Archbishop Dolan's Airport Encounter

This kind of incident happens to priests more frequently than one might think.  A few months ago on a commuter train I was in my collar and I heard a woman say to her small son, "Don't get near that man."  This is from Archbishop Timothy Dolan's blog.

It was only the third time it had happened to me in my nearly thirty-five happy years as a priest, all three times over the last nine-and-a-half years.


Other priests tell me it has happened to them a lot more.

Three is enough.  Each time has left me so shaken I was near nausea.

It happened last Friday . . .

I had just arrived at the Denver Airport, there to speak at their popular annual “Living Our Catholic Faith” conference.

As I was waiting with the others for the electronic train to take me to the terminal, a man, maybe in his mid-forties, waiting as well, came closer to me.

“Are you a Catholic priest?” he kindly asked.

“Sure am.  Nice to meet you,” says I, as I offered my hand.

He ignored it.  “I was raised a Catholic,” he replied, almost always a hint of a cut to come, but I was not prepared for the razor sharpness of the stiletto, as he went on, “and now, as a father of two boys, I can’t look at you or any other priest without thinking of a sexual abuser.”

What to respond?  Yell at him?  Cuss him out?  Apologize?  Deck him?  Express understanding?  I must admit all such reactions came to mind as I staggered with shame and anger from the damage of the wound he had inflicted with those stinging words.

The rest of his story is here.

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Anne Chapman
7 years 9 months ago
Dolan wrote: ''  I must admit all such reactions came to mind as I staggered with shame and anger from the damage of the wound he had inflicted with those stinging words.''

Yet no sign that he  understands the ''shame and anger'' of those who have spent their lives trying to overcome the damage of the wounds they received by being molested, and some even raped, by priests who were protected by their bishops.

The bishop needs to work to clean up his own house before he is justified in throwing stones at others.  So far, there is no sign that the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic church is willing to do that when it comes to its own.  They seem to believe that they are above the law - the church's own laws and the laws of civil society.

It's time for them to do some serious reflection as to WHY they believe that they are to be protected from the consequences of the crimes they have committed (both morally and civilly) by facilitating child molesters.  They might begin their self-examination by reflecting on the sin of pride.

7 years 9 months ago
When the media elects to focus on the sexual abuse in the Church, it implies that the problem is something unique within the Church, something that can only be cured by dismantling or correcting something unique to the Church, e.g., papal autocracy, priestly celibacy, heirarchial authority.  

If other offending groups were given equal media coverage, the focus of the problem would be on where it should be: on those aspects that the offending institutions have in common.  And there ain't no pope, bishops, or celibacy requirements in the public school systems.[vernacular intended, so you don't need to edit my comment, Tim]

Nicely done, Archbishop Dolan.
Vince Killoran
7 years 9 months ago
The full blog entry is telling. Archbishop Dolan provides three reasons for the attention to the abuse scandal: one has to do with the media's supposed anti-Catholicism and another is laid at the feet of greedy lawyers and litigants.  Only one has to do with the actual abuse and, even then, he leaves the blame in the clerical rank-and-file (i.e., "we priests deserve the more intense scrutiny, because people trust us more as we dare claim to represent God, so, when on of us do it – even if only a tiny minority of us ever have — it is more disgusting").

The thing he leaves out-the crucial aspect of this tragedy-is the failure of the hierarchy to do the right thing and come clean.  Many bishops covered up the abuse at the time and many still do not embrace transparency.  In the end he doesn't really acknowledge the privilege and power at work in making this scandal possible. 
Dale Rodrigue
7 years 9 months ago
A teaching moment and Dolan blew it.

Maybe it hasn't sunk in yet but that is what many folks think whan they see a priest. Surely having another bishop being called a pedophile pimp would let Dolan know what people think.
Did he expect the dad to bow down and kiss his ring?

All is not well in the Church and things are not back to normal, archbishop.
Vince Killoran
7 years 9 months ago
Just one final comment: the Archbishop chose his words carefully-he  used "we" in a fairly generic sense and didn't come close to addressing the hierarchy's central role (but he equally careful to blame the media and lawyers).

Dale's right: the Archbishop "blew it" in his response.
Anne Chapman
7 years 9 months ago

Yes, abuse happens everywhere.  However, bishops do not have any inside knowledge nor authority when it comes to public schools, sports leagues, or even families.  The bishops as a group, the hierarchs in Rome up to and including the current and last pope (and probably every pope) knew that there were priests under their supervision who were abusing and raping children. They had a responsibility - moral and legal - to stop the abuse and they chose not to. They chose to protect the institution.  And because of that, they have brought on themselves and all priests widespread distrust in priests, widespread moral revulsion towards the church especially among many of its own (witness the admittedly extreme statement of the Catholic (and Republican) NH delegate who told a bishop that he is a "pimp for pedophiles."  Very harsh words, definitely not diplomatic, perhaps unfair (although this bishop was involved in the Boston cover-ups) - but frankly, the bishops and Rome brought this kind of angry venom onto their own heads.  They have had many years to do something REAL.  They haven't. They have wasted those years.

  To this day only two bishops that I am aware of (Martin in Dublin and Robinson in Sydney - but there are probably at least a few more) have honestly acknowledged the almost 100% failure of the hierarchy to do the right thing, the moral thing, the Christ-like thing.  Even if Dolan personally never knew anything at all about abuse among his own priests, he failed (as did all the others) to call his brother bishops to accountability, responsibility, humility, and true repentance. He is head of the bishops' organization - he could do it even now. But, he chooses instead to lick his own wounds because somebody said something harsh to him.  He and his fellow bishops have yet to announce even one policy that holds them accountable - and even the policies they drew up in Dallas, which impacted only lower clergy and laity, have not been implemented by some.  Yet not a single one of them has the courage to openly call their brother bishops to task.

In my area, there are too-frequent reports of abuse by a teacher, a coach, a counselor - at least a couple a year in a metro area of about 4 million.  It is well known that abusers seek positions where they will have access to children, trust of parents, and authority over the children.  Of all of these, those who claim moral and spiritual and religious authority over children have almost unequalled psychological power over them.  When I see these reports in the news, it is also reported that the teacher/coach/counselor etc has been removed from their position (with pay etc) during the police investigation.  That is what the bishops failed to do, and, judging by Philadelphia and CHicao under George, are still failing to do.

And no matter how much you and others, including Dolan, want to blame greedy lawyers, anti-Catholics, the media and everyone else under the sun EXCEPT thoe responsible and with knowledge and authority within the church, it won't work.

This church will continue to splinter, and the wounds will continue to fester until the bishops and the pope honestly repent, stop blaming others, and stop feeling so sorry for themselves.  Would that they would have at least a minimum of compassion for those who suffered because they failed to exercise proper moral judgment.
Crystal Watson
7 years 9 months ago
I also think the archbishop blew it.  He uses the "others have done it too" excuse, then he blames "enemies of the church" - the media and greedy lawyers/victims - for the church's bad reputation for abuse and dealing with abuse.  The he turns his accuser into a buddy with his wit and charisma and reasoned arguments :(  I would have thought more of him and the church if he had just said instead ... "You have good reasons to think badly of us.  I'm sorry."

david power
7 years 9 months ago
Archbishop Dolan has the habit of repeating talking points. The whole argument about the media and the rate of pedophiles is as old as the hills. This guy who approached him must have never been to a blog in his life if he was won over with such reasoning.
Pope Benedict said that "the real enemies are inside the Church" and now the Archbishop is going against those words of wisdom.By minimizing, misdirecting or even explaining away we truly lose an opportunity to do the one thing that was never done in all the last decades.Be humble and not fear the truth. If i set myself up as a moral authority and then it is discovered that I carry a picture of Hitler in my wallet and my comeback is "Have you heard of Stalin?" .....Well you can imagine.The Church needs us all to be frank and honest. The recent past ,and the reasons for all the cover-ups were the obsession with keeping up appearances.  The Church was a whitewashed sepulchre and that will only change when our chosen leaders turn away from the path that was given to them and move towards the simplicity that many of us know in good priests or parents. The reason that more mud is thrown at the catholic Church and more skeletons are left on public display is because somebody somewhere has high hopes for this whore of babylon. Archbishop Dolan can do a lot better and I reckon he is not and will not rest easy on this matter because his approach is only a shade better than the old way.      
david power
7 years 9 months ago
@David Smith,

No, I  do not think that an argument loses its validity once it is put forward.I think it shows us what page the person who proposes it is at. 

The catholic Church ,that is us, is trying to make a virtue of what everybody under normal circumstances calls a vice.
Archbishop Dolan has expressed repeated annoyance at the media but has failed to say " A lot of my co-bishops should be in jail", "Deceit?We could give the grey lady lessons on that !"He does not.
Why not?The only industry it seems where not telling the truth is considered normal practise is the religion industry.Collegiality!!!Fantastic.If a mafia boss,or a goldman sachs director or a bank manager or anybody for that matter had such an approach to how he should express himself with regards his colleagues we would all be rightly sickened.
 You can gripe all you want about the media and it is seen as going up against the savage powers for Holy Mother Church.Man of virtue!Keep mum about the vipers all around you and ditto.Man of virtue ,who practises prudence.Santo Subito either way.      
We are going to keep getting all kinds of "Saints" thrown our way because the clergy has a one-way filter system with regards comments on fellow clergy.If what you has to say is good,come on down!If not ,stay away. That is why Cardinal Sodano was not asked to comment on the cause for beatification of a certain ex-pope.He knows where the bodies are buried and we cannot be having that now.  
ed gleason
7 years 9 months ago
This is the lead A/B in the USA and he claims with his whine about lawyers and teachers he 'turned' a hostile Catholic around? now he has only  64,999.999 Catholics to 'turn' around left.    
Carolyn Disco
7 years 9 months ago
Narcissism, grandiosity and denial by bishops:
Timothy Dolan’s airport encounter: “I staggered with shame and anger from the damage of the wound he had inflicted with those stinging words.

NH’s John McCormack in a 2008 retrospective: he embraced the suffering of the church, and learned to love more. Not one mention of the pain of survivors.*
For Dolan, it’s all about him, hiswound, his anger, his shame. And for McCormack, the same; it's some priests who disillusioned him, his suffering, his wounds, his sorrow, his anguish. The sentiments are the same.
McCormack considers himself exempt from having caused alienation or a ''clouded'' view of himself as bishop. ''They'' just refuse to see the goodness in the church. It's how ''it'' (the scandal) affected others. The passive voice again, not how ''I did not tell the truth to survivors, covered up sexual abuse and criminally endangered children.'' That is the reality he denies, just as perpetrators deny and are not remorseful for their crimes.
McCormack told our group in 2004 that the scandal was the ''passion of the church'' and described himself as a ''victim.'' He also emphasized that he did nothing legally or morally wrong. . He actually disputed that any of his decisions led to a child being abused - barring one minor incident. There was no sign of understanding by McCormack of the real human suffering he caused. Such entrenched self-delusion is sad if not tragic in a bishop.
Mary Gail Frawley O’Dea, the psychologist who spoke in Dallas in 2002, has a whole chapter on clerical narcissism in her brilliant book Perversion of Power: “Instead of communicating guilt, shame or remorse” bishops portray themselves as humble bearers of a cross of unearned rebuke. “Under the circumstances, that self image depicted the narcissistic sense of moral superiority and false humility endemic to clericalism.” 


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