The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

BREAKING: Dolan elected head of USCCB — UPDATED

A surprise, and an upset:

For the first time in the history of the US bishops, a vice-president standing for the presidency has been denied the top post, losing a stunning election to the archbishop of New York.

By a 128-111 vote, Archbishop Timothy Dolan bested Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson on the third ballot at this morning’s elections in Baltimore.


Overturning a half-century of tradition for the bench, the result represents a seismic shift for the leadership of the nation’s largest religious body, and a mandate for a continuance of the outspoken, high-profile leadership shown by Cardinal Francis George over his game-changing term at the conference’s helm.

The 60 year-old Gotham prelate will take office Thursday for a three-year term, along with his freshly-elected Vice-President, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, who won in another third-ballot runoff, 147-91, over Archbishop Charles Chaput OFM Cap. of Denver.

Stay tuned.  My take: the bishops didn’t want to have to face three years of endless stories about Bishop Kicanas’s controversial record on sex abuse.  And in Archbishop Dolan, they have a “happy warrior,” who can command the stage and command respect.  Of course, Dolan will also be a wonderful messenger, delivering a wonderful message — the good news! 

Reaction and analysis: (running thread, periodically updated)
America magazine says: “The vote perhaps indicates the coming of age of conservative appointments made by Pope John Paul II. (Fr. Thomas )Reese marveled at Kicanis’ loss. ‘This just suggests how conservative the [U.S.C.C.B.] is becoming. I mean [Kicanis] was no left wing candidate. He supported a ban on gay marriage in Arizona,” Reese said.


Thomas Peters at “Let me get in front of all the spin: The majority of American bishops believe that Abp. Dolan is the best choice to lead them and represent the Church to the American people over the next three years. It’s that simple.”

From Richard Barnes of the New York State Catholic Conference (via email): “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. 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.”


From Deacon Keith Fournier at “The United States of America has become mission territory. The Church in the United States is in need of the New Evangelization. Archbishop Timothy Dolan is a wonderful instrument of this New Evangelization, a trumpet in the hands of the Lord. “

From Michael Sean Winters at the National Catholic Reporter: “One of the things that has long been told to me about Cardinal George applies equally to Archbishop Dolan: Everyone trusts him to keep the conference together, to listen to all voices and make sure no one feels like they ‘lost.’ Dolan is not a fire-breathing conservative. Had Archbishop Chaput won the presidency or the vice-presidency, that would have been a signal that the bishops as a whole wanted to move in certain ideological direction. Dolan’s election does not suggest such a shift.”  

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posted November 16, 2010 at 10:36 am

Wow! Kinda like the last senate and congress elections. Good and great. The winds are changing indeed.

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posted November 16, 2010 at 11:10 am

This is awesome news! Weakland destroyed, Dolan redeems.

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posted November 16, 2010 at 12:11 pm

A couple of my friends (and yes, I do have some) have been chatting on and off about this for the last two to three days. All of us were worried about the election of Bishop Gerald Kicanas to the top spot. His testimony and his stance on a number of issues worried me. When he received a sort of nod from Rev. Reese (best hope for liberal wing) and, of course, the overwhelming support of those who support gay marriage, we became even more concerned.
We were already thinking about what our response should be to this. However, we no longer have to worry about it.
The bishops have chosen someone who knows not only how to share the faith but knows how to get the message out about our faith in plan terms that people can understand. And knows how to get it across via the media and is not scared of them.
Archbishop Dolan, I can only say “AD MULTOS ANNOS!!”

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posted November 16, 2010 at 12:20 pm

Always fascinating to watch the USCCB Meetings. (This is the first year that I have had the free time to watch it.)
Lest we get too excited about the “upset” vote for the presidency of the USCCB, let’s look at the data.
First Ballot: Kicanas – 104, Dolan – 80 (along with votes for other candidates)
Second Ballot: Dolan -118, Kicanas – 111. (along with votes for other candidates)
Third Ballot: Dolan -128 Bishop Kicanas – 111.
By my math Kincanas had about 46% of the attending bishops who supported him and they seemed to be consistent throughout the three ballots.
As for the vice-president votes
Third Ballot: Kurtz -147, Chaput – 91.
It is interesting to note that both Dolan and Kurtz were members of the panel at the Monday evening Press Conference.

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posted November 16, 2010 at 12:59 pm

This is excellent news.

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posted November 16, 2010 at 1:49 pm

This is wonderful news. I have no doubt that Abp. Dolan will be a great president. Abp. Kurtz was my bishop here in Knoxville and I worked with him as chair of the diocesan pastoral council. He is a good and holy man. I hope the bishops will go back to the practice of electing the VP as president when Abp. Kurtz’s name comes up in three years.

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posted November 16, 2010 at 2:01 pm

There are several members of the clergy doing a happy dance in celebration of this choice. Archbishop Dolan has demonstrated a wonderful ability and willingness to speak the truth in love.

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posted November 16, 2010 at 2:14 pm

Deo Gratias!
I was so praying for someone like Bishop Dolan.

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posted November 16, 2010 at 2:50 pm

I am with you Deacon…the controversy over Kicanas handling of sexual abuse (fair or not) was not something that the bishops wanted to deal with. Besides, Dolan really does have great appeal.
I think that the media is making too much over the idealogical differences, turning it into a political power grab…yawn!
Prayers all around!

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posted November 16, 2010 at 5:54 pm

Greg: Can you delete my previous post. There were several spelling errors. (I am a teacher.)
Otherwise, here is the corrected post.
I think that there is more to this upset vote than the clerical sexual abuse scandal.
I have read several Catholic websites that have accused Kicanas of being “too liberal.” (Evidence? Among other accusations, one website said that he has designated three of his diocesan schools as feeders to the University of Notre Dame.)
There appears to be campaign “to get” Kicanas as being too much in the spirit of Cardinal Bernardin, who was, to my mind, a very holy and inspirational member of our U.S. Hierarchy.

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posted November 17, 2010 at 3:14 am

This simply put is great news…So many bishops would make fine presidents, but Bishop Dolan is a fine choice…
I don’t always live up to the eternal beauty of the truths espoused by the Church…but I certainly do not see that as a reason to alter the truths to meet my choices as it seems some end up doing….
I wanna hear the truth preached with love and compassion…I wanna be reminded of where I fail…and I wanna be reminded that I’m forgiven if I seek it…Not a “new” gospel intended to simply take away my guilty feelings by making my choices okay…

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