The latest installment of the drama currently unfolding in the Archdiocese of San Francisco saw two groups of local Catholics make known their very different opinions of Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone’s leadership, and in no uncertain terms.
“Archbishop Cordileone has fostered an atmosphere of division and intolerance,” declares a full-page advertisement in today’s edition of the San Francisco Chronicle. “The Archdiocese of San Francisco is threatened by Archbishop Cordileone’s single-issue agenda and cannot survive, let alone thrive and grow under his supervision.”
“Our courageous archbishop has made news nationwide for his effort to keep San Francisco’s Catholic schools Catholic,” states a grassroots organization formed to support Cordileone and his efforts. “For properly fulfilling his responsibilities he has come under targeted, coordinated attacks from activists, politicians and the media.”
While Archbishop Cordileone’s vocal defense of Catholic moral teaching—particularly the Church’s view of marriage and family—has made him unpopular with his city’s liberal politicians for a while now, the current furor among the faithful in San Francisco was ignited by the announcement in early February that contracts and employee handbooks for four archdiocesan high schools would include clauses detailing Catholic teaching on sexual morality.
In opposition to the archbishop’s move, there were petitions, and marches, and the hiring of a high-powered PR firm by “concerned parents.” Then today’s ad in the Chronicle, which is titled “A Respectful Appeal to Pope Francis from the Catholic Community of San Francisco,” and which calls on the Holy Father to remove Cordileone as head of the archdiocese.
Several complaints about Cordileone’s leadership are mentioned in the ad, including the appointment of Father Joseph Illo (he of the boys-only altar server policy) as pastor of Star of the Sea Parish. But it is primarily the morality clauses that have drawn the ire of the 100 or so Bay Area Catholics who signed the open letter to Pope Francis. “Teachers, students and parents are overwhelmingly opposed to his divisive proposal,” the letter reads:
The absolute mean-spiritedness of his required language for archdiocesan high school faculty handbooks sets a pastoral tone that is closer to persecution than evangelization. Students, families and teachers have been deeply wounded by his 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 sisters (and their children) as “gravely evil.”
The official response to the ad from the archdiocese states that the signatories misrepresent Catholic teaching, the employee contacts, and the archbishop’s leadership. “The greatest misrepresentation of all is that the signers presume to speak for ‘the Catholic Community of San Francisco,’” the archdiocesan statement reads. “They do not.”
That claim from the archdiocese seems to be bolstered by the formation of a group of local Catholics who support Archbishop Cordileone, whose website and inaugural event were both announced today on the heels of the Chronicle ad.
A press release from SFCatholics.org describes the group as “a grassroots movement…formed to defend the Archbishop and show support for his efforts to ensure that teachers in Catholic schools remain faithful to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.”
“These are Catholic schools, built by the Catholic Church, funded and subsidized by the contributions of ordinary Catholics giving their pennies from the pews over the generations, and we have a right to expect when we send our children to Catholic schools, they will be taught vibrant authentic Catholicism,” said Eva Muntean, one of the organizers SFCatholics.org. “The newspaper ad is a slur on a good and decent man who has devoted his life in service to others.”
The group is organizing an “Archbishop Cordileone Support Day Family Picnic,” which will take place on May 16 at San Francisco’s Little Marina Green. The event will include games, a bouncy house, and live entertainment, as well as opportunities for participants to write notes or record video messages of support and encouragement for the archbishop.
Considering the upcoming Supreme Court decision on the issue of same-sex marriage and what it will mean for Catholic institutions, George Weigel writes in a recent column:
This is going to be a nasty fight, given that “tolerance” has become the all-purpose bludgeon with which the sexual revolution, in all its manifestations, beats its adversaries into submission or drives them into catacombs. All the more reason, then, to be grateful for the courageous leadership shown by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, whose San Francisco archdiocese is arguably ground zero of the culture war that cannot be avoided—and that must be fought if Catholic institutions are to remain free to be themselves.