November 17, 2010
New Leadership in
the Catholic Church
By Mike McManus
With a 2,000 year history, there are
not many surprises in the Catholic Church, but Archbishop Timothy Dolan of
New York, says he was “surprised” to be elected the new President of the
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
Historically the position goes to the incumbent Vice
President, who was Tucson Bishop Gerald Kicanas. However, three Catholic
publications - Commonweal, The National Catholic Register and
Spero News - published stories indicating that Kicanas, when he led
the Mundelein Seminary, ignored three accusations of sexual misconduct by
seminarian Daniel McCormack, later convicted of molesting 27 boys and is now
“A 2006 diocesan audit found that in 1992 Mundelein
officials learned of three accusations of misconduct against McCormack, two
from adult seminary classmates…and one from a minor in Mexico,” wrote
Commonweal. Nevertheless, two years later he was ordained.
In 2007 Kicanas was quoted by the Chicago Sun Times
saying that he was aware of the allegations, of “sexual improprieties,” but
that they were not “credible.” Therefore, it would have been unjust to deny
him ordination. “There was a sense that his activity was part of the
developmental process and that he had learned from the experience.”
Yet Kicanas recently issued a statement that, “I never
received any allegation, report or concern about McCormack during his
seminary years at Mundelein that involved sexual abuse of anyone.”
In any case, when the election for the President of
the USCCB was held Tuesday, Kicanas received 109 votes vs. 84 for Dolan on
the first ballot, but Kicanas lacked a majority, with scattered votes for
eight other bishops. On a second ballot, Dolan pulled ahead by 118 to 111
but lacked a majority. A third ballot gave Dolan the position by 128 to
A core of mostly liberal bishops had voted for Kicanas,
but by the third ballot, he was able to pick up only two votes.
Conservatives switched their votes to the orthodox, but jovial Dolan.
Ironically, Kicanas narrowly defeated Dolan for the VP slot three years ago.
When Notre Dame invited Barack Obama to speak a year
ago, 80 conservative bishops criticized the university for giving the
pro-abortion President a platform, while Kicanas was one of the few more
liberal bishops defending Notre Dame.
Dolan served as Archbishop of Milwaukee for seven
years before being tapped in 2009 as Archbishop of New York, America’s
second largest diocese with 2.5 million members. He is one of several
bishops appointed by Pope Benedict XVI, such as Archbishop Donald Wuerl in
Washington, who are conservative in politics and theology, but upbeat and
pastoral, according to John Allen Jr., the Vatican correspondent of
National Catholic Reporter.
During the 2008 election, Dolan rebuked Catholic
politicians, Sen. Joe Biden, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, and
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi - for “misrepresenting timeless Church
doctrine” on abortion, which Dolan called the “premier civil rights issue of
our day.” However, he opposed denying Communion to pro-choice elected
Dolan also co-authored, with Princeton Prof. Robert
George and Chuck Colson, the Manhattan Declaration, a call of conscience for
Protestants and Catholics to take a common stand on three vital issues: the
sanctity of life, the dignity of marriage as the union of one man and one
woman, and religious liberty. Every day one reads of threats to these core
principles. That has motivated nearly a half million people to sign the
The Catholic bishops elected another activist
conservative to serve as their Vice President, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz. He
has led a movement to strengthen marriage, which culminated in a USCCB
Pastoral Letter: “Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan.” A website,
DVDs, and public service announcements have been developed to promote
Kurtz also served as the Treasurer of the Catholic
Bishops, who he urged to accept a 3% increase in their contributions to the
USCCB. That was voted down, so he proposed a 2% hike, but that was defeated
as well. Therefore, he accepted a zero budget increase.
The Catholic Church has a reputation of being
monolithic, marching to orders from the Pope. However, this meeting of
Catholic bishops demonstrates it operates far more democratically than
outsiders can imagine.
An underdog was elected President, while the
heir-apparent was sidelined over his mismanagement of sexual abuse. A
proposed budget increase supported by insiders was defeated.
Catholic leadership is alive and well in America and
is determined to recapture its moral authority.
Mike McManus is President of Marriage Savers (www.marriagesavers.org).