New leader of US bishops heads to Vatican meeting

November 16, 2010 (CHICAGO)

Chicago's Francis Cardinal George is finishing his term as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. His replacement was elected Tuesday in Baltimore. Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, George's successor, will attend the meeting.

"It's not like, thanks be to God, we're in crisis. It's not like we need some daring new initiatives, no. Thank God for the leadership of Cardinal Francis George, things are going well. And just to be able to continue that, to work as hard as he did, I think that would probably be my major priority," said Archbishop Dolan.

Dolan defeated nine other bishops, winning the three-year term to replace Cardinal George.

Tuesday's election in Baltimore stunned some observers who believed that the bishop conference vice president would assume the top job as is usually the case.

The vice president was Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson who had been roundly criticized by members of SNAP, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.

SNAP contends that when Bishop Kicanas worked as rector of the Mundelein Seminary he failed to protect children from Fr. Daniel McCormack, a Chicago priest convicted in a high profile sex abuse case. Kicanas denied knowledge of McCormack's crimes.

SNAP told the I-Team, "it's impossible to know whether Kicanas' callous and reckless mishandling of the McCormack case contributed to his loss or not. But we can hope that his shocking defeat will help deter future clergy sex crimes and cover-ups by the Catholic hierarchy."

The change atop the American bishop's conference comes at a sensitive moment at the Vatican. Pope Benedict has summoned the world's cardinals to a day-long summit on Thursday. A prime topic is the clerical sex abuse scandal.

It isn't the first time. At a similar meeting in 2002, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger -- now the pope -- shook hands with Cardinal George.

In Baltimore, a spokesman for the Chicago archdiocese told ABC 7 Tuesday that Cardinal George is trying to attend this week's Vatican meeting.

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