Cardinal Dolan Chosen to Chair USCCB Committee for Religious Liberty

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Cardinal Dolan was elected chairman of the Committee for Religious Liberty of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops after the result of voting by the bishops was announced Nov. 16, the first day of the USCCB’s annual fall general assembly, which is being held virtually in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

He was elected over Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami by a vote of 134-106.

Cardinal Dolan steps into the chairmanship of one of the USCCB’s highest profile committees.

He succeeds Archbishop Wenski, who was named acting chairman in June to complete the term of Bishop George V. Murry of Youngstown, Ohio, who died of cancer June 5.

In another vote, Msgr. Jeffrey D. Burrill, a priest of the Diocese of La Crosse, Wis., was elected the new general secretary of the USCCB.

He was named to a full five-year term in the position. He has been the conference’s associate general secretary since March 1, 2016.

Msgr. Burrill succeeds Msgr. J. Brian Bransfield, a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, who has served in the position since 2015.

The general secretariat oversees the work of the USCCB on behalf of the U.S. bishops.

Msgr. Burrill was elected over Father Michael Fuller, a priest of the Diocese of Rockford, Ill., who is executive director of the USCCB Secretariat for Doctrine and Canonical Affairs.

The bishop-members voted to suspend the bylaws of the conference to allow for mail-in paper ballots for the general secretary, one committee chairman and several committee chairmen-elect before the November meeting.

Msgr. Burrill, a native of Marshfield, Wis., holds a bachelor of arts degree from Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary, adjacent to the campus of St. Mary’s University of Minnesota, in Winona, and a bachelor of sacred theology from Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University. He was ordained in 1998 for the Diocese of La Crosse.

In 1999, he earned a licentiate in ecumenical theology from the Angelicum, or Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas, which also is in Rome.

Before his USCCB appointment, Msgr. Burrill was pastor of St. Bronislava parish in Plover in central Wisconsin for three years. 

He was at the Pontifical North American College in Rome from 2009 to 2013, serving originally as director of apostolic formation and subsequently as the Carl J. Peter chair of homiletics, formation adviser and director of media relations.

In the La Crosse Diocese, he served as pastor of the parishes of St. Mary, in Duran, Holy Rosary in Lima, and Sacred Heart of Jesus in Mondovi from 2001 to 2009. He also taught and was chaplain at Regis High School and Middle School in Eau Claire for two years prior to his parish assignments.

In addition, he was a regional vicar for six years, served two terms on the diocesan priests’ council and also was the diocese’s ecumenical officer and a member of the seminary admissions board.

The bishops also voted on chairmen-elect for seven committees and seven seats on the board of directors of Catholic Relief Services.

The votes for chairmen-elect are:

  • Committee on Priorities and Plans: Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services over Bishop Daniel E. Thomas of Toledo, Ohio, by a vote of 157-83. Archbishop Broglio had been serving as chairman of the committee since becoming USCCB secretary in 2019 and the vote assures him of another three years in the seat.
  •  Committee on Catholic Education: Bishop Thomas A. Daly of Spokane, Wash., over Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer of Atlanta by a vote of 139-103.
  • Committee on Communications: Auxiliary Bishop Robert P. Reed of Boston over Bishop Christopher J. Coyne of Burlington, Vt, by a vote of 144-97.
  • Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church: Auxiliary Bishop Arturo Cepeda of Detroit over and Auxiliary Bishop Jorge Rodriguez of Denver by a vote of 155-78.
  • Committee on Doctrine: Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Texas, over Bishop Brendan J. Cahill of Victoria, Texas, by a vote of 146-91.
  • Committee on National Collections: Bishop James S. Wall of Gallup, N.M., over Bishop W. Shawn McKnight of Jefferson City, Mo., by a vote of 136-104.
  •  Committee on Pro-Life Activities: Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore over Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver by a vote of 139-102.

The chairmen-elect will serve for one year in that capacity before beginning a three-year term as the chairman of their respective committees at the conclusion of the fall general assembly in 2021.

New members of the Catholic Relief Services board are Bishop Cahill; Retired Auxiliary Bishop Octavio Cisneros of Brooklyn; Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, La.; Auxiliary Bishop Daniel E. Garcia of Austin, Texas; Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis; Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, N.J.; and Bishop Luis R. Zarama of Raleigh, N.C.

In addition, several chairmen-elect chosen last year will become committee chairmen at the end of this year’s assembly and will serve three-year terms:

  • Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance: Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki of Milwaukee.
  • Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs: Bishop Daniel P. Talley of Memphis, Tenn.
  • Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis: Auxiliary Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
  • Committee on Protection of Children and Young People: Bishop James V. Johnson of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo.

 —CNS