In what looks to me like a rejection of the trend by some super-conservative Catholic priests to refuse Communion to pro-choice politicians and even threaten to excommunicate them, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has elected a relative liberal to be their president (MSNBC). The vote rejected the candidacy of bishop Gerald Kicanas, who had called for dialogue between extreme conservatives and less-extreme conservatives, so perhaps the election represents a sense of impatience with wasting time trying to find a middle ground with intolerant people who are more likely than not to reject the possibility of a middle ground in the first place. The Conference's new president is Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York. While he's no radical leftist, he has drawn the line against both denying Communion (a trend in Canada, too) and warning congregations that voting for a pro-choice candidate is tantamount to committing a mortal sin.
Dolan's position puts him out of line with Pope Benedict, who has said that excommunicating pro-choice politicians is the right thing to do under canon law. Is the Conference rejecting the pope's ultra-conservatism? Maybe the Vatican's utter failure to deal with its international pedophile ring? In a country where Catholic schools are closing left and right for lack of enrollment, and the dying populations of nuns and priests are not being replaced by new recruits, they sure do need to do something to keep believers in the fold.