Catholic Church Appoints New Archbishop; Remembers Archbishop Egan’s Accomplishments as He Retires


Published: March 12, 2009

Cardinal Edward Michael Egan, present archbishop of New York, is being succeeded by Timothy Dolan, former archbishop of Milwaukee, two years after Egan submitted his resignation to the Pope. Canon laws dictate resignation upon an archbishop’s 75th birthday, and Dolan was named as Egan’s successor in February. Members of the Fordham community and others praised Egan’s accomplishments but are looking toward the future with Dolan.

According to Sarah Spangler, professor of theology at FCLC, Dolan helped to “unite the fragmented Catholic community in Milwaukee and staved off bankruptcy in the face of costly lawsuits” stemming from the clergy sexual abuse scandals of the 1990s. Dolan is known for his “unflinching support for policies concerning priestly celibacy, abortion, birth control, divorce and gay marriage,” according to TIME Magazine.

However, Dolan’s appointment has been protested by groups that advocate for victims of clergy sexual abuse, like the Survivors’ Network of  Those Abused By Priests (SNAP), which states that Dolan “continues to leave known clerical offenders working.”

TIME called the incoming Archbishop a “jovial enforcer of the Catholic Church’s conservative doctrine.” The magazine stated that many believe Dolan’s resume and vast experience in fundraising and community building should aid him as he comes into office during times of economic hardship.

In response to questions regarding Dolan’s conservative reputation, Spangler said, “It’s the Catholic Church, meaning a liberal Archbishop would be quite uncharacteristic.” She attributed the trend of conservative Archbishops in New York to the fact that the Catholic community in New York is largely comprised of conservative Irish and Puerto Rican parishioners.

Joseph Zwilling, spokesperson for the New York Archdiocese, said he does not feel that Dolan is more conservative than Egan.

“As Archbishop Dolan himself said at his introductory press conference, he and Cardinal Egan agree on the basics. I think that once Archbishop Dolan is installed on April 15, New Yorkers will come to recognize him as an outgoing, vibrant personality, and he will find the people of the Archdiocese welcoming him with open arms,” he said.x

Rev. Gilbert Martinez, C.S.P., said Dolan has a gregarious nature and cited the fact that he was once quoted as saying that he “prefers fish, fries and beer to a more stately affair.” Martinez said that he believes Dolan’s will be a “nice presence in New York” and that he hopes Dolan will “continue dialogue with priests in the ministry.”

An article that appeared in the Feb. 24 edition of the New York Times reported that outgoing Archbishop Egan was responsible for saving the Catholic Church a significant amount of money by closing schools and churches with dwindling attendance. He also revived a policy that had been suspended by his predecessor, Archbishop O’Connor, which dictated that over seven percent of collections must be given to each individual church, as opposed to being given to the Archdiocese or the Catholic Church collectively.

While in office, Egan’s priority was to encourage vocations in priesthood, and he offered masses for high school and college men interested in joining the clergy, according to Martinez described Egan as someone who was very approachable and present in the archdiocese.

Spangler said, “Egan wasn’t especially popular due to all the cuts he was forced to make, so Dolan’s amiable nature will surely be welcomed.”

“The Vatican sees New York as the capital of the world, and thus, the decision of who was to succeed Egan was a crucial and carefully made one,” Martinez said, adding that there was a significant amount of speculation about who might be Egan’s replacement.

According to Martinez, Egan’s term was extended almost two years beyond the typical retirement date “out of respect and honor for all he has done.”

Martinez said that he is certain Dolan will “continue good stewardship of the archdiocese.”