Dolan’s ‘Rock Star’ Status May Bring Attention to Major Issues

Thursday, 14 Mar 2013 10:03 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan emerged from the Papal conclave as a church “rock star” who now has more influence, thanks to becoming an unexpected contender for the papacy.

“Fame is power and with this raised public profile I think that gets him a place at the table,” Terry Golway, director of the Kean University Center for history, politics and policy in Union, N.J., told The Wall Street Journal.

Dolan received accolades in the Italian press for saying he wants Catholicism to be rebranded into a religion that appeals to a new generation of believers, and it put him in the forefront of contenders for the papacy, the paper says.

However, he faces a tough ride when he returns to the United States, the Journal predicts.

Questions about how he handled priest sex abuse scandals while Archbishop of Milwaukee and difficult decisions on closing parishes and schools in his New York archdiocese lie ahead.

The school closings require “hard decision making and prayer and reflection and not just an ebullient personality,” said Golway.

Just before leaving for Rome, Dolan was deposed for three hours in New York about the Milwaukee archdiocese's bankruptcy filing, which began two years ago. Creditors include 575 alleged victims of sexual abuse, and attorneys have filed a motion to unseal Dolan's deposition.

According to archdiocese records, Dolan approved payments of up to $20,000 to priests who were being defrocked, and moved money into a trust fund to “shelter” it from victims' claims.

Milwaukee officials defend his record there, saying he created a mediation program to offer financial compensation to victims and posted names of priests when the archdiocese found credible proof of abuse.

Dolan's new-found fame, though, may help him through his past issues. He not only rose to become a serious papal contender, but he's becoming well-known in the United States, with appearances such as one last year with comedian Stephen Colbert at Fordham University, when he and Colbert, himself a Catholic, discussed faith through comedy.

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