There are few better stewards of tradition than the Catholic Church. Even in matters unrelated to faith, morals or liturgy, precedence isn’t taken lightly.
One example has been the practice of electing a president of the national bishops’ conference. These elections rarely garner much press because, following tradition, it is assumed that the vice-president will be promoted to the top office. Such was the case with Bishop Pierre Morissette of Saint-Jérôme, Quebec, former VP and current president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. The pattern was reinforced by the ascendancy of every past vice-president of this decade. Note that the CCCB presidency also alternates between leaders from English and French dioceses:
2007-2009: Archbishop James Wiesgerber of Winnipeg, Manitoba
2005-2007: Archbishop André Gaumond of Sherbrooke, Quebec
2003-2005: Bishop Brendan O’Brien of Saint John’s, Newfoundland (now Archbishop of Kingston)
2001-2003: Bishop Jacques Berthelet, CSV of Saint-Jean-Longueuil, Quebec
1999-2001: Bishop George Wiesner, OMI of Prince George, British Columbia
Apart from the English-French rotation, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has followed the same pattern. So when the sitting vice-president Bishop Gerald Kicanas was not
elected to replace outgoing president Cardinal Francis George, people took notice. Soon after this week's surprise vote in favour of Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, the new president told Catholic News Service why he thinks the bishops finally decided to break with precedence.