Timothy Cardinal Dolan, who of course is both the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and cardinal archbishop of New York, was the subject of a New York Times piece Thursday, and of much hysterical commentary in its wake. The short version of the story is that, as archbishop of Milwaukee, he approved the quickest and most effective way to get priests accused of misconduct to leave the priesthood.
Support was offered to priests who voluntarily relinquished their priestly ministry — laicized — as an incentive for them to do so. This was the most efficient way to get them out of ministry. The alternative would have been lengthly canonical trials — which would have taken more of a toll on the victims, as they would have been examined by canon lawyers over the course of the proceedings, the costs much higher than the price tag of expeditious removal.
There is no news here. In fact, the Laurie Goodstein piece even betrays that early on: Then-bishop Dolan commented on this in 2006, reacting to the insinuation that he was rewarding priests who had been accused of misconduct. Critics are now calling him a “liar” for saying that the charge that he had given “payoffs” to accused priests was false. Most reasonable readers understand that he was reacting to a pejorative characterization of what he deemed to be a responsible stewardship decision.
The archdiocese of Milwaukee has filed for bankruptcy, and the New York Times — perhaps following the lead of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), which I most recently encountered at a Feminist Majority reelection-mobilization rally for Obama — is on a witch hunt to discredit Dolan by insisting that an old story is a new one, as it fishes through public-domain documents associated with the bankruptcy filing.
The real news about the NYT piece is this: Cardinal Dolan is an effective alternative voice to the forces of secularism currently occupying the White House and so much of our media and culture. He is a compelling leader of the opposition — not of a political movement, but something much deeper and broader — speaking to the desires of a generation ripe for something better.