The new president of the U.S. Catholic bishops' conference, Archbishop Timothy Dolan, announced Jan. 5 that he appointed Bishop Salvatore Cordileone of Oakland, California as chairman of the conference's Ad Hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage.

Bishop Cordileone succeeds Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, who was elected vice president of the conference at the bishops' assembly in Baltimore this past November.

“I am grateful for the leadership of Archbishop Kurtz and humbled by this opportunity to serve the bishops of the United States, the Church and our country on this most vital and defining issue of our day,” Bishop Cordileone said.

“Marriage and the family are the essential coordinates for society. How well we as a society protect and promote marriage and the family is the measure of how well we stand for the inviolable dignity and good of every individual in our society, without exception.”

Bishop Cordileone also serves as a member of the bishops' Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance.

During his time as the Bishop of Oakland he has worked to preserve the traditional definition of marriage. His work has been high profile because of the adoption of Proposition 8—the successful ballot initiative that defined marriage as being between one man and one woman—and subsequent legal efforts to overturn it.

“The consequences for our future – especially that of our nation’s children – cannot be greater and must not be ignored,” Bishop Cordileone said on Jan. 5.

The Ad Hoc Committee was founded in 2008 with the help of the fraternal Catholic organization the Knights of Columbus. At the bishops' 2010 fall meeting, former conference president Cardinal Francis George of Chicago said that the Defense of Marriage group would move into a subcommittee under the bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth during the first half of 2011.