Saturday, August 25, 2012

Is Cardinal Dolan The Reincarnation of Cardinal Wolsey?

Hmmm, There does seem to be a certain similarity between Cardinals Wolsey and Dolan.

I have followed the story about Cardinal Dolan giving the benediction at the GOP convention with a certain amount of disbelief....followed by a great deal of anger and frustration.  In my case the frustration stems from cognitive dissonance, and this Dolan/GOP thing gave me a great deal of cognitive dissonance. Such a state always produces a certain amount of outside the box thinking because outside the box thinking is the only way I can solve cognitive dissonance.  Hence I have come to the conclusion Cardinal Dolan is the current incarnation of Tudor England's, Cardinal Wolsey.

There are some striking similarities.  Cardinal Wolsey was the son of a butcher.  Cardinal Dolan is the brother of a butcher.  My New Age friends who believe in reincarnation always stress the family connections and their similarities.  This particular similarity is kind of unique.  I can't imagine many cardinals in today's church have a family connection with a butcher.  Other similarities are equally interesting.  Wolsey was given the title "Legate a latere", a title that made him an exalted and permanent representative of the Pope, and superseded the authority of the Cardinal Archbishop of Canterbury.  Essentially, as head of the USCCB, Dolan's authority supersedes any other bishop in the US, and of course, he somehow got that title by circumventing the USCCB's usual protocols. In both cases a form of national clerical rank was achieved that surpassed the usual channel of occupying the oldest historical See.  I also find it fascinating that Wolsey was Cardinal Archbishop of York, and Dolan is Cardinal Archbishop of New York.

My New Age friends also say that once you have found the similarities you must look for the total opposites, because those opposites outline the karmic issues a person has reincarnated to work on.

In doing that I found Wolsey served as Henry VIII's Chancellor at a time of economic turmoil in England and that his grasp of the changing economics was poor.  What I found pertinent to my hypothetical musing was that Wolsey pursued a more social justice perspective when it came to taxes.  He saw how iniquitous and inefficient the tax system was, so he instituted a fairer income tax  which placed the bulk of financing Henry's lifestyle and his multiple wars on the wealthier. In this respect Wolsey seems further advanced than Cardinal Dolan.  But then Wolsey was a butcher's son, not just a butcher's brother, and probably had a more personal grasp of how the tax system favored the wealthy at the expense of the poor and the trade classes.

Cardinal Dolan's closing benediction at the GOP convention will be seen and interpreted by the right as Catholic endorsement of the economic and foreign policies of republican neocons.  These would be the very same philosophies used by President Bush who took this country from a debt surplus to the mess we have now, and whose two unfunded wars were instrumental in creating our national debt.  His economic policies of low taxes on our economic nobility and his other unfunded programs like Medicare D are now being used to skewer President Obama who inherited these messes.   Dolan's own lack of economic chops has allowed him to make the statement about Paul Ryan that "I am anxious to see him in action."  in spite of the fact the Ryan budget severely targets the poor for the never ending Republican meme that lower taxes for the wealthy means more reinvestment in the US economy.  The nobility weren't happy to do their share during the reign of Henry VIII---Wolsey made a lot of powerful enemies--as they infinitely preferred to romp along with Henry. It's difficult to imagine the majority of our current 'nobility' doing much different.  Too many of them seem to see the government as the never ending bail out machine.  On taxation and wealth distribution issues Cardinal Dolan could take a real lesson in courage from Cardinal Wolsey.

Eventually Cardinal Wolsey fell from grace because he couldn't solve Henry VIII's marriage and 'pelvic issues'.  Cardinal Dolan seems willing to have the whole American Catholic Church fall from grace over marriage and pelvic issues, and here's another difference between the two men.  Another karmic difference I think. Wolsey fought to loosen Vatican control over Henry's sexual life and although, he did his best to fight doctrine with doctrine, eventually Wolsey lost everything.  Dolan is attempting the exact opposite, to make Vatican doctrine on pelvic issues the law of the land, and unlike Wolsey, Dolan has nothing personal to lose and even more to gain. That has to be karmic.

In the end, all  Cardinal Wolsey accomplished was to delay for a few years the very top down English schism.  If Cardinal Dolan doesn't want the same kind of karmic debt, he better start listening to the liberals in his own Church before he finds himself presiding over a very bottom up American schism.

One last thought.  In the movie A Man For All Seasons, Cardinal Wolsey is depicted dying alone and outcast and about to be arrested for high treason.  He states to Lord Norfolk:  If I had served my God half so well as my King, I would not lay dying in this god forsaken place."  Cardinal Dolan may indeed be trying to serve his God better than his president, but neither Cardinal will have gotten a very core Christian lesson: God is served best in service to the least of the least, not the richest and most powerful.


  1. I'll take Wolsey any day!
    mary h.

    1. Truth is I don't know. There were other things about Wolsey's life I didn't address. I will say this, he had enormous political influence in England because he was Lord Chancellor. Right wing Catholics are so enamored of Thomas More because they don't know either one of them, but both were responsible for the eventual Anglican split, as neither one could find a solution for the King's pelvic issue. The moral of the story? Catholics have to find away around the pelvic issues.

  2. Before he was a Cardinal, Wolsey had a mistress and 2 children. He married her off to someone else when he became a bishop. How about Cardinal Dolan? Mark

    1. I don't know Mark. His companions were known about and accepted in his time. Ain't our time for sure. Cardinal Dolan would be excoriated if such a thing would be revealed. A gay lover would be the end of him. Is this progress or just our time wishing for these guys to be more than they can be?

  3. I think part of our problem with many of the Catholic hierarchy is exactly what you just said, our wish for them to be more than they can be. Great men (and women) have always had their feet of clay, and this can be accepted and forgiven. What is less easy to forgive is when the same men condemn others for the sins that they themselves are practicing.

    We were very lucky here in England that our Cardinal when I was small was Basil Hume, a great man and a humble one (a rare combination) and also a very kind man (rarer still). I remember when the conclaves came about that elected Pope John Paul I and then Pope John Paul II my mother's prayer (and that of most British Catholics) was "Please don't let them pick Hume, we need him too much". I think he would have been happy with that as an epitaph.

    But in some ways having Hume as our Cardinal coloured the upbringing of a lot of British Catholics, because he made it very easy for us all to believe that all the hierarchy were like him. When as an adult I started realising just how lucky we'd been, it was a slap in the face. My reaction was "These are the people who are supposed to be telling us what is right and what is wrong? Well, **** that."

    Had we had a British version of Cardinal Dolan when I was young, I'm far from certain I would still now be a Catholic. At least the advantage that my Church of England friends have had is that the head of their church is Her Majesty the Queen, who at least can be guaranteed never to publicly embarrass them, does not comment on politics, and lives a kind, polite and thoroughly Christian life. Some of the Catholic hierarchy could learn a few things there.

    1. I keep wondering how long I would have lasted as Catholic if it hadn't been for Raymond Hunthausen. He was very much in the same mindset as Basil Hume. It's been a long dry spell since any Archbishop/Cardinal could fill their shoes. I have hope for Archbishop Dairmuid Martin and Cardinal Schonborn, but I doubt we'll see anything begin to change until the next conclave.

  4. Olivia, I am an American Catholic who admired Cardinal Hume also. Sadly, such churchmen are rare. Dolan is a consummate careerist who all but genuflects toward the rich and powerful, and why not, that is who he seeks to be. Colleen, it's interesting you raise the topic about Dolan possibly being a reincarnation of Cardinal Wolsey. I have thought that Dick Cheney had a lot in common with John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, primarily in that both men shared an utter ruthlessness in pursuit of their goals. Dudley pushed Edward VI's uncle, Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, out of his position as Edward VI's chief advisor and regent, placed himself in this position, and had Somerset executed. Dudley prompted Edward VI to devise the crown to his daughter in law, Jane Grey (Henry VIII's grandniece) but his plan failed when Mary Tudor marched to take the throne after Edward VI's death. Dudley himself found himself executed as his father Edmund Dudley (one of Henry VII's chief tax collectors) had been.

    1. I find many similarities between Tudor England and our current time. But if one looks back in history about every 5-600 years there is a major shift in world view, and usually a schism in Roman Catholicism to go with the change in world view.

      We are most certainly in the midst of a major change in world view and have been for 100 years. Vatican II was called to essentially be proactive, but some men just weren't ready to be proactive and now Catholicism is led by the reactionary. This is why I think a schism is pretty likely.

  5. Let’s face it: Cardinal Dolan is a Prince of the Church who wants to be King-maker. 
    But I’d like to humbly remind the good Cardinal, as he parades under the spotlights
    of the political conventions: that there is room for only ONE real super-star in his religion. 
    The one who started it!                                                                              
    For as the Cardinal addresses and blesses the Republicans and their billionaire buddies,
    as he smiles upon those who would destroy Social Security & voucher Medicare to death,
    and as he struts on the stage with those who readily admit they “don’t care about the very poor” would be good for the dear Cardinal to remember -and take to heart- 
    the words of his boss, who once said “Whatsoever you do for the least of these - you do for me”.
    Unless perhaps, ...just perhaps, the Cardinal is working for someone else these days?
    Just asking.
    Our Founding Fathers wisely realized that politics, secular power, and religion do not mix.
    That they bring out the worst in each other, ....that ultimately they would destroy each other, and us.
    A pastor.....should stick to his pulpit, not political conventions. Period.

  6. Sanchaz, I'm sorry I din't see this comment earlier. You are so right. Dolan doesn't seem to understand his real boss is not Benedict. I don't think Benedict understands he's not every Catholic persons real boss. The pope may be the vicar of Peter, but he is not Jesus Christ, and I'm no longer convinced our current papacy is the Vicar of Peter. I'm more inclined to think they are the Vicar of Constantine.