World and Nation

A Genial Conservative for New York City’s Archdiocese

For a few deeply unpleasant days, the Rev. David Cooper found himself in the crosshairs of the Roman Catholic hierarchy.

It was 2003, and the priest had opined to a reporter that women should be ordained. Faraway bishops rumbled about censure. Then he picked up the telephone and heard the baritone of Milwaukee’s archbishop, Timothy M. Dolan. Cooper immediately offered to resign.

No, no, the archbishop replied, we just need to repair the damage. “He was very pastoral and caring,” Cooper recalled. And how was it resolved? “Oh, I agreed to recant,” he said. “He effectively silenced me.”

Dolan, whom Pope Benedict XVI named on Monday to lead the Archdiocese of New York, is a genial enforcer of Rome’s ever more conservative writ, a Falstaffian fellow who talks of his love of the Brewers baseball team and Miller beer, and who takes obvious joy in donning his bishop’s robes and pounding his bishop’s staff as he tromps into church. When talking with parishioners, he places his hand on their shoulders, sidles in close and, out of the corner of his mouth, cracks a joke.

On matters of doctrine, the archbishop, 59, adheres to the line laid down by Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict, including firm opposition to abortion, birth control, divorce, gay marriage and any crack in the wall of priestly celibacy.

In New York on Monday morning, from an 8 a.m. Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral to a midday noon conference, the archbishop put his stylistic stamp on his new archdiocese: He grinned at congregants during holy communion, joked later about transferring baseball allegiances, and hinted at his culinary preferences — “I’ve already learned how to order a hot dog from the cart outside the cathedral.”

Dolan, who will be officially installed in a ceremony on April 15, ended the day talking with seminarians at St. Joseph’s in Yonkers; New York’s priests have experienced a chilly decade with his predecessor, Cardinal Edward M. Egan.

Born in St. Louis on Feb. 6, 1950, to a middle-class family (his father was an aircraft engineer), Timothy Michael Dolan has scaled the Roman Catholic high cliffs. He earned a Ph.D. in church history and served in the stations sought out by the church’s high achievers: secretary to the papal nuncio, the pope’s envoy, in Washington; rector of the Pontifical North American College, a school for American seminarians in Rome; and auxiliary bishop of St. Louis, before being installed as archbishop of Milwaukee in 2002. He speaks fluent Italian. In Milwaukee, he proved a prodigious fundraiser, staving off the bankruptcy that seemed to beckon as the priest sexual abuse scandal, and earlier efforts at a cover-up, led to lawsuits. He closed a $3 million budget deficit last year. He has reached out to young people over beers, and recruited new seminarians — the Milwaukee archdiocese expects to ordain six men this year, as opposed to a single ordination a few years ago.

He has vigorously courted the booming exurban white Catholic churches and the Hispanic congregations of the city’s south side.