OK, this is going to be a story that is buried in online debate about the labeling of the different candidates, including the winner, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York. How do I know that? By reading the early coverage in the New York Times, of course. There's even a one-word reference to the recent collision between the Times and the outspoken doctrinal conservative who leaders the Archdiocese of Denver. See if you can spot it. For a refresher course on that event during the Religion Newswriters Association meetings, click here for Sarah Pulliam Bailey's much-discussed report.
Meanwhile, here's the key passages in the first version of the Times story, which will surely have to grow since we are talking about the leader of Archdiocese of New York. Please help me watch to see if this hyperlink stays the same or if the editors simply retain this link for the updated reports.
In one key passage, the Times tells us:
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.
Notice, of course, that this is "social justice" vs. "traditionalists" or, in the case of the local archbishop who must be dealt with on a day-to-day basis, "moderate" conservatives. Will the Times present evidence that the key disagreements were over matters of poverty, immigration, serving the poor, etc.? At some point, someone will need to talk to some of the leaders of groups that speak on behalf of the victims of clergy sexual abuse, since this was another factor in the unprecedented efforts to defeat Kicanas, the current vice president of the bishops conference.
After dealing with the main election, the Times turns its attention to the race that is normally the most important -- the selection of the new vice president, who is also, under normal circumstances, the next president.
The bishops also signaled that their conference will move in a decidedly conservative direction in their choice of a vice president to replace Bishop Kicanas. They elected Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, who is chairman of the bishops committee on marriage and an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage. The runner-up was Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver, also a strong theological and political conservative.
The Rev. Thomas J. Reese, senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University, said: "The two vice-presidential finalists were the two most conservative on the ballot. That says something about where this conference is going."
Yes, note the word "political." The Times is not surrendering on that.
Chaput isn't just a doctrinal conservative, he is a "political" conservative. Why? Because he has been one of those who has suggested that bishops must consider the option of withholding Communion from Catholics who consistently and publicly oppose the teachings of the church (even if they are political leaders). And so forth and so on. This issue has been debated at length in the press and in the comments pages of this weblog.
Oh, and raise your cyber hand if you are surprised that Father Reese makes an appearance in this early report. I wonder if he actually held a press conference on site in Baltimore. Where, one might ask, are the voices of the articulate advocates on the other side of the issues at the heart of this race? I am sure they will be featured in the follow-up reports.
Please use this as a thread on which to offer links to coverage in the mainstream press and even the Catholic blogosphere about this event. Again -- focus on the news coverage. Please.