Cardinal O'Connor, R.I.P.

John Dubois (1764-1842), the only non-Irish bishop to lead the church in New York, is buried beneath the entrance to Old Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in Lower Manhattan. Dubois’s tenure as bishop was stormy, and he battled his mostly Irish congregants on many issues, including the ownership of parishes and the appointment of priests. Often he lost. "They walked over me in life," Dubois is supposed to have said about his burial plot. "Let them walk over me in death." The trustees of the cathedral obliged.

Cardinal John O’Connor, New York’s outspoken archbishop for the last sixteen years, was not a man anyone was likely to walk over. When he died earlier this month after a largely discreet battle with cancer, his passing was noted with sadness and praise by Catholic and non-Catholic alike. O’Connor was a stalwart champion of the poor, the working class, and the so-called man in the street. He was a fierce defender of labor unions, an advocate for AIDS victims, and a strong opponent of anti-Semitism. After a long and distinguished career as a chaplain in the U.S. Navy, he became more and more outspoken on issues of peace and skeptical about military spending. Theologically he did not shy away from the label "conservative," and he was a firm supporter of Pope John Paul II’s sometimes counterproductive efforts to curb dissent and impose discipline within the church. O’Connor’s influence with the pope, especially on the...

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