Cardinal Timothy Dolan with Malachy McAllister.
By Ray O’Hanlon
New York Archbishop, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, has come in for considerable criticism over a recent conference call he and other leading Catholic prelates had with President Trump.
Much of the criticism has come from within the church itself.
But the cardinal, whose political leanings are generally seen as being conservative, is being defended by New York attorney Brian O’Dwyer, whose political leanings are very much to the contrary.
An example of the criticism directed at Cardinal Dolan came in a letter published in the St. Louis Post Dispatch newspaper on behalf of a number of priests based in next door southern Illinois. The priests argued that Dolan had allowed himself to be “played by Trump.”
Cardinal Dolan is a native of St. Louis.
Trump had made a pitch during the call for Catholic votes in November.
On his website, and in a May 5 posting referring to his podcast,Cardinal Dolan stated: “I talked about my recent call with my brother bishops and President Trump. We discussed the needs and challenges of our Catholic schools. I am grateful for his (Trump’s) support on this.”
The online Catholic publication CRUX, reported that President Trump had, during the call, dubbed himself the “best [president] in the history of the Church” and said that the issues at stake in the upcoming presidential election have “never been more important for the Church.”
Added the report: "Following the call, some Catholics criticized Church leaders for not challenging the president on immigration and rising white nationalism and for using what was meant to be a working call with Catholic leaders for campaign purposes. In particular, Dolan has been singled out for his praise of the president, both during the call and in a subsequent appearance on Fox News.”
A commentary in America Magazine, the nation’s main Jesuit publication, reported on the conference call thus: “On Saturday, April 25, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, was one of the principal voices on a conference call between President Trump and hundreds of Catholic leaders, appealing for financial support for Catholic schools; audio of that call leaked and was reported shortly after it concluded.
“Cardinal Dolan then gave a special welcome to the president during the live stream of last Sunday’s Mass from St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which Mr. Trump said he planned to watch. The next morning, the cardinal made an appearance on 'Fox & Friends' in which he praised the president for his sensitivity 'to the feelings of the religious community.'
“These interviews highlighted a pastoral failure to recognize the actual pain and fear that many Catholics are suffering.
“Many Catholics were outraged, some because they oppose any support given to Mr. Trump under any circumstances, but many more because the bishops did not challenge the president or voice reservations about his policies. Their response - their grief and frustration and anger at what they see as the misuse of the faith they love - was entirely foreseeable.
“That the bishops did not take into account the predictable response of many in their flock represents a pastoral failure, the effects of which may outlast any good done in securing federal support for Catholic schools on the conference call.”
Being archbishop of New York is, arguably, one of the most high profile demanding jobs in the Catholic Church.
Politics is never far outside the doors of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and avoiding political entanglement is something that every archbishop has to concern himself with.
Doing so is not always possible, says Brian O’Dwyer, who marched past those imposing from doors as Grand Marshal of the 2019 New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
"I completely disagree with the criticism of Cardinal Dolan,” O’Dwyer, who is the current flag bearer for a family with a standout Democratic Party lineage, said.
“In recent days both Governor Andrew Cuomo and Governor Phil Murphy met with Donald Trump to plead their cases for their respective states,” said O’Dwyer.
“The unfortunate reality is that Donald Trump is the president of the United States and it’s the cardinal’s duty to deal with him on behalf of his flock.
“He has been a consistent advocate for the Irish community and in particular our immigrants. I credit him with reversing Malachy McAllister's deportation, and I applaud him for his consistent and courageous stands on behalf of all immigrants. All of us should be thank for his advocacy on our behalf.”
As it happens, Cardinal Dolan’s intercession will be required again in the coming days as McAllister’s six month reprieve from deportation will run out of time at the end of May.
That could well mean the cardinal once again getting on the phone with President Trump as he did, along with GOP congressman Peter King, last November.