U.S. Catholic bishops' new leaders concerned with poor

BALTIMORE Tue Nov 12, 2013 3:31pm EST

Cardinal Timothy Michael Dolan of the U.S. attends a mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican March 12, 2013. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

Cardinal Timothy Michael Dolan of the U.S. attends a mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican March 12, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Stefano Rellandini

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BALTIMORE (Reuters) - U.S. Catholic bishops elected two centrist conservatives as new leaders on Tuesday, an archbishop from Kentucky and a Texas cardinal, both of whom expressed "solidarity" with Pope Francis' strong emphasis on the poor.

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, 67, of Louisville, Kentucky was elected to a three-year term as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, while Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, 64, of the Galveston-Houston diocese, was chosen as vice president.

Their election comes as Catholic bishops worldwide are being given new direction by Pope Francis, who has emphasized greater humility and more concern for poverty. The bishops oversee 69 million U.S. Catholics, or about a quarter of the country's population.

"I believe we are very much in solidarity with Pope Francis, and that is, his way of articulating clearly that we need not only to serve the voiceless and the vulnerable, but to be an advocate," Kurtz told reporters after his election.

Christopher Hale, senior fellow with Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, a progressive group that focuses on social justice issues, said he believes both Kurtz and DiNardo "will move the American Church in the direction Pope Francis desires."

Hale cited Kurtz's "long pastoral experience" and praised DiNardo as a "tireless leader on immigration reform. He knows firsthand the problems of a broken immigration system."

Kurtz's election was expected as he is finishing a three-year term as vice president. Known as a reliable conservative who is also well-liked, pragmatic and effective, he replaces New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, an outspoken and colorful conservative elected in 2010.

"It means consistency and with Kurtz a little more concern for the poor and with DiNardo a little more concern about immigration," said Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest and senior analyst with the National Catholic Reporter. Reese noted that Kurtz has a degree in social work and had cared for a brother with Down syndrome.


Dolan's term has been marked by a strong emphasis on opposing gay marriage, abortion, and the Obama administration's mandate that required Catholic schools and hospitals to carry insurance that provides birth control, forbidden by church doctrine, for free.

Bishops under Dolan also took stands for immigration reform and anti-poverty programs, but some liberal Catholics have expressed concern that the overall tone had become too far right.

In an interview published in September, Pope Francis said the church cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and contraception, and must become more merciful.

In remarks to reporters, Kurtz discussed the bishops' support of the "sanctity" of traditional marriage, the protection of the unborn and the importance of helping the poor and immigrants. He also connected moving people out of poverty with the strength of the family.

DiNardo noted that U.S. bishops have been advocating for immigrants for decades.

"I think we're at a good time now where this can be handled," DiNardo said. "I believe there are those on both sides of the aisle, notwithstanding there's still some bitterness, who can work together. We hope to be able to be catalysts."

DiNardo, head of a heavily Hispanic archdiocese of 1.2 million, was the only cardinal of the nine nominees for vice president.

The new leaders are preparing for an "extraordinary synod" of bishops in Rome in October 2014 to discuss teachings related to the family. The Vatican has asked bishops and parish priests around the world about the local views on gay marriage, divorce and birth control ahead of the meeting.

Barbara Dorris of the group SNAP, which represents victims of clergy sex abuse, expressed disappointment with Kurtz's election, saying he had not joined the ranks of 30 U.S. bishops who have posted on their web sites the names of "proven, admitted and credibly accused child molesting clerics." SNAP is short for Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

(Reporting by Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Daniel Trotta, Cynthia Johnston and Leslie Gevirtz)

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Comments (5)
SNAPJudyJones wrote:
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops continue to talk about everything except the huge ‘elephant’ in their conference room.
What they should be talking about is: “Can we bishops and cardinals start to be honest about the culture of secrecy in regard to our covering up of the sex abuse of innocent kids, and how can we ‘really’ take action to protect children, rather than working so hard to keep up with our lies?”
Sadly the silence continues and the safety of children is still not a priority within this institution.

But silence is not an options anymore, it only hurts, and by speaking up there is a chance for healing, exposing the truth, and therefore protecting others.
Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, USA, 636-433-2511. snapjudy@gmail.com,
“SNAP (The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests)

Nov 11, 2013 11:19pm EST  --  Report as abuse
rustic36 wrote:
SNAP- – what a JOKE- – translates to church has deep pockets and you just have NOT paid your fair share !I am quite sure you are ”really outraged”- – - why don’t you try the food stamp hustle! Been listening to this ”BS” for over ten years!

Nov 12, 2013 7:06am EST  --  Report as abuse
Loucleve2 wrote:
Yeah, maybe if the Cardinal were more concerned about the poor that we ALREADY have, instead of leading the fight for more 3d world immigration + AMNESTY, we’d be a lot better off.

More souls for the flock, dont you know.

Nov 12, 2013 9:48am EST  --  Report as abuse
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