New York, New York

There is nothing more inside baseball than the goings-on of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.  While the Bishop's Conference is a vehicle for the U.S. Bishops to speak with a unified voice, it's more like the Chamber of Commerce than a legislature--it can't really tell the individual Bishops what to do.

Still, I think it is relevant that today the Bishops elected Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York as the President of the Conference.  This is surprising because the standard practice is for the Vice-President of the Conference to move up to the top spot as a pro forma matter after the sitting President finishes his 3 year term.  Dolan, however, defeated the Vice President, Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson. 

Dolan, formerly the Archbishop of Milwaukee, made himself known in the broader world recently by feuding, via his blog, with the New York Times over some positive reviews of a play about nuns that Dolan thought was anti-Catholic.  The fight continued when the Times didn't publish an op-ed Dolan wrote calling out what he believed was a selected focus on Catholic sexual abuse, as opposed to other incidents of sexual abuse, in the Times (The Times responded here, defending its reporting).  I think it would be fair to say that Dolan represents a confrontational tone and attitude toward the secular world, and that his unprecedented election is an endorsement of that approach by the rest of the Bishops.

The new Vice President is Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, who heads up the USCCB's efforts against gay marriage.  Again, hard not to interpret that as a statement of commitment to holding the line on the culture wars issues.

The AP story had two additional elements that I thought were interesting.  Robert George, the Princeton University scholar and (I've noticed) recent go-to guy for a conservative Catholic quote, mentions that Dolan has a good track record of "working with people of other faiths" (read: evangelicals, and maybe Mormons depending on the context).  Dolan signed on to the recent Manhattan Declaration (which can be seen here) spearheaded by George and Chuck Colson to bring together conservative Christians of various denominations around the culture war issues.  Expect more of this type of thing in the future.

Second, there is a mention in the article about a campaign by unnamed conservative Catholic bloggers against Bishop Kicanas.  A quick Google search turned up this story and this story.  The Tim Drake story at the National Catholic Register seems to focus on Bishop Kicanas's involvement in a sexual abuse case in Chicago when he was rector of the Seminary (though the Archbishop of Chicago during the same case, Cardinal George, just ended his term as President), but the other story, while mentioning the abuse issue, seems to focus on Bishop Kicanas's supposed liberalism.  In any event, it is interesting that major news outlets are attributing a role to Catholic bloggers, who have been in the news of late.

I have no exposure to Archbishop Dolan other than what I've read.  I heard him two times come up to the booth of the Yankee radio broadcasts to schmooze with John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman, and he seemed to be a jovial guy (though, in fairness, Sterling and Waldman are so bad that any new person in the booth is an objective improvement).  The Manhattan Declaration stuff is troubling--I will probably write about this in the future, but I have serious concerns about associating closely with evangelical Protestants on anything, including (and in some cases, especially) on these culture war issues.

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