- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 16, 2010

BALTIMORE (AP) — In an upset, New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan was elected president Tuesday of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, defeating a vice president who had been widely expected to win the job.

It is the first time since the 1960s that a sitting vice president was on the ballot for president and lost. It follows protests by some conservative Catholics against the vice president, Tucson Bishop Gerald Kicanas.

Archbishop Dolan received 54 percent of the vote to 46 percent for Bishop Kicanas on the third round of balloting. Bishop Kicanas has served as vice president for a three-year term which ends this week.

Archbishop Dolan’s surprise victory comes at a time when church leaders are divided over how best to uphold Roman Catholic orthodoxy.

A growing number of bishops have taken a more aggressive approach, publicly denying Holy Communion to Catholic politicians who support abortion rights, warning Catholic voters they should never vote for a candidate who supports abortion rights under any circumstances and reining in prominent dissenters in their dioceses.

Bishop Kicanas has not denied Communion to any Catholic politicians and rejected calls to punish the president of the University of Notre Dame for honoring President Obama, who supports abortion rights. Bishop Kicanas instead urged bishops and Catholic university presidents to start a discussion about their differences.

Partly because of Bishop Kicanas’ approach, he was pilloried in the days leading up to the vote by right-wing Catholic bloggers, who urged readers to send protest faxes and leave messages for bishops at the hotel where they are meeting.

Archbishop Dolan also does not outright deny the sacrament to dissenting Catholic lawmakers, but he is seen as an outspoken defender of church orthodoxy in a style favored by many theological conservatives.