(NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER) — The U.S. bishops broke tradition this morning selecting Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, to serve as chairman of the Pro-Life Activities Committee. He defeated Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago on a vote of 96 to 82. Not to put too fine a point on it, but this amounted to the bishops giving the middle finger to Pope Francis.
The Pro-Life Activities Committee has always been led by a cardinal, a way the bishops have signaled the priority they assign to that committee. The current chair is Cardinal Timothy Dolan who, like Naumann, is a protégé of Cardinal Justin Rigali. Some of us who have been watching the bishops for a long time from the bleachers on the left have a saying about Rigali’s career: “He has ruined everything he ever touched.” In giving his committee report on Monday, Dolan singled out Naumann for praise. It was a none too subtle placing of his finger on the scales.
The contrast between the two candidates for chair of the Pro-Life Activities Committee was the starkest of the choices the bishops faced. Naumann and Cupich are both representative of the two divergent understandings of how the church should interact with the ambient culture. Naumann is a culture warrior. Cupich champions engagement and dialogue.