On the Feast day of St. Francis, the Archdiocese of San Francisco will officially receive its new archbishop: Salvatore Cordileone. Between now and then, things will be very interesting for Catholics on both sides of the San Francisco Bay.
Cordileone was appointed bishop of Oakland in 2009, right after leading the Catholic Church’s successful efforts to pass Prop 8 and ban marriage equality. At the time, he was the auxiliary bishop of San Diego and following that statewide battle, Timothy Dolan named Cordileone the head of the USCCB’s national efforts to oppose marriage equality. Many saw Cordileone’s promotion the next year as a sign of papal favor for being a strong leader in the anti-marriage equality fight.
And now, just to make sure everyone gets the point that the Pope approves of this message, comes this news from Rome, via RC blogger Rocco Palma:
Depending on how one looks at things, this Friday morning brings either the most courageously bold — or stunningly brazen — American appointment in the seven-year reign of Pope Benedict XVI.
For the better part of the last four months, the machinery of the archdiocese that — at least, under normal circumstances — many US bishops consider the nation’s most daunting episcopal assignment has quietly prepared its 450,000 members for a transition at the top. Yet while the pontiff’s selection of the ninth archbishop of San Francisco had almost universally been expected by late June, an apparent delay was explained by credible reports of a backroom Roman “fight” over the state and direction of the famously progressive local church in the capital city of American liberalism.
Now, finally, the dust has cleared… and even for a city well-accustomed to seismic activity, the ecclesial Richter Scale both by the Bay and well beyond is about to record a right whopper.
A “major announcement on the future of the archdiocese” already set for 10am local time at St Mary’s Cathedral, at Roman Noon the pontiff named Bishop Salvatore Cordileone, 56 — the San Diego-born head of the neighboring Oakland church since 2009, and lead hand behind the US bishops’ national effort to defend the traditional definition of marriage — to succeed Archbishop George Niederauer, who reached the retirement age of 75 in June 2011.
That’s the opening of Palma’s post on the appointment, entitled “B16’s Bombshell by the Bay,” and he goes on to use words like “akin to the Great Earthquake of 1906″ as he describes how this appointment will be received. The San Francisco Chronicle has a lot of local reaction (both pro and con), as does the Oakland Tribune, but the best take IMHO comes from Michael Sean Winters of the National Catholic Reporter:
The Appt in SF
Winston Churchill was once asked his opinion of U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles. He replied, “He is the only bull I know who carries his own china shop with him.”
If anything, MSW is understating things. Palma, citing behind the scenes sources, credits the appointment of Cordileone over such reactionaries as Phoenix’s Thomas Olmsted (you remember him from the St. Joseph’s hospital mess, don’t you?) to the ongoing efforts of Cardinal Raymond Burke in Rome (the Vatican’s version of Antonin Scalia) who seems bent on bending the American church as far to the political right as he possibly can.
The retiring archbishop of SF, George H. Niederauer, is no shrinking violet, but Cordileone makes him look like a real lefty. Niederauer was on cordial terms with Nancy Pelosi, despite their disagreements, and he never demanded she stop taking communion despite their divergent views. Given Burke’s predilection for withholding the Eucharist from Catholic politicians who disagree with his rigid and extreme positions on how one can be Catholic and vote to support women’s rights, why do I have the feeling that Nancy Pelosi will not be taking communion much after Cordileone takes up his new post on October 4?