San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone was not among those attending last weekend’s March for Marriage, a national gathering in Washington, DC of activists opposed to marriage equality, opting to remain at home and deal with the continually escalating crisis in his archdiocese.
Archbishop Cordileone, who heads the American bishops’ Subcommittee for the Defense of Marriage, was originally scheduled to appear at the National Organization for Marriage’s event, as he had done so last year,though that appearance sparked tremendous controversy.
About 5,000 people attended last Sunday’s March for Marriage scheduled ahead of Tuesday’s oral arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court in a conglomeration of marriage equality cases. Those in attendance included Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, the USCCB’s chair of religious liberty, and Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the Vatican’s apostolic nuncio to the U.S.
The Human Rights Campaign released an open letter to Pope Francis objecting to Vigano’s appearance as a breach of diplomatic protocol, an interesting move given the Vatican’s potential denial of a gay ambassador from France.
An archdiocesan statement explained Cordileone’s absence in the following way, according to the San Francisco Chronicle:
” ‘While he remains involved in national issues, Archbishop Cordileone will not be attending the march…His highest priority in the coming days is a productive dialogue with Catholic-school teachers and families here in San Francisco, whose concerns are very important to him.’ “
The statement references the outcry from Catholics in the Bay Area which has erupted in response to enhanced morality clauses in teaching contracts announced by the archbishop in February. Brian Cahill, the former director of San Francisco’s Catholic Charities, described the tenseness of the current situation in the SF Archdiocese:
” ‘I suspect just because things have heated up so much that he has changed his mind…Everywhere I go — even at a Catholic Charities fundraiser the other day — I run into people who say, “How can I sign something like the ad in The Chronicle?” ‘ “
Cahill is referencing a full-page ad signed by more than 100 influential Catholics calling for Cordileone to resign following weeks of actions and a petition which has gained the signatures of 80% of high school faculty. The latest protest happened on Monday when more than 200 people, including leaders from more than two dozen unions, protested outside archdiocesan offices, reported the National Catholic Reporter. Art Pulaski of the California Labor Federation told attendees:
” ‘The church has told us that it honors all civil rights and labor rights…You cannot profess social justice if within your own walls you refuse to practice it. We call on the archbishop to adhere to the principles of social justice.’ “
Teachers expressed their concern for students and the school communities as a driving factor in these protests as well. Peggy Farrell, an arts teacher at Junipero Serra High School, said:
” ‘We are with these kids, some fragile, hurt, lonely and questioning…This contract and handbook language drives a wedge…The only way to heal this broken relationship is to drop the language.”
Archbishop Cordileone admitted his surprise at the outcry, telling Crux that while he knew the contract language would be controversial, he did not believe it would be so “to this degree.” He also expressed hope that differences could be resolved by sitting down and talking out the new contracts. Yet, even while he stayed away from the March, organizers for San Francisco’s teachers assert there has still been no outreach from Cordileone or the archdiocese.
In the coming days, the archbishop might want to take the advice of John J. Savant, a professor emeritus at Dominican University of California. In a National Catholic Reporter essay, Savant described the mission of Catholic educational institutions as being modeled on the radically inclusive model of Jesus’ ministry:
“If the Catholic school is, in its very functioning, to be a representation of the loving, merciful Christ — in a sense, Christ writ larger — it must embrace all in her employ, even those who may not accept all of her teachings. For our model here, we need look no further than Christ himself, whose compassion and service were indiscriminate; whose embrace was so often bestowed upon the marginalized, upon those not so orthodox in conviction or behavior, not observant of prescribed practices. This is the Christ whose denunciations were far more directed toward leaders obsessed with power and control than toward the multitudes seeking assurance beyond rule-keeping, meaning beyond moral rectitude. This was the Christ who urged, above all else, the community of love before the rule of the righteous.”
By not doing so, he added, Catholic education ends up confusing students, instead of providing clarity:
“We can imagine the moral confusion that young students might feel when the counsels of inclusion and compassion are somehow dismissed in the interest of orthodoxy. It will be difficult for them to understand how exclusive and restrictive policies can engender the moral freedom for which Christ spent his mission and gave his life.”
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry