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New York’s New Archbishop

KIM LAWTON, guest anchor: After weeks of speculation, the Vatican announced a new leader for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York. Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy Dolan will succeed Cardinal Edward Egan, who is retiring after nearly nine years in the position. Dolan is known for upholding church doctrine with warmth and wit. In 2003, he told me the bishops’ commitment to fighting clergy sex abuse will never fade.

Archbishop TIMOTHY DOLAN: We never, never, Kim, want to go through what we’ve had to do. We just can’t do it. We can’t do it personally. I think we bishops will collapse if we ever have to go through this again. And we can’t, we just can’t, in justice, put our people through that again. So I don’t think there’s a danger of us forgetting.

David Gibson

LAWTON: Joining me with more about Dolan’s appointment is author and longtime religion reporter David Gibson. David, New York is not the largest archdiocese in the church—that’s Los Angeles—but it’s historically been considered one of the most important. What are the implications of Timothy Dolan stepping into this position?

DAVID GIBSON (Author and Journalist): Well Kim, I think you have really a media-friendly bishop stepping into the media capital of the world, frankly. So it’s really an important step both for New York, for New York Catholics, 2.5 million—one of the largest dioceses certainly in the country, still—but also for the national church. You get a really high-visible guy like Timothy Dolan out there who can present the faith but also engage the culture. So I think it’s really in a sense a beginning of a new era for New York and perhaps for the church in the United States, while at the same time he’s something of a throwback to the older Cardinal O’Connor-type Irish archbishops of New York.

LAWTON: Well, how is he different from Cardinal Egan, just personality-wise? And how may that have an impact, then, on some of these issues?

Mr. GIBSON: Well, in a sense he’s, you know, just most obviously he’s more outgoing. He’s just more a “man of the people,” you might say. He enjoys what he calls hanging out with the meat-and-potatoes Catholics. He’s very funny. You know, I think he’s good management-wise. You know, he knows how to take care of the purse strings. Cardinal Egan was very good with the finances, but he’s much more of a behind-the-scenes type of guy. He just didn’t have that personality that Archbishop Dolan and, before Egan, Cardinal John O’Connor had. So there’s just that real contrast, and I think everybody is looking, both left and right, it’s not a conservative-liberal thing for once in the church, but everybody is looking for a more high-profile archbishop who would be really more of a pastor out there in the parishes and in the pews.

LAWTON: What are some of the challenges that he’s going to face as he steps in here?

Mr. GIBSON: Well, really for all the good will and legitimate good feeling that surrounded this past week of his introduction, you know, in many respects New York is something of a kind of a Rust Belt of Catholicism. He’s probably going to have to close more parishes, more parish schools. You know, donations to the church, as the tax base in New York, is very dependent on Wall Street. There’s going to be real financial issues that he’s going to be facing as well as the practice of the faith — 2.5 million Catholics, but they’re not going to church as much, not baptizing their kids as much, not getting married in church as much. That, as he said at the news conference, that’s the kind of thing that keeps bishops like him awake at night, not the money.

LAWTON: And very briefly, David, what do you expect to have—what kind of relationship do you expect him to have with the Obama Administration?

Mr. GIBSON: I think it’ll be much more engaged. He’s put that out there. I mean, it’s very interesting that, you know, Pope Benedict XVI appointed somebody like Dolan, who is orthodox and will preach church teaching, but is very committed to engaging rather than to making a, you know, drawing a battle line at the communion rail like some other bishops would do.

LAWTON: All right. David Gibson, thank you very much.