by Jay Chin
The Archbishop of Louisville, Kentucky, Joseph E. Kurtz, has been chosen to succeed Timothy Cardinal Dolan as President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The election was held at their General Assembly, which ran from November 11-14 in Baltimore. He ran against nine other nominees for the position and won 53% of the vote (125 votes). The second largest amount of votes were for Daniel Cardinal DiNardo of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Huston, Texas, with 10% (25 votes). DiNardo was soon after elected Vice President in the third round of voting, garnering 63% of the votes (147 votes) against Philadelphia’s Archbishop Charles Chaput’s 37% (87 votes).
Also among the 10 candidates for the presidency were Los Angeles’ Archbishop José H. Gómez, a prominent Hispanic prelate, Baltimore’s Archbishop William E. Lori, who is known for being part of the Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse at the height of the sexual abuse scandal, and Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit, who has served in the Vatican Secretariat of State.
The USCCB also elected six new leaders for their committees. Rev. Bernard A. Hebda, Coadjutor Archbishop of Newark, New Jersey, will head the Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance. Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski beat auxiliary bishop of Boston Arthur L. Kennedy for leadership of the Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. Leonard P. Blair of Hartford, Conneticut, will lead the Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis. Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, will head the Committee on International Justice and Peace. And Juneau, Alaska Bishop Edward J. Burns was elected head of the Committee on Child and Youth Protection. All nine positions are three-year terms.
Archbishop Kurtz’s election marks a return to the tradition of the Vice President of the conference being elected President, a tradition that was broken for the first time three years ago when then Archbishop Timothy Dolan was elected President, beating out then Vice President Gerald Frederick Kicanas of Tucson, Arizona. Archbishop Kurtz has been a priest for 41 years and served as Bishop of Knoxville for eight years before being appointed to the See of Louisville in 2007.
“The challenge for us is welcoming people and most especially serving people who are voiceless and vulnerable, spans right across the board from our work in immigration, our work in serving people who are poor, pre-born as well as the very elderly,” he said. As vice president, Archbishop Kurtz led campaigns against gay marriage and in defense of the unborn; and as pastor in Catasauqua and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania he worked with people of all walks of life. His willingness to assist the faithful was exemplified in 2005 in a particular way when as Bishop of Knoxville he approved the request for a regular Sunday celebration of the Tridentine Mass from the Knoxville Latin Mass Community. He has carefully interpreted Pope Francis’ actions, and has said that the pope “is delighted that he has people’s attention. He wants to do it in a way that's not chiding, that's not preachy, but is creatively seeking ways to introduce Christ to this age. Our faith is not a series of ethical propositions but an encounter with the person.”