St. Mary's Cathedral in San Francisco (with its very nice basement)

When Pope Benedict announced he was appointing Oakland Bishop Salvatore Cordileone to be the new archbishop of San Francisco, it generated a lot of reaction in both the religious and secular media. RC churchwatcher Rocco Palma said the appointment was “either the most the most courageously bold — or stunningly brazen — American appointment in the seven-year reign of Pope Benedict XVI.”

After what happened Thursday at Cordileone’s installation, put me down for “stunningly brazen.”

As is common for such occasions, many special guests are invited from outside the church. Leaders of other faith communities are often asked to attend, as a sign that these other leaders welcome a new leader to their community.

Three days before the installation, Marc Andrus, the bishop of the local diocese of the Episcopal church, wrote an open letter to the parishes and members of his diocese. Knowing a number of priests and laypeople in his diocese, I am sure he was getting pressure not to attend, but he felt that failing to attend would not be the best way to (a) express dissatisfaction at the appointment of one of the religious leaders of the Prop 8 battle to head up the Catholic church in San Francisco, and (b) get off to a good start with the new archbishop in ecumenical relations. Thus, he wrote his letter explaining his intention to attend, despite their differences, saying, “Bishop Cordileone was an active supporter of Proposition 8, which I and the other Episcopal bishops throughout California opposed. Despite this difference of opinion and support, I look forward to working with Archbishop-designate Cordileone when and how we can, remembering as the Apostle Paul writes that we are one body, united by one Lord, one faith, and one baptism.”

He went on from there in more detail:

Archbishop-designate Codelione [sic] and I share concerns for the treatment of immigrants to this country and reforming the United States’s [sic] immigration policies. Working to alleviate global poverty and change systems that disenfranchise all people are the concerns of those who follow our brother Christ, and that work is not limited to the work of bishops.

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.

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. 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.

I have a hunch that these paragraphs did not sit well with Cordileone, or perhaps with one of his assistants.

When Andrus showed up for the installation service on Thursday, he was escorted to the basement room where the ecumenical guests were assembling for the procession into the sanctuary. Others involved in the procession were gathering in other places (choir in this room, RC priests in that room, etc.), and each group of participants were brought to the narthex for the procession as their turn came.

Except Andrus:

I identified myself to an assistant to the archbishop, who spoke to someone through a headset, saying, “Bishop Andrus is here.”

I saw the Greek Metropolitan, a good colleague of mine, who was in the same room with me, several Greek Orthodox priests, archdiocesan employees and security guards. I greeted the metropolitan and we spoke briefly.

An archdiocesan employee attempted to escort me upstairs with the Greek Orthodox group, but was stopped from doing so by the employee to whom I had first identified myself. This person, who appeared to be in a superior role, instructed another employee to stand with me.

At this point no other guests remained in the downstairs area. The employee and I chatted while waiting. I began to wonder about the time holdup. I checked my phone; it was 1:50PM. I asked the employee standing with me if the service indeed started at 2, which she affirmed.

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 think I understand, too.

Cordileone’s spokesman tried to brush it off as a misunderstanding, and blamed Andrus for arriving late. He said Andrus arrived after all the ecumenical guests had already entered, and they were keeping him in the basement waiting for the right moment to bring him in without disrupting things.

As Andrus’ description makes clear, at least some of the ecumenical guests had NOT yet entered. But more than that, the “keep him downstairs” instruction makes no sense. I’ve participated in many services like this, and helped coordinate more than a few, and if you’ve got a guest like this who arrives late, you don’t keep them in the basement until you can get them seated. You don’t exchange pleasant chit chat or keep them in the dark about what’s going on upstairs. You tell them what’s going on,  and then take them upstairs to a side entrance near where they are to be seated, or perhaps into the sacristy if they are seated in the chancel, so you can quickly slide them into place when the appropriate time comes.

No, this was a stunningly brazen, juvenile snub.

Given how the pope has created the equivalent of a special diocese for conservative Anglicans who want to become Catholic, Cordileone can’t complain about Andrus’ letter telling his parishes to welcome dissatisfied Catholics. Given how Cardinal Dolan lectured Democrats in his “benediction” at the Democratic National Convention, Cordileone can’t complain about Andrus writing a letter that expresses his own belief.

No, just as Cordileone led the Prop 8 battle for the Catholic Church in 2008, he used his installation service on Thursday to continue fighting that battle. As Tom Fox of the National Catholic Reporter put it in an editorial yesterday,

The Cordileone choice was not a pleasing choice to the Catholics of the Bay area. It was message to them and not a particularly pastoral one at that. It was a power message: “You are wrong and we are going to set you right.” . . .


. . . is it too much to think Cordileone might allow charity and pastoral concerns to be his ultimate guide? Might he allow room for Catholics of varied sexual orientations to come together in community and prayer to celebrate their lives?

Fox was being charitable, or perhaps speaking tongue in cheek. After what happened to Marc Andrus, I think the answers to those two questions is obvious — which does not bode well for those inside and outside the Catholic church who believe in protecting the civil rights of all people, regardless of sexual orientation. When it comes to Cordileone, there is no room for charity and pastoral concern when it comes to LGBTs.

None. At. All.

My condolences to my brothers and sisters in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco, and to everyone else who has to deal with the stubbornly brazen Archbishop of San Francisco.

Which, given that the same man that made Cordileone the archbishop of San Francisco appoints all the other Roman Catholic bishops as well, means everyone involved in electoral politics anywhere in the United States. This isn’t just an in-house catholic thing. Just ask Marc Andrus.


photo h/t to Amanda Walker. Sadly, no images of the basement were available.



I'm an ordained Lutheran pastor with a passion for language, progressive politics, and the intersection of people's inner sets of ideals and beliefs (aka "faith" to many) and their political actions. I mostly comment around here, but offer a weekly post or two as well. With the role that conservative Christianity plays in the current Republican politics, I believe that progressives ignore the dynamics of religion, religious language, and religiously-inspired actions at our own peril. I am also incensed at what the TheoCons have done to the public impression of Christianity, and don't want their twisted version of it to go unchallenged in the wider world. I'm a midwesterner, now living in the Kansas City area, but also spent ten years living in the SF Bay area. I'm married to a wonderful microbiologist (she's wonderful all the way around, not just at science) and have a great little Kid, for whom I am the primary caretaker these days. I love the discussions around here, especially the combination of humor and seriousness that lets us take on incredibly tough stuff while keeping it all in perspective and treating one another with respect.

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