By Kathleen Gilbert

NEW YORK, April 16, 2009 ( – New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral erupted in applause yesterday during the installation Mass of Archbishop Timothy Dolan, the new leader of the Catholic Church in New York, when the prelate mentioned the sanctity of human life in the womb. 

In a press conference the day before, the popular new archbishop affirmed that he would not back down from defending life and family in his influential new position.

“The Resurrection goes on, as His Church continues to embrace and protect the dignity of every human person, the sanctity of human life, from the tiny baby in the womb to the last moment of natural passing into eternal life,” said Dolan in his homily, which witnesses say was immediately interrupted by “deafening” applause. 

“At the phrase ‘tiny baby in the womb’ a sharp staccato applause began (from what I could hear) originating from the priests,” popular American Papist blogger Thomas Peters, who was in attendance, told  Peters said the “violent” applause, which lasted about half a minute, led to a standing ovation by the congregation and nearly all the priests. 

“My personal feeling was that it was a ‘moment’ for the assembled gathering – a strong declaration of the Church’s proud and uncompromising defense of unborn human life, especially at this crucial time in our nation and in particular at this transition taking place for the New York archdiocese,” he added.

Dolan’s homily continued: “As the Servant of God Terrence Cardinal Cooke wrote, ‘Human life is no less sacred or worthy of respect because it is tiny, pre-born, poor, sick, fragile, or handicapped.’

“Yes, the Church is a loving mother who has a zest for life and serves life everywhere, but she can become a protective ‘mamma bear’ when the life of her innocent, helpless cubs is threatened,” he said – at which moment the church erupted in applause a second time.  

“Everyone in this mega-community is a somebody with an extraordinary destiny,” Dolan said.  “Everyone is a somebody in whom God has invested an infinite love.

“That is why the Church reaches out to the unborn, the suffering, the poor, our elders, the physically and emotionally challenged, those caught in the web of addictions.”

Dolan, the former archbishop of Milwaukee famed for his jovial and inviting demeanor, told press members at a conference Tuesday that he would defend authentic Church teaching on “controversial” issues with charity and firmness.

Asked if he would use his new position as a bully pulpit on issues such as same-sex “marriage,” Dolan objected to the negative connotation of the term “bully,” but emphasized that he would “still preach the truth” whether in a position of influence or not.

On controversial topics “that the church has a message to give,” Dolan said, “I don’t shy away from those things, and I wouldn’t sidestep them.” 

“We bishops aren’t into politics, we’re into principles,” he added.

Archbishop Dolan indicated he would take an active role in defending marriage as New York activists look to pass same-sex “marriage” legislation, which Gov. David Paterson is introducing to the state senate today.

See related coverage:

NY Governor to Introduce Homosexual “Marriage” Bill

Abp. Dolan Determined to Fight Anti-Catholic Bias on Same-Sex “Marriage,” Abortion