This doesn’t happen very often. The USCCB just elected as president someone other than the sitting VP. The race went to three ballots, with Dolan finally winning 128 to 111. The first vote had Bishop Kicanas with 104, Dolan with 84, and Archbishop Chaput with 20. In the second ballot, required because Kicanas didn’t have enough of a majority, Dolan took the lead by 118 to 111. (Chaput subsequently lost the VP race to Archbishop Kurtz of Louisville.)
Did the Catholic Right’s cynical campaign to undermine Bishop Kicanas’s candidacy succeed?
Update: Kicanas just posted the following statement (PDF) to the Diocese of Tucson Web site.
A priest’s life is all about service – service to the People of God, service to the Church and its mission. I have been honored these past three years with the opportunity to serve our Church, its mission and the People of God as the vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. I have grown in my regard for the staff of the Conference, especially Msgr. David Malloy and the senior staff, for the untiring work they do on our behalf.
Serving as vice president has been a marvelous experience. I respect the wisdom of my brother bishops in choosing their new president and vice president. I greatly appreciated their expressions of thanks to me for my service as vice president. Archbishop Timothy Dolan has been a long time friend since our seminary work together. I know of his great wit, jovial spirit, keen ability to relate to people in a deeply personal way and his exceptional leadership qualities. These will certainly serve the Conference well as he begins his term as president.
I look forward to continuing to do whatever I can to further the work of the Conference. I really look forward to being able to focus on the needs of our Diocese – supporting our priests, women and men religious, deacons and lay people in the Diocese of Tucson, whom I have grown to love deeply.
Update 2: Well, would you look at that? After endorsing Kicanas for USCCB president, the Rainbow Sash Movement just posted a PDF decrying the bishops’ rightward lurch. What do you think: was that prepared before or after the election results were in?
Update 3: Michael Sean Winters offers these observations at his blog:
There is one other aspect of the story that I alluded to yesterday and which was confirmed for me by several bishops. The attacks on Bishop Kicanas in the last week before the election worked. These attacks focused on Kicanas’ service as a seminary rector, when he recommended for orders a man who went on to be a child molester. Kicanas had answered the charges at the time and there was nothing to them, but on the eve of the election, when the CNN ticker had an item about “Top bishop denies promoting child molester,” I knew there was trouble for Kicanas. Survivors’ groups unwittingly did the bidding of the most conservative bishops by joining in the attacks. If that were not enough, the gay activists in the Rainbow Sash movement sealed Kicanas’ fate when they “endorsed” him, a classic case of failing to anticipate the opposition. Still, I had anticipated there might be a sympathy backlash for Kicanas, not least because – whatever the bishops intended – some on the right now think they possess a “heckler’s veto” over USCCB elections. Throw enough mud at the last minute, and they can stop someone they do not like from winning. They sent text messages to bishops. They called the bishops’ rooms at the hotel. It was ugly. But, no bishop wanted to return to his diocese and be pummeled with questions about Kicanas’ treatment of a sexual abuser. There was enough smoke to suggest a fire, and the bishops have no desire to be burned on that score anymore.
I wonder whether Rainbow Sashers knew exactly what they were doing, and are happy to use Kicanas’s loss to raise awareness–and money.
But what about the rest? Text messages? Phone calls to bishops’ hotel rooms? The attacks from conservatives may not have been the only thing that torpedoed his candidacy, but do the bishops who voted against Kicanas because of that smear campaign recognize they just caved in to the swiftboating of a brother bishop–and it could happen to them?