What Will Be Archbishop Cordileone’s Legacy in San Francisco?

January 24, 2013
Credit: Dustin Aksland

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone was recently profiled in San Francisco Magazine as he completes his first months as a radically traditionalist leader amid one of America’s most inclusive cities. The long-form piece reported on many areas of Cordileone’s life, none more so than his vigorous opposition to gay and lesbian equality, especially marriage rights.

Cordileone’s prominence in the marriage equality debate emerged from his pivotal leadership in the passage of Proposition 8 in California that limited marriage rights to heterosexual couples. Now, San Francisco Magazine reports on both the archbishop’s past and his potential future regarding marriage:

“He leads the powerful U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, making him the church’s go-to guy in battling the cresting gay marriage tide…

“There are larger national struggles afoot…Conventional wisdom among conservatives has it that the church must work against more electoral wins for gay marriage. And yet, cautions [Executive Director of New Ways Ministry, Francis] DeBernardo, ‘the polls show that more and more Catholics support marriage equality. It’s a losing battle. At this point, our political campaigns are just speeding up history.’”

To many involved in Catholic ministry, Cordileone’s actions are not surprising and are not limited to marriage rights.

During his tenure as bishop of Oakland, he scrutinized the Catholic Association for Lesbian and Gay Ministry (CALGM) over whether they were ‘authentically Catholic.’ His repeated attempts to control were met with good faith responses from CALGM. For instance, they reviewed their use of the words “gay” and “lesbian” in light of his preferred “homosexual.” Eventually, he asked for even more restrictions on their decision-making:

“Cordileone then broadened his demands, asking CALGM board members to sign an eight-page loyalty oath that stressed keeping gays and lesbians from communion and holding them to chastity, along with statements supporting ‘traditional’ marriage and condemning cloning. When the board didn’t sign, Cordileone threatened ‘public action.’”

San Franciscan Catholics now attempt to read Cordileone for how he will act in their inclusive diocese, including Most Holy Redeemer parish in the Castro that is a nationally-recognized gay-friendly parish. Opinions from residents are mixed, with some seeing positive common ground with which to build relationships with Cordileone and others writing him off already:

Roz Gallo

“Roz Gallo, a San Francisco Catholic who married her female partner of 20-plus years in 2008, hopes for common ground. When she heard about Cordileone’s appointment, her first thought was to welcome him. ‘There’s room for dialogue,’ says Gallo, an office manager at a Peninsula law firm. ‘Immigration, social justice, those are my concerns, too. I’m also Sicilian and raised in Southern California. Perhaps I’m Polly-annaish, but I think that if [the archbishop and I] met, if he heard my views, we could change his mind’…

Hugh Mallaney

Hugh Mallaney

“It’s simple, said Hugh Mallaney, a 60-year-old openly gay member of Most Holy Redeemer, sitting at a round table crowded with friends. ‘He does his thing, we do ours.’ After a pause, he added, ‘I mean, the church is for us, too. We’ve built this community, and I feel more at home here than anywhere. Someone can try and come in and change that. But we will outlast them.’”

It appears, as Cordileone often works, that traditionalist changes will be implemented subtly and indirectly. Already, the new priest at Most Holy Redeemer restricted use of parish facilities and made controversial decisions about parish-hosted drag shows. These potentially signal restrictions related to the new archbishop’s arrival, reported in the piece:

“…some congregants and longtime observers of Most Holy Redeemer say that the new archbishop’s presence and his investigation of CALGM have further sent a chill. ‘He’s not going to swoop down to the Holy Redeemer and yell, “Stop your gay outreach!”’ says DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry. ‘It’s far more nuanced than that. People might censor themselves, modify things a bit.’”

Francis DeBernardo continues more hopefully that Cordileone’s history of anti-LGBT efforts need not dictate his future in San Francisco:

“‘We’re at a point in the church where bishops want to stick to their guns on this issue. It’s the tenor of the episcopacy…But maybe Cordileone could surprise us. Perhaps he will imitate Jesus Christ, who bore the brunt of being ostracized for associating with people whom the religious institutions of his day didn’t consider desirable.’”

Perhaps ministering in a diocese that welcomes all will draw Archbishop Cordileone away from his Roman-inculcated beliefs into a more pastoral and loving ministry, perhaps not. Either way, Bondings 2.0 will continue updating our readers on developments in the Bay Area.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Rest in Peace: Bishop Walter Sullivan

December 13, 2012
Bishop Walter Sullivan

Bishop Walter Sullivan

With a heavy heart, we report the passing of Bishop Walter Sullivan, retired Ordinary of the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia.   As a past president of Pax Christi USA, Bishop Sullivan is best known for his work on peace issues.  However, no less significant is Bishop Sullivan’s contributions to LGBT equality.  Here are  a few of his accomplishments:

  1. Establishing the Sexual Minorities Commission, the first diocesan outreach to LGBT people, back in 1976
  2. Writing the introduction to A Challenge to Love:  Gay and Lesbian Catholics in the Church (edited by New Ways Ministry co-founder, Father Robert Nugent, SDS).
  3. Hosting the second national convention of the National Association of Catholic Diocesan Lesbian/Gay Ministries in 1996.  (The organization is now called the Catholic Association for Lesbian and Gay Ministry.)
  4. In1997, he hosted a Mass for LGBT people and their families and friends at the diocesan cathedral.  He opened the liturgy by saying,  “You belong here.  It’s about time somebody says that to you.”

Also in 1976, Bishop Sullivan spoke out in support of lesbian/gay civil rights, stating in the Richmond News Leader:

“The issue before our community and the [human rights] commission, however, is not the morality of a person’s sexual orientation, but rather a person’s rights and protection under the law.  We believe that a person’s sexual orientation, whether it is one we approve or disapprove, is not a proper ground for depriving  that person of the basic rights and protections that belong to all human beings. “

From a statement such as this, we can see that Bishop Sullivan was one of the first Catholic bishops to apply the church’s social justice and human rights traditions to the LGBT community.

Bishop Sullivan was not averse to applying that tradition to church structures, too.  In his introduction to A Challenge to Love, he stated:

“. . . we cannot remain satisfied that, once we have clearly articulated the official Church position on homosexuality, nothing else remains to be done in the area of pastoral care for homosexual people and education on this topic for the larger human community, including the families and friends of homosexual people.  This is especially true in those cases where the teaching of the Church itself has been presented in such a way that it has been the source or occasion of some of the pain and alienation that many homosexual Catholics experience.  We cannot overlook those injustices, including rejection, hostility, or indifference on the part of Christians, that have resulted in a denial of respect or of full participation in the community for homosexual people.  We must examine our own hearts and consciences and know that each of us stands in need of real conversion in this area. “

Bishop Sullivan was a good friend of New Ways Ministry over the years.  When he first established the Sexual Minorities Commission, he invited our co-founders, Sister Jeannine Gramick and Father Nugent, to lead the first retreat for the commission members.

I had the good fortune to meet Bishop Sullivan on several occasions, both in the context of peace activities and LGBT ministry.  He always had a warm smile and a joke or two to share.  His good humor and expansive spirit was remembered by others in a National Catholic Reporter article about his life and his death:

“Sullivan will be remembered as ‘a happy and tireless warrior for justice and peace,’ said retired Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza of Houston, a former president of the U.S. bishops’ conference.

” ‘He truly believed in the priesthood of the laity and their essential role in the life and mission of the church,’ Fiorenza told NCR.

“Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese, a longtime observer of the Catholic scene in the country, concurred.

” ‘It would be hard to find anyone like Sullivan in the American hierarchy today,’ Reese said. ‘He was a liberal bishop passionately committed to social justice and peace.’ “

Though, as Fr. Reese notes, there are no other current bishops who share Bishop Sullivan’s passion and spirit, those of us who mourn his passing can take comfort in the fact that we now have a new saint in heaven to intercede for us in areas of peace, church reform, and LGBT equality and justice.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


New San Francisco Archbishop is Defender of Traditional Marriage

July 29, 2012

Bishop Salvatore Cordileone

Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Bishop Salvatore Cordileone, who has a strong record of opposition to LGBT issues, to head the Archdiocese of San Francisco, which has a strong community of LGBT Catholics.

The San Francisco Chronicle describes Cordileone this way:

“Salvatore Cordileone, 56, organized religious leaders and helped raise significant sums of money to get Proposition 8, the 2008 initiative that banned same-sex marriage in California, on the ballot and spoke forcefully in support of it. He is also chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.

“In his first statements after the Vatican’s announcement, Cordileone, the current bishop of Oakland, touched on a range of topics, from cultural diversity to immigration reform. But reporters barraged him with questions about same-sex marriage. His response was resolute.

” ‘Marriage is the union of a man and a woman, because children can only come about with the embrace of a man and a woman together,’ he said. ‘I don’t see how that’s discriminatory against anyone.’ “

Cordileone recently required board members of the Catholic Association of Lesbian and Gay Ministries to sign a loyalty oath, but the members have refused to do so.

The Chronicle also reported reactions to the appointment:

“San Francisco is ‘one of the hearts of the gay liberation story,’ said Michael Harank, 59, a lifelong Catholic who founded an independent Catholic agency in Oakland for homeless people with HIV. “He may be pastoral, but his work as one of the financial fathers and creators of Prop. 8 is clearly a slap in the face to the gay community.” . . .

“The Rev. Thomas Reese, a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University, said the appointments of increasingly conservative bishops in the United States started with Pope John Paul II, who served from 1978 to 2005.

“Though it would be impossible to find a Catholic bishop in favor of same-sex marriage, Reese said conservatism today includes a particular focus on marriage.

“Clearly, the pope and the Vatican are very concerned about the issue of same-sex marriage and are very opposed to it, and that’s reflected by the kinds of bishops that are being appointed in the United States,’ he said.”

The San Jose Mercury News reported another comment which highlights that this appointment was made because of LGBT issues:

“Charles Martel, president of Catholics for Marriage Equality, said Friday that he believes Cordileone was appointed to combat the acceptance of gay marriage here and abroad. ‘They see this as ground zero,’ he said.”

New Ways Ministry‘s Executive Director Francis DeBernardo released the following statement about Cordileone’s appointment:

 

“Bishop Cordileone’s record on LGBT issues has not been welcoming.  He will have to learn to be more sensitive and pastoral as he takes over in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, which has a large LGBT community, and very active and organized groups and parishes of LGBT Catholics.  The experience of working with such a vibrant and diverse community can help him to grow personally and pastorally.

 

“The Catholic Church in any community is so much more than who the local bishop is.  Lay Catholics in San Francisco will need to work with Bishop Cordileone to let them know what kind of leadership that they want from him. If he does not heed the prayerful requests of faithful Catholics there, the church in San Francisco will be greatly diminished.”

Noting Cordileone’s recent pressure on the Catholic Association of Lesbian and Gay Ministries, a blogger on San Francisco’s KQED radio station website cited Bernard Schlager, executive director of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry at the Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley:

“As Archbishop of San Francisco, Cordileone could put similar pressure on individual parishes that have welcomed gays and lesbians, Schlager said. . . .

“As archbishop, Cordileone could force priests to sermonize against gay marriage, too.

“Schlager doesn’t think he’ll do that, because it would be too controversial.

“But Thomas Sheehan, a professor of religious studies at Stanford University, isn’t so sure the archbishop will refrain from meddling in priestly business on LGBT or other issues. ‘He could well demand that priests reinforce the church’s teaching on contraception,’ Sheehan said.

“But ultimately Sheehan thinks the effects on individual Catholics will be modest. ‘I doubt it will affect how people practice,’ he said. ‘People look less and less to the hierarchy.’

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 


CALGM Board Refuses to Sign Oath

June 24, 2012

Bishop Salvatore Cordileone

The board of directors of the Catholic Association for Lesbian and Gay Ministry (CALGM) has chosen not to sign an “oath of personal integrity” to Catholic teaching given to them by Oakland’s Bishop Salvatore Cordileone, the Ordinary of the diocese in which they maintain their national office.

According to National Catholic Reporter article:

“Declining the oath could result in Bishop Salvatore Cordileone of Oakland, Calif., declaring the Catholic Association for Lesbian and Gay Ministry, or CALGM, as “not authentically Catholic,” a letter to its members from the association president warns.

Sheila Nelson with CALGM members Myrna Ohmann and the late David McCaffrey

” ‘In good faith, we have done most everything required of us to maintain a legitimate space within the boundaries of the institutional Church,’ president Sheila Nelson wrote to members April 5. ‘Yet, this has not seemed to be adequate or satisfactory to the office of the bishop. We have repeatedly, abundantly and humbly submitted that our work is pastoral in nature and not political or primarily doctrinal.’ . . .

“Cordileone’s list of concerns with the association have included the omission of specific church documents on its website and publications; its use of the terms gay and lesbian; members’ statements deemed critical of the church; and the backgrounds, affiliations and public statements of both conference speakers and board members. . . .

” “That you would require such an unprecedented and extensive manifestation of our consciences suggests to us that, irrespective of our pastoral effectiveness, you wish to force an end to these, admittedly difficult, conversations. You will not be receiving any signed oaths from the Board members,’ Nelson wrote in a March 29 letter, the first informing the bishop of their decision.”

(The NCR article is rather lengthy but filled with details; if you are interested in learning more about this story, I suggest you read the article in its entirety.)

The NCR article noted that CALGM had already made several concessions to other requests by Bishop Cordileone:

“In an eight-page follow-up letter to the January meeting, dated April 15, 2011, the board sought to clarify questions about the association and its stance on several of the bishop’s concerns, one of which was its usage of the terms ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ on its website and in its publications — a concern that ‘honestly surprised’ the board.

Arthur Fitzmaurice

“[Arthur]Fitzmaurice  [board member and resource director] said that Cordileone said during their Jan. 7 meeting that the terms weren’t in the church’s vocabulary, and were promoted by groups opposed to the church’s moral teaching.

“The board pointed out it in the letter that archdiocesan ministries in Los Angeles and Chicago use ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ in their titles. In addition, the Oakland diocese has a page titled Gay and Lesbian Ministry’ under the family life ministries section of its website.

” ‘The average Catholic who identifies as gay or lesbian is not making a statement about their sexual activity, their political party, their views on same-sex marriage, or their “lifestyle.”… these terms are actually used to shift the focus away from sexual behavior (which ‘homosexual’ clearly evokes) toward the matters of orientation and identity, which are acknowledged by the Church,” the letter stated.

“The board agreed to ‘be more conscientious of our use of language,’ and to utilize Church language — ‘persons with a homosexual inclination’ — when presenting church teaching, and ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ when communicating with those to whom they minister. . . .

“Ensuing letters detailed the association’s progress in implementing Cordileone’s requests, including:

  • modifying website content to include specific church documents;
  • adding editorial remarks to opinions criticizing or inaccurately portraying church teachings, and stating CALGM did not share in them;
  • Using church language — “persons with a homosexual inclination” — when presenting church teaching, and “gay” and “lesbian” when communicating with whom they minister;
  • providing the bishop a copy of each newsletter before distribution to members;
  • Continuing the practice of providing the names of proposed speakers to the bishop of the diocese where conferences are held.”

Nelson noted the inappropriateness of the request for an oath:

“Nelson, in a March 29 letter, informed the Oakland bishop the board would not take his oath: ‘In the course of our conversations with you over the last year, we have endeavored to engage and respond to each of the concerns that you have raised about our pastoral ministry.’

“She continued: ‘Sadly, there always seems to be something that you say “confirms [your] doubts” about us and our work. … We have tried to gain your trust … We have tried to assure you that we are faithful disciples in parishes and dioceses doing the pastoral work of the Church …’

” ‘We hope you can understand, then, our confusion at the “Oath of Personal Integrity in Belief and Practice Regarding the Teachings of the Catholic Church.” Suddenly, the terms of our long conversation have migrated from the work of the Association to the personal lives of the Board members,’ she said.

“At the end of the letter, Nelson expressed hope that CALGM would continue a ministry she called a “tremendous value to you and our Church at a time when conventional wisdom would inaccurately characterize Roman Catholicism as “against gay people,'” adding, ‘For our part, we need you and your apostolic service to hold us in deep communion with the Body of Christ. We hope and pray that we can continue to minister with you in the Church we all love.’ “

Casey Lopata

Looking toward the future, Fitzmaurice and Casey Lopata, longtime CALGM board member and co-founder of Fortunate Families, had these thoughts:

“When asked how or if CALGM would continue its ministry should Cordileone declare it not authentically Catholic, Fitzmaurice stated that ‘the need for our ministry remains, and we will continue to do our pastoral work and will respond to opportunities for dialogue with our Church leaders.’ “

“Lopata said it would be ‘a real loss for the church” if CALGM could not continue its work.

” ‘If there’s not that visible association with this positive perspective for gay and lesbian people within the  church that is recognized by the church, the church would be much impoverished because of that,’ he said.”

Indeed.  CALGM has been a great support to many church ministers over the years and has provided great work in the field of LGBT ministry.  They have worked hard to maintain a dialogue with church leaders throughout their work.  The breakdown of dialogue here says more about the hiearchy’s adamancy than it says anything about CALGM’s loyalty to the church.  They are in our prayers.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,092 other followers