Archbishop Dolan Wins 60 Minutes

Morley Safer of CBS’ 60 Minutes spent some time talking with one of my favorite Catholics, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York. Dolan is a gregarious Irishman with a smile that doesn’t quit, a magnetism that holds your attention, an eloquence that instructs without overburdening, and honesty and fidelity that inspire.

My final semester in seminary began with a 5-day silent retreat with Archbishop Dolan, then of Milwaukee, as retreat-master. I had the privilege of a few 15- minute one-on-one sessions with him. I’ve met few people as genuine and magnetic.

The main thrust of the interview was Dolan’s gift of the gab, his magnetic personality, openness, and, of course, his unwavering “conservatism.” The topics were typical: sex abuse scandal, women’s ordination, abortion and contraception, priestly celibacy, and how the Church in America reverses the trend of Catholics no longer simply calling themselves “bad Catholics,” but actually declaring that they are no longer part of the Church.

All in all a great piece but it had some real head-shaker moments. I love lines like this one from old-guard liberal Morley Safer:

But if you think that Dolan is going to push for changes in those doctrines and beliefs, think again: despite the jolly, open demeanor, he’s about as conservative as they come.

(That’s supposed to be a drawback to liking him.)

Safer pressed on, as though the “liberal” positions were obviously the right ones, and the only ones someone with Dolan’s charisma ought to tend toward.

No question that you’re conciliatory, that you like to dialogue, but underneath that you’re an old-fashioned conservative; I mean, in the sense of a right-wing conservative.

Dolan hits this one out of the park.

I would bristle at being termed “right-wing,” but if somebody means enthusiastically committed and grateful for the timeless heritage of the Church, and feeling that my best service is when I try to preserve that and pass that on in its fullness and beauty and radiance, I’m a conservative, no doubt.

The exchange shows that folks like Morley Safer and the liberals who still largely run most of the major media outlets still don’t understand the liberating power of truth, humility, and especially the comfort in knowing the timelessness of Catholic truth.

Beyond that, however, is the assumption that in the Church, there is a “right-wing” position, which presently holds sway, and a “left-wing” position that is equally valid and may eventually win out. As though eventually in conclave or synod or council, the bishops will vote to allow women’s ordination, gay marriage, or any other liberal cause celebre. Dissenters on core doctrinal matters will always be dissenters.

This next video is from the “60 Minutes Overtime” Website, so while it has some great tidbits from the interview, it’s more of a story about the story, with another reporter reporting on Morley’s report and interviewing him about his interview with Dolan.

(Click “Continue Reading” not “Read Entire Post”)

More in-depth, and very accessible, answers to doctrinal questions come through on this one, but the “meta-discussion,” in which another reporter interviews Safer is also interesting.

Says Safer about Dolan: “He is a genuinely jovial, life-embracing, people loving man. There’s no question of that.”

The reporter does pointedly refer to the “right to gay marriage.” Interesting Orwellian re-cast of the language there, no?

But Dolan’s defense of the definition of marriage and the danger of tampering with the definition is instructive. Safer offered that allowing gay marriage wouldn’t attack heterosexual marriage, and wouldn’t alter the definition that much. Dolan came back with, “Where would, then, the tampering stop? I love my mom. But I don’t have the right to to marry her. Okay? So there are certain rights and attractions in life that are very beautiful, and very noble, but don’t entitle you to marriage.”

The rest went to women’s ordination, priestly celibacy, the Church being ever young while operating in every age.

The end was about his “salesmanship.” I appreciate what they mean by “salesmanship,” but it seems like such a tawdry term to use for evangelization.

The interview was what I expected from Dolan, and from Safer. Old-guard liberals expect those who adhere to Church teachings to be aloof, temperamental, irritated, and unapproachable, annoyed that someone would challenge their authority.

Dolan is just about the opposite of those things. Dolan, and a number of the other new-guard American bishops, are accessible, articulate, eager teachers, who recognize the great liberty that comes with preaching Christ, and him crucified, in and through the teachings of the Church, with a smile. They recognize that Christ is the worker of the work, they are the vessel. They recognize that the message is all important, not their personal advancement. They recognize that if they do their level best to cling to Christ, He will accomplish great things through them. And these realizations bring great liberty and joy.

60 MinutesIn spite of his central role in setting right what has been damaged by the sex abuse crisis, and in spite of having the responsibility of the Archdiocese of New York and the presidency of the USCCB, he remains one of the most light-spirited, gregarious, accessible, inspiring people you will ever meet.

Chesterton said, “Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.” Dolan has been described as “cherubic,” which referred more to his build and red cheeks, but…



  • Kelly Thatcher

    Hey, I just saw the rerun and was about to blog about it but came upon your EXCELLENT post instead…and just linked to it. :-) Thanks, Tom!

  • Diane Elizabeth

    In light of the NEW priestly accusations all I have to say is:


    Popular speaker and author Fr. John Corapi has been placed on administrative leave by superiors within his religious order following recent allegations of misconduct.

    The letter claimed that the priest took part in sexual encounters with several adult women and engaged in habitual drug use.

    Read more:

    • Tom Crowe

      Actually, Diane, it’s working out rather well. Has for 2,000 years thus far, and given that the percentage of men throughout the entire population who actually abuse children is much higher than the percentage of priests who have even been credibly accused (but not necessarily proven), I’d say we’re still doing a good job of getting the better part of the lot of men. And given the great, great strides in reforming the seminaries of the last 20 years, the future looks brighter than ever. I hope you will join us in the great glory of God’s much assaulted, much betrayed, much maligned (because Christ was assaulted, betrayed, and maligned) Church. ———— The Father Corapi allegations are troublesome, just as all scandalous situations are, and they warrant greater prayer on all of our parts. But they prove nothing about the rightness or wrongness of an all-male priesthood. Blessings!

    • Bruce

      Dear “Di”, over 80% of the sex abuse in the Church was done by homosexuals, who are not allowed to become priests any longer. Second, Christ only ordained men, so there are no other options. Third, denominations which “ordain” women are failing all across the world…their pews emptying more rapidly than you can say “heresy.” Finally, you’re little attempt here was rather pathetic, you really need to try harder to insult Catholics, because we all know we are miserable sinners, so pointing that out is nothing new. What is new, though, is the fact that you just realized what a hypocrite you are for the first time in your life. You’re welcome! :)

    • Bruce

      Oh, I’ll also add that accusations are not the same as actuality. And secondly, more public school teachers have been found “actually” guilty of sexual crime than all priests in the last 50 years combined. How is that working out for you?

      • Janice

        The difference Bruce is that the school Suspends them, they are fired and then they typically get jail time if convicted in a court of law. the principle don’t cover it up for YEARS and then send the pedophile off to another school to abuse more children! And once again BRuce…….80% of the abuse was NOT done by homosexual priests…..research some reputable non biased non catholic based studies and you will se that you r wrong. Although I will point out that I’ve shown you this before so now I will go a further and say that you lie Bruce…….it’s simply you knowing that you are not telling the truth…..Lies.

        • Tom Crowe

          Dear Janice– If you think Archbishop Dolan is “awesome,” I encourage you to continue looking to him for guidance on this issue. He is emblematic of the Church’s response to the earlier failures of a good number of bishops. Many horrendous things were done, but that ought not tarnish the good and faithful service done by 98% of the priests who never even had charges leveled against them.

  • Gail F

    I cheered when he said the bit about not being right-wing, but being Catholic! Mr. Safer just did not seem to get the “news flash: Catholics are still Catholics” angle that he ought to have. He kept saying things like, “But many Catholics feel that this or that should happen,” which of course is true — but what the Catholic Church teaches is not dependent on how “many” Catholics feel about it. THAT is a sound bite that many liberal journalists should put in their stories.



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