- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Vatican’s selection of Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan as the next archbishop of New York has gotten plaudits for naming a theologically astute Midwesterner with a common touch to America’s top Catholic post.

“In many ways, his appointment to New York is a no-brainer,” said the Very Rev. David O’Connell, president of Catholic University, from where Archbishop Dolan received his doctorate in 1985.

“He is a proven entity. His perspectives - theological and otherwise - fit in with what Rome expects and wants in the hierarchy. He’s proven himself to be a very good administrator of a diocesan budget; he’s done the fundraising, he relates well to people; the wealthy as well as the poor.

“He has a great love of the priesthood. That probably factored large in the decision. He has a common touch and a great sense of humor, which will fit in with the sophistication of New York.”

The appointment, which had been rumored for weeks, was made official at 6 a.m. EST by the Vatican. Archbishop Dolan sent a notice to his archdiocese early Monday explaining why he would be in New York on Monday.

“It was only recently that I was told of this appointment,” he wrote. “It´s hardly a position one applies for! I was surprised, and still am. I was not asked if I would accept the position. The papal nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, gently informed me, ‘The Holy Father has appointed you Archbishop of New York.’ ”

The new archbishop’s first public appearance in New York was at an 8 a.m. Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral where he co-celebrated with Cardinal Edward Egan, who will be 77 on April 2, two years past the official age of retirement for bishops.

Archbishop Dolan, 59, will take over the 2.5-million-member New York archdiocese on April 15, a few days after Easter.

The Rev. Steven Avella, a history professor at Marquette University in Milwaukee, predicted the archbishop “will take them by storm” in the Big Apple.

“He is Falstaff in a mitre: big, with a large girth, red-cheeked - he is about as extroverted a human being as you’ll see in this life,” he said. “He is a people person, a literal back slapper.

“New York is hungry to have someone friendly. His predecessor is more reserved, ethereal. Dolan is everyman.

“He and [civil rights activist] Al Sharpton will be arm-in-arm singing, ‘We shall be overcome.’ He and [New York Mayor Michael] Bloomberg will get along just fine. He’s got the common touch. The people here love him. He’s been very good to us.”

Bill Donohue, president of the New York-based Catholic League, called the appointee “perfect” for New York because of the archbishop’s “erudition, tenacity, affability and orthodoxy necessary for a leadership role.”

Citing a 2007 boycott against Miller Brewing Co. for its sponsorship of the Catholic-bashing Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco, Mr. Donohue said the archbishop “did not hesitate to step up to the plate” in demanding an apology from the Milwaukee-based company.

“He showed leadership from top to bottom,” Mr. Donohue said, “which is why a man of his character is a perfect fit for New York’s rough-and-tumble milieu.”

Not everyone was so enthusiastic.

Peter Isely, Midwest director for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, criticized the archbishop’s “abysmal” track record on clergy sex abuse.

“When Dolan came to Milwaukee in 2002 from St. Louis, he was widely praised as an antidote to Catholicism´s penchant for dour and humorless prelates, a wizard of media relations, the embodiment of a new, ascendant and conquering retro-Catholicism,” Mr. Isely said in a statement. “He boldly proclaimed that ‘it is sledgehammer obvious that things cannot go on with business as usual’ in handling clergy sex abuse cases.

“But like so many other bishops who mismanage the abuse issue but still manage to get promoted, Dolan left St. Louis having failed to properly supervise sex offenders, remove them all from ministry, and fully notify civil authorities.”

Father Avella defended the archbishop: “We made strides under him in terms of transparency. He revealed the names of those priests who have been credibly accused.”

A native of St. Louis, Archbishop Dolan also earned a master’s degree at Catholic University and worked for five years at the apostolic nunciature in the District. From 1992 to 1994, he headed Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis, then was appointed as rector of the North American College, a seminary in Rome that is a common posting for men on the bishop track.

In 2001, he was ordained an auxiliary bishop in St. Louis. Barely a year later, he was named the Milwaukee archbishop, succeeding Archbishop Rembert Weakland, who resigned after word leaked out of him paying $450,000 in hush money to a former male lover.

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