Cardinal Dolan: The Camera Loves Him on Two Continents

Star quality.

Some folk got it.

Some folk don’t.

You know what I mean. You see them on screen or in a photo and your eyes immediately fix on them. They aren’t always the best looking or the most glib or even the prettiest. But they’ve got that shine that makes people look and then want to look again.

Priests, bishops, cardinals and even popes are not normally rated or valued for their star quality. It isn’t an attribute that goes into the computation of what makes for holiness, fidelity, wisdom or, even, as many stars have proven, good sense. But in these days when everybody has a camera in their pocket and even the most klutzy geekophobe can manage to upload their digital treasures to the virtual Wild West of the internet, media stardom does take on a kind of transitory illusion of relevance and even power.

Every so often, brains, depth of character and moral strength combine in someone who’s been hit by the star wand. The camera loves them, and they can actually hold your attention without a script or teleprompter.

That seems to be what America has in Cardinal Timothy Dolan. Of all the places most of us would go looking for someone with star quality, the face under a cardinal’s hat would be one of last; especially when the cardinal in question is a portly, plainspoken Irishman with unabashedly old-fashioned ideas about faith, morals and modern life.

But star quality is one of those things you can’t explain. You know it when you see it, but you don’t really know why it’s there. It’s a kind of magnetism that draws and fascinates people. Even those who have it are often unaware of it and, if they do know they’ve got it, don’t know where it comes from.

Cardinal Dolan has been a blessing to the Catholic Church in America precisely because he can explain the Church’s position to the many millions on the other side of the camera. We’ve had others with this gift, but they have crashed and burned under the warping power of public adulation.

It appears that Cardinal Dolan doesn’t try to flay the emotional hide off people he disagrees with. He isn’t glib with quickie phrases that entertain the self-righteous while they cut the defenseless to the bone. There is nothing mean or mean-spirited or snide in the things he says. He stands for the church and doesn’t back down. But he also doesn’t try to destroy those who oppose him in this.

It shouldn’t be a surprise to learn that people in Italy are just as charmed by Cardinal Dolan as many Americans. There’s something about a good-hearted man who’s willing to tell the truth instead of run away from it that is refreshing in this world. 

Based on things I’ve read in several places, Cardinal Dolan’s American brashness (and compared to most of the rest of the world, we are all brash, my fellow Americans, believe me) doesn’t offend. It captivates. That in itself is amazing.

There’s no denying it. The Cardinal has a kind of clerical star power, and he appears to have it without the lies, phoniness and outright heresies of many of the few other priests who have star power, too.

God love him.

I’m proud of him.

A New York Times article describing Cardinal Dolan’s situation says in part:


Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, the archbishop of New York, has become an object of fascination in Rome for the fluency of his juggling act: he is simultaneously head of the United States’ most prominent Roman Catholic diocese and president of its national conference of bishops, tapped by the Vatican for numerous prestigious assignments and by network television anchors for their most prized interview spots.

In the weeks since Pope Benedict XVI announced his intention to retire, the possibility that Cardinal Dolan could succeed him has been largely dismissed on the theory that his biggest strengths — outsize personality, Everyman affect, relentless public cheer — mark him as distinctively American in a way that makes it unlikely he would be chosen by his colleagues.

But in recent days, his joyful and telegenic orthodoxy is getting new attention in Rome; on Thursday, a prominent Vatican reporter, Sandro Magister, highlighted his qualifications, calling him “the consummate candidate, who represents the impulse in the direction of purification.”

Cardinal Dolan has colorfully dismissed speculation that he could be pope, saying that he expects, and is eager, to return to New York. Nonetheless, this papal interregnum has become an important period for him, presenting an opportunity for him to use mass media to reach Catholics in his vast and diverse archdiocese, and to elevate his stature as he faces battles with President Obama over health insurance regulations and with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York over a proposed liberalization of the state’s abortion laws.

He shows an easy demeanor; he is unfailingly positive, even when asked difficult questions. But even he is quick to say that he represents a new style, not a new point of view, for Catholic bishops. In an interview here, before the cardinals decided to stop speaking to reporters, he described the church’s teachings as a gift to be treasured, but said, “Let’s perhaps work on a way to wrap it in a more attractive way.” (Read the rest here.)

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Papal Conclave Begins Tuesday, March 12

The CNA/EWTN story describing this says in part: 

.- After five days of meetings, the College of Cardinals has voted to hold a conclave to elect the next Pope on Tuesday, March 12.

“The eighth General Congregation of the College of Cardinals has decided that the Conclave will begin on Tuesday, 12 March 2013,” Father Federico Lombardi said in a March 8 message to reporters.

The cardinals will celebrate a Mass For the Election of a New Pope in St. Peter’s Basilica in the morning and “in the afternoon the cardinals will enter into the Conclave,” he confirmed.

Cardinal Jean-Baptiste Pham Minh Man from Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam arrived in Rome on Thursday afternoon and with his presence the College of Cardinals reached its full number.

The cardinals were able to choose an earlier date than was previously allowed under Church regulations because Benedict XVI issued a declaration to make that possible. (Read the rest here.) 

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Cardinal O’Brien Resigns, Will Not Attend Conclave

Cardinal Keith O’Brien the leader of the Archdiocese of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh in Scotland, has resigned.


Cardinal O’Brien’s resignation comes days after he was accused of sexual misconduct. Cardinal O’Brien has denied the accusations, which do not appear to involve minors. The Pope has accepted his resignation, effective February 25.

Cardinal O’Brien has indicated that he will not participate in the upcoming Conclave to elect a new pope.

A CNA/EWTN article describing Cardinal O’Brien’s resignation says in part:

Edinburgh, Scotland, Feb 25, 2013 / 05:55 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Benedict XVI has accepted Cardinal Keith P. O’Brien’s resignation, and the cardinal has announced he will not attend the conclave.

“Approaching the age of seventy-five and at times in indifferent health, I tendered my resignation as Archbishop of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh to Pope Benedict XVI some months ago. I was happy to know that he accepted my resignation ‘nunc pro tunc’ – (now – but to take effect later) on 13 November 2012,” Cardinal O’Brien said in a Feb. 25 statement.

The Pope decided on Feb. 18 that he would accept his resignation effective Feb. 25.

The cardinal recently became the focus of allegations by three priests and a former clergyman who say they received inappropriate sexual advances from him during the 1980s. (Read the rest here.)



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Should Cardinal Mahony Stay Away From the Conclave?

Cardinal Mahony has a “right” to attend the Conclave to elect the next pope, but at least one other cardinal has broached the idea that he should stay home for the “good of the Church.”

“The common practice is to use persuasion. There is no more than can be done.” Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, told La Repubblica Daily. “Ultimately, it will be up to his conscience to decide whether to take part or not.”

Archbishop Gomez, of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and Cardinal Mahony’s successor, recently announced that he was ending Cardinal Mahony’s public work for the archdiocese. The announcement resulted from the release of years of files that were compiled during Cardinal Mahony’s term in office. According to Archbishop Gomez, the files related “brutal” mistreatment of the Archdiocese’ children.

In his statement, Archbishop Gomez said,

“Effective immediately, I have informed Cardinal Mahony that he will no longer have any administrative or public duties. Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Curry has also publicly apologized for his decisions while serving as Vicar for Clergy. I have accepted his request to be relieved of his responsibility as the Regional Bishop of Santa Barbara.”

Cardinal Mahony has responded to this with a series of blog posts in which he has characterized himself as a “martyr.”

Several Patheos bloggers have commented on Cardinal Mahony’s recent statements. You can find information on Cardinal Mahony’s latest comments at The Deacon’s Bench, or if you want powerful commentary, Egregious Twaddle, Why I Am Catholic and Catholic and Enjoying It have been serving it up with style.

As for me, I just wish Cardinal Mahony would give it a rest. I also wish that he would stay home from the Conclave. I wish that he would stop publishing bizarre blog posts and that he would find the humility to accept that he is not a martyr. He is a miscreant who has been caught in his own sins.

I wish he could have been a better Cardinal and a better priest. If he couldn’t muster that, I wish he had at least been able to be a better man and a better Christian.

In the final analysis, if he had been either a good man or a good Christian, that would have been enough. If he had just been following Jesus, he would never have enabled priests he knew were abusing children to keep on abusing more children. His conscience would not have allowed him to do it.

I am not saying that he doesn’t have many good qualities. I don’t know him, but people are almost always mixtures of good and bad. It’s hard for a man who has spent so many years basking in flattery and cozened by yes men to suddenly find himself “all alone to weep his outcast fate” as Shakespeare put it. It is hard for anyone, but especially so for someone who has been pandered to and pampered for decades to come face to face with the fact that the only lies he has left are the lies he tells himself because everyone else knows the humiliating truth of his dirtiest sins.

I believe Cardinal Mahony is at that place. The blog posts he keeps publishing sound like deep denial with an overcoating of bitterness. They do not sound like remorse or repentance. It seems that he simply will not accept that nothing he says can change what he’s done and that no good he ever did can undo or wash away the harm he’s inflicted.

It appears that he has committed unthinkable crimes against innocent children by enabling and allowing other men to continue abusing them when he knew what they were doing and had the power to easily stop them. No matter how he tries to explain that to himself and to spin his present disgrace as a martyrdom, the facts are the facts and his situation is what it is.

Odd as this sounds, I pray for Cardinal Mahony. His current disgrace is in reality an opportunity. He must face what he has done and repent of it from the heart. There was never a time for excuses. He was always wrong in what he did. Now that the whole world knows it, he needs to stop trying to hide the truth from the one person who still avoids it: He needs to stop trying to hide the truth from himself.

I am concerned where this self delusion will lead him. There is only one way out when you’ve done something this bad and that is the way of the cross. I worry what might become of the Cardinal if he continues down this path of self-deluding self-justification.

He needs to go to Jesus as a broken and sinful man. He needs to grieve the harm he has done, suffer the guilt and endure the shame of it. Only in that way can he find the peace of Christ.

My advice, if I could talk to Cardinal Mahony, would be simple. I would say, Accept that you have sinned, and be quiet.


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A Few Quick Takes on Holy Father’s Resignation

Quick takes from news reports on the Holy Father’s resignation:

  • Pope Benedict XVI will revert to his old title of Cardinal Josef Ratzinger after his resignation.
  • Cardinal Josef Ratzinger will be able to participate in the conclave to elect the new pope, but Vatican sources says he will not do so.
  • The resignation announcement was a surprise, even to Vatican officials:   “The pope took us by surprise,” said Father Lombardi, who explained that many cardinals were in Rome on Monday for a ceremony at the Vatican and heard the pope’s address.
  •  Pope Benedict XVI has been pope from 2005 to 2013, a total of 8 years.
  • The last pope to resign was Gregory XII in 1415
  • The Vatican says that after his resignation, Pope Benedict will move to a monastery in the Vatican.
  • Pope Benedict turns 86 in April.
  • The pope’s 89-year-old brother, Georg Ratzinger, told a German news agency that the pope has had difficulty walking recently and has considered stepping down for months. “His age is weighing on him,” Georg Ratzinger said. “At this age my brother wants more rest.”

Sources for these facts and news stories about the Holy Father’s resignation can be found here, here, here, and here.

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