In a close and surprising vote that affirmed a conservative direction for the Roman Catholic Church in America, the nation’s bishops elected Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York as their president on Tuesday, for the first time failing to elevate the vice president to the president’s post.
The vote cements Archbishop Dolan’s leadership of the American church. He is already the prelate of the nation’s most visible diocese, is comfortable in the news media spotlight and was selected by the Vatican to help conduct an investigation of the church in Ireland, which has been devastated by the sexual abuse scandal.
The bishops passed over their vice president, Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, a prelate who represents the more liberal “social justice” tradition of the American church and is known for advocating dialogue between Catholic liberals and traditionalists. Archbishop Dolan is a moderate conservative who is willing to put his affable and outgoing demeanor in service of a more assertively confrontational approach to the church’s critics.