Even if one disagrees with Archbishop Dolan, one still has to like him. He is described by Allen at “affirmative orthodoxy on steroids.”
Archbishop Dolan will not disagree with the Vatican. (Although he does say that if anyone had asked him about the current Vatican-sponsored visitation of American nuns he would have advised against it.) However, he also will not ostracize or deal meanly with those with whom he and the church disagree.
Archbishop Dolan says, “My hunch is that I’ll have more luck trying to nudge them closer to what the church considers to be the truth if I’m in contact, in dialogue than if I’m standing off to the side tossing rhetorical bricks.”
Allen does a splendid job of introducing Archbishop Dolan and probing his mind. Allen acknowledges that this book is not a biography. Rather it lets the reader into the thoughts and personality of the archbishop who was profiled on “60 Minutes” and is what one might call a “rising star” in the American Catholic Church.
Allen also gives the readers some “inside baseball” understanding of the topics of each chapter. Yet, he is very careful not to insert himself into the book. It is very clear that this is Archbishop Dolan’s book.
Both Allen and the archbishop have a clear and likeable communication style. It might have been a nightmare to edit hours of interviews and appearances but the finished product seems polished and easy.
And the book truly contains many gems by Archbishop Dolan when asked about a variety of topics. For example, in the chapter about “Affirmative Orthodoxy,” Archbishop Dolan says, “I worry that we’ve become a glorified Rotary Club. We’re so stumbling over the how of Catholic life that I think we’ve lost the who, meaning Jesus.”
Both authors show a keen sense of humor in their writing and responses. Although one of the best lines is when Archbishop Dolan quotes Hilaire Belloc saying, “I’ve come to reluctantly accept that the Roman Catholic Church must be divine, because no merely human institution governed by such imbecility could have survived a fortnight.”
Although the book does not tell us too much about the life of Archbishop Dolan, it does provide some great insights into what has formed and shaped him – his home parish, his education and years in Rome, his friendships.
However, Archbishop Dolan provides the most telling statement about his life. “To this day, I think of myself as a priest, not a bishop or archbishop, and there’s nothing else I ever wanted to be.”
His contentment and joy are apparent in this book. It is infectious and truly does make one feel good about being a Catholic.
Weber is a columnist and reporter with Catholic Communications in the Diocese of Springfield, Mass.