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Archbishop Kurtz chosen to head US bishops' conference

November 12, 2013

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, has been elected president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). He succeeds Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, who has concluded a 3-year term as the USCCB leader.

Archbishop Kurtz, who had been the vice-president of the episcopal conference, handily won election over several other nominees. The runner-up in the voting for the USCCB president, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston, was then elected vice-president of the bishops’ conference. The voting took place on November 12 during the US bishops’ meeting in Baltimore.

The choice of a new leader for the bishops’ conference has drawn unusual attention because Cardinal Dolan has taken a high-profile stance in American political affairs, especially in leading the bishops’ opposition to the imposition of mandatory contraceptive coverage in the Obama administration’s health-care plan. Many observers have looked for signs that the American bishops will change their stance in response to the new public approach suggested by Pope Francis.

The election of Archbishop Kurtz, however, does not necessarily indicate any change of policy by the American hierarchy. By electing Archbishop Kurtz, the US bishops returned to their pattern of promoting the vice-president to the presidency of their episcopal conference. That pattern had been broken only in 2010, when Cardinal Dolan was selected over the incumbent vice-president, Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Arizona. Bishop Kicanas had been dogged by adverse publicity about his involvement in the case of a Chicago priest who has been convicted on multiple counts of molesting boys.


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