Is Cordileone Fit to Serve as Archbishop of San Francisco?

August 31, 2012

Archbishop-designate Salvatore Cordileone

News of Archbishop-designate Salvatore Cordileone’s arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol has been all over the country this week.  (You can read the most up-to-date report here.)  I have been reluctant to post anything here about the case because I am trying to keep the blog focused on Catholic LGBT issues, and I’ve been debating with myself as to whether or not this story fits that category.

Certainly Bishop Cordileone is a key figure in the national Catholic debate on LGBT issues. He has made a national name for himself because of his strong and vocal opposition to marriage equality laws, serving as the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.  He has come to be known as the architect of Proposition 8, California’s famous ballot initiative which rescinded marriage equality.  Earlier this summer, he asked board members of the Catholic Association of Lesbian and Gay Ministries to sign a loyalty oath because he did not trust their judgment in pastoral areas.

My hesitation has been two-fold:  1) Is there a connection between his irresponsible behavior and his LGBT policies?  2) Does this behavior indicate his inability to become leader of the Archdiocese of San Francisco?

In answer to the first question, I tend to think that the connection is rather slim.  Although  it would be convenient for pro-LGBT people to make a strong connection between the two, thus demonizing Cordileone, the truth is that there is no evidence that links DUI behavior with anti-LGBT attitudes.  I suspect that pro-LGBT people have also been arrested for the same offense, and this does not reflect on their attitudes and positions.

Many reactions to Cordileone’s arrest have been ad hominem attacks.  I find that most ad hominem attacks are distractions from the main points of argument.  (Not to mention that LGBT persons have been the victims of ad hominem attacks for centuries.)  Bishop Cordileone’s record on LGBT issues has been bad enough, and that record should be judged as it is, not by any additional personal faults or mishaps he may accumulate.

The answer to the second question is a bit harder to determine.  Bishop Cordileone’s behavior is certainly blameworthy.  Yet, without knowing all the facts, it is hard to determine the true seriousness of this incident and whether it indicates a pattern of poor judgment.

But this one example of drinking and driving behavior, as irresponsible and reprehensible as it is, should not become the sole focal point about whether Bishop Cordileone should lead the San Francisco Archdiocese. The main focus should remain on the fact that he would be heading the archdiocese with the nation’s largest LGBT community, and he would be bringing with him a record of strong insensitivity on LGBT issues.

So, my answer to the second question is that we have to wait and see what the facts reveal about this incident.  Let’s not forget, however, that Cordileone’s record on LGBT issues is already a serious detriment to his ability to lead the Archdiocese of San Francisco pastorally and effectively.  Indeed, even without the DUI charge, he is going to have an uphill battle to gain the respect, trust, and confidence of the Catholics in the city by the Bay.

If he becomes archbishop, he will have to build that respect, trust, and confidence by showing his resolve to be a collaborative archbishop, who consults with leaders, and who is welcoming and respectful of the LGBT community.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

For further reading:

August 30, 2012:  “Cordileone Busted for DUI,” Bay Area Reporter


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