By Michelle Boorstein
America’s Catholic bishops pulled a shocker today in picking their new president, disregarding tradition and precedent by rejecting its vice-president and instead choosing a man seen as more outspoken and conservative.
On their third ballot, the U.S. Conference of Bishops picked New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan to be their president for the next three years. By a vote of 128-111, they chose Dolan over Tucson Bishop Gerald Kicanas, who had been vice president of the group U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for the past three years.
Those who study the church said they couldn’t recall a vice president not being elevated to president, except in rare cases when the man was about to retire.
(N.Y. Archbishop Dolan using incense during a church service.)
Kicanas faced a barrage of last-minute criticism in recent days over how he dealt with a priest who was accused of molesting more than a dozen boys and is now in jail. Victims’ advocates spoke out against Kicanas, but the most intense opposition was from conservatives who consider him too moderate in tone. Dolan has been bolder on controversial, hot-button issues and is seen as similar in tone to outgoing president Cardinal Francis George of Chicago. George spent much of his last speech as president Monday defending the bishops’ controversial stance against President Obama’s federal health care overhaul. The stance may have hurt unity with Catholics who disagreed, George said, but only the bishops can speak for the church.
“It’s a polarized conference this year, but not so much in terms of substance of issues, but in style, how the conference ought to express those views,” said blogger Rocco Palmo, who was covering the event.
What were the bishops saying in choosing Dolan over Kicanas? What do you make of the move?
Catholic reaction to today’s selection:
BishopAccountability.org: “U.S. bishops correctly passed over Bishop Gerald Kicanas“