Detroit archbishop to serve alongside Los Angeles Archbishop Gomez, who is elected president during bishops' fall assembly

BALTIMORE — Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron has been elected vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops following voting Tuesday morning at the bishops' general assembly in Baltimore.

Archbishop Vigneron, the conference's current secretary, will serve a three-year term alongside Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, who was elected president among a slate of 10 candidates.

Archbishop Gomez, 67, the U.S. bishops' current vice president, was widely expected to be elected president, as is the conference's custom. He will serve as the first Latino president of the USCCB, succeeding Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston in that role.

In the subsequent vote for vice president, Detroit's archbishop was elected on the third ballot, 151-90, after a run-off with Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services.

Archbishop Vigneron garnered a plurality of votes after the first two ballots, but a majority is required for election.

“I’m deeply honored by the confidence my brother bishops have shown in electing me vice president of the @USCCB,” Archbishop Vigneron tweeted Tuesday morning. “This leads me to ask the Holy Spirit to give me the grace to help us all in our service of Christ’s Church.”

In an email to Archdiocese of Detroit curia staff, Fr. Jeff Day, moderator of the curia, encouraged prayers for the archbishop in his new role, which begins immediately after the conclusion of the bishops' meeting in Baltimore.

“I know that you will join me in offering him our congratulations, prayers and best wishes as he prepares to take up these added responsibilities,” Fr. Day wrote.

Before his current term as secretary, Archbishop Vigneron previously served as chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Doctrine, among other roles. His current role as secretary also includes being chairman of the USCCB's Committee on Priorities and Plans, a role in which he helped develop the bishops' strategic priorities for the next four years

Archbishop Vigneron, 71, is regarded well for the Archdiocese of Detroit's Unleash the Gospel movement, which he spearheaded following a 2016 archdiocesan synod.

“I take it as a real vote of confidence in him,” Detroit Auxiliary Bishop Donald Hanchon said, speaking to Detroit Catholic by phone from Baltimore. “He’s well regarded among the bishops. Whenever he gets up to the microphone, people listen. He has a sense of humor, and they appreciate that.”

Bishop Hanchon said other bishops often ask how the Unleash the Gospel movement is going in Detroit, a sign that the movement is gaining legs even outside of southeast Michigan. 

Bishop Hanchon said Archbishop Vigneron is widely seen by his peers as “someone who gets the job done,” adding the archbishop's collaborative style of leadership leads him to seek as many opinions as possible.

“He’s a reasonable person; he doesn’t say things he doesn’t mean,” Bishop Hanchon said. “He’s inclusive, and he’s very fair. He seeks counsel and wants to know what people are thinking. (The vote) was unexpected, but not a surprise because of the value people place on his leadership.”

Although he would be 74 by the time the USCCB votes for the next president in 2022, Archbishop Vigneron's election as vice president has already begun speculation that he might be on the short list of candidates for the top leadership post when the bishops vote next. 

By canon law, diocesan bishops must submit their resignation to the pope on their 75th birthday. While there is no rule prohibiting a retired bishop from holding a conference leadership post, it has not happened before in the conference's 53-year history.

Bishop Hanchon noted Archbishop Vigneron is not the first Detroiter to hold a leadership post with the national bishops' conference. Detroit Cardinal John F. Dearden was the first president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops from 1966 to 1971.

More to come as this story develops.