This week on Register Radio I talked to Whispers in the Loggia blogger Rocco Palmo about Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s time as president of the United States bishops’ conference, which comes to an end Nov. 12. (Read Joan Desmond’s piece: Evaluating Cardinal Dolan’s Tenure)

In 2010, Dolan’s election to the presidency of the bishops’ conference came as quite a surprise. Rocco explained “since 1966 the foundation of the conference it was almost automatic that the vice president of the conference would be elected the next president.”

Yet, in the last election, the bishops changed course. Rather than electing the incumbent vice president Archbishop Gerald Kicanas, the bishops chose then-Archbishop Dolan. Rocco suggested one reason for the change was Dolan’s popularity with younger bishops who had developed great relationships with him during his time as rector of the North American College in Rome. They saw him as a “guru priest,” said the Church blogger.

Another historic aspect of Dolan’s election, Rocco noted, is that it was the first time the archbishop of New York was elected president of the conference. Again, the Church Whisper (as Rocco is sometimes called) suggested a reason for this: the New York post is already considered prominent in the Church world and bishops of the past didn’t want to give the premier U.S. see more influence than it already had.

Cardinal Dolan, however, used his astonishing election for the best. And according to Rocco, “even his strongest critics have come to see that he has been a providential leader for the Church in this country.” 

The gregarious, media friendly New York archbishop has given a “positive face for the Church in this country at a time when we really needed it with the lingering effects of the scandals,” said Rocco. “But also too,  [he handled] questions of Church and state … articulate[ing] the teachings of the Church in a very faithful way but also in an very engaging way — in a way that either people who have been far away from the Church or who aren’t Catholic can understand why we teach what we teach.”

Rocco noted Dolan’s most singular challenge has been to lead the fight against the Obama administration’s Health and Human Services mandate to require contraception, sterilizations and abortion-inducing drugs as a part of employer paid insurance coverage. Dolan has been involved in quiet negotiations with the administration over the mandated, but also the conference has held a steady public campaign for religious freedom. The HHS mandate is set to be a major item on the agenda during the bishops’ meeting in Baltimore this week, although that part of the meeting is behind closed doors.

As Dolan’s leadership of the conference comes to an end, one thing will certainly continue on and that is Dolan’s pastoral style. “He has this way, even when he is in a crowd, he has a way of embracing you with his eyes, his thumbs up, with his solute,” said Rocco, noting that the cardinal has a list of people who he knows are in need and he’ll give them a call to see how they are and if there’s anything he can do and to assure them that he’s praying for them. 

The Church Whisperer describes the NY cardinal this way: “What you see is what you get in private and in public — that gregariousness, that love of people and that desire to really have, to use Pope Francis term, ‘the smell of the sheep’ to really walk with people especially in the moment so the greatest joys and their struggles”.

As for the next USCCB president, there’s a list of 10 candidates and one will emerge as president on Nov. 12 with a tall order to fill the large shoes of Cardinal Dolan.


Instruction on Medjugorie

On the next part of Register Radio, Dan Burke and Register blogger and Catholic Answers apologist Jimmy Akin discussed the latest development on Medjugorje.

On Nov. 6 a letter sent by the apostolic nuncio to all the bishops of the United States with instructions on handling Medjugorje events became public. The letter confirmed a policy announced in February 2012. The letter notes how the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith is conducting an analysis of the doctrinal and disciplinary aspects of the apparitions reported to occur in Medjugorie. And it says that until the results of that analysis are complete, people should accept the declaration of the Yugoslavia bishops on the matter. In 1991, the Yugoslavia bishops stated that “On the basis of the research that has been done, it is not possible to state that there were apparitions or supernatural revelations.”

According to the radio interview, what seems to be new in the latest Vatican communication on the matter is the CDF is instructing clerics and the faithful are to attend events during which “the credibility of the apparition would be taken for granted.” The first letter stating this was issued in February before Benedict XVI resigned, the second letter issue just a few weeks ago seems to be a confirmation from Pope Francis on the Pope Benedict’s policy. “To avoid scandal and confusion,” the letter asks that the bishops be informed as soon as possible so the information can be communicated to the faithful. 

As a result, all of the speaking engagements of Ivan Dragicevic, one of the alleged visionaries of Medjugorje, who has a residence in the U.S, have all been withdrawn. During Ivan’s presentations, he often reportedly has an apparition in the presence of the audience. These events where apparitions are alleged to occur seem to be the type of situation that the CDF is worried about because “the credibility of the apparition would be taken for granted.”

In the interview with Jimmy, Dan refers other resources for more information on the subject. They are:

The CDF’s Norms Regarding the Manner of Proceeding in the Discernment of Presumed Apparitions or Revelations

Pat Archbold’s blog Medjugorje Bombshell

Jimmy Akin’s blog 14 things to know and share about the new letter on Medjugorje Read more: