It’s that time, again. The U.S. Catholic bishops are back in Baltimore and the agenda includes the election of a new president to replace the remarkably charismatic (especially in his crucial mass-media duties) Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York.
Speaking of omnipresent, the primary voice of authority in the A1 Baltimore Sun piece on the conference is the one and only Rocco “friend of the blog” Palmo of the Whispers in the Loggia weblog, who basically narrates the whole report. I especially liked his quip on the challenge of replacing Dolan:
Whoever is chosen in Tuesday’s election will have his work cut out for him, according to Palmo, in part because Dolan made such an extraordinary mark.
“Like him or not, you couldn’t ignore him,” Palmo said. “He’s a once-in-a-generation leader. It’s like Elvis is leaving the building. Who’s going to take the stage now?”
There are at least two other “must cover” news angles in this bishops conference advance piece, with one angle of special importance to a newspaper in Baltimore. Alas, only one really made it into print, and it wasn’t the all-news-is-local one.
There is, of course, the Pope Francis angle, which shows up early. Note the careful attribution (not) of the opinions expressed in this passage:
This week’s meeting is the first during the tenure of Pope Francis, the first Latin American-born pontiff and a man widely seen as offering a friendlier face to the non-Catholic world than many of his predecessors.
It also comes in the wake of Dolan’s term, which many felt gave the bishops a more unified public presence than they had enjoyed in years.
Who are the Catholic voices of authority hiding in the phrase “widely seen” on this back-handed slap at the Blessed John Paul II and, of course, the bookish Pope Benedict XVI? Then, a few phrases later, we have a vague reference to “many” Catholics feeling such and such. Lots of people talking, but few willing to be quoted? Not a good sign.
The other key topic that must be addressed is the presence of Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori in the short list of candidates to fill Dolan’s chair as conference president. While he is not a lock-in, there is at least one reason to think that Lori could get the nod. This force in his favor, however, could be a reason he would not get the presidency in the new media-friendly age of Francis.
So, all together now, what is the primary leadership post held by the articulate and scholarly archbishop of Baltimore? Why has he been in and out of the headlines in recent years? What national church work has he performed (often in a partnership with Dolan)?
The story gives a hint, but never states the obvious.