By choosing New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan as their new president,
the Catholic bishops opted to keep speaking loudly whatever the size of
the stick they carry. Dolan is a glad-hander who, post-election,
signaled that he’d be treading in the footsteps of his predecessor,
Cardinal Francis George.
George’s valedictory address
was a paean to episcopal predominance: We were right to oppose health
care reform and those who presumed to speak as Catholics on the other
side were just opinion-mongers (take that, sister!). The sensus fidelium is all right in its way, but we are the only ones who get to speak for the Church–L’Eglise, C’est Nous.
Sure, because of the wound to Church unity brought about by the health
care debate, it is devoutly to be hoped that “means can be found to
restore the seamless garment of ecclesial communion.” But as for us,
we’re wearing our No Apologies Jeans.
That set the stage for
Dolan’s surprise victory over the more irenic Bishop Gerald Kicanas of
Tucson. As he prepares to do his Bully Pulpit thing, however, the
question is whether Dolan will stand up to conservative agitation as
well as liberal dissent. Thus far in his tenure in New York, he has
shown himself one of those Catholic leaders who wants no enemies to his
right–backtracking quickly, for example, from his support for the
Park51 Muslims. It’ll be interesting to see how he handles the likes of
Deal Hudson, the professional agitator who has not been afraid to go after the USCCB.
The New York Times‘ Laurie Goodstein was right to include in her story
some pointed quotes from Hudson’s professorial twin, Princeton’s Robert
George. If George maintains his role as Dolan’s intellectual guru, I
predict that Michael Sean Winters’ relative optimism will be misplaced.