||A chronology of declarations, trips, some
slips of the tongue and plain old political jousting
By ARTHUR JONES
John J. OConnor, (episcopal motto: There can be no love
without justice) was born Jan. 15, 1920, in Philadelphia; ordained in 1945;
named auxiliary bishop to the military vicar in 1979; bishop of Scranton, Pa.,
in June 1983; and installed on March 19, 1984, as eighth archbishop of the New
York archdiocese (founded 1808).
He was named a cardinal May 25, 1985.
A career military chaplain, OConnor rose to rear admiral and
Navy chief of chaplains. As such, while still a bishop, OConnor was a
well-informed early member of the U.S. bishops committee that produced
the 1983 peace pastoral. He resigned from the committee prior to its
completion, citing the pressures associated with a forthcoming archdiocesan
As chaplain, OConnor liked to get more than a word in
edgeways. One retired Navy chaplain reported, We used to have a monthly
newsletter, items of interest from the Navy chief of chaplains office.
Brief little messages. When OConnor took over, they were vast. They were
voluminous. They were like epistles to the Romans.
In New York, the cardinal has been equally prolific. Highlights of
his New York years to date include:
- 1984, April -- Politically, OConnor plays his major and
top card -- opposing abortion -- early. At the first meeting of New York
states bishops under his leadership, he lists pro-life issues as a top
priority and asks public officials to stand up for the sacredness of
every human life.
- 1984, July -- OConnor and Mayor Ed Koch spar over
Executive Order 50, which bars discrimination in employment against
homosexuals. OConnor says the archdiocese supports antidiscrimination but
would willingly risk losing city contracts if the alternative was condoning
- 1984, December -- Chicago perceives OConnor as
antifeminist, anti-gay, anti-civil rights, anti-ERA and anti-Democratic Party,
pro-Republican, pro-life, pro-Pentagon and pro-prayer in classrooms,
writes Tim Unsworth in NCR. OConnors talk on Religion
and Politics at the University of Chicago had pickets looking at their
signs to see if they were at the wrong protest when OConnor
focused mainly on war and peace issues.
- 1985, March -- At a time when the Reagan administration is
pushing Congress for more funds to fuel the contras in Nicaragua,
OConnor, as the bishops Social Development and World Peace
chairman, takes an El Salvador-Guatemala trip.
- 1985, May -- Catholics whose views depart from church teaching
on some issues are banned from speaking at parish-sponsored events in the
archdiocese. Catholic public officeholders take issue with the guidelines.
- 1986, October -- Local 1199 of the Drug, Hospital and Health
Care Employees union, in a The New York Times ad praises OConnor
for his support of health care workers. He backs a 5 percent pay increase for
them in Catholic hospitals, which means breaking with other New York hospitals,
and gets the Catholic institutions kicked out of the regions Association
of Voluntary Hospitals and Homes.
- 1987, January -- OConnor causes a major flap in Israel
when he cancels a Jerusalem meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir
and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres while visiting Jordan. The Vatican had
belatedly warned him such meetings might make it appear the Holy See recognized
Israeli claims on the city.
- 1987, February -- OConnors resignation from the
peace pastoral committee is announced. He had appeared in speaking engagements
with committee member and pacifist Bishop Tom Gumbleton and is alleged to have
canceled those because he didnt want to keep playing Goliath to
Bishop Gumbletons David.
- 1987, February -- The cardinals bedroom and office are
ransacked by two men who escape on foot when detected. OConnor was not
- 1987, March -- A man charged with abortion clinic bombings
turns himself in following OConnors February televised plea.
- 1987, June -- OConnor calls New York Sen. Daniel Patrick
Moynihans statement that he would not impose his moral beliefs on others
on the abortion issue Orwellian newspeak and politics at its
- 1987, December -- The cardinal causes a new uproar by
condemning the U.S. bishops pastoral letter on AIDS and calling its
release a very grave mistake. Five days later he semi-recants,
saying, I strongly agree with its primary thrust.
- 1988, January -- OConnor announces he is donating his
annual $6,000-7,000 Social Security income to a New York City scholarship
program for black students.
- 1989, June -- The cardinals goodwill mission to Lebanon
as president of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association stirs a
hornets nest. The Christian Maronite leaders were wary that OConnor
might be an emissary of a disinterested-in-Lebanon Bush administration; West
Beiruts Muslim leaders were annoyed when he canceled a meeting with them
on the advice of the American Embassy, which feared he might be kidnapped.
- 1989, September -- OConnor expresses dismay at Polish
Cardinal Joseph Glemps remarks over Auschwitz that were regarded as
anti-Semitic. At issue was a Carmelite convent being built at Auschwitz over
strong Jewish objections. As a result of his remarks, OConnor receives a
barrage of hate mail objecting to his distancing himself from Glemp.
- 1989, September -- Hospital workers again take a full page
The New York Times advertisement to praise OConnor for a new
Catholic hospital contract.
- 1989, October -- The cardinal tells reporters he would like to
be arrested with antiabortion protesters who try to close abortion clinics but
that his lawyer had warned him against it.
- 1990, March -- Some rock and roll music is the work of the
devil, OConnor announces. He adds that two exorcisms had been performed
within the New York archdiocese during the previous year. One result is a
New York Post cartoon showing OConnor, in his miter, leading a
rock group of elderly priests as Johnny OConnor and the
- 1990, June -- In his weekly column, OConnor writes that
Catholics perceived as treating church teaching on abortion with contempt
risk excommunication. After an uproar that keeps the story and commentary
alive for more than a week, OConnor goes on Good Morning
America to say his original words had been misunderstood, that he had not
threatened anyone with excommunication but was explaining church teaching.
- 1991, May -- The Sisters of Life, a New York archdiocese order
of nuns dedicated to the pro-life cause and ready to open their doors June 1,
have drawn more applicants than they can accommodate, reports
- 1991, July -- Feminist interpretations of God as mother are
erroneous, says OConnor. The fatherhood of God is established in the
scriptures and cannot be altered.
- 1991, October -- During Respect Life weekend, OConnor
reiterates his 1985 offer to pregnant city women considering abortions, stating
that the archdiocese is willing to provide medical, legal and housing
- 1992, February -- At his weekly Mass in St. Patricks
Cathedral, OConnor admits to a recent instance of personal racism --
fearing a black man walking toward him. The cardinal said the man introduced
himself and said it was an honor to meet him. OConnor tells the
congregation, I felt delighted -- and ashamed.
- 1992, September -- OConnor reacts against plans to
distribute condoms in New York schools and against a Children of the
Rainbow curriculum that critics said promotes easy acceptance of
homosexuality. OConnor teams up with Ralph Reed and the Christian
Coalition to distribute in Catholic parishes profiles of school board
- 1993, May -- Protesters deplore OConnors attendance
at the Portland, Maine, launching of a new Navy destroyer named for a Catholic
priest and war hero, Fr. John Laboon.
- 1993, May -- OConnors housekeeper christens him the
Bionic Man for the speed of his recovery and return to work two
days after prostate surgery.
- 1995, October -- OConnor invites televangelist Pat
Robertson and other fundamentalists to meet Pope John Paul II during the papal
visit to New York.
- 1996, September -- The Al Smith Foundation board -- of which
the cardinal is a member -- decides that President Clinton will not receive the
invitation customarily extended to sitting presidents for the annual Al Smith
dinner. Clintons veto of the partial-birth abortion ban is said to be the
- 1997, January -- The cardinal expresses regrets about
responding to media questions on topics about which he admittedly knows little.
He tells The New York Times, I said some dumb things. The press
could have asked me about satellites to Mars, and I would have given them an
National Catholic Reporter, May 29,