Monday, May 27, 2013

Let’s lift a glass to the late John Cardinal O’Connor

As some who was critical about Cardinal John O’Connor’s intervention in the 1984 Presidential election, I came to an understanding of him that was almost, but not quite admiration. A couple of things altered my opinion. First and foremost was his palpable and public outrage at the murder of three nuns and a lay worker by a right wing death squad in El Salvador. The Vatican ignored them, Cardinal O’Connor did not.

Then there was his attitudes toward Gay rights. What the Gay community never really understood was that O’Connor was not a free agent in the controversy, but had obligations to Rome that came with his office.

Two things stand out to me: one was the creation of the Terrance Cardinal Cooke Health Care Center on Fifth Avenue, across the avenue from Central Park. While the Center’s web cite now states a broader message, it was first and foremost when it was founded a health care center for AIDS patients. There were stories about O’Connor volunteering to do menial tasks at the center as an example of compassion for the afflicted.

That’s one plus. But there is another, the name of the Center. Cardinal Cooke was personal secretary to Cardinal Spellman who was a lion in the Church during his regime and the first to be labeled “the American Pope.” He was also a practicing homosexual. He used to spend weekends on Roy Cohn’s yacht. Cook’s reign as Cardinal was relatively short. He died in office of what was officially called “throat cancer.” Many believe it was  AIDS and I at first though there was irony in O’Connor’s naming the Church’s AIDS center for him.

I came to believe that I was wrong. O’Connor was a retired Navy Admiral, he didn’t do irony. As Cardinal, he would have been well-informed as to the true nature of Cooke’s condition.

Not only did O’Connor name the AIDS center for Cooke, he proposed Cooke for sainthood.

Today, there was a brief reminder of what a complex man O’Connor was in New York Times. The article concerns the fact that despite the huffing and puffing of current Cardinal Timothy Dolan about the “outrage” of Obamacare requiring Catholic hospitals to offer insurance plans that include contraception as a paid service, that for more three decades the New York Archdiocese hospitals have offered such insurance..

Who was the Catholic prelate who acquiesced to this outrage? Here’s what an Archdiocese spokesman told the times:

“Mr. Zwilling, the spokesman for the New York archdiocese, said that Cardinal John J. O’Connor and the archdiocese “objected to these services’ being included in the National Benefit Fund’s health insurance plan” when joining the league in the 1990s. But the cardinal then decided “there was no other option if the Catholic Church was to continue to provide health care to these union-affiliated employees in the city of New York,” Mr. Zwilling said.”

Further the deponent sayeth not.