The following comes from a November 5 National Catholic Reporter article by Fr. Thomas Reese:
The upcoming election of committee chairs by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) will present the American bishops with clear choices that will indicate the direction of the conference for the next few years.
The elections will take place at the bishops’ annual fall meeting in Baltimore, November 16-19.
Four of the candidates are clearly “Francis bishops,” because they were chosen by him for their dioceses or for a special assignment.
First, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, appointed to Bridgeport, Connecticut, by Francis, is running for chair of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth against Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap., of Philadelphia, who was “very disturbed” by the debate over church teachings on gays and remarried Catholics at the 2014 synod on the family, saying it sent a confusing message, and “confusion is of the devil.”
In another election, Robert W. McElroy, appointed bishop of San Diego by Francis, is running for chair of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development against Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Fla., where in 2014 a group of 10 priests accused Dewane of ignoring canon law, abandoning consultative processes and ruling by intimidation and fear.
Dewane has supported farmworkers in his state, opposed the death penalty, and fought human trafficking. Dewane ran for this chair in 2009 and lost. He also lost the race for secretary in 2011.
McElroy has a doctorate in political science from Stanford University and another in moral theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University. He has written extensively on Catholic social teaching, including an article in America magazine on how Francis’ teaching is calling Catholics to care for the economically impoverished.
In a third election, John C. Wester, appointed archbishop of Santa Fe, N.M., by Pope Francis is running for chair of the Committee on Migration against Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, who is himself an immigrant from Mexico.
Wester became well known to the media as chair of the bishops’ communication committee. He is also a member of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples, which involves him in migrant issues on the international level.
Both bishops have been chair of this committee in the past, and both support comprehensive immigration reform.
In a fourth race, Bishop George V. Murry, S.J., of Youngstown, Ohio, who was appointed by Francis to the recently concluded synod on the family, is running for chair of the Committee on Catholic Education against Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis, who is a canon lawyer.
Whatever the outcome, this will certainly be one of the most interesting USCCB elections in years. For each chair, there is a real choice.