Here's Tom Reese on the surprising election of Archbishop Timothy Dolan as president of the USCCB:
At their meeting this week in Baltimore, the U.S. bishops signaled that they are going to continue their conservative tilt in both the church and American politics. This rightward tilt became evident six years ago when Cardinal Francis George of Chicago was elected vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The election of vice president is important because the bishops traditionally elect the vice president as president at the next election in three years.
Prior to his election as vice president, George had executed the coup d’état at ICEL (International Commission on English in the Liturgy) that got rid of those who opposed a literal word-for-word translation of the Latin Mass. He, more than any other bishop, will be responsible for the new English translation that goes into effect in Advent of 2011. This year, as president of the bishops’ conference, he led the attack on President Obama’s healthcare bill, which he claims will fund abortions even though the Catholic Health Association disagrees.
Moderates were fooled into thinking that the bishops had returned to the center three years ago when they elected Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson as vice president at the same time that Cardinal George was elevated to president. They expected Kicanas to be elected president this year, after he defeated Archbishop Timothy Dolan, then of Milwaukee, by a vote of 128-106. Dolan’s victory over Kicanas at this week’s meeting is unprecedented. The bishops have always elected the vice president when he was on the ballot for president.
On paper, there is little difference between the two bishops. Both would claim to support orthodox doctrine and the full range of Catholic social teaching. As one bishop told me, “Kicanas is a liberal moderate, and Dolan is a conservative moderate.” The substantive differences are not that great. The difference is in style and emphasis.
Correction: The original column, based on Dolan's press conference, said that Kicanas defeated Dolan by one vote three years ago. In fact the vote was 128-106
James Martin, SJ