Bishops meeting in Baltimore for their fall annual meeting elected a number of new committee chairs Tuesday morning and decided to break with the tradition of electing a cardinal to lead their pro-life efforts, instead voting for an archbishop who is a vocal opponent of abortion.
Bishops elected Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City to head the pro-life efforts of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. He beat Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, a proponent of the “consistent ethic of life” approach to pro-life issues espoused his predecessor in Chicago, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin. The final vote was 96 for Archbishop Naumann and 82 for Cardinal Cupich.
Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann beat Cardinal Blase Cupich, a proponent of the “consistent ethic of life” approach to pro-life issues.
Archbishop Naumann was a member of the bishops pro-life committee. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who heads the committee, gave a nod to the archbishop during his remarks on Monday to the full body of bishops. During a press conference yesterday, Archbishop Naumann filled in for Cardinal Dolan, who was unable to attend, according to a spokesperson for the conference.
In other races, Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron, who heads the Archdiocese of Detroit, was elected to serve as conference secretary beginning next November. The religious liberty subcommittee, which had been a temporary committee until bishops decided to make it permanent earlier this year, will be headed by Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, a former president of the U.S.C.C.B. Bishop Michael Burbridge of Arlington, Va., was elected to lead the bishops’ communications committee. Bishop Nelson J. Pérez, of the Diocese of Cleveland will lead the cultural diversity committee, and Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend will head the doctrine committee.
The pro-life committee race was viewed by some observers as a referendum on how bishops wish to approach in the public square the litany of life issues important to church leaders.
Both prelates oppose abortion, but their leadership in the pro-life area has played out in different ways.
When it comes to life issues, Cardinal Cupich frequently invokes his predecessor, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, who advocated for a consistent ethic of life that includes abortion and the death penalty but also issues of poverty, gun violence and war. Cardinal Cupich has written that these issues, along with abortion and euthanasia, contribute to society’s “disregard for the value of human life.”
Archbishop Naumann is seen as the more traditional voice on abortion. He cut ties with the Girl Scouts of America after critics accused the organization of promoting abortion rights, and he has said public figures who support abortion rights should not take Communion.
In other votes, bishops agreed to add a staff member to work on race issues, serving the newly established working group combatting racism.