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Wisconsin monsignor named archbishop of New York

Timothy Dolan, who once gave an outdoor Mass wearing the orange 'cheese-head' hats loved by Packers fans, will take over the second-largest archdiocese in the U.S.

February 24, 2009|Erika Hayasaki

NEW YORK — A well-regarded Wisconsin monsignor known for his openness, warmth, and for cleaning up the image of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee following a sex scandal was named archbishop of New York on Monday, the most prominent post in the American Catholic Church.

Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, 59, known as a defender of church orthodoxy, will take over the second-largest archdiocese in the United States -- home to 2.5 million Catholics in nearly 400 churches -- on April 15, three days after Easter.

Dolan was welcomed in New York on Monday by outgoing Cardinal Edward Egan during a Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan. "I've known him many years," said Egan. "And I told him how delighted I am to welcome this wonderful priest and bishop."

Egan, 76, submitted his letter of retirement to the Vatican upon reaching age 75 on April 2, 2007, as required by the Roman Catholic Church. Egan, who served as New York's archbishop for nine years, will remain in New York, writing and making appearances.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday, February 25, 2009 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 63 words Type of Material: Correction
New York archbishop: An article about the appointment of Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan as archbishop of New York in Tuesday's Section A referred to him once as a monsignor. While the title is also used to refer to a specific ecclesiastic rank, in this case it was used in its more general sense, as a title of respect for priests of distinction.

"You have all made me feel at home in New York already," said Dolan during a news conference after the Mass. "I'm so honored, humbled and happy to be serving you as your pastor.

"I relish the blessing of spending the rest of my life, whatever years God grants me as your pastor, your neighbor, and please God, as your friend," he said.

"I come before you in awe, and I admit some trepidation knowing that I've got an awful lot to learn."

Dolan takes over at a crucial time, with the New York archdiocese facing dismal economic predictions amid recent church and school closings.

"We have very few candidates for the priesthood and the clergy members are aging," said Father Thomas J. Shelley, a professor of church history at Fordham University and a priest at the Archdiocese of New York. "The national problem is with Catholic schools, how to finance them in an age when the sisters and brothers are disappearing, and how to raise salaries without raising tuition so high it excludes Catholic families."

Shelley, who has known Dolan for 25 years, said that he remains the "same person then as now, gracious and outgoing. I think he will go over very well in New York. He seems uncompromising on church teachings but also conciliatory in approach to the Obama administration, and I'm sure he would take same approach to state and local officials on issues like abortion," an issue on which Dolan is an outspoken opponent.

Dolan is also known for a sense of humor. Early in his tenure in Milwaukee, home to many Green Bay Packer fans, he put on some decidedly unorthodox headgear while delivering a homily during an outdoor Mass: a bright orange "cheese-head" hat.

Joseph Zwilling, spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York, said Dolan is a man of the people who will get to know the diverse church, which includes rural, middle-class, wealthy and immigrant families. Dolan, who also speaks some Spanish, said he was excited to work with the growing Latino population in the state.

Ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of St. Louis on June 19, 1976, Dolan earned his doctorate in American Church history at The Catholic University of America in Washington in 1983.

He worked at the Vatican Embassy in Washington and later became vice rector of Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis. In 1994, he was appointed rector of the Pontifical North American College in Rome, and in 2002 took over as archbishop of Milwaukee.

Shelley, who wrote "The Bicentennial History of the Archdiocese of New York," said Dolan earned the respect of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee after taking over for former Archbishop Rembert Weakland.

Weakland had resigned on his 75th birthday after acknowledging that the archdiocese paid a $450,000 settlement to a man who said Weakland had sexually assaulted him.

Weakland admitted an "inappropriate relationship" but denied abuse. Dolan helped unite the fragmented Catholic community in Milwaukee and raised money for the church. Church leaders say he hit the streets, schools and churches to get to know the people, and they expect he will do the same in New York.

"Archbishop Dolan also has a deep love for his priesthood and for priests, and he will surely make them a high priority over the coming months and years," Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony said in a statement. "He will listen to them and reach out to them as he has done over the years in various pastoral assignments."

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erika.hayasaki@latimes.com

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