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


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


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

 

 


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