Monday, December 29, 2014

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NY1 Political Director Bob Hardt's daily look Inside City Hall.

NY1 ItCH: A Catholic Coffee Klatch for the Mayor

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Mayor de Blasio today is breaking bread with Cardinal Timothy Dolan – and maybe mending fences with the city's Catholic leader after raising some eyebrows by not naming a Catholic priest to his 60-member transition committee last November.

Beyond being an oversight by de Blasio, the snub shows how the Catholic Church, while still a powerful political force in the city, is nothing like it was less than a generation ago under Cardinal John O'Connor. Besides having a warm relationship with former Mayor Ed Koch, O'Connor was a masterful media manipulator, holding press conferences about a wide variety of topics in St. Patrick's Cathedral following his Sunday sermons. In his wake, Cardinal Edward Egan never seemed to enjoy the spotlight, focusing on the admittedly very busy administrative apsects of his job. The current Cardinal, Timothy Dolan, is more media-friendly than Egan but has been cautious about making big headlines – with the exception of his fight with the White House over ObamaCare.

While his mother was a Catholic and he was baptised, de Blasio is "none of the above" when it comes to his personal faith -- but has praised liberation theology in Latin America as one of his guiding principles. De Blasio, whose great uncle was a Catholic priest, also gushed in a recent online forum that: "BOY am I a fan of Pope Francis!”

It will be interesting to see if de Blasio can have a "Nixon in China" moment and forge an alliance with the Cardinal that hasn't been seen since Koch left Gracie Mansion in 1990. And it would be savvy of Dolan to cultivate de Blasio and make friends with a mayor whose political base often views the church as part of the city's dusty cultural past.

Meanwhile, there are likely many political questions on Dolan's mind, including the future of charter and parochial schools in the city. And churches of all faiths are hoping de Blasio rolls back the Bloomberg administration's ban of religious institutions from renting space in public schools. So there should be plenty of things for both men to talk about this afternoon. Let's just hope no one brings a knife and fork if they have pizza.

Bob Hardt

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