Cardinal Hill Occupational Profile Assignments

His Eminence
Timothy Michael Dolan
Archbishop of New York
ArchdioceseNew York
AppointedFebruary 23, 2009
InstalledApril 15, 2009
PredecessorEdward Egan
Other posts
  • Cardinal-Priest of Nostra Signora di Guadalupe a Monte Mario
OrdinationJune 19, 1976
by Edward Thomas O'Meara
ConsecrationAugust 15, 2001
by Justin Francis Rigali, Joseph Fred Naumann, and Michael John Sheridan
Created CardinalFebruary 18, 2012
by Benedict XVI
Personal details
Born(1950-02-06) February 6, 1950 (age 68)
St. Louis, Missouri
DenominationRoman Catholic
ParentsRobert Dolan, Shirley Radcliffe
Previous post
MottoAd Quem Ibimus
English: "To Whom Shall We Go?", (John 6:68)[1][2]

Ordination history of
Timothy M. Dolan

Timothy Michael Dolan (born February 6, 1950) is an American cardinalprelate of the Catholic Church. Appointed by Pope Benedict XVI, Dolan serves as the tenth and current Archbishop of New York.

Dolan served as the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops from 2010 to 2013 and was granted the titular position as Cardinal-Priest of Nostra Signora di Guadalupe a Monte Mario (English: Our Lady of Guadalupe of Mount Mario) in Rome.

Dolan is widely known for his conservative values and charismatic media personality. He previously served as Archbishop of Milwaukee from 2002 to 2009, preceded by service as an Auxiliary Bishop of St. Louis from 2001 to 2002. Time named Dolan one of the "100 Most Influential People in the World" for 2012.

Early life[edit]

The eldest of five children, Dolan was born in St. Louis, Missouri, to Robert (d. 1977) and Shirley (née Radcliffe) Dolan.[3] His father was an aircraftengineer, working as a floor supervisor at McDonnell Douglas.[4][5] He has two brothers, one of whom is a former radio talk-show host,[6] and two sisters. The family later moved to Ballwin, a suburb of St. Louis, where they attended Holy Infant Roman Catholic Church.[7]

Dolan exhibited a strong interest in the Roman Catholic priesthood from an early age, once saying, "I can never remember a time I didn't want to be a priest."[8] He would also pretend to celebrate Mass as a child.[9]

Formation and priesthood[edit]

Dolan entered Saint Louis Preparatory Seminary (now Kenrick–Glennon Seminary) in Shrewsbury, Missouri in 1964, and later obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy from Cardinal Glennon College. He was sent by Cardinal John Carberry to further his studies in Rome, where he attended the Pontifical North American College. Dolan is also an alumnus of the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas Angelicum from which he earned the degree of Licentiate of Sacred Theology in 1976.

Dolan was ordained a priest by Edward O'Meara, later Archbishop of Indianapolis, then an Auxiliary Bishop of St. Louis, on June 19, 1976. He then served as an associate pastor at Curé of Ars in Shrewsbury and Immacolata Roman Catholic Parish in Richmond Heights until 1979. From there he began his doctoral studies at The Catholic University of America under John Tracy Ellis with a concentration on the history of the church in America; his thesis centered on Bishop Edwin Vincent O'Hara of Kansas City,[3] which he would eventually publish in book form.[10] Dolan performed pastoral work upon his return to Missouri from 1983 to 1987. During this time he collaborated with Archbishop John L. May in reforming the archdiocesanseminary.

He was then named secretary of the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, D.C., serving as a liaison between American dioceses and the nunciature.[8] In 1992, Dolan was appointed vice-rector of his alma mater Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, where he also served as spiritual director and taught church history. He was also an adjunct professor of theology at St. Louis University.

From 1994 until June 2001, Dolan held the office of rector of the Pontifical North American College in Rome.[11] During his tenure he published Priests for the Third Millennium, and taught at the Pontifical Gregorian University and the Angelicum.[8] He also was granted the title of Monsignor by Pope John Paul II in 1994.[12]

Auxiliary Bishop of St. Louis[edit]

On June 19, 2001, Dolan was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of St. Louis and Titular Bishop of Natchesium by Pope John Paul II.[citation needed] He received his episcopal consecration on the following August 15 from Archbishop Justin Rigali, with Bishops Joseph Naumann and Michael Sheridan serving as co-consecrators. He chose as his episcopal motto: Ad Quem Ibimus, meaning, "Lord, To Whom Shall We Go?" (John 6:68)[2][3] taken from St. John’s Gospel. 6:68.[1]

Archbishop of Milwaukee[edit]

On June 25, 2002, Dolan was named the tenth Archbishop of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.[citation needed] He was formally installed at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist on August 28, 2002. Dolan said he was challenged and haunted by the sexual abuse scandal in that diocese, which broke during his tenure[13] According to WTAQ news, "An attorney says at least 8,000 kids were sexually abused by over 100 priests and other offenders in the Milwaukee Catholic Diocese."[14]

Dolan took a special interest in priests and vocations,[15][16] and the number of seminary enrollments also rose during his tenure. In an outdoor Mass in September 2002, Dolan wore a "cheesehead" hat in tribute to the Green Bay Packers during his homily.[17] He also wrote Called to Be Holy (2005) and To Whom Shall We Go? Lessons from the Apostle Peter (2008), and co-hosted a television program with his brother called Living Our Faith.[9]

In June 2012 it was revealed that Dolan "authorized payments of as much as $20,000 to sexually abusive priests as an incentive for them to agree to dismissal from the priesthood when he was the archbishop of Milwaukee" and that "a document unearthed during bankruptcy proceedings for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and made public by victims’ advocates reveals that the archdiocese did make such payments to multiple accused priests to encourage them to seek dismissal, thereby allowing the church to remove them from the payroll".[18]

Apostolic Administrator of Green Bay[edit]

On September 28, 2007, Dolan was appointed as the apostolic administrator of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Green Bay.[19] He continued in this position until he resigned on July 9, 2008,[19] on the appointment of David L. Ricken as Bishop of Green Bay.[20]

Archbishop of New York[edit]

On February 23, 2009, Dolan was appointed the tenth Archbishop of New York by Pope Benedict XVI.[21] The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, the nation's second-largest after the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, serves over 2.5 million Roman Catholics.[21] He succeeded Cardinal Edward Egan, who reached the mandatory retirement age of 75 in 2007. According to Dolan, he was informed of his appointment "nine, ten days" prior to the official announcement.[22] Recalling the phone call he received from Apostolic NuncioPietro Sambi, as opposed to his appointments as Auxiliary Roman Catholic Bishop of St. Louis and Archbishop of Milwaukee when Dolan was told that the Pope (John Paul II), "would like [him] to" take the posts, he said that Sambi "was quite factual" in that he told him that "the Pope (Benedict XVI) had appointed [him]" to New York, giving Dolan little choice other than to accept.[5]

The last time an Archbishop of New York was named without previously holding an office in the archdiocese's ranks came in 1939,[citation needed] when Pope Pius XII tapped close friend and then-Auxiliary Bishop Francis Spellman of the Archdiocese of Boston; however, Cardinal John O'Connor had served as an auxiliary to Cardinal Terence Cooke in the latter's capacity as head of the military ordinariate, not as Archbishop of New York.

Before Dolan's appointment, his name had been repeatedly mentioned as a possible successor to Egan,[23][24][25] but he downplayed such speculation, saying, "Anytime there's kind of a major see that opens, what have we seen with Washington, Baltimore, Detroit, now New York, my name for some reason comes up. I'm flattered."[26]John L. Allen Jr., Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter, has noted that Pope Benedict's appointment of Dolan, like those of Donald Wuerl, Edwin O'Brien, and Dennis Schnurr, follows a pattern of choosing prelates "who are basically conservative in both their politics and their theology, but also upbeat, pastoral figures given to dialogue."[27]

Dolan was formally installed as Archbishop of New York at St. Patrick's Cathedral on Easter Wednesday, April 15, 2009. He wore the pectoral cross used by his 19th-century predecessor John Hughes.[28] In attendance were eleven cardinals and several New York elected officials.[29]

Dolan received the pallium, a vestment worn by metropolitan bishops, from Pope Benedict XVI on June 29, 2009, in a ceremony at St. Peter's Basilica.[30]

He served as chairman of the board of directors of Catholic Relief Services (in which capacity he visited Ethiopia and India[31]) until his election as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and he remains a member of the Board of Trustees of The Catholic University of America. Within the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, he chairs the Priestly Life and Ministry Committee and sits on the Subcommittee on the Church in Africa. In November 2007, he lost the election for Vice President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, being defeated by Bishop Gerald Kicanas by a margin of twenty-two votes.

Dolan was also the apostolic visitor to Irish seminaries as part of the Apostolic visitation to Ireland following the publication of the Ryan and Murphy Reports in 2009. Dolan will form part of a team that will include Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, archbishop emeritus of Westminster, who will inspect Cardinal Seán Brady's archdiocese of Armagh, and Cardinal Seán Patrick O'Malley of Boston who is to inspect Dublin. Toronto's Archbishop Thomas Christopher Collins will investigate Cashel, while Ottawa's Archbishop Terrence Prendergast will look at the archdiocese of Tuam. Following the conclusion, he will report their findings directly to Pope Benedict XVI.[32]

On January 5, 2011, he was appointed among the first members of the newly created Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelisation.[33]

In December 2011 Dolan was awarded the rank of Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus by Prince Victor Emmanuel.[34]

In 2011 he led a root and branch review of all structures and processes at the Pontifical Irish College in Rome. The report was highly critical of the college, as a result of which three Irish members of the staff were sent home and a fourth resigned. Four Irish archbishops, Cardinal Seán Brady, Archbishop of Armagh; the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin; the Archbishop of Tuam, Michael Neary, and the Archbishop of Cashel, Dermot Clifford, were sent a copy of the visitation report by the Vatican. A response prepared for them said "a deep prejudice appears to have coloured the visitation and from the outset and it led to the hostile tone and content of the report".[35][36] The visitation report said "a disturbingly significant number of seminarians gave a negative assessment of the atmosphere of the house". Staff, it added, were "critical about any emphasis on Rome, tradition, the magisterium, piety or assertive orthodoxy, while the students are enthusiastic about these features". A change in the staff was recommended. Elsewhere the report said: "The apostolic visitor noted, and heard from students, an ‘anti-ecclesial bias’ in theological formation."[36]

On December 29, 2011, he was appointed a member of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications for a five-year renewable term.[37] On April 21, 2011 he was appointed a member of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.[38]

In 2012, Dolan expressed his public disappointment in the HHS Mandate promulgated by American President Barack Obama. In a televised CBS interview, Dolan condemned what was, in his view, government interference dismissing the right to religious conscience and religious freedom regarding the mandatory compulsion of religious groups and organizations to provide abortifacient drugs and contraception insurance coverage to its hired employees, while at the same time against the moral tenets of the Roman Catholic faith.[39] After Barack Obama revised the rule, Dolan said the "first decision was a terribly misguided judgment" and said the new rule was "a first step".[40]

On January 24, 2012, Dolan went on a religious pilgrimage to the Holy Land, where he met LatinPatriarch of JerusalemFouad Twal.[41][42]

After Pope Benedict XVI announced his retirement due to ill health, effective February 28, 2013, Dolan was named in the press as a papabile (a possible or likely successor) for election to the Papacy.[43][44][45] However, on March 13, 2013, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected instead, and took the name Pope Francis.[46]

On November 30, 2013, Pope Francis named Dolan a member of the Congregation for Catholic Education.[47]

On September 3, 2014, Dolan denied requests by the Diocese of Peoria to receive the remains of Archbishop Fulton Sheen, who is entombed in St. Patrick's Cathedral, renewing the historical controversy over Sheen's body and effectively suspending Sheen’s cause for sainthood for the foreseeable future.[48] On November 17, 2016 Judge Arlene Bluth of the New York State Supreme Court ordered Archbishop Fulton Sheen's remains from St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York to St. Mary's Cathedral in Peoria, Illinois.[49][50][51]

On November 2, 2015, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) presented its Isaiah Award for Exemplary Interreligious Leadership to Dolan in recognition of his steadfast contribution and ongoing commitment to the relationship between Catholics and Jews.[52]

At the inauguration of President Trump on January 20, 2017, Dolan gave the first benediction. His invocation involved a recitation of King Solomon's prayer from the Book of Wisdom.[53][54]

Dolan completed a pilgrimage to the Knock Shrine in Ireland in 2015 and, on May 13, 2017, Dolan celebrated a requiem mass when Tim Curry, the youngest witness to the Knock apparition, was reinterred in St. Patrick's Old Cathedral cemetery in Lower Manhattan after being disinterred from an unmarked grave on Long Island.[55]


Dolan was elected on November 16, 2010, to the presidency of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, becoming the first New York bishop to attain the post. Dolan replaced Cardinal Francis George, who did not run for re-election. In a vote of 128–111, Dolan beat out nine others, including Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, Arizona, to win the three-year term.[56] Dolan took office two days later. He served as President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops until November 12, 2013.

Elevation into the College of Cardinals[edit]

On January 6, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI announced that Dolan would be created a cardinal at the consistory of the church held on February 18, 2012.[57] Archbishop Dolan was formally elevated to the cardinalate by Pope Benedict XVI on February 18, 2012, receiving the traditional red biretta and gold ring during a ceremony in Saint Peter's Basilica.[58] The day prior, he addressed the pope and the College of Cardinals on spreading the faith in a secularized world.[59] He was created Cardinal-Priest of Nostra Signora di Guadalupe a Monte Mario. He was the first archbishop of New York not to receive the titular church of Santi Giovanni e Paolo since 1946 as that title was still being held by Cardinal Egan, then-archbishop emeritus of New York.

In September 2014 he was appointed a member of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.[citation needed]



In November 2009, Dolan signed an ecumenical statement known as the Manhattan Declaration calling on evangelicals, Roman Catholics and Orthodox not to comply with rules and laws permitting abortion, same-sex marriage and other matters that go against their religious consciences. It calls for civil disobedience from Christian officials and laymen on these issues.[60][61]

Iraq War[edit]

While noting that the "Church has weighed in" against the war in Iraq and capital punishment, Dolan defended not publicly opposing President George W. Bush's earlier appearance at Notre Dame by saying, "Where President Bush would have taken positions on those two hot-button issues that I'd be uncomfortable with, namely the war and capital punishment, I would have to give him the benefit of the doubt to say that those two issues are open to some discussion and are not intrinsically evil...In the Catholic mindset, that would not apply to abortion."[62] He later said he will challenge any suggestion that Roman Catholics are unenlightened because they oppose gay marriage and abortion.[63]

Sexual abuse scandal[edit]

In 2002, Archbishop Rigali assigned Dolan to investigate Roman Catholic priests accused of sexual misconduct in St. Louis. During the investigation, Dolan spoke with parishes, victims, and the media about the scandals, and invited victims of clerical abuse to come forward.[8] Commenting on his meetings with them, Dolan said, "...[i]t is impossible to exaggerate the gravity of the situation, and the suffering that victims feel, because I've spent the last four months being with them, crying with them, having them express their anger to me."[64] Dolan dismissed abusive priests, which earned him the ire of some St. Louis parishioners who remained loyal to their dismissed priests and referred to Dolan's investigation as a "witch hunt".[8]

In a 2003 letter to Joseph Ratzinger, requesting that the process be expedited for the laicization of priests accused of abuse who he believed were "remorseless and a serious risk to children", Dolan wrote: “As victims organize and become more public, the potential for true scandal is very real.”[65] In May 2012, the New York Times revealed that the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, then headed by Dolan, had paid some abusive priests – although already dismissed from their priestly duties – up to $20,000 to leave the priesthood immediately rather than force the church to initiate time-consuming and expensive laicization proceedings against them.[66] The archdiocese noted that the "unassignable priests" were still receiving full salaries and would continue to do so until they were formally laicized;[66] and that the payouts were a "motivation" so that the priests would not contest being defrocked. The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests sent a formal protest asking, "In what other occupation, especially one working with families and operating schools and youth programs, is an employee given a cash bonus for raping and sexually assaulting children?"[66] Dolan responded to accusations that he had given "payoffs" to protect accused priests as "false, preposterous, and unjust".[66]

In 2011, Dolan thanked Bill Donohue for a press release, reproduced on the Archdiocese of New York website, in which Donohue referred to the non-profit support group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests as a "phony victims' group".[67]

In July 2013, documents made public during bankruptcy proceedings showed that Dolan had sought permission to move $57 million in church funds to protect the assets from victims of clerical abuse. In a letter to the Vatican requesting permission to move the funds, Dolan wrote "By transferring these assets to the trust, I foresee an improved protection of these funds from any legal claim and liability.”[65][68] Dolan had previously denied that he tried to conceal assets from child sex abuse victims claiming compensation calling the accusations "old and discredited" and "malarkey."[69] United States law forbids debtors transferring money in ways that protect some creditors against others.[69] The Vatican approved the request in five weeks.[65]

World Trade Center attacks aftermath[edit]

Dolan visited Ground Zero, the site of the September 11 attacks, on the following April 24.[70] After reciting the same prayer used by Benedict XVI during his visit to the United States, Dolan remarked, "We will never stop crying. But it's also about September 12 and all the renewal, the rebuilding, hope, solidarity and compassion that symbolized this great community and still does."[70] Dolan condemned as a miscarriage of justice the release of the convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi and his reception in Libya.

LGBT issues[edit]

In October 2017, Auxiliary Bishop John O'Hara intervened on behalf of Dolan to prohibit a parish church in the Archdiocese of New York from hosting the International Human Rights Art Festival because of its gay and transgender content. The director of the festival declined to remove the two performances from the show that the Archdiocese specifically objected to, and decided he had no alternative but to cancel the show altogether.[71]


Published books[edit]

  • Dolan, Fr. Timothy M. (1992). Some Seed Fell on Good Ground – The Life of Edwin V. O'Hara. Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press. ISBN 978-0-8132-0748-3.
  • Dolan, Fr. Timothy M. (circa 1993). A Century of Papal Representation in the United States. South Orange, New Jersey: Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology of Seton Hall University. OCLC 3822-1938.
  • Dolan, Monsignor Timothy M. (2000). Priests For The Third Millennium. Huntington, Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor. ISBN 978-0-87973-319-3. (A collection of talks given to the seminarians and priests at the Pontifical North American College, a school in Rome, Italy, for Roman Catholic seminarians and priests.)
  • Dolan, Archbishop Timothy M.; Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis (2001). Archdiocese of St. Louis – Three Centuries of Catholicism, 1700–2000. Strasbourg, France: Éditions du Signe (fr). ISBN 978-2-7468-0353-4.
  • Dolan, Archbishop Timothy M. (2005). Called to Be Holy. Huntington, Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor. ISBN 978-1-59276-072-5.
  • Dolan, Archbishop Timothy M. (2007). Advent Reflections – Come, Lord Jesus!. Huntington, Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor. ISBN 978-1-59276-393-1.
  • Dolan, Archbishop Timothy M. (2009). Doers of the Word – Putting Your Faith into Practice. Huntington, Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor. ISBN 978-1-59276-639-0.
  • Dolan, Archbishop Timothy M. (2009). To Whom Shall We Go? – Lessons from the Apostle Peter. Huntington, Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor. ISBN 978-1-59276-050-3.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ ab"The Coat of Arms". Retrieved October 13, 2012. 
  2. ^ ab"Bible Gateway passage: Ioannes 6:69 - Biblia Sacra Vulgata". Retrieved September 2, 2014. 
  3. ^ abc"Archbishop Dolan". Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Archived from the original on November 8, 2005. 
  4. ^Powell, Michael (February 23, 2009). "A Genial Conservative for New York's Archdiocese". The New York Times. 
  5. ^ ab"As installation nears, Archbishop Dolan reflects on becoming Archbishop of New York". Catholic New York. April 9, 2009. [dead link]
  6. ^"St. Louis Auxiliary Bishop Timothy M. Dolan Named Archbishop of Milwaukee". Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee. June 25, 2002. Archived from the original on October 28, 2007. Retrieved October 13, 2017. 
  7. ^"Biography of Bishop Timothy M. Dolan". Madison Catholic Herald. June 25, 2002. 
  8. ^ abcdeRice, Patricia (February 23, 2009). "Dolan to shepherd New York Catholics". St. Louis Becaon. Archived from the original on July 20, 2013. 
  9. ^ abMcDonnell, Claudia (April 9, 2009). "Close-Knit Family". Catholic New York. [permanent dead link]
  10. ^Some Seed Fell on Good Ground: The Life of Edwin V. O'Hara (Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 1992).
  11. ^Ribadeneira, Diego (October 31, 1197). "The secret lives of seminarians". The Boston Globe. Retrieved February 24, 2009. 
  12. ^"St. Louis Auxiliary Bishop Timothy M. Dolan Named Archbishop of Milwaukee". United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. June 25, 2002. 
  13. ^Johnson, Annysa (February 24, 2009). "Back in Milwaukee, Dolan shares joy, sentiments". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 
  14. ^"Lawyer: More than 8,000 children abused by Milwaukee archdiocese priests – WTAQ News Talk 97.5FM and 1360AM". WTAQ. February 10, 2012. Retrieved February 15, 2012.  
  15. ^Vitello, Paul (February 24, 2009). "A Guy's Guy: Dolan's Personality May Help Archdiocese Recruit More Priests". The New York Times. 
  16. ^Dos Santos, Juliann (April 9, 2009). "'Joy Attracts Joy'". Catholic New York. [permanent dead link]
  17. ^Kandra, Greg (February 13, 2009). "Dolin' the dish on Dolan". The Deacon's Bench. 
  18. ^Goodstein, Laurie (May 30, 2012). "In Milwaukee Post, Cardinal Authorized Paying Abusers". The New York Times. 
  19. ^ ab"Dolan, Timothy M". Catholic News Agency. Retrieved May 1, 2013. 
  20. ^Bishop David Laurin Retrieved 27 September 2015.
  21. ^ ab"Rinuncia Dell'Arcivescovo Metropolita di New York (U.S.A.) e Nomina Del Successore". Holy See. February 23, 2009. Archived from the original on February 28, 2009. 
  22. ^Palmo, Rocco (February 23, 2009). "Interview #1". Whispers in the Loggia. 
  23. ^Newman, Andy (April 21, 2008). "Egan May Be Leaving the Archdiocese Soon, Now That a Historic Visit Has Ended". The New York Times.
Dolan speaking at a conference

The cardinal was passionately outspoken in his opposition to abortion, the issue that shaped his tenure from the very start. He was unconditional in upholding official Catholic teachings on topics like homosexuality and the ordination of women. And he was unwavering in his loyalty to Pope John Paul II, who had named him archbishop of New York as part of an effort to restore greater doctrinal and organizational discipline in a church still feeling the reverberations of reforms undertaken by the Second Vatican Council 20 years earlier. It was frequently repeated, but never confirmed, that the pope had said, ''I want a man like me in New York.''

All this gave the cardinal the profile of a zealous conservative in a city where cultural questions of sex and sexuality had eclipsed old-fashioned economic divisions and in a church in which, despite Vatican efforts to quell dissent, papal popularity no longer automatically translated into papal authority.

But Cardinal O'Connor was also a passionate defender of organized labor, an advocate for the poor and the homeless, a vocal assailant of racism and anti-Semitism, and an opponent of capital punishment. And although he had spent 27 years as a Navy chaplain and retired with the rank of rear admiral, in the 1980's he condemned American support of counterrevolutionary guerrilla forces in Central America, questioned the need for spending on new weapons systems, and, to the end, remained a cautionary voice about American military actions overseas.

These were positions that were rooted in Catholic doctrine and that reflected the stance of Pope John Paul. But they sometimes disconcerted the cardinal's conservative allies, while his liberal critics often ignored them altogether or welcomed them without really believing that they gave a true measure of the man.

Projecting the Church Into Public Debates

His image as a leader was undoubtedly affected by memories of the two cardinals who had preceded him. Cardinal Terence Cooke, who led the New York Archdiocese from 1968 to 1983, kept a low profile and preferred to work through the parishes and the archdiocesan agencies.

By contrast, Cardinal O'Connor's willingness to joust with public officials and project the church into public debates recalled the years from 1939 to 1967, when the archdiocesan headquarters of Cardinal Francis Spellman was known as the Powerhouse for the leverage the church wielded in city affairs.

But the comparison was deceptive, because New York City and the church had changed. The migration to the suburbs had thinned the church's solid constituency, especially among the Irish, and neither the new Hispanic immigrants nor the grandchildren of the older Irish and Italian ones were as likely to defer to the hierarchy's judgments.

Much of what Cardinal O'Connor tried to do by public pronouncements, Cardinal Spellman would have accomplished behind the scenes. And if Cardinal O'Connor could sometimes still affect city policies with a few phone calls to some politicians, in Cardinal Spellman's day, or so it was widely believed, the calls would have been initiated by the politicians themselves, who were careful to check their plans with the Powerhouse.

Cardinal O'Connor himself rejected the comparison. ''I abhor the concept of Powerhouse,'' he told more than one reporter. ''My job is not to acquire or wield political power.'' But the comparison was inevitable, given the publicity and turmoil that filled his first years in New York.

Even before arriving, he had upset many Jews in New York by declaring that widespread abortion in the United States was ''precisely the same'' as the Nazis' murder of six million Jews.

At a televised news conference a few months later, he said, ''I do not see how a Catholic in good conscience'' could vote for a political candidate favoring abortion, and, then, when asked whether he might excommunicate Gov. Mario M. Cuomo for his support of abortion rights, the new archbishop refused to rule it out, setting off an intermittent feud with the governor that the press helped to reignite at every opportunity.

In his first year as archbishop, Geraldine A. Ferraro, a Catholic who supported abortion rights, was nominated by the Democrats to run for vice president on a ticket headed by Walter F. Mondale. When she was a member of the House of Representatives from Queens, Ms. Ferraro, along with several other Catholic public officials, had signed a letter saying that there was ''a diversity of Catholic opinion'' about abortion.

After the letter was released during the presidential campaign, Archbishop O'Connor assailed the candidate, saying, ''Geraldine Ferraro has misrepresented Catholic teaching on abortion.'' He went on to say that there was no diversity of Catholic opinion, only the opinion of the church that abortion was wrong under all circumstances.

At Odds With City Over Gay Rights

This set off countercharges that Archbishop O'Connor was signaling church support for the 1984 re-election of President Reagan, whom he had praised earlier as ''a friend of the unborn.''

Locally, the archbishop tangled with the city government over access to contraceptive information and abortion in the church's child care agencies. He also challenged Mayor Edward I. Koch's executive order barring discrimination against gays by any employer, including the church, that had contracts with the city. When a court struck down the mayor's executive order, the archbishop was equally opposed to a similar bill in the City Council on gay rights, which passed, even though it contained an exemption for religious institutions.

Conservative Catholics were delighted to have such a fresh champion in town, but many others, inside and outside the church, were similarly fascinated. For the cardinal's proclivity for confrontation seemed part of a larger spontaneity and directness that seemed right at home in New York City.

At his installation in St. Patrick's Cathedral on March 18, 1984, the new archbishop put on a New York Mets cap, placed his own bishop's miter on the head of a 10-year-old altar boy from the Bronx who was also named John J. O'Connor, and then mimicked Mayor Koch's regular query, ''How'm I doing?''

He may have been the only major religious leader to hold a regular press conference every Sunday, after he had celebrated 10:15 Mass at the cathedral. And in his early years, he was usually ready with a curbside quip.

Reporters monitored his Sunday sermons and his weekly columns in the archdiocesan newspaper, and pumped him at his press conferences, hoping for a tabloid headline for Monday. The prelate's words were sometimes blatantly misrepresented or ripped out of context, as in a headline in The New York Post on June 17, 1991, supposedly quoting him saying, ''God Is a Man.'' But for a long time this was a price he appeared willing to pay to keep his lines open to the news media.

Eventually, he expressed misgivings about the manner of his debut in New York and his high visibility. ''Time after time I have to ask myself if the church would be better off -- certainly, I would be better off -- if when I came here I had just become a silent servant of the people,'' he said in 1993 in an interview with The New York Times. He wondered whether he might have thrust himself too much into politics, or whether Cardinal Cooke's quieter style had not been better.

But then again, he mused, ''If you're false to your own temperament, you're not going to be an effective leader.''

At times the Cardinal did try to be more conciliatory. He eventually dropped the Holocaust analogy in his preaching against abortion, and some Jewish leaders came to see him as an opponent of anti-Semitism. The relationship survived tensions in 1987 over his endorsement of Palestinian hopes for a homeland and a subsequent trip to Israel marked by a series of diplomatic contretemps.

Despite emotional evocations of the Holocaust, first before an Arab audience and then at Yad Vashem, he provoked a protest from the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations when he acquiesced in a Vatican request to downgrade his meetings with Israeli officials and repeated his pleas for Palestinian refugees. The public rebuke deeply stung the cardinal, but the conflict was patched over and they later honored him as a facilitator of the Vatican's recognition of Israel in 1993.

Before Rosh Hashana last year, the cardinal issued a characteristic expression of sorrow for wrongs that he and fellow Catholics had done to the Jewish people, a statement widely publicized and welcomed by Jewish leaders.

Breaking Bread With 'Hizzoner'

Cardinal O'Connor also became close friends with Mayor Koch, and the two of them collaborated on a book, ''His Eminence and Hizzoner'' (William Morrow & Company, 1989), regularly dined together and gave each other moral support during their illnesses.

Beyond that, the cardinal seemed to mellow in recent years. The cessation of his weekly press conferences in 1990 may have symbolized his evolution. Attention more easily shifted to his pastoral activities and day-to-day supervision of the country's fourth-largest archdiocese, with its 413 parishes, 55 high schools, 238 elementary schools, 882 priests, 3,707 sisters and 17 hospitals that, along with social service and child-care agencies, serve almost three million people annually.

The archdiocese embraces Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island as well as Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, Orange, Sullivan, Ulster and Dutchess Counties. Brooklyn and Queens constitute a separate diocese. The cardinal's office does not publish a consolidated budget, but the archdiocese's annual expenditures are known to be more than $370 million. Its real estate holdings are vast and would bring far more than $1 billion if sold.

But these holdings are often in the form of aging churches and schools that generate more costs than income. Cardinal O'Connor strove mightily, and largely successfully, not to close or merge parishes or schools, as had been done in other large archdioceses in the United States like Chicago, Detroit and Philadelphia.

His leadership in national church affairs had also been much more muted in recent years. He and Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston were both named archbishops by the pope in the same year, and were elevated a year later to the rank of cardinal. They were sometimes called Law and Order for their roles as channels of Vatican policy that tightened the reins on the American church.

In 1987, for example, Cardinal O'Connor publicly repudiated a policy paper from the 50-bishop administrative board of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops that called for the support of AIDS education programs even when they included information about condoms. The Vatican subsequently demanded that the bishops modify their stance.

The cardinal's statements made him the target of gay groups and advocacy groups for AIDS victims, including Act Up, which advertised a demonstration at St. Patrick's Cathedral in December 1989 with pictures of a bull's-eye superimposed on the cardinal's face. During the demonstration, Act Up members shouted, lay in the aisles and chained themselves to pews during a Sunday Mass.

Cardinal O'Connor never ceased to serve on Vatican commissions, sometimes traveling almost monthly to Rome. Nor did he cease to encourage the sometimes fractious elements of the anti-abortion movement. But after 1990, when the bishops appointed Helen Alvare, a lawyer, as the leading representative of their Pro-Life Activities Committee, his role became less public, and other cardinals, especially Cardinal Law, appeared to take the lead in pressing Vatican priorities.

It was in the summer of last year that the cardinal became ill. In August, a tumor was removed from the surface of his brain by doctors at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. After his surgery and extensive radiation treatments, the cardinal returned to his duties, but his recuperation was marred by setbacks.

He was hospitalized for fatigue in October, and recurring weakness caused him to miss his customary celebration of Sunday morning Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral with increasing frequency. For the first time since becoming archbishop, he was unable to celebrate Mass on Easter Sunday at St. Patrick's this year.

But his illness did not prevent him from paying a farewell visit in February to a frail Pope John Paul II in Rome.

In a letter to New York's bishops, the cardinal said he expected the pope to name his successor as archbishop of New York in March. Various candidates are under consideration.

Working-Class Roots In Philadelphia

John Joseph O'Connor was born in Philadelphia on Jan. 20, 1920, the fourth of five children of Thomas and Dorothy O'Connor. His father was a skilled interior painter, a specialist in applying gold leaf to the ornamental ceilings of auditoriums and churches. His mother suffered blindness for a year and attributed her recovery of sight in one eye to the intervention of St. Rita of Cascia.

In many interviews and columns he wrote for Catholic New York, the archdiocesan weekly newspaper, Cardinal O'Connor often recalled his early upbringing: the warmth and seriousness of family prayers and religious observances; the forceful views of his father, ''a union man,'' on the rights of labor; the need for frugality during the hard Depression years.

His working-class roots, he said, left him always a bit uncomfortable in the formal surroundings of the archbishop's residence at East 50th Street and Madison Avenue, behind St. Patrick's Cathedral.

He attended both public and Catholic grade schools in Philadelphia before entering West Catholic High School for Boys, which was run by the order of Christian Brothers, who encouraged him to pursue a calling to the priesthood.

In recent years, his descriptions of the rigors of his life at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia sometimes made it sound like Marine boot camp designed by Charles Dickens. He stressed that it was always the goal of ordination to the priesthood, which he achieved on Dec. 15, 1945, a month before his 26th birthday, that made him persevere.

For seven years, he was an assistant pastor in a Philadelphia parish. He taught in Catholic high schools as well as a night school for adults, conducted two weekly radio programs on local stations, worked in hospital psychiatric wards and developed special programs to instruct retarded children. His work with retarded children remained a lifelong passion. As a young priest, he thought it might be his chief occupation until, urged by Cardinal John O'Hara of Philadelphia, he answered the plea of Cardinal Spellman for chaplains to serve in the armed forces during the Korean War.

A two-year stint turned into a 27-year career, during which he traveled the world celebrating Mass in foxholes and on aircraft carriers. He served under fire with the Marines in Vietnam, became senior chaplain at the Naval Academy at Annapolis, and, in 1975, was appointed chief of Navy chaplains with the rank of rear admiral. During his military career, he also found time to earn a master's degree in clinical psychology at the Catholic University of America and a doctorate in political science at Georgetown University.

Expecting to retire to parish life in 1979, he instead was made an auxiliary bishop assigned to the military vicariate, the church unit serving the armed forces. The vicariate was administered by the archbishop of New York until 1985, when it became independent. Bishop O'Connor was still supervising chaplains, although now from a post in the Catholic hierarchy rather than from one in the Navy.

Foxhole Chaplain In Vietnam

Military matters were fated to play a central role in Cardinal O'Connor's life. In 1968 he published ''A Chaplain Looks at Vietnam'' (World Publishing Company), a book that argued that the American intervention there was morally and legally justified.

''I am convinced,'' he wrote, ''that the administration has opted to accept the tragedy of war as the only available road to meaningful peace.''

His ministry in Vietnam, he continued, involved him in ''the unglamorous, dirty business of survival, in digging a hole in a sun-baked hill in the boiling dust of 120-degree heat, in slogging through knee-high mud, in fighting insects, tripping over jungle growth, sleeping night after night with one eye open, alert to the whisper of every breeze, the snapping of every twig.

''No priest can watch the blood pouring from the wounds of the dying, be they American or Vietnamese of the north or south, without anguish and a sense of desperate frustration and futility,'' he continued. ''The clergy back home, the academicians in their universities, the protesters on their marches are not the only ones who cry out, 'Why?' ''

''That's a bad book, you know,'' he later told Nat Hentoff, who was interviewing him for a profile in The New Yorker that was later expanded into the 1988 biography ''John Cardinal O'Connor'' (Scribners).

''It was a very limited view of what was going on. I regret having published it.''

But as a man who knew the military and combat firsthand, who had published a moral analysis of a war and who had a Ph.D. in political science, he was primed for an assignment that many say changed the course of his career. He was chosen by Archbishop Joseph Bernardin of Cincinnati, later the archbishop and cardinal of Chicago, to serve on a five-member committee of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops that was charged with writing a pastoral letter on peace and nuclear weapons.

Archbishop Bernardin, a master at forging consensus, knew the importance of including a full range of views on the committee. From the start, and through all three publicly debated drafts of the letter, Bishop O'Connor was regarded as the conservative, promilitary voice, the counterweight to another auxiliary bishop on the committee, the pacifist Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit.

''I was billed as the Genghis Khan of the committee,'' Cardinal O'Connor later told Mr. Hentoff. Certainly, he was a conduit to the Reagan administration and the Pentagon, consulting with them privately, although with the committee's knowledge, and bringing their views back to the committee. He fought vigorously for wording in the pastoral letter that would keep the bishops from condemning nuclear deterrence altogether, or being identified with advocates of a nuclear freeze, who were opposed to the placement of new medium-range missiles in Europe.

In one instance, when other committee members urged a ''halt'' to new nuclear weapons, he argued for the word ''curb.''

On several points, including ''curb,'' he lost, but in the end, the former Navy chaplain voted with his colleagues for approval of a document that rejected almost all possible uses of nuclear weapons and that condoned possession of them as a deterrent only if linked to serious steps toward disarmament.

The Vatican was intensely interested in the American letter, indeed wary of it, and so were the Catholic hierarchies of France and West Germany. On one trip to Rome, Auxiliary Bishop O'Connor had discussed the project with Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, the Vatican secretary of state. The impression he made probably explains why, almost simultaneously with the completion of the letter, he was named bishop of Scranton by the pope.

Church watchers wondered whether his appointment to a relatively minor diocese was a form of ecclesiastical exile or the first step to bigger things. The question was answered with surprising rapidity. On Jan. 31, 1984, after only eight months in Scranton and four months after Cardinal Cooke's death, he was named the eighth archbishop of New York. His name had not even been mentioned in the speculation about who would fill the post.

As is the practice, recommendations from other American bishops had been submitted to the pope by the papal representative in the United States, at that time Archbishop Pio Laghi. Cardinal O'Connor, who had energetically thrown himself into the Scranton job, was taken aback by his selection.

''When I went to Scranton, I hoped I would die there,'' he said soon afterward, pausing for effect and then adding, ''I came to New York knowing I would die here.''

A Priest, Yes, But Not a Simple One

Because his predecessor, Cardinal Cooke, had typically described himself as a simple parish priest, a New York reporter asked the newly arrived archbishop, ''Are you a simple parish priest?''

''I'm a priest,'' came the reply. ''How simple I don't know.''

He was not simple at all, although the complexity of his personality was often reduced by the news media to two Cardinal O'Connors. There was the smiling, quipping Cardinal O'Connor, a dignitary with the touch of the common man, waving and shaking hands and reviewing parades from the steps of the cathedral. And there was the stern Cardinal O'Connor, asserting old or unpopular doctrines from the pulpit and warning those who disagreed that they were in for a fight.

Facets of his personality that did not fit into these stereotypes were often overlooked or played down. He was usually soft-spoken, not at all a pulpit thunderer. He had many of the reflective traits of an intellectual who could, in his slow, ruminating answers to questions, do equal justice to the contending sides of a dispute.

''He is surely one of the two or three smartest graduate students I ever had,'' said Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, the former ambassador to the United Nations, who taught him when he was a Navy chaplain studying for a Ph.D. at Georgetown.

Yet for the cardinal, mulling over the many sides of a question was not incompatible with making spontaneous comments and on-the-spot decisions, so that it sometimes appeared as though a fine balance could be tipped by the latest opinion, a chance encounter or a sudden inspiration.

Priests of the archdiocese were divided about how much thought went into some of his statements and appointments. Many joked that their leader's motto was, ''Ready, Fire, Aim!'' But they were also deeply appreciative of his willingness to give them time and attention to supply his counsel or discuss their futures.

For Cardinal O'Connor, doubt and misgivings stopped short when it came to defending basic Catholic teachings, the decisions of the pope or what he considered the survival and integrity of church agencies. The combativeness with which he delivered these expressions of duty made him one of the most fiercely denounced public figures in New York, if not the country.

Gloria Steinem once paired him with AIDS as the two worst things about New York. Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice, an organization that supports legalized abortion, called him ''the kind of man who, if the church still had the power to burn people at the stake, would be right there lighting a fire.''

Cardinal O'Connor did not respond to his critics, and his own readiness to confess personal shortcomings and errors offered a disarming contrast, although his critics saw that, too, as calculating. The cardinal's teasing, bantering style of humor could occasionally have a sharp, even mordant, edge, even if the barbs were directed toward himself.

Both his confessions of failure and his self-deprecating humor were part of his way of framing issues in personal terms, a trait that also marked his writing and preaching. Once, when he spoke to New York priests about the archdiocese's financial problems, he dwelt on his own sleepless nights worrying about how the church could meet its responsibilities and pay its bills. Some priests left the meeting reassured to learn that he was worrying over the problems. But others reported frustration at not being given specific facts and figures.

''I regularly go down to the crypt under St. Patrick's Cathedral, and I look at the tombs of my predecessors,'' the cardinal wrote in one of his typically personal meditations in his weekly column. ''Right in the center is the next marble block with no inscription. That's reserved for me. And all that's important when I move into that crypt is that I have served New York as a good priest.''

Correction: May 5, 2000, Friday The obituary of Cardinal John O'Connor yesterday referred imprecisely to a comment about him from Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice, which supports legalized abortion. It was in a Vanity Fair article in 1990 that she said the cardinal was "the kind of man who, if the church still had the power to burn people at the stake, would be right there lighting a fire." She did not say it during his illness or after his death.

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