Archbishop Timothy Dolan is ready to lead

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Archbishop Timothy Dolan will be elevated to Cardinal this weekend. But he has already been showing that he’ll be taking a more active role on the national stage.

This week, Dolan tangled with President Barack Obama on the issue of contraception and insurance, managing to knock the White House and the administration back on its heels. And Dolan signaled the Church will not agree to the president’s so-called compromise on the issue of who should pay for women who work for Catholic organizations, like schools and hospitals, but want access to contraception.

Until now, Dolan has limited his political engagements. Many expected him to be at the center of the battle over gay marriage in the state of New York, but if the Archbishop was working to stop the bill, it had to have been an effort that went on “behind the scenes.”

Dolan did offer to mediate the fight over building a mosque near Ground Zero, but he wound up playing little role in the battle.

The Archbishop does have an outsized personality, with a charisma and sense of humor that can dominate a room.

Last week, he briefed reporters who joined him at his elevation ceremony in Rome. I asked him if at any time he would feel nervous. “Yes,” he said with a very serious and somber tone. “When my mother has my credit card on the Via Condotti!” Vintage Dolan.

The Archbishop is a rising star in the Catholic Church. In the book, A People of Hope: Archbishop Timothy Dolan in Conversation with John L. Allen, Jr., the author points out Dolan has had “an eye-popping run of promotions, honors and papal votes of confidence.” Since being named Archbishop in February 2009, Dolan was named the Apostolic Visitor to Ireland, elected President of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, and was named by the Pope to the new Vatican council to promote “New Evangelization.”

Allen relates the words of one admirer, Monsignor Michael Turek: “When you meet Dolan, you don’t meet a bishop. You meet a real human being who happens to be a bishop. You’re not talking to an office or a hat, but a man.”

The Church has many challenges to overcome in the 21st century, and the man in the red hat now gets ready to lead.