocese counseled me to expect more disappointment from his former boss. The man, he said, really thinks that back-slapping and joking will always carry the day. And when he does get involved positively in an important issue, such as (as he initially did) standing up against the ugly opposition to the Islamic Center in Lower Manhattan, he pulls back as soon as he hears from his friends on the Catholic right. 

After all, why defend those who really need it when you can portray your own kind as victims?

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