Dolan not yet a cardinal, but a president

So Archbishop Dolan was today elected the next president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

He needed a 50 percent majority and won on the third vote, according to Catholic News Agency. He won out over Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, who had the inside track as vice president since 2010.

Although the VP usually gets the top job, Kicanas has been considered unusually vulnerable. Many conservative Catholics considered him to be too liberal, while others criticized his past handling of sex abuse.

As president, Dolan will be easily the most visible Catholic leader in the U.S. Of course, as archbishop of NY, he was already right up there.

Among other things, Dolan will help set the tone for the church’s position on numerous church/state issues, including how Catholic politicians who go against church teachings should be received by the faithful.

Richard Barnes, executive director of The New York State Catholic Conference, which lobbies in Albany on behalf of Dolan and NY state’s other bishops, issued this statement: “We at the New York State Catholic Conference are thrilled with the election of Archbishop Timothy Dolan as the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The U.S. Bishops made an inspired choice in electing Archbishop Dolan, who we in New York already know as a compassionate shepherd, a gifted preacher and a brilliant historian. The natural joy he exudes in his vocation has been an inspiration to millions of Catholics in the Empire State since his appointment as Archbishop of New York. We know he will bring to the national conference these same great gifts. We are so pleased to be able to share him with the entire country for the next three years.”

UPDATE: More reactions:

Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life: “Both Archbishop Dolan and (VP) Archbishop Kurtz have been unequivocal in their defense of the unborn, which for our ministry is the primary focus. They have welcomed and encouraged the work of Priests for Life, and for that we are grateful.”

The American Jewish Committee’s Rabbi Gary Greenebaum: “Archbishop Dolan’s election is another significant step in furthering the positive and evolving relationship between Catholics and Jews in the United States.”

Abortion and the life of the mother

You may have heard something about a Phoenix nun and hospital administrator who was excommunicated last month after she allowed an abortion in order to save the life of the mother.

The case has received a tremendous amount of attention in several circles for obvious reasons. By all accounts, Sister Margaret McBride was a highly respected figure at St. Joseph’s Hospital and in the Phoenix community.

There has been much debate in the blogosphere not only about McBride’s decision and the reaction by the bishop of Phoenix — who condemned McBride’s actions — but about how Catholic teachings apply to this situation.

As a result, the U.S. Bishops Conference has released a statement to explain the difference between “direct abortion” and a “legitimate medical procedure.”

The four-page statement begins by acknowledging the Phoenix situation and the need to clarify church teachings. It does not mention McBride — but concludes, quite clearly, that she was wrong.

The statement declares that a direct abortion is always wrong, circumstances notwithstanding.

But a medical procedure that treats a serious condition and, as a secondary effect, ends a pregnancy may be permissible.

I would recommend reading the entire statement, but here is an important snippet:

*****

The difference can be seen in two different scenarios in which the unborn child is not yet old enough to survive outside the womb. In the first scenario, a pregnant woman is experiencing problems with one or more of her organs, apparently as a result of the added burden of pregnancy. The doctor recommends an abortion to protect the health of the woman. In the second scenario, a pregnant woman develops cancer in her uterus. The doctor recommends surgery to remove the cancerous uterus as the only way to prevent the spread of the cancer. Removing the uterus will also lead to the death of the unborn child, who cannot survive at this point outside the uterus.

*****

The first scenario is a direct abortion.

The second is, according to the bishops, a legit procedure.

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix must be relieved. The bishops backed his previous statement: “An unborn child is not a disease. While medical professionals should certainly try to save a pregnant mother’s life, the means by which they do it can never be by directly killing her unborn child. The end does not justify the means.”