But the man who ruled the New York Catholic Church in New York in those days was famous nonetheless. Bishop (and later Archbishop) John Hughes was a tough, no-nonsense Irishman with big ideas and a will to implement them. He tackled lay trusteeism. He founded Fordham University. He laid the cornerstone for St. Patrick’s Cathedral before that area of Manhattan was even developed (a move which, at the time, was known as “Hughes’ Folly” by the shortsighted.) But it was probably his unflinching resolve in the face of anti-Catholic riots that threatened to spread to New York that earned him the nickname, “Dagger John Hughes.”
Hughes’ third and most dangerous battle occurred in 1844, when anti-Catholic rioters in Philadelphia planned to come to New York. During the riots in Philadelphia, two Catholic churches had been burned down and twelve people had died. In response to this threat, Hughes put armed guards around the Catholic churches. Then Hughes warned the mayor that “if a single Catholic Church were burned in New York, the city would become a second Moscow”.6 (The city of Moscow was burned to the ground by its own citizens to prevent Napoleon from using the city as winter quarters for his army.) Whether Hughes meant what he said or not will never be known. His threat was taken seriously enough for city leaders to force the rioters to cancel their rally. After these battles, Hughes became “the best known, if not exactly the best loved Catholic bishop in the country” .
To many, especially the overwhelmingly Irish demographic in New York’s Catholic Church of that time, Bishop Hughes was a hero. Though not everyone agreed, most seemed to respect the man.
“It is an understatement to say that John Hughes was a complex character,” wrote Monsignor Thomas Shelley, who researched the life of New York’s first archbishop, John J. Hughes. “He was impetuous and authoritarian, a poor administrator and worse financial manager, indifferent to the non-Irish members of his flock, and prone to invent reality when it suited the purposes of his rhetoric. One of the Jesuit superiors at Fordham with whom he quarreled said, ‘He has an extraordinarily overbearing character; he has to dominate.'”
“He was feared and love; misunderstood and idolized; misrepresented even to his ecclesiastical superiors in Rome, whose confidence in him, however, remained unshaken. Severe of manner, kindly of heart, he was not aggressive until assailed,” according to the Catholic Encyclopedia. “He was a forceful, impressive and convincing speaker; an able, resourceful and talented controversialist, a clear, logical and direct writer. His writing were usually hastily done, as occasion required, but commanded general attention from friend and opponent.”
In short, he was an undeniably pivotal figure in American Catholic history.
Fast Forward to 2015, and the Archbishopric of New York is a coveted position. St. Patrick’s, once in the undeveloped, rural area of Manhattan, now sits on some of the most prime real estate on planet Earth. The Archbishops of New York hobnob with presidents, politicians, and celebrities.
They also lead St. Patrick’s day parades that prohibit pro-life banners but allow those that promote perverse lifestyles.
New York doesn’t just have an archbishop these days. They have a cardinal. Still Irish, still outspoken, still powerful, the sitting Cardinal of New York isn’t using his considerable power to go to bat for the Catholics of his city; he seems content to use it against them. In fact, in the age of what one blogger (perhaps justifiably) dubbed a “Pontificate for Thugs,” we see Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s men getting rough with Michael Voris and his cameraman, simply for asking a question about his participation in the parade:
The tables have turned, it seems. We’ve already covered Dolan’s inexplicable obstruction of the cause for canonization of Archbishop Fulton Sheen. We’ve talked about how Mario Cuomo, a leading Catholic defender of legal abortion, was given a big Catholic funeral at St. Ignatius in New York – a funeral that should have been denied to such a high-profile dissenter. And we were one of many voices begging for Holy Innocents to be spared despite the fact that there’s no conceivable reason it should ever have been on the chopping block in the first place.
It’s hard for us not to look back at Bishop Hughes throwing his weight around on behalf of Catholics when they were little more than second-class citizens and not allow ourselves some appreciation of his methods. But when the Cardinal Archbishop of New York throws his weight at the faithful, treating those of us who care about the teachings of the Church as second-class Catholics ourselves?
Maybe it’s time for the moniker to be revived.
I wish it weren’t the case, but my money’s on the odds that this isn’t the last we’ll see of Cardinal “Dagger” Tim Dolan’s rough disregard for orthodoxy.
UPDATE: There has been some controversy over Michael Voris’s press credentials for the event. CMTV has issued a statement on that here. It reads:
In response to charges from certain irresponsible Catholic bloggers who should know better, we are clarifying that Michael Voris did not “fake” a press pass to get an interview with Cardinal Dolan, as some are claiming.
There is a substantial difference between a press credential (which is what Michael had) and a press pass. Michael presented his credentials, because he had been told by the head of the parade organizing committee that no press pass was needed–press credentials were sufficient. Taking the organizers’ word, that is what he presented, and he was allowed into the press scrum with no problem–until he asked Cdl. Dolan a question.
A credential is granted to an individual by the media outfit to identify him as being credentialed to represent the outfit. It’s essentially your company ID to identify you in public gatherings or events where you need to be recognized as media. It also safeguards and ensures your First Amendment rights–which were clearly violated here.
After he asked Cdl Dolan his question, he was suddenly told that a press pass was needed and was forcibly removed. This was NOT what he was told by the parade organizers.
In short: there was no “faking” of anything. Michael Voris’s actions were above board in every respect. It was Cdl Dolan’s press handlers who overstepped their bounds, physically assaulted him, and unlawfully removed a journalist who had every right to be there. Anyone who would defend such deplorable conduct on the part of officials lacks credibility and certainly does not believe in freedom of the press.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have seven children.