USCCB Elections Dominate Afternoon

by Michael Sean Winters

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The afternoon session of the USCCB today was highlighted by elections for chairmen-elect of various committees. Traditionally, chairmen-elect serve for a year with the incumbents, learning the ropes as it were, before taking over as chair the following year.

Last year, however, Archbishop Edwin O’Brien of Baltimore was elected to serve as the chairman-elect of the committee on international justice and peace, but his selection lapsed when Pope Benedict named him to head the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, an appointment that requires residency in Rome. The bishops selected Iowa’s Bishop Richard Pates, by a vote of 122-114 over Bishop Frank Dewane, of Venice, Florida, and Pates will take the chairmanship of the committee immediately.

The new Secretary-Elect for the USCCB, one of the organization’s principal officers, will be Archbishop J. Peter Sartain, Archbishop of Seattle.

Few committee chairs have a more difficult and delicate assignment than leading the Committee on Doctrine. The bishops selected Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul to lead the committee with 128 votes, compared to 111 votes for Worcester, Massachusetts Bishop Robert McManus.

The Communications Committee vote went to Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City, who garnered 129 votes to 108 votes for Mobile, Alabama Archbishop Thomas Rodi.

The Committee on Cultural Diversity vote was lopsided, with Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville taking 151 votes to 85 votes for San Antonio Auxiliary Bishop Oscar Cantu.

In keeping with tradition, the bishops elected a cardinal to lead their Committee on Pro-Life Activities. Cardinal Sean O’Malley, OFM Cap, of Boston, was selected to lead the committee with 149 votes to 84 for Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron.

The new Chairman of the Committee on National Collections will be Archbishop Dennis Schnurr of Cincinnati, who defeated Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio by a margin of 137-96 votes.

In other business, the bishops voted to approve the 2012 budget, submitted by USCCB Treasurer Bishop Michael Bransfield on behalf of the Committee on Budget and Finance by the overwhelming margin of 233 to 6. After the vote was announced, Archbishop Dolan joked, “Congratulations, Bishop Bransfield. We’ll see how your luck holds out on the next vote.” The next vote was a request to increase the diocesan assessment for 2013 by 3%. Bransfield’s luck did hold: The increase, which required a two-third’s vote, passed with 147 votes, with 30 opposed and six abstentions.

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