Round-up of Controversies Surrounding Cordileone’s Installation

October 28, 2012

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone was installed as the new archbishop of San Francisco earlier this month amid a storm of controversies surrounding his policies, his behavior, and the installation ceremony itself.

Since the announcement of his appointment, many Catholics have been concerned that Cordileone’s history of work against marriage equality would make him unqualified to lead the church in a city with such a large and active LGBT population.   Cordileone is known as the “godfather of Prop 8,” the ballot initiative which reversed marriage equality in California.  In addition, he serves as the chair of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.  Cordileone also directed the board members of the Catholic Association for Lesbian and Gay Ministry (which is housed in his former diocese of Oakland, California) to take a loyalty oath to the magisterium, which they refused to do.

Brian Cahill, a former director of San Francisco’s Catholic Charities organization, wrote an op-ed offering some advice to the new archbishop, which we hope Cordileone will heed:

“His apparent obliviousness to the disrespect felt by many gay and lesbian Catholics is disturbing. His continued insistence that same-sex marriage is unjust to children ignores the reality of the 70,000 children placed in the California foster care system by the abuse and neglect of their heterosexual parents, and ignores that the only significant cohort of adoptive parents for the most vulnerable of these children are gay and lesbian couples who want to form a family. His recent statement that Catholic gay and lesbian couples should not be allowed to receive Communion is distressing.

“Hopefully, he will not surround himself only with orthodox thinkers, but rather listen to a variety of points of view from his priests and parishioners. He could consult with retired Archbishop John Quinn, who led Catholic Charities in developing the first AIDS services in San Francisco, and who also might help him understand how to manage the tension between church teaching and how the church can fulfill its mission in a pluralistic society.

“He could speak with the Rev. Tony McGuire, one of our great senior priests and the pastor who made Most Holy Redeemer parish such a welcoming community for gays and lesbians in the 1980s. We should hope he will be a frequent visitor at Sunday Mass at Most Holy Redeemer, where he not only will experience beautiful liturgy and music, but a prayerful and worshipping community and the tangible presence of God.”

Just a few weeks before his installation, Cordileone was arrested for failing a sobriety test while driving in San Diego.  During his installation, he made reference to this incident in a lighthearted fashion, according to The Chicago Tribune:
“Following his installation as the religious leader of more than 500,000 Catholics in the largely gay-friendly Bay Area, Cordileone, 56, delivered a sermon and spoke about his recent arrest after failing a sobriety test at a police checkpoint.
” ‘God has always had a way of putting me in my place,’ he said. ‘With the last episode in my life, God has outdone Himself.’ “
Less public at the installation itself was another controversy which came to light only after the ceremony had ended.  San Francisco’s Episcopal Bishop Marc Andrus, who is a supporter of marriage equality, had been invited to the event. Earlier in September, Andrus had written a letter to local Episcopalians stating that he was looking forward to working with Cordileone, but that Andrus intended to remain firm in his support for marriage equality.  At the installation, Andrus was never seated for the ceremony and left standing in a waiting area until he decided to leave.
dotCommonweal blogger Rita Ferrone examines the possibility that Andrus may have been the victim of a simple error:
“Now, admittedly there were a lot of people at this event, and big events always include opportunities for underlings to flub things up. If the failure to seat Bishop Andrus was actually a snafu that happened at the installation, with no offense intended, what would you expect to happen next? I would expect Cordileone to call up Andrus the very next day and say I’m sorry; I regret this happened; please forgive this lapse of etiquette; it was all due to some confusion and truly it was not an intentional slight. I would then let the press know that we had made amends, and invite him to another public event soon, so that it could be seen that the Catholic leader of the Archdiocese of San Francisco respects leaders of other, long-established religious bodies. They are our dialogue partners and local collaborators in building the Kingdom, after all.”
Since Cordileone has yet to issue such an apology, Ferrone has drawn her own conclusion:

“Reluctantly, I am coming to believe that the slight must have been intentional.

“This is shameful, if so. Some have suggested that the letter Andrus wrote to the members of the Episcopal Church of his diocese caused offense to Cordileone and therefore it was right not to admit him. A more puerile argument can hardly be imagined. Andrus was an invited guest. He did not crash the party. If his letter was so egregious, he ought to have been asked not to come, rather than left standing at the door when he arrived.

“What sort of a leader has been appointed to the Catholic see of San Francisco? What sort of bishop cares so little for ecumenism and public relations that he would sit quiet while all this unfolds?”

In an interview before his installation, Cordileone had commented that people involved in a lesbian and gay relationship should not receive communion.  Chuck Colbert of The Bay Area Reporter elicited reaction to this comment from Catholic LGBT advocates:
” ‘Bishop Cordileone’s statement that lesbian and gay couples in relationships should not receive communion is a major pastoral blunder on many levels,’ said Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, an LGBT-positive Catholic organization, based outside of Washington, D.C.

” ‘First and foremost, the decision to approach communion is one made by the individual communicant, not a local bishop. If a person’s conscience is clear to receive communion, he or she should do so,’ explained DeBernardo in an email.

” ‘More importantly, for Bishop Cordileone to make such a statement, even before he has arrived in the archdiocese, shows an impersonal disregard for the people that he has been directed to serve. If Bishop Cordileone wants to lead Catholics in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, an area with a large LGBT population, the first lesson he needs to learn is to listen before he speaks,’ said DeBernardo.

“Cordileone’s call for Catholics not in agreement with church teaching to abstain from the Eucharist is not new. Other prelates have called on pro-choice Catholic lawmakers to do the same.

For that reason in part, ‘I am not bothered that he expressed his opinion about who should participate in the Eucharist. That is part of his job as a bishop,’ said Eugene McMullan, a gay man who attends Mass at Most Holy Redeemer.

” ‘Non-Catholics might think he is about to impose awful restrictions on us, as bishops used to do. That is unlikely,’ explained McMullan, who is also a lead organizer of the advocacy group Catholics for Marriage Equality in California.

“Ernest Camisa, a spokesman for and secretary of Dignity/San Francisco, a group for LGBT Catholics, voiced a different point of view.

” ‘It sounds like the ultimate rejection,’ he said in a phone interview, referring to any denial by church pastors of communion for same-sex couples and advocates of marriage equality.”

Archbishop Cordileone has a huge job in front of him.  In a city that is defined by two historic bridges–the Golden Gate Bridge and the Oakland Bay Bridge–his first order of business should be to become a bridge himself by reaching out to those who feel alienated and by listening to the faith stories of LGBT Catholics.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


QUOTE TO NOTE: Bishop Gene Robinson on Maryland’s Catholic Bishops

October 15, 2012

Bishop Gene Robinson

Openly gay Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson penned an essay on the Washington Post’s On Faith blog  in support of Maryland’s upcoming marriage equality referendum in which he made the case for the state law’s strong religious protections and exemptions.

As he argued strongly for how religious freedom will be protected, he also took the state’s Catholic bishops to task for spreading false information about this issue:

“Maryland’s Roman Catholic bishops’ caution that marriage equality ‘infringe[s] upon the religious liberties of individuals and institutions’ displays either an ignorance of what the law actually says, or an intentional distortion of the truth.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Vatican Official Balks at Episcopal Convention Vote to Bless Same-Sex Couples; Sensitive Transgender Language Also Approved by Anglican Denomination

July 16, 2012

A Vatican official has stated that the U.S. Episcopalian Church’s recent decision to bless same-sex couples can damage future dialogues between the Anglican communion and the Roman Catholic Church.

Bishop Brian Farrell, an Irish prelate who is Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said the decision, voted in at the denomination’s recent General Convention, was “a huge obstacle on the path to Christian unity,” according to a Catholic News Service story printed in The Pilot, the newspaper of the Boston Archdiocese.

The article explains Farrell’s position:

“Bishop Brian Farrell told Catholic News Service in an email July 12 that the decision jeopardizes the achievements of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission since 1970.

“After a six-year hiatus, the official Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue began a new phase in May — known as ARCIC III — to discuss the relationship between the local and universal church, as well as women’s ordination, same-sex unions and actively homosexual clergy.

“Bishop Farrell acknowledged that Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury had already called for any province of the Anglican Communion that could not abide by the moratorium on the ordination of people living in same-sex unions to withdraw from the dialogue commission, which the Episcopal Church did.

” ‘Beyond this technical consideration, ARCIC III will continue, but it will have to seriously face the enormous challenge being posed by the internal situation of the Anglican Communion,’ Bishop Farrell said.

“The [U.S.] Episcopal Church is a member of the Anglican Communion, which has opposed the blessing of same-sex unions and the ordination of openly gay bishops. . . .

“Oblate Father John W. Crossin, executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, declined an interview request about the move, saying, ‘We don’t comment on the internal workings of other churches.’ “

The Episcopal Church voted overwhelmingly to bless same-sex couples at their recent General Convention in Indianapolis.  According to a report in USA Today:

“At the Episcopal General Convention, which is divided into two voting bodies, about 80% of the House of Deputies voted to authorize a provisional rite for same-sex unions for the next three years. A day earlier, the House of Bishops approved the rites 111-41 with three abstentions during the church meeting in Indianapolis.

“Supporters of the same-sex blessings insisted it was not a marriage ceremony despite any similarities. Called ‘The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant,’ the ceremony includes prayers and an exchange of vows and rings. Same-sex couples must complete counseling before having their unions or civil marriages blessed by the church. . . .

“In a separate vote Monday, the full Episcopal convention approved new anti-discrimination language for transgendered people that cleared the way for transgendered clergy.”

A Christian Science Monitor article notes that relationships with Christian denominations (other than the Catholic Church) can also be strained by the Episcopal vote on same-sex couples:

“With this week’s votes, the 2 million member Episcopal Church goes where some (though not all) other Protestant denominations have hesitated to tread. Just last week, the Presbyterian Church (USA) narrowly defeated efforts to redefine marriage in its constitution to include gay couples. In May, the United Methodist Church reaffirmed its teaching that same-sex relationships are incompatible with Christian teaching. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, meanwhile, permits same-sex ceremonies but has not created a rite for blessing them.

“Yet since 2005, the 1-million-member United Church of Christ has supported same-sex blessings.

“Unlike other Protestant groups, the Episcopal Church belongs to a worldwide church that has called for a moratorium on same-sex blessings. The 80-million-member Anglican Communion includes the Episcopal Church among its 34 provinces. Some fear this week’s adoption of a same-sex liturgy will add further strain to already-frayed relationships.

“ ‘It means the Episcopal Church is now separating itself that much more from the Anglican Communion,’ says Hood College historian David Hein, co-author of The Episcopalians, a standard history of the church. ‘The American Episcopal Church is trying to set itself up as a separate denomination, although they would claim that they’re not.’

“The Episcopal Church has spent decades cultivating closer ties with other Christian groups, most notably Lutherans, Roman Catholics, and Orthodox churches. Authorizing a same-sex liturgy could spell trouble for these ecumenical relationships, observers say. In 2010, the Anglican Communion asked Episcopalians to resign their posts in ecumenical dialogues because their church had defied the moratorium on same-sex blessings.”

Commenting on the vote, as well as on the pressure not to approve the blessing ritual, was the Rev. Susan Russell, senior associate at All Saints Church in Pasadena, Calif.:

“We are not going to be blackmailed into bigotry against our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in order to maintain a unity that requires uniformity.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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