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Cardinals on Opposite Sides of the Hudson Reflect Two Paths of Catholicism

Cardinal Tobin is emerging as a champion of progressive, center-left Catholics, who favor a church that places more emphasis on protecting immigrants and the environment than on fighting same-sex marriage. Cardinal Dolan, who was elevated to that rank in 2012, remains a favorite of center-right Catholics, taking a more conservative approach toward doctrine and focusing more on issues like the church’s opposition to abortion.

Neither man is out of step with church tenets, and both believe in a kind of “big tent” Catholicism that reaches out to all, church experts said. As bishops, their beliefs are more alike than different.

Neither cardinal wanted to comment for an article that compared them. But comparisons are inevitable because Pope Francis placed Cardinal Tobin in the same major media market as Cardinal Dolan when he appointed him to Newark in November. There had never been a cardinal in Newark. And of course, there is the standard rivalry that exists between New York and New Jersey in all things.

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Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan blessed the crowds last year on Easter Sunday on the steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. He has promoted the conservative priorities of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict. Credit Kathy Willens/Associated Press

“I have to tell you that this beautiful cathedral is five feet longer than St. Patrick’s,” Cardinal Tobin said in May to laughter and applause at a Mass for gay Catholics at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart, comparing the building to Cardinal Dolan’s majestic church in Manhattan. “We like to be generous here in Newark.”

The two men share striking similarities, even physically. Both men are 6 feet 3 and broad, though Cardinal Tobin, a weight lifter who can hoist 425 pounds, could in theory dead-lift Cardinal Dolan. They are nearly the same age (Cardinal Tobin is 65; Cardinal Dolan, 67) and grew up in large Irish Catholic, Midwestern families as the eldest sibling (Cardinal Tobin of 13, Cardinal Dolan of five). They have self-deprecating senses of humor and warm, gregarious personalities.

Both felt the call to the priesthood early. Both had devoted fathers who died in 1977 of heart attacks. Both men idolize their fathers. And both still remain very close to their force-of-nature mothers, who are in their 90s.

Informed by their views and personalities, the two took different paths to the highest reaches of the church. Cardinal Dolan took the route of the institutional insider, becoming a diocesan priest, which does not require a vow of poverty, then earning a doctorate in church history. He served at the Vatican’s embassy to Washington, and later he became the rector of the main seminary for American priests in Rome. It was there that the genial conservative came to the attention of Pope John Paul II, who appointed him auxiliary bishop of his home diocese of St. Louis.

Cardinal Tobin, in contrast, wanted to travel the world as a missionary. He took a vow of poverty and joined the Redemptorists, the religious order that ran his home parish in Detroit and focuses on ministering to those on society’s margins. He became an administrator and ultimately superior general of his worldwide order, based in Rome. He learned several languages fluently.

Cardinal Dolan flourished as an insider. As he came up through the ranks, he promoted the conservative priorities of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict, offering a strong, countercultural voice opposing same-sex marriage, abortion and contraception.

As president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops from 2010 to 2013, Cardinal Dolan led the effort to persuade President Barack Obama to exempt religious institutions from having to provide health coverage that included birth control. He deplored same-sex marriage. “Today is a tragic day for marriage and our nation,” he said when the Supreme Court struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act in 2013.

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Catalino Guerrero, center, Cardinal Tobin, right, and Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, left. The cardinal and senator were accompanying Mr. Guerrero to his deportation hearing in March. Credit Julio Cortez/Associated Press

But he also stressed the joys of being Catholic and became a media personality with his own radio show. Church experts called him the go-to guy for Pope Benedict in the American church. In Rome on the eve of the papal conclave in 2013, Vatican insiders whispered that he could be “papabile,” or “pope material.”

But with Pope Francis’s election, the ground shifted. Archbishop Tobin, who had been exiled to Indianapolis from a Vatican post by Pope Benedict after he spoke up in support of American nuns, suddenly had more in common with the pope than Cardinal Dolan did. Francis was a Jesuit priest who favored a simple, pastoral approach. He was an outsider to the institutional church, just like Cardinal Tobin, and he knew Cardinal Tobin personally.

“Dolan did all the right things, but the rules of the game changed so quickly that he’s kind of been caught off guard,” said David Gibson, the director of Fordham University’s Center on Religion and Culture. “But for Tobin, it’s now kind of an atmosphere that he’s suited for.”

Cardinal Dolan, who sees himself as a uniter, offered a prayer at the inauguration of President Trump. He also has a powerful, socially conservative constituency in New York, one whose ample donations help keep his diocese and the Vatican running. He has shown a reluctance to alienate conservative Catholics, keeping his gestures on controversial issues like outreach to gay Catholics low-key.

He is the chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and made clear after his homily at a national vigil in January that fighting abortion was a bigger issue for him than fighting deportations.

“We want to protect all human life: the immigrant, our grandmothers who are dying, people who are starving,” he told The Atlantic. But he added: “What is the greatest danger today? When you look at the numbers of the babies whose lives are terminated in the womb, you’ll say, ‘Uh oh. There’s our priority.’”

In his work, Cardinal Tobin has emphasized public efforts to protect immigrants. He accompanied Catalino Guerrero, a 59-year-old grandfather, to his deportation hearing in Newark in March. In 2015, he refused to close a Syrian refugee resettlement program in Indiana despite an order by Gov. Mike Pence, now the vice president.

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Cardinal Dolan at President Trump’s inauguration in January. He sees fighting abortion as a priority of his role. Credit Drew Angerer/Getty Images

“You really have to believe in inflicting cruelty on innocent people to choose to support the policies we have seen in recent months while possessing the power to change the law,” Cardinal Tobin said in a keynote address at a conference in Brooklyn in May, referring to the Trump administration’s immigration policies.

More recently, Cardinal Tobin made a landmark gesture of solidarity with gay Catholics, welcoming them to Mass at the Newark cathedral, though that won him a fair amount of hate mail from fellow Catholics.

The cardinals also have contrasting approaches to running a diocese. As archbishop of Indianapolis, Cardinal Tobin won praise from his priests for his willingness to delve into the details of parish management. Cardinal Dolan is more of a hands-off manager, relying heavily on his vicar general, Msgr. Gregory Mustaciuolo.

“He’s never been into running the diocese,” said John L. Allen Jr., who wrote a book with Cardinal Dolan, “A People of Hope,” in 2012. “The nuts and bolts of deciding what priest is going to be in what parish has zero interest for him. He’s a big-picture guy.”

One result is that Cardinal Dolan has come under criticism for his hands-off approach toward the painful local issue of parish mergers and closures. He did not visit the dozens of parishes he ordered merged in New York to offer support to the heartbroken parishioners, and he has been unbending in the face of appeals to the Vatican.

Cardinal Tobin, on the other hand, was so accommodating toward the objections of parishioners in four merging parishes in Indiana that they withdrew their Vatican appeals, said Sister Kate Kuenstler, a canon lawyer who represented those parishes, as well as about 15 parishes appealing mergers in New York.

“With Dolan, there was an abandonment of the people and no pastoral sensitivity,” she said. “But Tobin, when alerted to issues harmful to the people, immediately looked for an alternative way to respond to their needs.”

To some, Cardinal Tobin represents the future and Cardinal Dolan the past. “Tobin and Cupich” — the Francis-appointed archbishop of Chicago, Blase J. Cupich — “are really breathing fresh air into the American Catholic Church,” said Pat McNamara, who has written a history of the Brooklyn Diocese. “Dolan is sort of like the old guard.”

But others said the difference between the men is less dramatic.

“It comes down to small stuff,” Mr. Allen said. “Tobin would be somebody who, if there were a theologian under investigation, would instinctively sympathize with the theologian. And I think Dolan’s instinctive sympathies would be with the system.”

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Source: New York Times

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