The election of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ president is typically not a very suspenseful event: The general expectation is that the concluding term’s vice president will be elevated by his confreres to lead the conference over the following three-year term. For instance, outgoing USCCB president Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles served as conference vice president from late 2016 to 2019 prior to his own election to the presidency.
But for the first time since 2010, this pattern will not repeat when the bishops gather Nov. 14-17 in Baltimore for their general assembly. Unlike in 2010, when the bishops surprisingly tapped Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York instead of the sitting USCCB vice president, Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Arizona, for largely theological reasons, the cause of this year’s inevitable break from precedent is far less dramatic: The USCCB’s vice president over the past three year-term, Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit, will turn 75 years old during the upcoming term and is therefore ineligible to serve as conference president.
As a result, there’s a sense that this year’s election is wide open, with no shoo-in. And with significant challenges and opportunities facing the USCCB — including shoring up the Church’s response to the sex-abuse crisis and addressing the rift it has reportedly created between priests and bishops, carrying out the National Eucharistic Revival, participating in the ongoing Synod on Synodality, and discerning how to engage with a Catholic president who openly flouts some of the Church’s fundamental moral teachings — the man the bishops select to lead them from this relatively open field will say a lot about the direction the episcopacy wants the conference to take.
The 10 candidates nominated by their brother bishops are: Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Military Services; Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia; Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut; Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma CIty; Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco; Archbishop Paul Etienne of Seattle; Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, Texas; Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller of San Antonio; Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore and Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend.
The candidates represent a variety of perspectives, both in terms of their theological emphases, but also regarding their style of leadership and pastoral priorities. Notably, no recently created cardinals are among the nominees, perhaps an indication of a gap in priorities between the bishops to whom Pope Francis has given the red hat in recent years — such as Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago and Cardinal Robert McElroy of San Diego — and the body of U.S. bishops writ large….
The above comes from an Oct. 31 story on the National Catholic Register.
In looking at the list, it seems at least most of the bishops nominated by their brother bishops are Catholic. That’s a little bit hopeful. (They’re not cardinals, so can’t participate in the next papal conclave, but let’s pray some bishops who think and act like Christians are elevated to the cardinalate.)
Can’t get excited about Coakley, Burbidge, or even supposed hero Cordileone…or the US bishops as a whole, or today’s Vatican. But my pastor is a fine Catholic.