- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 15, 2009

NEW YORK (AP) - New York Archbishop-designate Timothy Dolan said he will use the prominence of his new job to challenge gay marriage legislation in New York, an effort that has gained momentum thanks in part to Gov. David Paterson.

Hours before his installation Wednesday, Dolan said he will work with the state’s other Roman Catholic bishops to defeat legislation that would legalize same-sex marriage. Paterson, who is expected to attend Dolan’s installation Mass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, is set to introduce a gay marriage bill Thursday.

“You’ll find I don’t shy away from those things. I wouldn’t sidestep them,” said Dolan, in a news conference. “You could expect me to articulate that with all the clarity … I can muster.”

Dolan, 59, the former Milwaukee archbishop, is known for defending Catholic orthodoxy with a friendly face. His warmth and wit were on display in the cathedral Tuesday night at the first of his two installation services.

He threw his arms around cheering priests and friends, thanked his mother repeatedly for her support, blew kisses to well-wishers and joked that the throne-like archbishop’s chair on the altar was “quite comfortable” when he sat in it for the first time during the ceremony.

At the news conference Wednesday, Dolan said he wanted to show the great happiness that can be found in serving and belonging to the church. He lamented the popularity of do-it-yourself spirituality in the United States, saying people “want to believe without belonging.”

“We’ve got to get the impression across that to commit oneself totally, exclusively in an undistracted way … is one of the most freeing, liberating, joyful styles of life you can lead,” he said.

Dolan noted that studies have found that priests are overwhelmingly happy with their work, despite a widespread impression that they’re demoralized by the clergy sex abuse crisis and overwork. The number of U.S. priests has been shrinking steadily for decades.

“Joy is contagious _ is it ever,” Dolan said. “When parents see priests who are happy, who are free, who are focused who have a life of meaning … that’s going to work. That’s going to click _ I’m hoping.”

The Archdiocese of New York is the nation’s second-largest diocese after Los Angeles, yet it is the most prominent seat in American Catholicism.

Dolan’s predecessors include Cardinal Francis Spellman, who was so influential that his residence was dubbed “the powerhouse.” Cardinal John O’Connor was the most forceful Catholic voice in the national debates of his era, especially on abortion.

Dolan succeeds New York Cardinal Edward Egan, 77, who is retiring after nine years.

The archdiocese covers a region with 2.5 million parishioners in about 400 churches and an annual budget estimated to be at least half a billion dollars.

Its vast Catholic service network includes 10 colleges and universities, hundreds of schools and aid agencies, and nine hospitals that treat about a million people annually.

Dolan faces challenges identical to those for bishops nationwide: strengthening the finances of Catholic schools and parishes as Catholics move from urban areas to the suburbs, boosting the low rate of Mass attendance, and serving a growing number of Latinos and other immigrants.

Dolan said the American church has always been a shelter for newcomers. But he said Catholicism has become a “settled, accepted religion.”

He said he wanted to revive “a sense of energetic solicitude for the Catholic people.”

Dolan is a St. Louis native and the oldest of five children. He holds a doctorate from The Catholic University of America and is former rector of the North American College in Rome, considered the West Point for U.S. priests.

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On the Net:

Archdiocese of New York: https://www.ny-archdiocese.org/

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