The Vatican Friday announced that Bishop Salvatore Cordileone would become the Archbishop of San Francisco, a massive archdiocese that includes nearly a half-million Catholics.
Normally such announcements are relatively non-newsworthy outside the Catholic community. But Bishop Cordileone is different: During his tenure as Bishop of Oakland and in his time before that as an auxiliary bishop in San Diego, Cordileone has risen to become one of the key figures in the Church’s opposition to same-sex marriage not only California but beyond the state’s borders.
In an interview with the Catholic News Agency earlier this month, Cordileone said there could only be “one definition of marriage”:
The bishop explained that this issue is of crucial importance because “we cannot have two different definitions of marriage simultaneously in the country.”
“Only one definition of marriage can stand,” he said. “This is not expanding the right of marriage. It’s changing the definition, or taking away something is essential to marriage – that it’s the union of a man and a woman for the purpose of the binding of the two and the procreation and education of the next generation of offspring.”
For a video of Cordileone talking at length about this issue, see this video at the Marriage Matters To Kids website. He also, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, is the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.
Here’s Cordileone speaking at the Ethics and Public Policy Center’s Religious Freedom Confererence on May 24 of this year:
But it is Cordileone’s history supporting Proposition 8 — which has been struck down by two courts as unconstitutional since its 2008 passage and could be headed to the Supreme Court in the coming year — that has gotten the most attention. As Chris Thompson put it in a 2009 article in the East Bay Express, “Father Sal,” as he is known, also is “The Father of Proposition 8.” From Thompson’s story:
What almost no one knows is that without Bishop Sal, gay men and lesbians would almost surely still be able to get married today. As an auxiliary bishop in San Diego, Cordileone played an indispensable role in conceiving, funding, organizing, and ultimately winning the campaign to pass Proposition 8. It was Bishop Sal and a small group of Catholic leaders who decided that they had to amend the state constitution. It was Bishop Sal who found the first major donor and flushed the fledgling campaign with cash. It was Bishop Sal who personally brought in the organization that took the lead on the petition drive. And it was Bishop Sal who coordinated the Catholic effort with evangelical churches around the state. Bishop Sal even helped craft the campaign’s rhetorical strategy, sitting in on focus groups to hone the message of Proposition 8.
In the case against Proposition 8 brought by the American Foundation for Equal Rights, that story was shown to have a basis in fact. In an email from the Ron Prentice, the chairman of the group that advanced the proposition, that was produced as part of the evidence in the case, a summary of efforts of the supporters of the proposition included this:
Never in California history has an initiative qualified without the help of paid signature gathering. This is where the cooperation of Bishop Cordileone and the San Diego Catholic community offered tremendous help. The bishop sought the help of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), led by Maggie Gallagher, herself a Catholic, with a national reputation for her research and writing on marriage. Gallagher and NOM’s executive director, Brian Brown, assisted the bishop in articulating the critical need for a constitutional marriage amendment to hundreds of donors and the national office of the Knights of Columbus, ultimately amounting to more than $900,000 in gifts directed to signature gathering.
In another email from Prentice, read into a deposition of one of AFER’s witnesses, the head of the Proposition 8 campaign gave more details about the signature gathering effort:
The total projected cost for the qualification effort has been set at 1.5 million. Thus far, 1.25 million has been raised and spent. The monies have come from four primary sources thus far: The Catholic community of San Diego, due to the involvement of Auxillary Bishop Cordileone, Fieldstead & Company, who pledged 50 cents for each dollar raised in January for the effort, Focus on the Family, and small gifts from direct mail efforts by ProtectMarriage.com.
Cordileone formally will be installed to his new post at an October mass, according to a church spokesman.
UPDATE: The Human Rights Campaign’s new president, Chad Griffin, started AFER. In a statement about today’s announcement, he said the appointment sends “a chilling message” to the country.
“Bishop Cordileone has proven himself to be an anti-gay activist who encourages and promotes discrimination against LGBT people,” he said.
“Catholic teaching calls on us to love our neighbors and to treat others with the same respect we wish for ourselves. Unfortunately, Bishop Cordileone’s crusade against LGBT people indicates he doesn’t take these particular teachings to heart,” Griffin said. “While LGBT Catholics and their allies have worked relentlessly to create welcoming environments, the appointment of Bishop Cordileone sends a chilling message that, in the eyes of the hierarchy, same-sex relationships are not worthy of equal dignity and respect.”