Predictably, secular commentators and dissenting Catholics are not happy that the Catholic bishops elected Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, their next president. The Catholic League reports, for example:
NPR is worried that Archbishop Dolan is “overtly conservative,” and Tim Rutten of theLos Angeles Times is fretting about his “confrontational approach.” Dissident Catholics are upset as well: New Ways Ministry says the vote “sends an ominous message”; Call to Action also sees his election as “ominous”; Sr. Maureen Fiedler says “we now have our very own Catholic version of the ‘Tea Party’ movement”; DignityUSA concludes that Dolan’s election means the hierarchy is “out of step” with Catholics. Similarly, the Human Rights Campaign, a gay secular group, says the vote means the hierarchy is “out of step.” Not to be outdone, the website of the Tucson Citizen accused Dolan of evincing an “arrogant” attitude in winning (it is true that he was caught smiling).“Ominous,” “sends an [ominous or ominous-sounding adjective here] message,” “out of step” — readers familiar with the stock of dissenters’ cliches will have been expecting all this. The crowd that produces such things are either worried or outraged, and they have chosen this time to be worried, probably because, as George Neumayr writes, “Dolan—though he sees himself walking in the footsteps of John O’Connor—is far from a confrontational conservative… [I]t is more accurate to say that the moderate won and the liberal lost.” So we get the deeply furrowed brows and not the raised voice and fist.
The election was, Neumayr writes, and I hope he’s right about this, a defeat for the “Bernardin Left” and the “seamless garment” crowd, and of “Bernardin’s dream of the USCCB as a Vatican-resistant body of progressive political opinions.” The idea of the “seamless garment” functioned much less as a consistent political position and more as a way of submerging the defense of life in a vague and undifferentiated liberalism, which seems to have closely allied to an equally vague and undifferentiated liberalism in theology.