US bishops’ vote likely to be seen as referendum on Pope Francis

Some see upcoming USCCB elections as barometer of how U.S. prelates feel about the pontiff
U.S. bishops at the General Assembly 2015 Fall Meeting held in Baltimore. (Photo courtesy of the USCCB.)

U.S. bishops at the General Assembly 2015 Fall Meeting held in Baltimore. (Photo courtesy of the USCCB.)

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.


  1. Pope Francis is staunchly a man of the Left and a poor theologian; a bull in the china shop of the Catholic Church, damaging things whenever he makes a clumsy move.

    Electing Archbishop Chaput, who recently clarified for his archdiocese that Amoris Laetitia must be interpreted to mean that divorced and civilly remarried Catholics as well as homosexuals who have civilly married or are not living chastely are not eligible for Holy Communion because they are living in circumstances that manifestly contradict Catholic faith and morality, would be a clear rebuff against Pope Francis’ shoddy and flawed pastoral guidance.

    Lord, save the Church from Francis!

    • I find these words of Sawyer’s incredibly disrespectful to the Holy Father. No matter what one thinks about Amoris Laetitia, or anything else the Holy Father may have said, it is NEVER condoned for a Catholic to trash the Pope. Words like “poor theologian” and “bull in a china shop” are words of contempt, most especially the last line there imploring God to save the Church from the Holy Father, the same person the Holy Spirit Himself had chosen. Cardinal Burke himself would have reprimanded Sawyer. Burke himself had said: “I think the important thing is that when one reads critically the document, one is always respectful of the person of the pope.”

    • Well put Sawyer, so well put. Thanks.

    • AMEN

  2. If wishes were horses I would like to see the Bishops do something radical and choose someone not already nominated. I would like to see Archbishop Cordileone chosen to be the next president and Archbishop Chaput as his vice president This would really send a clear message to all the faithful in the States as well as to Pope Francis and the rest of the world. Lord Jesus, save your Chirch the same yesterday, today, and forever.

  3. St. Christopher says

    Chaput, Lori, and Vigneron, are hardly “more conservative” — one asks, “as compared to what”? All are solidly Novus Ordo–Vatican II Is Great kind of prelates. Merely because they are not openly apostates does not make them orthodox. Major issues of their individual conformity to the pro-choice, pro-homosexual marriage themes of American bishops mar each of them (just look at the fawning over Tim Kaine by Chaput). A sorry list.

  4. I doubt if anything at this point can save the Church. 120 years of heterodoxy has secularized the faith to the point of unrecognizability. And please stop using weasel term “immigration reform” what Catholic prelates want is open borders and millions of New Democrat voters and a forever changed American population demographic.

    Oh…sorry…the Church also wants its millions in fed funding, while not being subject to fed laws it lobbied for.

    Bring back Pius V…

    • As to saving the Church, may one suggest that you re-read Matthew 16:18?

      (For the record, my personal admiration for His Holiness Francis does know limits.)

  5. The disrespect for the Bishops of the country continues unabated. What is a Bishop expected to do? He is asked to teach and to sanctify. He is also the administrator, CEO, of a very large organization. When the Bishops teach and people don’t like what they teach, the screeds come racing out. The United States is a very small segment of the Catholic Church. Our patrimony was based on the Northern European model. Today, over 50% of Hispanics are under thirty yeas of age. We a becoming more like the universal church than we were in the past. That is uncomfortable for many and they rail against it. The Church is now a Southern Hemisphere church. They do things differently. The new Bishops are pastors, not elites. They are dong…

    • Linda Maria says

      Bob One, the bishops, no matter if they are liberal leftist, or truly orthodox– and regardless of what they preach and write on paper– do not truly educate the Catholic Faithful in their Faith and Morals, nor sanctify them in Christ, correctly— as the Fathers of Vatican II have really discouraged this— and also forbid the bishops any authority to run the Church correctly, believing this to be a terrible thing! And even worse– people everywhere are shocked, angry, hurt, and discouraged, due to the horrific tragedy, of clergy child sex molestation, and evil cover-ups, and refusal of bishops to correctly make police reports, and rid the Church of dangerous criminals!

      • Linda Maria, I’m not questioning you, but some examples please. How are the Bishops not educating Catholic Faithful, nor sanctifying them correctly. What do they teach or not teach that is wrong. We need some specifics here!

    • St. Christopher says

      You must be on the USCCB payroll, “Bob One.” No, it is not inevitable that the Catholic Church forego its glorious Tradition and prior history and embrace whatever the Third World throws up. The Apostles were commissioned to go out into the world and teach what they had directly from Christ, not to “go native.” Merely being a bishop means nothing if what is taught is merely regurgitated poison from the Democratic Party, or the Feminist wing of American Left Guard. These men are fools and guilty of theological malpractice. Their incompetence is not merely goofy-like, but willful, which makes them comfortable with Satan and his children, which run much in the world.

      • SChris: calling the anointed shepherds of the Church “fools”, “guilty of theological malpractice” “incompetent” violate Canon 1373. Do read it.

        • St. Christopher says

          Read Canon § 212; Canon § 1373 concerns someone who “incites”. . . “animosities” or “hatred” against bishops or the Pope, and must be read in the context of the related Canons forbidding violence against the Pope and so forth. Informed Lay People have the right and duty to speak out to the rulers of the Church when they depart from its teachings. The more perverse the departure from Catholic norms, the harsher the response that is required.

      • Yes, St. Christopher, we seem to be approaching a set of circumstances similar to that which prevailed during the Arian controversy, in which most of the Catholic bishops did not hold Catholic faith about Jesus Christ’s divinity. Today, more and more bishops have abandoned Catholic faith for modernism.

        We know who they are, and those false shepherds deserve to be called out for their sinful misuse of their office.

        The emperor has no clothes!

  6. Jon- I completely agree with your comments above. Thank you for sharing them.

  7. THE BISHOPS ARE TERRIBLE! THE WORLD IS COMING TO AN END! PIGS ARE FLYING! Good grief folks! Every Bishop I know preaches the truth that is in the Bible and refers constantly to the documents of VII and the Catechism. They violated their moral compass with the clergy abuse scandal, no doubt. But, you might ask how many of those Bishops are still in office. The turnover is pretty fast. The Bishops do go out and preach and teach. Many here just don’t like what they hear. How many people who go to Mass weekly could even name their local Bishop, have ever seen him, know what he talks about, etc.?

    • Bob One the Bishops in this country have been part and parcel of the crisis in the Church. Cdl Dolan of NY where I live came out and admitted on live TV that he as not preached about about abortion or contraception in a homily in 35 Years.. RIGHT THERE is the problem, These so called princes of the Church have retreated in face of the cultural rot that has happened. What do we hear… God is love, be nice to each other and of course immigration lessons. “They violated their moral compass with the clergy abuse scandal, no doubt.” No Bob One they were covering up for child molesters… Law and Mahony should be rotting in jail right about now/

    • But, you might ask how many of those Bishops are still in office. = Our Lady of Akita said that many are compromised. Our Lady wields much influence with the Sacred Heart of Jesus but our bishops have sorely neglected this truth.

      Peruvian president consecrates nation to Sacred Heart, Immaculate Heart

      Lima, Peru, Oct 25, 2016 / 06:35 am (CNA/EWTN News).- At the National Prayer Breakfast in Lima, Peru on Friday, the nation’s president, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, consecrated the country, his family and himself to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. continued…..

      • Taking part in the National Day of Prayer at the Swissôtel in Lima, Kuczynski in his capacity as president offered the prayer of consecration, written by the Mission for the Love of God in the Whole World. “By the authority vested in me, I make an act of consecration of myself, my family and the Republic of Peru, to the love and protection of Almighty God through the intercession of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary,” the president said. Participating in the event were important business and political leaders in the country, including the President of Congress, Luz Salgado, who also offered a prayer asking God for his help and protection.

  8. Bob One under the watch of these pathetic Bishops millions have left the Church 1 in 10 citizens in the US is a former Catholic, I can assure God is keeping a score card and these weak mean will face judgment for their crimes. Let us also not forget that most of these Bishops have been in bed with the Democrat party for decades to get government money to keep the machine rolling it will soon collapse. And we can become a smaller but Holier Church praise God

    • If there have been bishops in bed with Democrats, there are also bishops in bed with Republicans. Let’s be serious and frank here now. There is no one party that houses all of our Catholic teachings, so do not fool yourself or us here. My point is that to say that bishops and the clergy is solely responsible for people leaving the Church is SIMPLISTIC, wrongheaded, and disobedient. There are numerous reasons why people leave, foremost among this is PERSONAL CHOICE and the prevailing permissive CULTURE that grabs at the heart of people. Please be more analytical rather than relying on a simplistic bias against our anointed shepherds.

      • St. Christopher says

        Actually, you are wrong again, “jon.” Catholic bishops are the principal vehicle used by Satan to drive a wedge between Christ and His People. Satan has Angelic Intelligence and knows that this is the crowning irony; using Christ’s own anointed to lead His sheep to perdition. Pay attention to the many who have spoken out about this and who preach about the dangers of blindly following open heretics like Abp. Cupich, or Cardinals Dolan or Wuerl or most of the German bishops, especially C. Marx and C. Kasper. Do not be fooled.

        • St. Christopher, please tell us what Cardinal Dolan or Wuerl have said that makes them heritics. What has Abp. Cupich said?How is are the Bishops the driving wedge between Christ and his people. You really can’t go around throwing these kind of accusations without some proof.

      • AH yes Jon the self appointed canon lawyer and theologian who thinks he knows more than everyone on this page. Most of these so called Bishops do not deserve our obedience since they have covered for child molesters and have let gay priests run rampant through many diocese. I ignore what you say Jon because you are as qualified to speak on such matters as a mechanic from jiffy lube….

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