U.S. Bishops Elect NYC Archbishop As Leader

In a surprising move, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops passed over the man who was expected to be elected president, Bishop Gerald Kicanas. Instead, they elected Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York.

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The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops broke with tradition today when it elected a new president. For the first time ever, its members rejected the bishop, who was expected to be president and opted for a more aggressively orthodox leader.

NPR's Barbara Bradley Hagerty reports.

BARBARA BRADLEY HAGERTY: Usually, electing a new president is essentially a coronation. Never has a bishop who served as vice president been passed over in the voting. So when Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York easily defeated Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson today at the bishop meeting in Baltimore, church watchers were stunned.

It's not clear what tipped the election. But over the past few days, conservative Catholic bloggers and activists have waged a campaign against Kicanas, who's considered a moderate with a conciliatory style. His critics sent faxes and left voicemails telling bishops to vote against Kicanas, saying Kicanas had been tainted by the sex abuse scandal when he had recommended an abuser to be ordained as a priest.

Kicanas flatly denied knowing about any abuse of minors. But that did not save him. The bishops elected the media savvy Timothy Dolan, who's considered one of the boldest and more orthodox bishops, and who's willing to speak loudly and publicly on issues like abortion, same-sex marriage and stem cell research.

Asked what his priorities would be, Dolan said he would continue what is already in place. The outgoing president, Cardinal Francis George, has been an outspoken conservative on culture war issues.

Barbara Bradley Hagerty, NPR News.

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