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Timothy Dolan named cardinal

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 6, 2012 - St. Louis will get a new Cardinal next month but he won't be running the bases at spring training or ever at Busch Stadium.

A native St. Louisan, Timothy Michael Dolan, 61, has been named a cardinal of the Catholic Church.

This morning after his Feast of Epiphany Mass, shortly after 5 a.m. St. Louis time, Pope Benedict XVI signed on additions to the team of men who advise him. A new group of 22 bishops including the archbishops of Hong Kong, Berlin, Prague and Florence and several who hold top Vatican office will be given the red hat of cardinal, the biretta, at a religious ceremony, called a consistory on Feb. 18 and 19 at St. Peter's in Rome. That's Mardi Gras weekend, the final weekend before Lent.

Two other North Americans on the list are American Archbishop Ed O'Brien, who formerly was shepherd of all U.S. military dioceses and who in late August was named to lead the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, and Toronto Archbishop Tom Collins.

After he says his 7:30 a.m. Mass at St. Patrick Cathedral on Fifth Avenue this morning, Dolan will give a press conference, the New York Archdiocese announced. (He has issued a statement.)

At his morning Mass, Dolan told the congregation that the only Cardinal he ever wanted to be was Stan Musial. He repeated the quip on the Today Show, where Matt Lauer presented him with a baseball Cardinals banner.

Dolan's History

Of course, Dolan is listed as a New Yorker, since for nearly three years he has been the Catholic shepherd of the 2.5 million New York Catholics.

He has been an international leader for his church, recently helping investigate the sex abuse scandal in Ireland, the land of his ancestors. This fall he was one of those recommending that the Vatican dispatch not one of its European diplomats but an American, Monsignor Charles Brown, a native New Yorker, as the Vatican nuncio -- diplomat -- to Ireland. The pope himself ordained Brown an archbishop this morning before the consistory announcement. Brown will help the Irish set up new programs to protect Irish children and dismiss failed ecclesiastical leaders whose misguided loyalty to predatory priests failed to protect children.

The wide respect that other U.S. bishops have for Dolan was illustrated in November 2010 when the bishops broke with tradition and voted him in as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The nation's 250-plus Catholic bishops shelved the conference's normal progression of elevating the vice president.

The 6-foot-tall, down-to-earth Dolan is always ready with a joke or a quip and a hug. He has made big impression in his three years in New York, with New York magazine calling him the Archbishop of Charm. The national image of this gifted communicator and church historian been enhanced by being in the world communication center. The Today Show followed him to Rome last June. And 60 Minutes' Morely Safer did a long segment on him last March.

Before he was made the New York archbishop in February 2009, he was archbishop of the Milwaukee Archdiocese for seven years.

In St. Louis

Dolan was born in St. Louis. He is the eldest of Shirley Radcliffe Dolan and the late Robert Dolan's five children - three boys and two girls. When he was 4 years old, he and his family moved from Maplewood to a new house in suburban Ballwin.

Dolan, a huge Cardinals baseball fan, was very glad he was free to openly support the Cards in the World Series last October since the Yankees and Mets were not playing.

He still gets to St. Louis whenever he can. The New York archbishop has been at Busch, shopping in Richmond Heights for Thanksgiving groceries for his sister-in-law, here for birthdays and for mentors' funerals.

Dolan's one of those people who seems to have hundreds of people who call him a best friend. Among those who might be buying tickets to be in Rome Mardi Gras weekend are his mother, siblings, much-beloved nieces and nephews and large number of cousins and his Kenrick Seminary classmates, including his former college locker mate Monsignor Dennis Delaney.

And that's just the beginning of a list. In his first 25 years as a priest he served at Immacolata Parish in Richmond Heights (1976 to 1979), Cure of Ars Parish in Shrewsbury (1983 to 1985), Little Flower Parish in Richmond Heights (1985 to 1987) and Our Lady of Sorrows in south St. Louis, where he was bishop in residence in 2001-02.

He's written extensively about the priesthood as a joyful life. That's how he saw it as a boy.

One day as he was leaving Mass with his maternal grandmother, he asked her what the man in black was called. As soon as he repeated the word priest, he said that he wanted to be a priest.

"I can never remember a time I didn't want to be a priest," he told this reporter. He attended Holy Infant Grade School where his desire to emulate the parish priests grew. They and his parents encouraged the young Dolan's passion to become a priest, and he went to the old archdiocesan St. Louis Prep Seminary in Shrewsbury. His college degree came from Kenrick-Glennon College, also in that suburb.

Dolan was the only member of his college class to live at the North American College in Rome while studying theology in Italian at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas. Later, he got a Ph.D. in church history from Catholic University in Washington, D.C.

Dolan was ordained a priest for the St. Louis Archdiocese in 1976.

In 1987 he went to Washington, D.C., for a five-year stint as one of the secretaries at the Vatican's Apostolic Nunciature in Washington. He returned to St. Louis as vice-rector and spiritual director at Kenrick-Glennon College. He also taught theology at Saint Louis University.

In 1994, he moved to Rome as rector at his alma mater, the Pontifical North American College. He also taught church history at the Pontifical Gregorian University and ecumenical theology at St. Thomas University.

Dolan returned to St. Louis, and in June 2001 he was named an auxiliary bishop in St. Louis. In February 2002, after he clerical sex abuse scandal broke in Boston, Archbishop Justin F. Rigali, then of St. Louis, assigned Dolan to deal with the survivors of sexual abuse here, yank abusive priest from parishes and work up preventative measures so the St. Louis Archdiocese could better protect children.

That year Dolan often said he was making himself hoarse asking for victims to phone him. He went on television and radio asking St. Louisans to come forward with tragic stories of clerical abuse no matter how old the abuse incidents were. Two of the men he relieved of their priestly ministry over sex abuse allegations shared the Our Lady of Sorrows rectory with him that winter of 2002.

The scandal continued in the forefront of his efforts in Milwaukee, in his mission for Pope Benedict XVI to investigate the Irish sex abuse scandal and most recently in November at the U.S .Bishops Conference. In Baltimore, in closed executive sessions, Dolan led discussions of a Philadelphia grand jury report showing that that Philadelphia archdiocesan officials under two archbishops, including his former mentor Cardinal Justin F. Rigali, failed to follow the U.S. Bishops Conference's own 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Youth, newer stronger guidelines and specific canon law for removing accused priests immediately from public ministry.


Dolan's name on the February consistory list has been predicted for decades. Over the two days of ceremonies in Rome his family and old friends will celebrate while understanding that this new honor brings more responsibilities that will limit time for them in his additional work worldwide for the Catholic church.

A Catholic cardinal is among the pope's closest advisers, given more duties on Vatican Commissions and at the death of the pope becomes an elector of the next pope in the locked session in the Sistine Chapel known as a conclave. This is the fourth time that Pope Benedict has held a consistory and given out the birettas to a group of men. In theory only 120 men are supposed to be eligible to vote for pope, but three of the last four popes have added more than that number to anticipate the 80th birthday of other cardinals. On their 80th birthday, the doors to the conclave are locked to cardinals but they retain the title for life.

In 2009 Dolan replaced Cardinal Edward Egan as the New York archbishop, but the red hat does not immediately come with the post. Egan turns 80 in early April. So for a couple months New York will technically have two votes for pope, should the need arise.

By Ash Wednesday, the College of Cardinals will be 13 clerics short of the maximum 120 members under age 80 who may participate in a conclave, according to Rocco Palmo, author of the news blog Whispers in the Loggia. On grounds of age alone, another 11 seats in the electoral group will come open over the remainder of this year, with 10 more slots turning over during 2013, Palmo said.

Note: An early version of this article said Dolan was the first St. Louisan to be named a cardinal. John Cody was named a cardinal in 1967 when he was in Chicago.

Patricia Rice has long written about religion.

Patricia Rice is a freelance writer based in St. Louis who has covered religion for many years. She also writes about cultural issues, including opera.