Calling for Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone to be replaced, more than 100 San Francisco area Catholics released an open letter to Pope Francis expressing their discontent with the archbishop’s leadership. Their concerns were primarily related to his negative focus on LGBT issues.
In a full page ad published in The San Francisco Chronicle, the signatories criticize an archbishop with a “single issue agenda” who “has fostered an atmosphere of division and intolerance.” Foremost among the ad’s criticisms is Cordileone’s introduction of morality clauses, focusing on sexual issues in teacher contracts. The signatories write further:
“The absolute mean-spiritedness of his required language for the Archdiocesan high school faculty handbook sets a pastoral tone that is closer to persecution than evangelization. Students, families and teachers have been deeply wounded by this language, yet the Archbishop refuses to withdraw his demands…
“Instead of your famous words “Who am I to Judge,” Archbishop Cordileone repeatedly labels the behavior of our fellow brothers and sister (and their children) as ‘gravely evil’…The Archbishop has isolated himself from our community…The City of Saint Francis deserves an Archbishop true to our values and to your teachings.”
Those undersigned represent a diverse and influential group of Catholics. Dan Morris-Young of the National Catholic Reporter described the signatories:
“Referring to themselves as ‘committed Catholics inspired by Vatican II,’ signers include well-known philanthropists in the archdiocese, members of school and university boards, the former director of Catholic Charities CYO, high-profile attorneys and physicians, major figures in the business and corporate world, and officials of trusts, foundations and charitable organizations.”
Among these leaders, The Chronicle notes, is Brian Cahill, former executive director of San Francisco’s Catholic Charities, who has previously written in favor of LGBT rights by saying Cordileone’s positions would turn the church into a “shrinking cult.” In a more recent piece, Cahill suggested that the contract struggle is all about the meaning of Catholic identity. Other signers echoed similar sentiments, with business owner and major donor Larry Nibbi saying:
” ‘The crux of our worry is that the faithful are going to become very disenchanted and stop going to church because they don’t like the message, and the message is not the way they lead their lives.’ “
Those involved with the ad had first attempted dialogue, reaching out to national and curial officials for relief, but when no action was taken they decided to release the ad, reports The Chronicle.
Publishing the ad is the latest in a string of 2015 actions by Bay Area Catholics, which have included hundreds demonstrating at the cathedral and hundreds more participating in a town hall hosted by the University of San Francisco,a Jesuit school. The National Catholic Reporter quoted Cahill telling attendees at the forum:
” ‘Cordileone, who with his imported crew of orthodox, smugly ideological and intentionally provocative zealots, is trying to shove his sex-obsessed version of Catholic identity down the throats of Catholic high school students and teachers.’ “
Elsewhere, students, parents, alumni, and church workers are organizing around #TeachAcceptance, which includes a Facebook group and website. Parents have written letters of support to students and one parent, Dennis Herrera, wrote recently about how Cordileone’s activities reveal just how essential Pope Francis’ leadership and the Synod of Bishops focused on family life could be to this situation.
In a statement responding to the ad, the Archdiocese said it was a “misrepresentation” of Catholic teaching, the teacher contracts, the archbishop, and San Francisco Catholics.
I see the actions of Bay Area Catholics as fitting examples of what living the Gospel means today. The thousands who have turned out to protest, dialogue, and register their support for church workers are true representations of what it means to be Christian.
Pope Francis should listen to the voices of the people in this local church and respond to their call. Yet, even if Archbishop Cordileone remains, I take solace in this emerging reality that reveals just how alive and formative the Holy Spirit is in San Francisco’s Catholics.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry
National Catholic Reporter: “Under San Francisco’s new handbook language, could gay marriage lead to a dismissal?”
Think Progress: “How San Francisco Catholics are Pushing Pope Francis“