By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
In a surprising upset, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) elected Archbishop Timothy Dolan over sitting vice president Bishop Gerald Kicanas as the new president of the conference.
The National Catholic Register is reporting that yesterday’s election marks only the second time in history that a sitting vice president was not elected as president of the U.S. Bishops. Tucson Bishop Gerald Kicanas, who has served as vice president under Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George for the last three years, has been embroiled in controversy after reports surfaced that he ordained a man even after learning that he had been accused of sexual misconduct. The man was eventually accused of molesting at least 23 boys.
Although the bishop claims he did not know about the accusations at the time of the ordination, the idea of a prelate being elected to head the USCCB with this kind of controversy swirling around him triggered alarm bells throughout the country during the past week.
“Catholic Bishops to Elect Enabler of Child Molester as National Leader” ran one headline at the Spero News Forum by a writer who said Bishop Kicanas’ election would be “fitting” for what she described as “that vile bureaucracy.”
The Boston Catholic Insider went so far as to issue a “Red Alert” to readers asking them to contact their local bishops to respectfully ask them to vote for someone other than Kicanas.
To make matters worse, the “Catholic” homosexual activist group, Rainbow Sash, came out with a strong endorsement of Bishop Kicanas on Monday, claiming “he understands that Bishops are privately changing their position because input is bubbling up from the pews of our parishes in support of such issues as Gay Marriage, and Pro Choice.”
How much this ruckus affected the vote is unclear, but Kicanas did indeed lose enough votes to cost him the position. On the first ballot, Kicanas received 104 votes to Dolans’ 84. On the second ballot, Dolan received 118 and Kicanas received 111. On the third and final ballot, Dolan received 128 votes to Kicanas’ 111.
“No one runs for this office,” Archbishop Dolan said after the election. “As bishops, we’re concerned with what’s going on in our own dioceses. No one seeks this office. My brother bishops elected me.”
Dolan was named Archbishop of New York by Pope Benedict XVI on February 23, 2009. He previously served as Archbishop of Milwaukee since his appointment to the post by Pope John Paul II on June 25, 2002.
Archbishop Dolan has already made his mark on the Archdiocese of New York City by proving himself to be an outspoken supporter of Church teaching who is more than willing to take on liberal bastions such as the New York Times and other entities that misrepresent and/or disparage the Faith.
Reaction to Dolan’s election has been swift and mostly positive.
“The U.S. Bishops made an inspired choice in electing Archbishop Dolan, who we in New York already know as a compassionate shepherd, a gifted preacher and a brilliant historian,” said Richard Barnes of the New York State Catholic Conference in an e-mail to the popular blog The Deacon’s Bench. “The natural joy he exudes in his vocation has been an inspiration to millions of Catholics in the Empire State since his appointment as Archbishop of New York. We know he will bring to the national conference these same great gifts. We are so pleased to be able to share him with the entire country for the next three years.”
The liberal America Magazine called the vote “the coming of age of conservative appointments made by Pope John Paul II.” Magazine editor Fr. Thomas Reese was said to have “marveled” at Kicanis’ loss. “This just suggests how conservative the [U.S.C.C.B.] is becoming,” he said.
Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights sees it much differently. “What a splendid choice!” he said in a Nov. 16 press release. “Archbishop Dolan possesses all the right skills to lead the bishops’ conference: he is brilliant, courageous and diplomatic. He’ll get the job done and will not disappoint practicing Catholics who are loyal to the Magisterium. He’s already won the support of New Yorkers—now Catholics across the nation will come to love him as well.”
Archbishop Dolan will be assisted in his new post by Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky who was elected to serve as vice president.
© All Rights Reserved, Living His Life Abundantly®/Women of Grace® http://www.womenofgrace.com