“I Need to Watch This Guy Closely, Because He’s a Good Example for Me…”

That’s New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan, talking about—who else?—Pope Francis.

From an interview with NCR’s John Allen:

You were one of the cardinals who elected Francis, and presumably you had some idea of what kind of pope he would be. To what extent has it turned out the way you expected?

In some ways, it’s been exactly what I expected. One of the things we looked for was a very savvy pastor, a good man on the ground. To use the expression of [Cardinal] George Pell [of Australia], we wanted somebody with “dirty boots,” because he’s used to going through the sheep fields. We got that, and we got it in spades.

The simplicity, sincerity, humility, that ability to speak from the heart which the world is seeing now, are all things we’d heard about him. One of the cardinals said we needed somebody with the mind of Benedict and the heart of John Paul, and I think we got it. He’s been called the world’s parish priest, and I think that’s right on target.

If there’s a surprise, it’s that he’s even better at it than we had anticipated. We thought he was pretty good, and the reports we got about him in Buenos Aires were excellent, but he’s doing it all on steroids.

What would your biggest surprise be?

We also wanted someone with good managerial skills and leadership skills, and so far that hasn’t been as obvious. It’s a little bit of a surprise that he hasn’t played his hand on that front yet. However, I think that’s part of his strategy. He knows that the things we talked about a moment ago are more important because, in many ways, impression is reality. Having created this extraordinarily appealing impression — which, by the way, is very genuine — that he’s a man of simplicity, holiness and simplicity will make it easier to do other things down the line. I think that was his first goal, and he’s done it…

Is there any way in which Francis is having a personal impact on you?

I find myself examining my own conscience … on style, on simplicity, on lots of things.

For instance, I saw the pope open his own car door, close his own door, and carry his own carry-on bag. That says something to me. I used to do those things for myself, and it’s not that I think I’m above it now, but it’s just that as archbishop of New York people are doing it for me all the time. That’s a very down-to-earth example, but I’m beginning to say that I need to watch this guy closely because he’s a good example for me.

I also find myself thinking about living arrangements, because that’s a pretty nice house I’m living in. In some ways it’s not clear what I could do about it, because it’s the historic, traditional residence of the archbishops of New York, and it’s not like we can sell it. [Note: The residence is attached to St. Patrick's Cathedral.]

In general, I find myself thinking about some of the perks, the cushiness, we associate with being a bishop. He’s pushing me to ask whether they’re necessary, and if they might actually be counterproductive.

There’s much more.  Read the whole thing.  


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