Thursday, January 26, 2012

On Gotham's Feast, Scarlet Timbits

It might be another 23 days 'til the Scarlet Bowl -- that is, B16's induction of 22 new members into his "Senate" -- but given today's onomastico of the archbishop of New York, it seems fitting to mark St Timothy's Day by debuting the elevated arms of the soon-to-be Cardinal Dolan.

On his impending reception of the red hat, the Tenth Archbishop of the place the Vatican views as the "Capital of the World" will become the eighth occupant of St Patrick's Cathedral to join the Sacred College in the footsteps of John McCloskey -- the first cardinal created across the Atlantic -- who received his biretta in Fifth Avenue's Downtown predecessor in 1875.

For purposes of context, Canada's first ecclesial "prince," Archbishop Elzear-Alexandre de Taschereau of Quebec, was elevated in 1886, and Latin America's founding cardinal, Rio de Janiero's Joaquim Arcoverde de Albuquerque Cavalcanti, got his galero in 1905.

Speaking of history, the Stateside church reaches a very significant milestone at next month's Consistory -- come the elevation of Dolan and Cardinal-designate Edwin O'Brien of Baltimore, the Bronx and the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, the number of all-time cardinals from these shores will stand at 51.

Given O'Brien's precedence on Benedict's biglietto of nominees -- which puts him in line to receive his red hat first -- he technically enjoys the distinction of becoming the 50th American cardinal. There is, however, a quintessentially Roman flip-side: as the successor of Foley is likely to be made a cardinal-deacon by virtue of his Vatican post, as a residential archbishop, Dolan will enjoy the higher rank of a cardinal-priest... at least, for the next decade.

While each member of the College carries equal responsibilities and privileges, cardinal-deacons may seek to enter the presbyteral class after ten years. From the US, Cardinals Avery Dulles, William Levada, "His Foleyness," Raymond Burke and Francis Stafford were likewise elevated into the diaconal rank over recent years; the latter was bumped up in 2008 after passing the 10th anniversary of his elevation.

As if the USCCB president didn't already have enough to celebrate these days, Dolan turns 62 on February 6th. The cardinal-designate is currently in the Holy Land on a pre-elevation retreat with a group of New York priests.

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To weightier matters, the leitmotif of Dolan's Red Dawn has found itself colored by an unexpected thread in the wake of last Friday's Obama administration move to mandate coverage of contraceptives in benefit plans over the religious-freedom objections of a broad spectrum of Catholic leadership, joined by that of other faith-based groups.

Of course, the Gotham prelate quickly took the lead in voicing a reaction he later described as "terribly let down, disappointed and disturbed." Asked earlier this week by a Big Apple TV outlet whether the move had roiled the already-turbulent waters between the bishops and the White House, as perhaps only he could, Dolan shot back that "You bet we got a disagreement."

The question came in the context of a Tuesday night lecture sponsored by Fordham University's Law School, its planned venue swapped for a hall at Lincoln Center in light of a heavier than anticipated crowd.

Given his pre-consistory schedule, the cardinal-designate's talk on "Law and the Gospel of Life" is likely to be the lone major speech of Dolan's transition into the College. Along those lines -- and especially given the heightened interest thanks to both the red hat and conscience battle -- you'd think that a high-profile Northeastern Jesuit university would have the resources and gumption to somehow share the event with a wider audience in ways beyond a bare-bones press release.

Yet as, for whatever reason, a touch of savvy seems to have eluded the Rose Hill mix, here's Dolan's prepared text:

Along the way, before heading to Washington for Monday's March for Life, the cardinal-designate tied a pressing state of poverty into the pro-life equation, launching a diocesan-wide food drive during his Sunday Mass at St Patrick's.

“I just challenge everybody: Put another chair at your table and feed somebody who’s hungry,” Dolan said.

In an earlier aside, though, noting the food baskets that had been brought up during his cathedral liturgy, the cardinal-to-be couldn't help but remark that "I’ve been distracted by that can of chili all during Mass."