Kurtz seen as a cen­trist Catholic leader

Ken­tucky arch­bishop to head con­fer­ence

The Washington Times Daily - - Nation - BY NATHAN PORTER THE WASH­ING­TON TIMES

The U.S. Con­fer­ence of Catholic Bish­ops’ elec­tion of a mid­dle-of-the-road can­di­date to re­place Car­di­nal Ti­mothy Dolan as pres­i­dent is be­ing seen as a sig­nal that Amer­i­can bish­ops are mov­ing to­ward the more con­cil­ia­tory poli­cies of Pope Fran­cis — though the new pres­i­dent him­self said the fight against abor­tion will con­tinue.

Ad­dress­ing re­porters Tues­day af­ter his elec­tion at the con­fer­ence in Bal­ti­more, new USCCB Pres­i­dent Arch­bishop Joseph E. Kurtz em­pha­sized his com­mit­ment “to serve the voice­less and vul­ner­a­ble,” while promis­ing that Amer­i­can bish­ops would con­tinue to op­pose same-sex mar­riage and abor­tion.

Arch­bishop Kurtz, 67, of Louisville, Ky., takes the post — con­sid­ered the na­tion’s top Catholic spokesman and the pri­mary li­ai­son be­tween the U.S. church and the Vat­i­can — af­ter three years as vice pres­i­dent.

“Kurtz is not seen as be­long­ing to any party or fac­tion,” Na­tional Catholic Reporter’s Michael Sean Win­ters wrote in an anal­y­sis af­ter the vote, adding that the Louisville prelate may have been con­sid­ered the can­di­date best suited to bridg­ing the di­vide be­tween con­ser­va­tive and lib­eral wings of Amer­i­can Catholi­cism. One sign of Arch­bishop Kurtz’s ap­peal: He was elected in the first round of vot­ing, get­ting more than half the vote de­spite run­ning in a 10-can­di­date field.

Car­di­nal Daniel DiNardo of the Arch­dio­cese of Galve­ston-Houston is the con­fer­ence’s new vice pres­i­dent.

Com­ing up short in the vote were some of the more provoca­tive can­di­dates, in­clud­ing Arch­bishop Charles J. Cha­put of Philadel­phia and Arch­bishop Wil­liam E. Lori of Bal­ti­more, who have spo­ken out di­rectly against ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity and led ini­tia­tives dis­tanc­ing the Catholic faith from the gay-rights move­ment. Arch­bishop Cha­put, who has ac­knowl­edged the dis­com­fort some con­ser­va­tive Catholics have felt over the state­ments of the new pope, was de­feated in a head-to-head vote against Car­di­nal DiNardo for the con­fer­ence’s vice pres­i­dent post, tra­di­tion­ally a step­ping­stone to the top job.

Arch­bishop Jose H. Gomez of Los An­ge­les, con­sid­ered a pro­gres­sive can­di­date be­cause of his sup­port for im­mi­gra­tion re­forms and his af­fil­i­a­tion to the His­panic-Amer­i­can com­mu­nity, also came up short in the vote.

Arch­bishop Kurtz has taken to mod­ern so­cial me­dia, tweet­ing fre­quently, and through­out his ca­reer has made re­la­tion­ship-build­ing a large fo­cus of his min­istry. But he has a far lower me­dia pro­file than his pre­de­ces­sor, Car­di­nal Dolan of New York.

Dur­ing a ques­tion-and-an­swer ses­sion, Arch­bishop Kurtz said the most im­por­tant time he spent lead­ing came dur­ing his 12 years as a pas­tor. The Penn­syl­va­nia na­tive worked for more than two decades in the Dio­cese of Al­len­town be­fore be­com­ing bishop of Knoxville, Tenn.

He said he hopes to con­tinue to fo­cus on the in­di­vid­ual and not be­come con­sumed with in­ter­nal church po­lit­i­cal nu­ances.

“There is a cul­ture of in­dif­fer­ence. And now when we move from be­ing an in­ward cul­ture to look­ing out at those in need, the chal­lenge in wel­com­ing peo­ple and es­pe­cially serv­ing peo­ple that are voice­less and vul­ner­a­ble spans right across the board from our work with im­mi­gra­tion, our work in serv­ing peo­ple who are poor and hav­ing the chance to ac­knowl­edge the needs of peo­ple from the un­born, as well as the very help­less,” he said.

On the is­sue of same-sex mar­riage, Arch­bishop Kurtz re­mained firm in his con­vic­tions on the sanc­tity of tra­di­tional mar­riage, yet still con­cerned with the needs of the in­di­vid­ual.

“I would fol­low the lead of Pope Fran­cis in say­ing, let me see the per­son first,” he said ear­lier this year in com­ments in the Louisville Courier-Jour­nal.

But on the is­sue of abor­tion, how­ever, Arch­bishop Kurtz gave a strong res­tate­ment of the church’s tra­di­tional stance.

“In a na­tion founded on the self-ev­i­dent truth that all are cre­ated with an in­alien­able right to life, the deliberate de­struc­tion of un­born chil­dren at their most vul­ner­a­ble stage is a trav­esty. It is a vi­o­lent re­sponse that does not serve women, chil­dren, fam­i­lies or the com­mon good,” he said.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Arch­bishop Joseph Kurtz (left) of Louisville, Ky., speaks with Car­di­nal Ti­mothy Dolan, of New York, the man he suc­ceeds as pres­i­dent of the United States Con­fer­ence of Catholic Bish­ops. Arch­bishop Kurtz was elected pres­i­dent dur­ing the con­fer­ence’s an­nual fall meet­ing in Bal­ti­more on Tues­day.

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