On what planet is a bishop who spends thirty-three years thumbing his nose at the Holy See, making life a living hell for the believing Catholics among his flock, and destroying virtually every Church institution under his care — schools, parishes, presbyterate — “great”?

I can understand His Eminence Timothy Dolan’s impulse or need to say a few pleasant things about Bishop Clark during one of what promises to be a litany of vainglorious farewell Masses, but this is too much. Far too much.

And trust me, Cardinal Dolan’s unreserved praise will be used by Clark’s bitter-enders to thwart his successor’s reforms.

Good grief.

Only a couple of minutes into his homily, Cardinal Dolan, who noted that all were gathered “to salute a great Bishop of Rochester,” got to the prevailing sentiment of the occasion.

“Why don’t I just say it, what’s in all our hearts. Matthew, we love you very much,” Cardinal Dolan remarked, setting off thunderous applause that became a standing ovation.

The special liturgy wrapped up a busy weekend for Bishop Clark. One night earlier he was the guest of honor at a banquet attended by 300 at the Burgundy Basin Inn in Pittsford, during which Rochester Mayor Thomas Richards and Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks issued him proclamations.

“I feel great. I’m thrilled with this day, for all it means in my life,” Bishop Clark said just prior to the Sept. 16 Mass. “I’m just deeply mindful of how those in our church today have shaped my life.”

One of those folks is Cardinal Dolan himself, who has been a friend since Bishop Clark served as the future cardinal’s spiritual director at North American College in Rome in the early 1970s. Bishop Clark recalled looking forward to their meetings decades ago because of the seminarian’s lively personality, and said that’s still the case in 2012.

“Tim is the most famous, well-known priest in this country. But even with his incredibly multi-tiered responsibilities, he brings the same Tim Dolan into the room that he did 40 years ago,” Bishop Clark remarked at a press conference prior to the Mass. “I got up this morning and said the same thing: ‘Oh, it’s going to be a good day, Tim’s coming.'”

Cardinal Dolan offered similar praise for Bishop Clark, saying he “was a great spiritual director” and that it was during his seminary years that he first began to cherish Bishop Clark’s many positive attributes.

“He would exude an interior calmness, patience, wisdom and prudence,” Cardinal Dolan said, remarking that Bishop Clark “knows me very, very well” and was excellent at handling such personal issues as homesickness, discouragement, confusion and anxiety.

UPDATE. The Catholic Courier of Rochester’s facebook page posts the video of an interview of Cardinal Dolan and Bishop Clark.

You’ve got to love that the the biggest fans in the comment string are a film critic (the Democrat & Chronicle‘s Jack Garner) and an excommunicant (the planet Nebulon’s Ray Grosswirth).

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