Father Neuhaus on John Cardinal O'Connor
Fr. Richard John Neuhaus reflects on the late great John Cardinal O'Connor over at the First Things blog On the Square:
... Wherever the discussion turns to models of episcopal leadership, somebody will sooner rather than later ask why there aren’t more bishops like John O’Connor. He was not so popular with many other bishops. When he came to New York in 1984, he had the temerity to point out that the Democratic vice-presidential candidate, Geraldine Ferraro, was misrepresenting Catholic teaching on abortion. That prompted a great media brouhaha, and when O’Connor went to the bishops’ meeting that fall he received little encouragement. The bishops who mentioned the matter, he told me, were mainly puzzled that he didn’t realize that the fight against abortion was a lost cause.
O’Connor didn’t accept that for a moment, and his boldness was a major factor in revitalizing the pro-life movement in the 1980s...
... In his first meeting with the pope after his appointment, John Paul the Great came out of his study, held out his arms, and said, “Welcome to the archbishop of the capital of the world.” O’Connor was keenly aware of the media and saw New York as a great platform for preaching the gospel. It is frequently said that he was a showman, and there is something to that. He was good at it. In his last few years, however, he became ambivalent about whether he was less using the media than being used by the media. The truth is that he was a very shy and private person. He was not naturally gregarious. Apart from the members of his family, there were very few whom he counted as friends. Most of the time he seemed to enjoy the attention, but maintaining the high public profile was more a matter of duty. He was, and knew he was, shepherd of the city and something very much like a pastor to the nation.