Archbishop William E. Lori, leader of the half-million Catholics who live in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, was elected second-in-command Tuesday of the bishops’ organization that oversees policy and sets the broader direction for the Catholic Church in the United States — a position he will hold for the next three years.
Lori, 71, was one of 10 candidates for president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, whose nearly 300 members began their annual four-day fall general assembly at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront on Monday.
Under the rules governing the election, a candidate had to receive a majority of votes to win the presidency. After no candidate won such a majority, the bishops were asked to choose between the top two vote-getters, Lori and Timothy P. Broglio, who is archbishop for U.S. military services. Broglio, like Lori considered a right-of-center candidate, won the runoff.
When the bishops held a separate election for vice president under similar rules, Lori defeated his fellow finalist, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend in Indiana.
They will replace the organization’s outgoing president, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, and vice president, Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit. Broglio and Lori assume the new positions at the close of business Thursday.
Lori’s election came a day after The Baltimore Sun reported that the Office of the Maryland Attorney General is on the verge of completing a comprehensive report on sexual abuse by priests and other employees of the Archdiocese of Baltimore dating back to the 1940s.
Investigators have been working on the report for more than four years. A spokesman for the attorney general shared no details of its contents but confirmed Monday that the report is nearing completion. A Circuit Court judge must approve its public release.
Lori did not address news about the report Tuesday, and Christian Kendzierski, a spokesman for the archdiocese, referred reporters to a statement issued Monday that included apologies for the abuses committed and promises from the archdiocese to continue cooperating with any legal proceedings.
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As part of his new slate of duties, Lori will relinquish chairmanship of the conference’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities. He spoke to the bishops in that capacity Tuesday, arguing, as he has before, that Catholic leaders must encourage “radical solidarity” with pregnant mothers and those who have just given birth as a way of demonstrating “abortion is never the only choice.”
Lori will be part of the public-facing presence of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The vice president also helps establish conference goals by serving as chair of the Committee on Priorities and Plans, which “concerns itself with the strategic plans of the conference and how we’re fulfilling it,” Lori said moments after the election, and by overseeing the process by which committee chairmen are nominated.
At a time when issues such as the question of whether to offer Communion to abortion-rights Catholic politicians have, at times, brought divisions between conservative and progressive bishops into public view, observers of the conference said Broglio and Lori could prove attractive as candidates who could bridge differences.
Conference vice presidents frequently have gone on to be elected president, but at 71, Lori will be too old for the top job three years from now. Bishops are required to submit their resignations for consideration by the pope upon turning 75.
Lori addressed the challenges awaiting him and Broglio shortly after the votes were counted. As he took the podium to speak about anti-abortion activities, he made reference to a traditional Catholic prayer for grace from God.
“I think I have to go home and practice the Angelus,” he said.
Among other activities, the bishops are scheduled to vote Wednesday on whether and how much to update “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” the conference’s teaching document on the political responsibility of Catholics, and hear a report from Archbishop Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Archeparchy of Philadelphia on the war in Ukraine.