The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has elected a host of new leadership positions this week. Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the Archdiocese of the Military Services has been elected president. Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore has been elected vice president. Archbishop Broglio’s election as president also triggered the election of a new conference secretary. Broglio’s term will be finished now by Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City.
In his new position, which begins at the conclusion of the fall plenary assembly of the bishops’ conference, Archbishop Broglio will lead American bishops for three years. The top responsibilities of the position include fostering fraternity and unity among the body of bishops amid increasing ecclesial polarizations, and serving as the primary liaison with the Holy See on behalf of the American hierarchy.
Broglio’s election was the result only of a third runoff ballot, with 138 votes, opposed to 99 for Archbishop Lori. It was the first time since 1977 that a president and vice president were selected from a blank slate, as outgoing Vice President Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit was ineligible to run for president due to age. (Incidentally, Archbishop Lori also will be ineligible to stand for office in three years, given that he also will reach retirement age mid-term.)
Broglio brings a universal perspective to position him well for this position. A veteran diplomat in service to the Holy See, the Cleveland native came back to the United States as military archbishop in 2008, after having served as apostolic nuncio to the Dominican Republic. This experience will serve him well in fostering unity across the Church and also with the government and culture.
As military archbishop, Broglio has not been shy about expressing the teachings of the Church in the midst of cultural challenges. He has stood against trends supporting the disintegration of marriage and family, defended religious liberty and shown great pastoral concern for evangelization and catechesis. Broglio also interfaces with the armed forces and federal government on a regular basis.
As conference president, Broglio will carry on Archbishop Jose H. Gomez’s work of reckoning with the complexities brought on by a pro-abortion Catholic president. Although Archbishop Gomez offered to meet with President Joe Biden during the time their tenures in respective offices have overlapped, such a meeting never took place. Broglio has reiterated his openness to meet with Biden. Broglio’s term in office also will see U.S. presidential and congressional elections in 2024. With Biden’s potential candidacy for a second term, this will provide an added layer of complexity to Broglio’s time in office.
On the ecclesial front, Broglio inherits the leadership of bishops who more and more resemble the increasingly polarized and divided Church. Archbishop Gomez, as conference president from 2019-22, has prioritized the need for greater episcopal collegiality and holiness. During his tenure, the U.S. bishops have begun their annual fall plenary assemblies with Eucharistic adoration and prayerful reflection, availability for confessions, and opportunities for fraternal camaraderie. Broglio has a solid legacy of leadership on which to facilitate greater communion among the body of bishops. Broglio will also oversee the completion of the bishops’ National Eucharistic Revival, which has itself become an unfortunate source of discord and contention.
Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, the new conference vice president, will work closely alongside Broglio during the next three years. He has served most recently as chairman of the bishops’ committee for pro-life concerns, and in that capacity has been a clear and articulate voice in defense of the unborn and for life at all stages. He has also been called upon for other various leadership positions in the conference during his long tenure as a bishop, including service as one of four bishops who collaborated with the Holy See after the 2002 Dallas Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and its subsequent normalization in Church law. This election is not only an appreciation and recognition of his many years of steady service and dedication of the body of bishops, but it also positions Lori to be something of a consensus builder among the bishops — a role he has played in the past.
Interestingly, Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R. of Newark — in a 104-130 loss in his bid for conference secretary — was denied the possibility of joining top USCCB leadership. It is highly unusual for a cardinal to lose such a significant election, suggesting that in the minds of bishops that the cardinal is not perceived as a consensus-builder in the conference.
As with outgoing secretary Broglio’s election as president, Coakley’s election positions him to emerge as a frontrunner for conference presidency in three years. In that office Coakley will see to it that the work of the conference remains focused, overseeing the conference’s priorities and plans committee, which steers the overall work of the conference.
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