Reading the tea leaves of the US bishops election

Archbishop Kurtz

The election of Archbishop Joseph Kurtz as president of the USCCB was widely expected. But everyone was a bit surprised that the election was achieved on the first ballot, writes Michael Sean Winters.

- NCR Online

It is not easy to get more than 50 percent of the vote in a contest with 10 candidates. The fact that Kurtz won a majority so quickly attests to three things.

First, the bishops want to return to the practice of allowing a USCCB president three years as veep as a kind of preparation for the post. Second, Kurtz is not seen as belonging to any party or faction and so is ideally suited to lead a conference that has been dominated in recent years by conservatives and is now grappling with Pope Francis' call to focus on issues that have a more leftward tilt, at least as they intersect with US politics.

Third, Kurtz is a great guy and almost everyone likes him. Fr Anthony Chandler, a priest of the archdiocese of Louisville and an old chum of mine, told me: "Archbishop Kurtz is a very genuine person. He works hard to give people the opportunity to share their views. He will work very hard. He keeps an amazing schedule in the archdiocese and gets to meet lots of people." Sounds like the kind of guy the bishops can live with for the next three years.

The election of Cardinal Daniel DiNardo as vice president is more difficult to read. As I noted before, I have never really gotten a handle on DiNardo. He is very bright, and he has studied academically and works into his talks lots of references to the Church Fathers, which is a quick way to my heart.

Two years ago, DiNardo gave the opening talk at the Doctrine Committee's meeting with you theologians. Charles Camosy of Fordham, who was at that meeting, told me, "Cardinal DiNardo's talk about the Church Fathers was solid, but more important than what he said was the fact that he said it. One of the reasons for tension between bishops and theologians is that, for a variety of reasons, we rarely get a chance to engage one another.

Furthermore, most bishops spend most of their time doing nonacademic work, so it can be a bit intimidating to engage with those who us who do this stuff full time. It impressed me that Cardinal DiNardo came to meet with us, share some thoughts, and eat and drink together. Understanding and charity comes more easily when you share a meal or drink."

FULL STORY What do the USCCB elections mean?

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