Who Is Timothy Dolan? American Pope Contender Who Stayed Mute on Pelosi Ban

As rumors and speculations over Pope Francis possibly announcing his retirement continue to spread, with little actual evidence to support them, many are wondering: Who will replace the current leader of the Roman Catholic Church?

Back in 2013, one of the names circulating as a possible candidate for the papacy was that of Cardinal Timothy Michael Dolan, the archbishop of New York, before Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the former archbishop of Buenos Aires and now pope, was elected instead.

Who Is Timothy Dolan?

The Missouri-born 72-year-old cardinal has been the archbishop of New York since 2009, when he was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI, Francis' predecessor and now Pope Emeritus.

Dolan has had a long career in the Church. He once said he does not remember a time when he didn't want to be a priest. He was ordained priest in 1976 at 26 years old, and, 11 years later, he was appointed secretary to the Apostolic Nunciature—the diplomatic mission of the Holy See in the U.S.—in Washington, D.C.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan
Cardinal Timothy Dolan attends mass at St. George’s Church on February 27, 2022 in New York City. Dolan was once rumored as a possible candidate to the papacy. Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

From 1994 to 2001, Dolan served as rector of the Pontifical North American College in Rome, teaching church history and ecumenical theology at various pontifical universities.

In June 2001, he became auxiliary bishop of his hometown of St. Louis, Missouri, and bishop of Natchez. In June 2002, he was appointed archbishop of Milwaukee.

For three years from 2010 to 2013, when he was already archbishop of New York, Dolan was also the leader of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, making him the most important Catholic figure in the country.

A Controversial Figure

The bishop of the Big Apple is considered to be a conservative figure in the Roman Catholic Church. He has opposed gay marriage, abortion and birth control policies, in line with previous popes Benedict XVI and John Paul II before him.

Dolan signed an ecumenical statement in 2009 calling for civil disobedience of Roman Catholics and Orthodox, whom he invited to refuse to comply with rules and laws permitting abortions and same-sex marriages on religious grounds.

In 2018, he said: "While any sexual expression outside of a man and woman in marriage is contrary to God's purpose, so is not treating anyone, including a gay person, with anything less than dignity and respect."

In 2020, at the height of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests, Dolan wrote in a New York Post op-ed that activists should have stopped "demonizing the NYPD," which he said was one of the things he liked most about New York City.

Following the 2020 murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Dolan called police violence in New York City the case of "bad apples" that were "very rare."

"One of the tumors on our beloved nation, past and present, is that we often target African-Americans, profile them, caricature them, blame them and suspect them as the cause of all evil and woe in society. That is raw injustice. But for God's sake, let's not now, in a similar way, stereotype the NYPD," he concluded.

In the same year, his praises of then-President Donald Trump were blasted by over 1,000 Catholics who signed an open letter to the cardinal asking him to walk back on his comments which appeared to support the then presidential candidate.

More recently, Dolan has not publicly spoken against the communion ban imposed on Nancy Pelosi by San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone, who is banning the Democratic House speaker from receiving communion until she repudiates her stance in support of abortion rights. Only a handful of archbishops have expressed their support to the ban.

But questioned about the way Father Robert Morey of the St Anthony Church in Florence, South Carolina, denied former Vice President Joe Biden the Eucharist in 2019 in an interview with Fox News, the cardinal said he wouldn't prevent anyone from receiving communion.

Dolan has also spoken in favor of increasing gun control. One day after the Uvalde school shooting, Dolan wrote on Twitter that "changes to our current gun laws are clearly needed."

He has also spoken out to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which he called "raw evil," and even traveled to Ukraine to show solidarity to the Ukrainian people.