What Will Be Archbishop Cordileone’s Legacy in San Francisco?
Credit: Dustin Aksland

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone was recently profiled in San Francisco Magazine as he completes his first months as a radically traditionalist leader amid one of America’s most inclusive cities. The long-form piece reported on many areas of Cordileone’s life, none more so than his vigorous opposition to gay and lesbian equality, especially marriage rights.

Cordileone’s prominence in the marriage equality debate emerged from his pivotal leadership in the passage of Proposition 8 in California that limited marriage rights to heterosexual couples. Now, San Francisco Magazine reports on both the archbishop’s past and his potential future regarding marriage:

“He leads the powerful U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, making him the church’s go-to guy in battling the cresting gay marriage tide…

“There are larger national struggles afoot…Conventional wisdom among conservatives has it that the church must work against more electoral wins for gay marriage. And yet, cautions [Executive Director of New Ways Ministry, Francis] DeBernardo, ‘the polls show that more and more Catholics support marriage equality. It’s a losing battle. At this point, our political campaigns are just speeding up history.’”

To many involved in Catholic ministry, Cordileone’s actions are not surprising and are not limited to marriage rights.

During his tenure as bishop of Oakland, he scrutinized the Catholic Association for Lesbian and Gay Ministry (CALGM) over whether they were ‘authentically Catholic.’ His repeated attempts to control were met with good faith responses from CALGM. For instance, they reviewed their use of the words “gay” and “lesbian” in light of his preferred “homosexual.” Eventually, he asked for even more restrictions on their decision-making:

“Cordileone then broadened his demands, asking CALGM board members to sign an eight-page loyalty oath that stressed keeping gays and lesbians from communion and holding them to chastity, along with statements supporting ‘traditional’ marriage and condemning cloning. When the board didn’t sign, Cordileone threatened ‘public action.’”

San Franciscan Catholics now attempt to read Cordileone for how he will act in their inclusive diocese, including Most Holy Redeemer parish in the Castro that is a nationally-recognized gay-friendly parish. Opinions from residents are mixed, with some seeing positive common ground with which to build relationships with Cordileone and others writing him off already:

Roz Gallo

“Roz Gallo, a San Francisco Catholic who married her female partner of 20-plus years in 2008, hopes for common ground. When she heard about Cordileone’s appointment, her first thought was to welcome him. ‘There’s room for dialogue,’ says Gallo, an office manager at a Peninsula law firm. ‘Immigration, social justice, those are my concerns, too. I’m also Sicilian and raised in Southern California. Perhaps I’m Polly-annaish, but I think that if [the archbishop and I] met, if he heard my views, we could change his mind’…

Hugh Mallaney

Hugh Mallaney

“It’s simple, said Hugh Mallaney, a 60-year-old openly gay member of Most Holy Redeemer, sitting at a round table crowded with friends. ‘He does his thing, we do ours.’ After a pause, he added, ‘I mean, the church is for us, too. We’ve built this community, and I feel more at home here than anywhere. Someone can try and come in and change that. But we will outlast them.’”

It appears, as Cordileone often works, that traditionalist changes will be implemented subtly and indirectly. Already, the new priest at Most Holy Redeemer restricted use of parish facilities and made controversial decisions about parish-hosted drag shows. These potentially signal restrictions related to the new archbishop’s arrival, reported in the piece:

“…some congregants and longtime observers of Most Holy Redeemer say that the new archbishop’s presence and his investigation of CALGM have further sent a chill. ‘He’s not going to swoop down to the Holy Redeemer and yell, “Stop your gay outreach!”’ says DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry. ‘It’s far more nuanced than that. People might censor themselves, modify things a bit.’”

Francis DeBernardo continues more hopefully that Cordileone’s history of anti-LGBT efforts need not dictate his future in San Francisco:

“‘We’re at a point in the church where bishops want to stick to their guns on this issue. It’s the tenor of the episcopacy…But maybe Cordileone could surprise us. Perhaps he will imitate Jesus Christ, who bore the brunt of being ostracized for associating with people whom the religious institutions of his day didn’t consider desirable.’”

Perhaps ministering in a diocese that welcomes all will draw Archbishop Cordileone away from his Roman-inculcated beliefs into a more pastoral and loving ministry, perhaps not. Either way, Bondings 2.0 will continue updating our readers on developments in the Bay Area.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

0 replies
  1. Joseph Gentilini
    Joseph Gentilini says:

    I hope that the new Archbishop Cordileone will listen to his LGBTQ community. If I was not hopeful, I probably would have left the Church already. My belief is this: by living our gay life prophetically and contemplatively, we can change the church. This may not happen in my lifetime but it will happen. One Trappist monk-abbot told Leo and I years ago that the suffering gays suffer now is like the blood of the early martyrs and it will change the church.

  2. tonyadamsnyc
    tonyadamsnyc says:

    I doubt Cordileone will forget how he got San Francisco: by energetically supporting the anti-marriage equality stance of the NCCB and Pope B16. Men like Cordileone, Dolan and Sartain are buttered bread who never forget which side is up. They have had lives as rule-followers and “good boys.” They see this as pleasing to God. Who can disabuse them of that notion?

  3. Larry Quirk
    Larry Quirk says:

    The problem with Archbishops like this is that they have achieved their high status because they not only tow the party line from Rome but are aggressive and devious at attempting to get their way. Even if they have a moment of grace to see the real damage that they do to the Church, it will pass when they know that any deviation from the party line will put their own status in danger. These are company men not true pastors so dont expect anything good to come of their tenure. The best they can do [ after retirement or on their deathbed] is to acknowledge that they may have made “some mistakes”.

    Please note Los Angelas’ Cardinal Mahonny who after actively enabling pedophile priests for 20 years has now put the name of each molested person on an index card so he can pray for him which must make him feel better in his own mind. These prelates are at their core weak men who do not have the courage of Jesus to stand up to the powers of the time.

    The danger that we all face is that these prelates want to have their way in our civil arena by denying gays and lesbians our rights as citizens not only as Catholics.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] National Catholic Reporter reported the full story here and Bondings 2.0 recently covered an in-depth profile of Archbishop Cordileone’s relationship with the LGBT community in San Francisco here. […]

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