The Deacon's Bench

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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