Friday, November 02, 2007

And the Nominees Are...

In ten days' time, the election of a new president and vice-president will be the first order of business for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops at its Fall Plenary in Baltimore. The slate of ten nominees was published earlier in the week.

While the body is widely expected to maintain the longstanding tradition of elevating its current #2, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, to the presidency, the just-as-customary action will be found in the election of a new vice-president. Since the body's inception in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, no USCCB vice-president who has ever stood for election has failed to win the presidency. George will be the first cardinal elected to the post since 1971.

Once the new president -- who'll take office after the meeting's close -- is chosen, the remaining nine nominees will face off for the deputy's post, with the two top vote-getters ending up in a head-to-head.

In alphabetical order, the presidential nominees are:

Bishop Gregory Aymond of Austin
Archbishop Timothy Dolan of Milwaukee
Cardinal Francis George, OMI, Archbishop of Chicago
Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson
Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky
Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport
Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia
Bishop Dennis Schnurr of Duluth
Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie
Bishop Allen Vigneron of Oakland

Through the meeting, the bishops will also elect chairs for their various committees, the number of which has been slimmed down in light of the conference's recent reorganization.

Among the more prominent of the contests:
  • Boston's Cardinal Sean O'Malley OFM Cap. and Bishop George Thomas of Helena will face off for the chair of the newly-consolidated committee for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations;
  • leadership of the bishops' efforts on Laity, Marriage and Youth will fall to either Archbishop Roger Schwietz OMI of Anchorage or Bishop Kevin Vann of Fort Worth;
  • Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta and Bishop Tod Brown of Orange will vie for the chair of the body's ecumenical and interreligious outreach;
  • and what's become one of the conference's more prominent arms in recent years -- Protection of Children and Young People -- will fall to either Bishops Stephen Blaire of Stockton or Blase Cupich of Rapid City.
(On a related note to the latter, reliable reports say that Blaire -- a former chancellor and vicar-general of his native Los Angeles -- is being eyed as a potential coadjutor to Bishop Robert Brom of San Diego, where the recent bankruptcy and $198 million settlement of abuse cases have made for a very difficult year.)

Conspicuously absent from the presidential mix is Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, who narrowly lost the 2003 VP ballot to George.

Despite returning as a top contender for the #2 post going into this election, the DC prelate declined nomination -- even, it's been said, after the president-in-waiting asked Wuerl to accept.