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Sunday, March 05, 2006

Milwaukee, Rome, and New York: The Axis of Episcopal Overlooking (As opposed to oversight)

Let's review:

Relative to the assignments of young, newly ordained priests this spring, a few weeks ago I evaluated the cause of Archbishop Timothy Dolan's totally passive manner regarding dissent and heterodoxy:

The answer has to be one of the following:

1) Yes, in reality His Excellency wants to support the dissent of a Cooper or the weak expectations of a Heinz.

2) No, but he doesn't really care about Milwaukee. Why rock the boat of the diocesan bureaucrats when he is simply biding his time until tha Cardinal's seat opens.

3) No, but he is in such need to be liked even by his detracters that he will sell out for a compliment.

4) No, but he has no real control over anything in his diocese.


OK so far? Enter the picture John Allen, the most recent Pallium Lecturer. Well, fortunately Allen is a journalist for whom no thought need go unpublished. In his most recent "The Word From Rome" column, Allen offers a succint evaluation of the local His Excellency.

Allen writes:

Many observers are saying that it would be no great surprise if Dolan were to end up one day in New York, where Cardinal Edward Egan will be 74 on April 2, and hence within a year of retirement age. Dolan has the sort of big, exuberant personality it takes to play on the world's largest media stage; some believe he could be another Cardinal John O'Connor in terms of both profile and impact.

Time, as always, will tell.


On the one hand, things have been so obvious, I cannot even concede to myself an "I told you so." On the other hand, Allen happenstantially hit upon a great test of His Excellecy's leadership skills: St. Francis Seminary. On this subject, Allen wrote:

"There's also a political dimension to the situation, since under Weakland St. Francis mixed seminarians, candidates for the diaconate, and aspiring lay ministers in the same academic program. (The seminary is actually called a "center for ministerial formation"). It's an approach that has never gone down well with some Catholics worried about fuzziness on priestly identity. If a restructuring plan separates the seminarians from lay students, some will therefore see it as part of a "restorationist" agenda."

With three acedemic years already under his leadership, and another year of admissions, course planning, sensitivity-training, etc., already in the offing...What exactly has His Excellency accomplished? Simple, unnuanced answer: Nothing!

Rhetorically I have to ask: If about two dozen students, six or so entrenched, not-so-post-hippie faculty, and the mere aura of a controversy, have kept the Archbishop from do anything for three years in what John Allen calls "what amounts to a mid-sized ecclesiastical market" then how in the world could he really accomplish anything in the behemoth that is the Archdiocese of New York?

Yes, Dolan is gregarious. He is a great back-slapper. But what has that really amounted to? Are even the supposedly orthodox in the Church slipping into a style over substance mode?

As was written -- time will tell.

Mike

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