Cleansing Fire

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By the Book on Cardinal Dolan

November 22nd, 2012, Promulgated by Diane Harris

In Spring 2012 I bought two books by brothers about their famous siblings.  One is “My Brother, the Pope,” by Fr. Georg Ratzinger.  The second, which I read first, is the rather bulky title: “Life Lessons from my Life with my Brother, Timothy Cardinal Dolan,” by Bob Dolan.  By way of disclaimer, I should say that I haven’t read the Ratzinger book yet, so what I will say about the Dolan book is NOT by way of comparison.  

I had read about two-thirds of the Dolan book early in the summer, before I became totally disgusted with it, and put it aside.  Then the concerns broke about Cardinal Dolan’s invitation to Pres. Obama to take the podium at the Al Smith Dinner, and yet a new light was cast on the Dolan book.  I finished the book and still paused about whether or not to say anything, whether or not to document my disappointment and open the subject for discussion.  I know I’m not alone, although clearly in the minority.  On Amazon 12 of the 14 reviewers give the Dolan book “5 stars.”  I found that out after I’d read it.  But 1 reviewer gave it  a “one star” and one gave it a “two star.”  At this writing there are no three or four star ratings.  I will excerpt from those two writers what exactly reflects my own conclusions, as sometimes it is easier to use the words of others.

The “two-star” reviewer wrote:  “…By the second chapter, I was already terribly disappointed. At first I thought Bob was just a very inexperienced writer…  Bob sounded both petty and insecure as he emphasized, in almost every situation, his brothers love of alcohol and/or a good cigar. He often times made it more of the focus than whatever the topic of that particular chapter was. … he spent a considerable amount of time promoting himself … a shameless attempt at self promotion. Bob comes across as insincere and appears to be trapped in a love/hate type of regard for his brother’s success. From my perspective, Bob fell short in sharing any meaningful “Life Lessons” …. I finished the book but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.”

The “one-star” reviewer wrote:   “I’m so sorry. I really wanted to like this book.  But I’m afraid Bob Dolan didn’t do his brother any favors by writing it. Cardinal Dolan comes across as a really likable guy to spend a Saturday afternoon with, but not someone who is capable of leading the Church in a wider field than New York.  I hope he isn’t really the way his brother portrayed him. … we need something more than a guy who likes his whiskey and a good laugh.  And I have to say, the conversations Bob Dolan says he has with his brother about the faith are stilted and fake sounding. … Bob, please tell me that you made most of this up. In any case, your brother deserved better, or better yet, nothing at all.”

I agree with both these reviewers, and one can read the rest of their posts on the Amazon website (PS here — I’m trying to transition away from Amazon due to their founder/President giving $2.5 million to support so-called “gay marriage” on the Washington state ballot.) 

But there is more both reviewers left unsaid, or to be re-said.  I was very put off by the alcohol preoccupation.  If I could stomach re-reading I would have to count up the numerous references to alcohol, and the prominence in many of the pictures of drinks — whether it is Cardinal Dolan sitting with his mother with a dozen glasses in front of them, or Cardinal Dolan praying with a drink obviously on the table right beside him (and two strategic buttons unbuttoned in picture below.)  I was struck by how easily the pictures could have been cropped, unless that was part of the purpose — is it supposed to imply an alcohol problem?  (Don’t judge too quickly until you’ve read the book.)  And there’s the button issue again, in the last picture, from the Conclave.

Bob Dolan makes two prominent cases of his being bullied at the young Tim Dolan’s hands, one over a frightening ‘in the dark’ intrusion and one over wilting sarcasm as the younger Bob loses his childhood savings in a poker game.  Why even tell these tales unless there is some other agenda? 

The cover picture on the book evokes a “Tim laughing at Bob” discomfort as well.  It is a disturbing picture, to me, especially having read the book.  And what is the unshaven implication of disrespect in the pictures of Bob Dolan at the celebration after the ceremony elevating Abp. Dolan to Cardinal?  By the end of the book, I found myself simply asking “WHY?”  Why did brother Bob write this at all, and the “love/hate” of one reviewer seemed too credible.

But I think the worst damage Bob Dolan did was not so much in dwelling on irrelevant past episodes, or even stilted, pompous and unlikely dialogue of the present, but rather in entertaining and speculating on the likelihood of Cardinal Dolan’s becoming Pope.  Even the most rudimentary understanding of how things work in Rome would imply that the very speculation can well keep something from happening, and that becomes a real consideration.   Brother Bob knows full well he should not be speculating on such possibilities.  He also has a knack for alienating his brother’s peers.  Imagine!   He called the Consistory which elevated 22 men to Cardinals  “Tim’s consistory” and wrote:  “We apparently believed the other 21 men who would also receive the biretta were merely Tim’s opening act.”  Brother Bob also quotes other churchmen as lavishing extreme praise on Cardinal Dolan, but it is strange how none of those sources have names.  Are they real or are they and their quotes made up?  Yet, brother Bob is supposedly a news reporter, a “media professional” and he doesn’t quote sources?  Why not?  He cites “a visiting bishop” as saying  “I think [the Pope] is gently dropping a hint that, at least in his opinion, this man [Cardinal Dolan] is worth considering as his successor.”  This is not only highly inappropriate as “Vatican behavior” but it raises implications of Pope Benedict’s death, highly disrespectful.  Might it not be possible — if he really was given so many accolades of his brother with papal speculation — that it was Cardinal Dolan’s family that was under inspection and, if Bob Dolan’s writing is the result, the family likely failed the test.  What test?  Of  loyalty, of humility, of circumspection, of deportment, of judgment, of trust.  Thanks, Bob.

The author goes on to speculate that much as they’d hate to see less of the Cardinal, “if we considered what may be best for the worldwide Church, …he’d be an excellent choice.”  Now, can we believe any well-adjusted, politically sensitive sibling would write that, and the following regarding the consideration of Cardinal Dolan for Pope:  “I still believe the odds are against it but I’ve been persuaded to believe he will be considered and will probably receive a good number of votes from his brother cardinals.  Which brings me to the next conclave, whenever it is.  I’m on record that my wife and I will be in Rome watching for the white smoke….if my brother walked out on that balcony… I will still fall to the ground; but …not out of shock but because of joy and gratitude.” 

When the news broke about what many Catholics see as poor judgment on the part of Cardinal Dolan in inviting Pres. Obama to the podium of the Al Smith dinner, I began a post that I never completed, called “Has the red hat gone to his head?”  Now, perhaps, it would be fairer to say “Has the red hat gone to his brother’s head?”  Nevertheless, the threads laid out by brother Bob — bullying, alcohol, flippancy, arrogance, open all kinds of questions about seeking status, influence and political clout.  Cardinal Dolan ignored the urging of so many of his flock not to do what he did, that it is now fair to ask how many of the Catholic votes that went for Obama weighed as part of their decision making the photo ops and Catholic stage which Cardinal Dolan provided?  And, when Cardinal Dolan witnessed the liturgical prancing of half-dressed babes in the DoR Cathedral, as he did, or spoke from the pulpit during Mass ranking Bishop Clark behind a “garbage plate” as his idea of a joke, will he have the stomach or the clout or sensitivity to do what is needed in the Church today, let alone to see through the battle now engaged by the USCCB under his leadership?  I certainly hope so, but Brother Bob’s book has introduced an element of skepticism and deep concern. 

 

March 12, 2013:  Update from the Conclave with the Dolan Brothers:

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19 Responses to “By the Book on Cardinal Dolan”

  1. avatar annonymouse says:

    I think the odds of an American Pope are about the same as the odds that a Rochester Diocesan priest will be named the next Bishop of Rochester – not too much more than zero.

    And in the unlikely event that were to happen, I doubt +Dolan would be the guy. He doesn’t appear (to me at least) to be an unusually holy or humble man, both of which are prerequisites. And his health is a concern – he is carrying at least 50 pounds too many and is face is redder than his hat.

  2. avatar Barnyard says:

    I do not know if anyone has said this as yet, but I think Cardinal Dolan should be thanked for helping obama to get another 4 years. It is just what this country needed. Another 4 years of the man who never met a baby he did not want to murder. Yes, murder. It is not abortion, it is the murder of an innocent child. If Cardinal Dolan had the intestinal fortitude to follow the teachings of the Catholic Church, he would have uninvited obama. How can you have dinner with somebody that you have filed a lawsuit against? The only hope our country has is if the house of representatives has enough ‘guts’ to impeach someone who is not qualified to be president and has already committed many acts which have violated the oath that he took when he was sworn in. This does not even take into account the countless lies that he has told to the American people. The murder of 4 Americans in the middle east is not a ‘small bump in the road’ as he has called it.

  3. avatar raymondfrice says:

    “Cardinal Dolan praying with a drink obviously on the table right beside him (and two strategic buttons unbuttoned, see picture below).”

    He’s Irish!! And, given the problems we have encountered with some of our bishops in the USA, I am delighted to see that he might “go” standing up!!!

  4. avatar SALLYANNE says:

    You people are too harsh, in my sinful opinion…I haven’t read the book written by Cardinal Dolan’s brother, so possibly I’m just spewing garbage, but still, even post Bishop Matthew Clark hatred, the spin is still the same: “I am God’s messenger, and I do not change.” It’s always citicism. Tell me, on what pedastal do you stand, fellow Christian? Doesn’t it ever feel “good” to know that Cardinal Dolan grew up just like we did? Possibly, those who prevail in this blog were raised so dysfunctionally that they cannot fathom weakness or sin? Come on!!

  5. avatar SALLYANNE says:

    excuse me, pedestal..

  6. avatar Scott W. says:

    Seems like all this ire is misplaced. How is it this blog’s fault that Bob’s book is lousy?

  7. avatar raymondfrice says:

    Unfortunately, anyone who is famous can get a biography written about them. Most are poorly written and are quickly written to get on the publicity band wagon as a “wanabe” The book is probably junk but who cares. So what if Bob has to use his unresolved sibling rivalry by writing (?)(by a ghost?) to resolve his psych issues. I am personally tired of these tell all books which only serve to destroy trees.

  8. avatar SALLYANNE says:

    Anonymouse said:

    event that were to happen, I doubt +Dolan would be the guy. He doesn’t appear (to me at least) to be an unusually holy or humble man, both of which are prerequisites. And his health is a concern – he is carrying at least 50 pounds too many and is face is redder than his hat.

    My apology…after reading your post again, what you say makes sense and does not indicate that you are judging him. When I read, “he is carrying at least 50 pounds too many and his face is redder than his hat, I thought you were making a jab about his alcoholism..(red face and red nose) and even if you were, you have that right.

    raymondfrice says:

    November 23, 2012 at 11:48 PM

    “Cardinal Dolan praying with a drink obviously on the table right beside him (and two strategic buttons unbuttoned, see picture below).”

    He’s Irish!! And, given the problems we have encountered with some of our bishops in the USA, I am delighted to see that he might “go” standing up!!

    RaymondFrice, I took this as sarcasm, however, you too, have a right to be sarcastic. I I need to get over my past belief system which catagorizes “Holy People” as always good and wanting to spread love and acceptance, like Jesus does.

    Barnyard says:

    Unfortunately, anyone who is famous can get a biography written about them. Most are poorly written and are quickly written to get on the publicity band wagon as a “wanabe” The book is probably junk but who cares. So what if Bob has to use his unresolved sibling rivalry by writing (?)(by a ghost?) to resolve his psych issues. I am personally tired of these tell all books which only serve to destroy trees.

  9. avatar SALLYANNE says:

    Barnyard, sorry, I didn’t mean for yours to be included in my post…

  10. avatar raymondfrice says:

    I think we have trashed the subject so let’s end it!!

  11. avatar Abaccio says:

    The good Cardinal has a great many people who would love nothing more than to canonize him here and now. He also has a good many who think he is Screwtape. As always, the truth is somewhere in the middle. Personally, I think that he would solve some things both as a person and as a prelate if he began to regularly offer Mass in the Extraordinary Form…it carries with it a necessary humility, recollection, and sense of the sacred which, I suggest, is what most of our Bishops are sorely lacking in these days.

  12. avatar Hopefull says:

    Does anyone know if our Apostolic Administrator ever offers Mass in the extraordinary form? That would be incredible!

    BTW, for those interested in attending Mass with Bishop Cunningham, I understand he will be celebrating at Sacred Heart Cathedral on Christmas morning (Emeritus Bishop Clark I think is doing the Midnight Mass.)

  13. avatar snowshoes says:

    Thank you Diane, great analysis, as always. I have no right to comment since I haven’t read the book, but since the cliff notes are so good… Being a guy, along with the good Cardinal being Irish, permit me to observe that the whiskey and cigars are code for normal. Don’t know if our CTA buddies are into whiskey and cigars, but if so, they keep it a secret. What with the more and more formalized testing going on in Middle Schools and grammar schools among the boys as to who is normal and who isn’t, this is an important item of info, especially in this liberal country, where the last acceptable bigotry is anti-Catholicism. Those liberal folks have not-so-nice epithets for the Catholic clergy. So, whatever else the brother might mean, the most obvious cultural meaning is that the good Cardinal is hetero. That might seem too obvious, but it’s the question of the century in the minds of most Americans about all the Catholic clergy. God bless.

  14. avatar raymondfrice says:

    Of course there may be rampant gay people in the clergy but there also can be rampant hetero’s in the clergy. Both have their liabilities.

    “Cody was appointed Archbishop of Chicago, on June 16, 1965 and installed August 24, 1965. He was elevated to Cardinal on June 26, 1967. Cody’s time in Chicago was marked by strife and controversy, including federal investigations of financial improprieties and an ambiguous relationship with Mrs. Helen Dolan Wilson, who was alleged to be his mistress.[5][6] Mrs. Wilson, who “followed (Cody’s) every move about the diocese” for a period of some 25 years, was alleged to have received large sums of money diverted by Cardinal Cody, some of which purchased her a “house in Boca Raton…a luxury car, expensive clothes and furs, and holiday cash presents.”[7]

    “Despite the fact that approximately one million dollars of church funds disappeared under Cody’s tenure,[8] and the National Conference of Catholic Bishops lost more than four million dollars in a single year while Cody was treasurer of that organization, all investigations were suspended upon Cody’s death.[9]”

    Wikipedia

  15. avatar raymondfrice says:

    PS: I don’t think Helen is related to Tim.

  16. avatar militia says:

    Mr. Frice, I don’t see how being “hetero” can ever be what you call a liability. I would call it normal rather than disordered. A normal male with normal sexuality has much to give to God as a priest (and to receive from God in the call to a celibate priesthoon.) But what can a man of disordered sexuality offer to God? Not sinning? We are all called to do that. Giving up sin isn’t a gift to God, it is simply obedience.

  17. I’ve personally never been a “fan” of Cardinal Dolan. I’m not going to read the book…I will say I don’t think he’ll be Pope…nor do I think his leadership is what the USCCB needs right now.

  18. avatar Diane Harris says:

    I am reviving this post only to add one more appalling observation. The BostonCatholic’s photostream today shows a photo which appears in “First Day of the Conclave”. CREATIVE COMMONS LICENSE REF:http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/deed.en

    Little Bobby Dolan shows up again –this time at the Conclave. The original post shows his bad judgment, poor dress, and shadow he casts on his brother. Now he arrives in the company of the Cardinals in blue jeans with the excuse of lost luggage (as a seasoned traveler he must know perfectly well that the Concierge can take care of just such a problem, if asked.)

    No, it looks like Bobby WANTED to show up in such remarkable company looking just the way he did. The good news may be that at least cardinal electors are put on notice that this is just what they can expect if the NY Cardinal were elevated. The Beverly Hillbillies making themselves at home in the Vatican. Picture is inserted in the above post at the bottom. Here is the link to the picture:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/bostoncatholic/8550590051/sizes/h/in/photostream/

    This is one of the few pictures in which Cardinal O’Malley is smiling. I think I know why.


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