Dolan served as the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops from 2010 to 2013 and was granted the titular position as Cardinal-Priest of Nostra Signora di Guadalupe a Monte Mario (English: Our Lady of Guadalupe of Mount Mario) in Rome.
Dolan is widely known for his conservative values and charismatic media personality. He previously served as Archbishop of Milwaukee from 2002 to 2009, preceded by service as an Auxiliary Bishop of St. Louis from 2001 to 2002. Time named Dolan one of the "100 Most Influential People in the World" for 2012.
The eldest of five children, Dolan was born in St. Louis, Missouri, to Robert (died 1977) and Shirley (née Radcliffe) Dolan. His father was an aircraft engineer, working as a floor supervisor at McDonnell Douglas. He has two brothers, one of whom is a former radio talk-show host, and two sisters. The family later moved to Ballwin, a suburb of St. Louis, where they attended Holy Infant Roman Catholic Church.
Dolan exhibited a strong interest in the Roman Catholic priesthood from an early age, once saying, "I can never remember a time I didn't want to be a priest." He would also pretend to celebrate Mass as a child.
Dolan entered Saint Louis Preparatory Seminary (now Kenrick–Glennon Seminary) in Shrewsbury, Missouri in 1964, and later obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy from Cardinal Glennon College. He was sent by Cardinal John Carberry to further his studies in Rome, where he attended the Pontifical North American College. Dolan is also an alumnus of the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas Angelicum from which he earned the degree of Licentiate of Sacred Theology in 1976.
Dolan was ordained a priest by Edward O'Meara, later Archbishop of Indianapolis, then an Auxiliary Bishop of St. Louis, on June 19, 1976. He then served as an associate pastor at Curé of Ars in Shrewsbury and Immacolata Roman Catholic Parish in Richmond Heights until 1979. From there he began his doctoral studies at The Catholic University of America under John Tracy Ellis with a concentration on the history of the church in America; his thesis centered on Bishop Edwin Vincent O'Hara of Kansas City, which he would eventually publish in book form. Dolan performed pastoral work upon his return to Missouri from 1983 to 1987. During this time he collaborated with Archbishop John L. May in reforming the archdiocesan seminary.
He was then named secretary of the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, D.C., serving as a liaison between American dioceses and the nunciature. In 1992, Dolan was appointed vice-rector of his alma mater Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, where he also served as spiritual director and taught church history. He was also an adjunct professor of theology at St. Louis University.
From 1994 until June 2001, Dolan held the office of rector of the Pontifical North American College in Rome. During his tenure he published Priests for the Third Millennium, and taught at the Pontifical Gregorian University and the Angelicum. He also was granted the title of Monsignor by Pope John Paul II in 1994.
On June 19, 2001, Dolan was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of St. Louis and Titular Bishop of Natchesium by Pope John Paul II. He received his episcopal consecration on the following August 15 from Archbishop Justin Rigali, with Bishops Joseph Naumann and Michael Sheridan serving as co-consecrators. He chose as his episcopal motto: Ad Quem Ibimus, meaning, "Lord, To Whom Shall We Go?" (John 6:68) taken from St. John’s Gospel. 6:68.
On June 25, 2002, Dolan was named the tenth Archbishop of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He was formally installed at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist on August 28, 2002. Dolan said he was challenged and haunted by the sexual abuse scandal in that diocese, which broke during his tenure According to WTAQ news, "An attorney says at least 8,000 kids were sexually abused by over 100 priests and other offenders in the Milwaukee Catholic Diocese."
Dolan took a special interest in priests and vocations, and the number of seminary enrollments also rose during his tenure. In an outdoor Mass in September 2002, Dolan wore a "cheesehead" hat in tribute to the Green Bay Packers during his homily. He also wrote Called to Be Holy (2005) and To Whom Shall We Go? Lessons from the Apostle Peter (2008), and co-hosted a television program with his brother called Living Our Faith.
In June 2012 it was revealed that Dolan "authorized payments of as much as $20,000 to sexually abusive priests as an incentive for them to agree to dismissal from the priesthood when he was the archbishop of Milwaukee" and that "a document unearthed during bankruptcy proceedings for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and made public by victims’ advocates reveals that the archdiocese did make such payments to multiple accused priests to encourage them to seek dismissal, thereby allowing the church to remove them from the payroll".
On September 28, 2007, Dolan was appointed as the apostolic administrator of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Green Bay. He continued in this position until he resigned on July 9, 2008, on the appointment of David L. Ricken as Bishop of Green Bay.
On February 23, 2009, Dolan was appointed the tenth Archbishop of New York by Pope Benedict XVI. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, the nation's second-largest after the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, serves over 2.5 million Roman Catholics. He succeeded Cardinal Edward Egan, who reached the mandatory retirement age of 75 in 2007. According to Dolan, he was informed of his appointment "nine, ten days" prior to the official announcement. Recalling the phone call he received from Apostolic Nuncio Pietro Sambi, as opposed to his appointments as Auxiliary Roman Catholic Bishop of St. Louis and Archbishop of Milwaukee when Dolan was told that the Pope (John Paul II), "would like [him] to" take the posts, he said that Sambi "was quite factual" in that he told him that "the Pope (Benedict XVI) had appointed [him]" to New York, giving Dolan little choice other than to accept.
The last time an Archbishop of New York was named without previously holding an office in the archdiocese's ranks came in 1939, when Pope Pius XII tapped close friend and then-Auxiliary Bishop Francis Spellman of the Archdiocese of Boston; however, Cardinal John O'Connor had served as an auxiliary to Cardinal Terence Cooke in the latter's capacity as head of the military ordinariate, not as Archbishop of New York.
Before Dolan's appointment, his name had been repeatedly mentioned as a possible successor to Egan, but he downplayed such speculation, saying, "Anytime there's kind of a major see that opens, what have we seen with Washington, Baltimore, Detroit, now New York, my name for some reason comes up. I'm flattered." John L. Allen Jr., Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter, has noted that Pope Benedict's appointment of Dolan, like those of Donald Wuerl, Edwin O'Brien, and Dennis Schnurr, follows a pattern of choosing prelates "who are basically conservative in both their politics and their theology, but also upbeat, pastoral figures given to dialogue."
Dolan was formally installed as Archbishop of New York at St. Patrick's Cathedral on Easter Wednesday, April 15, 2009. He wore the pectoral cross used by his 19th-century predecessor John Hughes. In attendance were eleven cardinals and several New York elected officials.
Dolan received the pallium, a vestment worn by metropolitan bishops, from Pope Benedict XVI on June 29, 2009, in a ceremony at St. Peter's Basilica.
He served as chairman of the board of directors of Catholic Relief Services (in which capacity he visited Ethiopia and India) until his election as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and he remains a member of the Board of Trustees of The Catholic University of America. Within the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, he chairs the Priestly Life and Ministry Committee and sits on the Subcommittee on the Church in Africa. In November 2007, he lost the election for Vice President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, being defeated by Bishop Gerald Kicanas by a margin of twenty-two votes.
Dolan was also the apostolic visitor to Irish seminaries as part of the Apostolic visitation to Ireland following the publication of the Ryan and Murphy Reports in 2009. Dolan will form part of a team that will include Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, archbishop emeritus of Westminster, who will inspect Cardinal Seán Brady's archdiocese of Armagh, and Cardinal Seán Patrick O'Malley of Boston who is to inspect Dublin. Toronto's Archbishop Thomas Christopher Collins will investigate Cashel, while Ottawa's Archbishop Terrence Prendergast will look at the archdiocese of Tuam. Following the conclusion, he will report their findings directly to Pope Benedict XVI.
On January 5, 2011, he was appointed among the first members of the newly created Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelisation.
In December 2011 Dolan was awarded the rank of Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus by Prince Victor Emmanuel.
In 2011 he led a root and branch review of all structures and processes at the Pontifical Irish College in Rome. The report was highly critical of the college, as a result of which three Irish members of the staff were sent home and a fourth resigned. Four Irish archbishops, Cardinal Seán Brady, Archbishop of Armagh; the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin; the Archbishop of Tuam, Michael Neary, and the Archbishop of Cashel, Dermot Clifford, were sent a copy of the visitation report by the Vatican. A response prepared for them said "a deep prejudice appears to have coloured the visitation and from the outset and it led to the hostile tone and content of the report". The visitation report said "a disturbingly significant number of seminarians gave a negative assessment of the atmosphere of the house". Staff, it added, were "critical about any emphasis on Rome, tradition, the magisterium, piety or assertive orthodoxy, while the students are enthusiastic about these features". A change in the staff was recommended. Elsewhere the report said: "The apostolic visitor noted, and heard from students, an ‘anti-ecclesial bias’ in theological formation."
On December 29, 2011, he was appointed a member of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications for a five-year renewable term. On April 21, 2011 he was appointed a member of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.
In 2012, Dolan expressed his public disappointment in the HHS Mandate promulgated by American President Barack Obama. In a televised CBS interview, Dolan condemned what was, in his view, government interference dismissing the right to religious conscience and religious freedom regarding the mandatory compulsion of religious groups and organizations to provide abortifacient drugs and contraception insurance coverage to its hired employees, while at the same time against the moral tenets of the Roman Catholic faith. After Barack Obama revised the rule, Dolan said the "first decision was a terribly misguided judgment" and said the new rule was "a first step".
On January 24, 2012, Dolan went on a religious pilgrimage to the Holy Land, where he met Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal.
After Pope Benedict XVI announced his retirement due to ill health, effective February 28, 2013, Dolan was named in the press as a papabile (a possible or likely successor) for election to the Papacy. However, on March 13, 2013, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected instead, and took the name Pope Francis.
On November 30, 2013, Pope Francis named Dolan a member of the Congregation for Catholic Education.
On September 3, 2014, Dolan denied requests by the Diocese of Peoria to receive the remains of Archbishop Fulton Sheen, who is entombed in St. Patrick's Cathedral, renewing the historical controversy over Sheen's body and effectively suspending Sheen’s cause for sainthood for the foreseeable future. On November 17, 2016 Judge Arlene Bluth of the New York State Supreme Court ordered Archbishop Fulton Sheen's remains from St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York to St. Mary's Cathedral in Peoria, Illinois.
On November 2, 2015, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) presented its Isaiah Award for Exemplary Interreligious Leadership to Dolan in recognition of his steadfast contribution and ongoing commitment to the relationship between Catholics and Jews.
At the inauguration of President Trump on January 20, 2017, Dolan gave the first benediction. His invocation involved a recitation of King Solomon's prayer from the Book of Wisdom.
Dolan completed a pilgrimage to the Knock Shrine in Ireland in 2015 and, on May 13, 2017, Dolan celebrated a requiem mass when Tim Curry, the youngest witness to the Knock apparition, was reinterred in St. Patrick's Old Cathedral cemetery in Lower Manhattan after being disinterred from an unmarked grave on Long Island.
Dolan was elected on November 16, 2010, to the presidency of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, becoming the first New York bishop to attain the post. Dolan replaced Cardinal Francis George, who did not run for re-election. In a vote of 128–111, Dolan beat out nine others, including Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, Arizona, to win the three-year term. Dolan took office two days later. He served as President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops until November 12, 2013.
On January 6, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI announced that Dolan would be created a cardinal at the consistory of the church held on February 18, 2012. Archbishop Dolan was formally elevated to the cardinalate by Pope Benedict XVI on February 18, 2012, receiving the traditional red biretta and gold ring during a ceremony in Saint Peter's Basilica. The day prior, he addressed the pope and the College of Cardinals on spreading the faith in a secularized world. He was created Cardinal-Priest of Nostra Signora di Guadalupe a Monte Mario. He was the first archbishop of New York not to receive the titular church of Santi Giovanni e Paolo since 1946 as that title was still being held by Cardinal Egan, then-archbishop emeritus of New York.
In September 2014 he was appointed a member of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
In November 2009, Dolan signed an ecumenical statement known as the Manhattan Declaration calling on evangelicals, Roman Catholics and Orthodox not to comply with rules and laws permitting abortion, same-sex marriage and other matters that go against their religious consciences. It calls for civil disobedience from Christian officials and laymen on these issues.
While noting that the "Church has weighed in" against the war in Iraq and capital punishment, Dolan defended not publicly opposing President George W. Bush's earlier appearance at Notre Dame by saying, "Where President Bush would have taken positions on those two hot-button issues that I'd be uncomfortable with, namely the war and capital punishment, I would have to give him the benefit of the doubt to say that those two issues are open to some discussion and are not intrinsically evil...In the Catholic mindset, that would not apply to abortion." He later said he will challenge any suggestion that Roman Catholics are unenlightened because they oppose gay marriage and abortion.
In 2002, Archbishop Rigali assigned Dolan to investigate Roman Catholic priests accused of sexual misconduct in St. Louis. During the investigation, Dolan spoke with parishes, victims, and the media about the scandals, and invited victims of clerical abuse to come forward. Commenting on his meetings with them, Dolan said, "...[i]t is impossible to exaggerate the gravity of the situation, and the suffering that victims feel, because I've spent the last four months being with them, crying with them, having them express their anger to me." Dolan dismissed abusive priests, which earned him the ire of some St. Louis parishioners who remained loyal to their dismissed priests and referred to Dolan's investigation as a "witch hunt".
In a 2003 letter to Joseph Ratzinger, requesting that the process be expedited for the laicization of priests accused of abuse who he believed were "remorseless and a serious risk to children", Dolan wrote: “As victims organize and become more public, the potential for true scandal is very real.” In May 2012, the New York Times revealed that the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, then headed by Dolan, had paid some abusive priests – although already dismissed from their priestly duties – up to $20,000 to leave the priesthood immediately rather than force the church to initiate time-consuming and expensive laicization proceedings against them. The archdiocese noted that the "unassignable priests" were still receiving full salaries and would continue to do so until they were formally laicized; and that the payouts were a "motivation" so that the priests would not contest being defrocked. The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests sent a formal protest asking, "In what other occupation, especially one working with families and operating schools and youth programs, is an employee given a cash bonus for raping and sexually assaulting children?" Dolan responded to accusations that he had given "payoffs" to protect accused priests as "false, preposterous, and unjust".
In 2011, Dolan thanked Bill Donohue for a press release, reproduced on the Archdiocese of New York website, in which Donohue referred to the non-profit support group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests as a "phony victims' group".
In July 2013, documents made public during bankruptcy proceedings showed that Dolan had sought permission to move $57 million in church funds to protect the assets from victims of clerical abuse. In a letter to the Vatican requesting permission to move the funds, Dolan wrote "By transferring these assets to the trust, I foresee an improved protection of these funds from any legal claim and liability.” Dolan had previously denied that he tried to conceal assets from child sex abuse victims claiming compensation calling the accusations "old and discredited" and "malarkey." United States law forbids debtors transferring money in ways that protect some creditors against others. The Vatican approved the request in five weeks.
Dolan visited Ground Zero, the site of the September 11 attacks, on the following April 24. After reciting the same prayer used by Benedict XVI during his visit to the United States, Dolan remarked, "We will never stop crying. But it's also about September 12 and all the renewal, the rebuilding, hope, solidarity and compassion that symbolized this great community and still does." Dolan condemned as a miscarriage of justice the release of the convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi and his reception in Libya.Knight Grand Cross of Justice of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George
Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus
Dolan, Fr. Timothy M. (1992). Some Seed Fell on Good Ground – The Life of Edwin V. O'Hara. Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press. ISBN 978-0-8132-0748-3.
Dolan, Fr. Timothy M. (circa 1993). A Century of Papal Representation in the United States. South Orange, New Jersey: Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology of Seton Hall University. OCLC 3822-1938.
Dolan, Monsignor Timothy M. (2000). Priests For The Third Millennium. Huntington, Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor. ISBN 978-0-87973-319-3. (A collection of talks given to the seminarians and priests at the Pontifical North American College, a school in Rome, Italy, for Roman Catholic seminarians and priests.)
Dolan, Archbishop Timothy M.; Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis (2001). Archdiocese of St. Louis – Three Centuries of Catholicism, 1700–2000. Strasbourg, France: Éditions du Signe. ISBN 978-2-7468-0353-4.
Dolan, Archbishop Timothy M. (2005). Called to Be Holy. Huntington, Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor. ISBN 978-1-59276-072-5.
Dolan, Archbishop Timothy M. (2007). Advent Reflections – Come, Lord Jesus!. Huntington, Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor. ISBN 978-1-59276-393-1.
Dolan, Archbishop Timothy M. (2009). Doers of the Word – Putting Your Faith into Practice. Huntington, Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor. ISBN 978-1-59276-639-0.
Dolan, Archbishop Timothy M. (2009). To Whom Shall We Go? – Lessons from the Apostle Peter. Huntington, Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor. ISBN 978-1-59276-050-3.