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.”
“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.’ “
“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.”
“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?”
” ‘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