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  He has come to be known as the architect of Proposition 8, California’s famous ballot initiative which rescinded marriage equality.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


Drag Queen Ban Lifted and New Ban Imposed

August 16, 2012

Just a week ago, we reported that Most Holy Redeemer parish in the Castro neighborhood of San Francisco had banned an annual fundraising event because it featured drag queens.

The San Francisco Examiner is now reporting that the ban on drag queens has been lifted:

“Although a gay-friendly Catholic church in The City’s Castro neighborhood is receiving heat for allegedly banning drag queens from all future events on its premises, church officials are saying that while they opposed the idea at first, they quickly changed their minds.”

The event is a fundraiser for the Castro Country Club, a neighborhood 12-step recovery organization, which has used the church’s hall for several years.

The news report suggests that the new pastor received some education about drag queens before announcing the new decision:

“. . . “[C]hurch Business Manager Michael Poma acknowledged that Pastor Brian Costello did tell members of the Castro Country Club that they could not hold their event if drag queens were scheduled to attend, Poma said he quickly reversed his decision.

“ ‘Father Brian wasn’t educated about the importance of drag queens in the gay community,’ Poma said. ‘Once it was explained to him, he said they were welcome to attend as long as their behavior was church-appropriate.’ ”

Most Holy Redeemer says that there was a different reason for the ban:

“Church officials now say the new policy is not a prohibition against drag queens, but rather an end to all one-time events that do not originate at the church. Poma said the ban applies to all outside events — gay or straight — including weddings, parties or fundraisers. The church is still planning to hold its own events, including 12-step programs, suppers for the homeless and AIDS support groups.

“ ‘This is not a ban on drag queens or an insult to the gay community whatsoever,’ Poma said. ‘In the church hall there have been issues with weddings and other groups, so we decided to put an end to them altogether. We are part of the community here and to think that we’re banning drag queens is obnoxious and ridiculous.’ ”

Additionally, there is some discrepancy about when the ban on outside groups was to be implemented, and the role that the Archdiocese of San Francisco did or did not play in the original decision:

“The ban on outside events was scheduled to go into effect at the end of September, but was pushed forward after the church consulted with the San Francisco Archdiocese. Although the Bay Area Reporter suggested Salvatore Cordileone, who is set to be the next archbishop, made the decision, the archdiocese insists it was completely up to the parish.”

The Bay Area Reporter article from last week reported:

” ‘I am the new pastor,’ [Fr.]Costello added. ‘There is a new archbishop. The archdiocese told me straight out, “No drag queens.” ‘ “

KQED Radio’s Laird Harrison interviewed George Wesolek, the Archdiocese of San Francisco’s spokesperson, about the chancery’s involvement in the decision, and he printed the following account on the radio station’s news blog:

“Returning my call, archdiocese spokesperson George Wesolek told me the church did not ban cross-dressing, it simply closed its facilities to groups not affiliated with the church. The change took place about two months ago and it had nothing to do with the appointment of the new archbishop, who doesn’t take office until Oct. 4, Wesolek said. He added that many parishes have similar policies for many reasons.

“Here’s our conversation, edited for brevity:

“George Wesolek: One example is that sometimes an outside group will come in and perhaps do something of a political nature. That can be disadvantageous to us because we are not supposed to be doing any kind of political activity with candidates. We can with issues, but not with candidates. So that is a somewhat usual policy for parishes.

“Laird Harrison: So there was no connection with the appointment of the new archbishop?

“George Wesolek: I know for a fact there is no connection at all. I would be very surprised if the new archbishop knew anything about this.

“Laird Harrison: Then why would Costello have attributed the change to the archdiocese?

“George Wesolek: He’s new there and I’m not quite sure what he had meant about that. He may have talked to someone at the archdiocese — in the legal team for example — and he was talking about a way of instituting a policy or was trying to understand the policy because it was in place before he came.

“Laird Harrison: Does the archdiocese have any sort of policy about drag queens?

“George Wesolek: We would pretty much leave that up to the parish. I would think that most parishes would not consider that appropriate.”

It is good to have a positive statement about the presence of drag queens coming from the pastor.  It is even better that the parish acknowledged his willingness to be educated about the issue.   Yet, what remains troubling is that there are still unanswered questions about how the decision was made and why is it only now that the parish is saying that this was a general ban against renting the space to outside groups.

There is no word if the originally banned show will now go on as planned.

We will keep you posted if this story develops or if  further explanations are given .

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Hope for Dialogue and Understanding with New San Francisco Archbishop

August 2, 2012

Bishop Salvatore Cordileone

The  appointment of Oakland, California’s Bishop Salvatore Cordileone as Archbishop of San Francisco has prompted much commentary because of San Francisco’s large gay community and Cordileone’s track record of work against LGBT issues, particularly his plan for Proposition 8, the California ballot measure which repealed marriage equality. 

National Catholic Reporter columnist Jamie Manson notes that Cordileone’s appointment is indicative of a disturbing trend of episcopal appointments:

“It’s very likely Cordileone’s role as the ‘Father of Proposition 8′ landed him the position in Oakland, the role as chairman of the USCCB’s subcommittee on the defense of marriage and, ultimately, his elevation to Archbishop of San Francisco, a city in which 75 percent of the population voted against Prop 8.

“With this latest appointment, the Vatican solidifies its ‘pack mentality’ approach to promotions. Nowadays, a man earns his stripes and proves his loyalty to the hierarchy by attacking a group the hierarchy perceives as a threat to survival, even if the threat is based on nothing more than fear and paranoia.

“That paranoia, however, might also be giving way to delusion. I’m sure there are some within the Vatican and the laity who believe this appointment will demonstrate the Roman Catholic Church’s commitment to robust, uncompromising, ‘we’ll-show-them-who’s-boss’ leadership. But in reality, for the majority of Catholic laity in this country who support marriage equality, Cordileone’s promotion is only further, glaring evidence of the hierarchy’s deepening descent into meanness, spitefulness and pastoral insensitivity.”

An editorial in The San Francisco Examiner expresses hope that Cordileone might be able to soften his approach.  Te editorial begins by tracing Cordileone’s anti-gay involvement:

“It is hard not to view the Vatican’s appointment of Oakland Bishop Salvatore Cordileone as archbishop of the Archdiocese of San Francisco as a slap in the face of many city residents.

“True, the 56-year-old’s pro-immigration stance and support of Hispanic communities during his tenure among migrant parishes in Southern California deserve credit. ‘Bishop Sal,’ as he’s been called, speaks Spanish and has served as a parish priest in Calexico, just across the border from Mexico, where his parishioners struggled to make a living.

“But Cordileone has worked to deny the rights of other Californians. As an auxiliary bishop in San Diego, he led a team of lay Catholic businessmen in conceiving and organizing the campaign for Proposition 8 — the state amendment to strip away the California marital rights of same-sex couples.

“Cordileone’s work helped the campaign take off: He found its first major donor, brought in the team that would lead the signature-gathering effort, and worked with evangelical churches to coordinate the campaign’s message. He spent the last few months of 2008 working hard to make sure voters stripped away the rights of thousands of Californians.”

However, the editorial ends on a more hopeful note, similar to the one expressed by New Ways Ministry on this blog a few days ago:

“At a news conference last week, Cordileone was asked about these past efforts, and how he intends to speak to the gay people he had insulted so deeply.

“ ‘We need to learn,’ Cordileone said. ‘Continue to learn, how to be welcoming — let them know that we love them and we want to help them.’

“Local gay men and lesbians, and supporters of marriage equality, may understandably feel they have already had enough such help. We can only now hope that San Francisco’s new archbishop heeds his own words — and continues to learn.”

San Francisco Catholics concerned about LGBT issues stand ready to help Cordileone with his learning tasks.  In The Bay Area Reporter, two local pastoral leaders offered hope and suggestions for Cordileone’s continuing education:

” ‘We long for unity and collegiality within our church,’ said Ernest Camisa, [Dignity/San Francisco]chapter secretary and local spokesman.

” ‘Catholics believe that God works in mysterious ways,’ he added. ‘Perhaps the spirit will work through his appointment to accomplish a change of heart, or at least allow members of our church with differing perspective to enter into a new dialogue.’

“The Reverend Brain Costello, pastor of Most Holy Redeemer parish in the Castro, is in agreement with Camisa’s approach.

” ‘Let’s take a wait and see attitude’” he said over the telephone. ‘I am inviting [Cordileone] to celebrate Mass here and get to know the community.’

“Costello, who has known the archbishop-designate for some time, also said that Cordileone ‘will listen.’

” ‘We need to open up a dialogue with Bishop Sal,’ said Costello. ‘Not to change people’s minds.’ Rather, ‘so that people have a better understanding of the other side’s point of view.’ “

For the good of the church and for the LGBT community, let’s hope and pray that such efforts at dialogue succeed.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 


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