Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Winners' Circle

Before 1966 -- when the National Catholic Welfare Council became a full-fledged episcopal conference in the wake of Vatican II -- the senior hierarch by tenure led the Stateside bench.

Since that time, two prior presidents of the US bishops have ascended directly to the top post: in 1974, the incumbent vice-president -- Coadjutor-Archbishop Leo Byrne of St Paul and Minneapolis, who had been slated for the presidency -- died three weeks before the election. Then archbishop of Cincinnati -- and earlier, the lead architect of the American conference as the general secretary of its formative years -- Joseph Bernardin was elected to lead the bench.

Three years later, Bernardin's vice-president, Cardinal John Carberry of St Louis, declined to stand for election as he was 73 and -- given the retirement age of 75 -- unable to serve out a full term.

Two, that is, until today -- already head of the nation's second-largest diocese, now the undisputed Strongman of the Stateside church, President Tim will address the press at a 12.30 Eastern press conference.

PHOTO: Steve Ruark/AP