A Tale of Two Bishops

The controversy over the SF Episcopalian Bishop’s Alleged “Snub” at Archbishop Cordileone’s Installation

Archbishop Cordileone entering St Mary's Cathedral for his installation Mass

The Episcopalian Bishop of San Francisco, Marc Andrus, did not participate in Thursday’s installation Mass for Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, according to a post on Bishop Andrus’ website.  Bishop Andrus reports how he showed up early and was stopped from joining a group of other non-Catholic participants (Orthodox) who were being escorted to the Mass. Bishop Andrus waited. As he recounts: “At 2PM, when the service was to begin, I said to the employee, ‘I think I understand, and feel I should leave.’ Her response was, ‘Thank you for being understanding.’ I quietly walked out the door. No one attempted to stop me. No attempt was ever made to explain the delay or any process for seating. I arrived early, before the time given my assistant, and waited to leave until after the service had begun.”

I’m not sure the installation liturgy actually started at 2 PM and I can well understand some delay in trying to figure out what, exactly, to do with the prominent Episcopalian critic of Archbishop Cordileone, given the highly visible role played by the non-Catholic ecumenical representatives in the service.

Three days before Bishop Andrus made national news by posting on his website an open letter to the Episcopal Diocese of San Francisco on Archbishop Cordileone’s installation. Bishop Andrus began his post by indicating his disagreement with Cordileone on Proposition 8, the ballot-measure supporting natural marriage. Bishop Andrus and other Episcopalian bishops of California were vocal critics of the measure–and the cause of natural marriage–that Archbishop Cordileone and other Catholic bishops of California strongly supported.

In his website post Bishop Andrus expressed his hope for ecumenical collaboration with Archbishop Cordileone but stated, “we make no peace with oppression.” “The recognition of the dignity and rights,” Bishop Andrus insisted, “within civil society and the Church of lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgendered people, and of women are as core to our proclamation of the Gospel as our solidarity with the poor, with victims of violence and political oppression, and with the Earth”, a statement obviously directed at Archbishop Cordileone’s efforts in support of natural marriage and his opposition to so-called same-sex marriage. Probably, the statement should also be read as an attack on the Catholic Church’s stance on the male-only priesthood.

Following brief mention of areas of common concern with Archbishop Cordileone, Bishop Andrus went on to note, “In working together with the Archdiocese of San Francisco, however, I will not change my course with regard to the full inclusion of all people in the full life of the church. I hope that public disagreements can be handled respectfully and that criticisms of public statements may be met with mutual respect. Some Catholics may find themselves less at home with Salvatore Cordileone’s installation and they may come to The Episcopal Church. We should welcome them as our sisters and brothers.”

No doubt, telling Bay-area Catholics that if they don’t like Archbishop Cordileone’s appointment they are welcome in the Episcopal Church was not seen, on the Catholic side, as consistent with a respectful handling of disagreements and ecumenical protocol.

“Even as we welcome those who may join us and look for ways to work with our Roman Catholic siblings in the faith, we will not be silenced in our proclamation of God’s inclusion,” Bishop Andrus continued. “Our ecumenical partnership should be founded in our following Christ and shared service. It is our Christian duty to take stands in public or from our pulpits when others — especially those of our own faith — are in error and trying to suppress the rights of others who, too, have been created in God’s image.”

And, no doubt, depicting the Catholic Church’s support for natural marriage as “trying to suppress the rights of others” is not going to be well-received by Catholic leadership.

Bishop Andrus concluded: “I hope that we may move forward together in ministry and faith in a way that bears witness to the unity of Christianity without necessitating uniformity.  I look forward to attending Salvatore Cordileone’s installation as Archbishop of San Francisco and working with him in the future.”

From a Catholic perspective, this sounds like, “I hope we can move forward, despite your bigotry and oppression of others.” Not exactly a formula for ecumenical success.

It isn’t clear whether Bishop Andrus’ non-participation in the installation Mass along with the Orthodox was deliberate or a procedural mistake. In any case, one might well understand why the folks in charge of the installation Mass would be less than thrilled about Bishop Andrus’ participation. The ecumenical participants were very visible at the Mass. What would Catholics present, or watching the event online, or reading about it later, think if Bishop Andrus had participated, the same bishop who a few days before characterized the Catholic Church’s stance on marriage as “oppression” and as involving an attempt to “suppress the rights of others”?

What’s more, Bishop Andrus’ very public statement criticizing his Catholic counterpart, mere days before the Archbishop’s installation, suggests someone whose commitment to his causes doesn’t oblige him to common ecumenical decorum.  Fine. At an event where vocal protestors included people who claimed Christianity as their basis for attacking the new Archbishop of San Francisco, it is quite reasonable to understand that those overseeing the installation would not want to welcome another “random factor” into an already potentially volatile situation.

In any event, it is clear that not even Episcopalian bishops can say and do whatever they please regarding their Catholic counterparts and expect to experience “business as usual”. Whatever the ecumenical obligations between Episcopalian and Catholic leaders, the obligation not to obscure or confuse the Gospel or to mislead the faithful and others takes priority. Bishop Andrus should well understand that idea, since he founded his attack of Archbishop Cordileone upon a claim to be faithful to it, notwithstanding the vast weigh of Christian history that says otherwise.

As the Episcopal Church drifts further and further from foundational, historic Christian teaching, including teaching on such basic human institutions as marriage, it will become increasingly difficult for Catholics to work together for good with Episcopalians who embrace their leadership’s views, because the definition of what constitutes “good” in society will become increasingly a point of contention. Certainly, we must try, as far as we can, to work with others, but it will be by no means easy and in some cases we may simply not be able to collaborate.

For some decades now many of us Catholics have been perplexed by some of our Episcopalian brethren’s vigorous support for legal abortion–in the name of their Christian faith–just as we are perplexed by fellow Catholics who claim to do so on the same basis. Now we are amazed that many in Episcopalian leadership, not just some Episcopalians here and there, staunchly support so-called same-sex marriage. We Catholics may be forgiven, I should think, for wondering, “What next?”.

Meanwhile, many of us will pray that Bishop Andrus and his supporters will see why we regard it as such a problem that, having said what he said about Archbishop Cordileone, the Episcopalian leader would otherwise have been situated with the Orthodox leaders at the Archbishop’s installation liturgy, regardless of how undermining of the Catholic message and mission such a thing might have been. Whatever may be said about how and why this didn’t happen, that it didn’t happen is, on balance, a good thing.

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About Mark Brumley 66 Articles
Mark Brumley is president and CEO of Ignatius Press.