The following comes from an October 21 Crux article by John L. Allen Jr.:
As it turns out, the Trump v. Clinton showdown isn’t the only election of interest to American Catholics this fall.
The U.S. bishops are also going to be voting for their own new leaders in mid-November, and in some ways their choices are almost certain to be read as a referendum on how the American hierarchy wants to position itself vis-à-vis the new winds blowing in the Church under Pope Francis.
By tradition, a slate of ten candidates is nominated for the presidency and the vice-presidency of the conference, and they select both positions from among those nominees. The new president will replace Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, who’s served the usual three-year term.
Also by tradition, though not an inviolable one, the current vice-president is considered the front-runner for the presidency. Right now that’s Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston.
On Friday, the USCCB released the slate of nominees for the top two jobs, with voting set for the bishops’ fall meeting in Baltimore Nov. 14-16.
The nominees are:
• Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond of New Orleans
• Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap., of Philadelphia
• Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City
• Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston
• Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville
• Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles
• Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore
• Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit
• Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami
• Archbishop John C. Wester of Santa Fe
If one were to open a betting line right now, I suspect a DiNardo/Gomez ticket would attract a lot of money, but of course that’s why we hold elections rather than letting bookmakers and pundits settle things – because anything can happen.
Gomez not only is seen as doctrinally solid but basically non-ideological (he’s a CPA by training, and an imminently practical figure), he also puts a face and voice on American Catholicism’s burgeoning Hispanic wing and has been among the leaders of the American bishops on immigration reform.
One immediately striking point is that none of Pope Francis’s recent picks for new American cardinals are on the list.
Scanning the list, Aymond, Wenski and Wester all generally would be perceived as fairly “Francis-friendly” prelates, while names such as Chaput, Lori and Vigneron would typically be seen as more conservative counter-points. (How fair or complete those perceptions are is, naturally, an entirely different conversation.)
Should one of those latter figures prevail, some media outlets and church-watchers may be tempted to style the result as a protest vote by the American bishops against the broad direction of Catholicism under Francis.
It’s worth pointing out, however, that’s not the only way to read things. Historically speaking, there’s also a grand tradition in Catholicism of local bishops trying to embrace what they see as the strengths of a given pope, while also doing what they can to remedy perceived weaknesses and to plug holes in his agenda.