Friday, June 13, 2014

Still going through the motions

Salvatore Cordileone, all dressed up (and nowhere to go?)
As a resident of the San Francisco Bay Area, I’m aware of the man who has headed the Archdiocese of San Francisco since October of 2012.  His name is Salvatore Cordileone and he is a conservative member of the church hierarchy who follows in the steps of conservatives before him. That includes George Niederauer, who will go down in history as the instigator of Proposition 8, the 2008 campaign run on lies and scare-tactics, which amended the state’s constitution and led to the overturn of the right of same-sex couples to marry in California.  That decision was later found unconstitutional by a federal court, fortunately, and an appeal was dismissed by the Supreme Court.   

Then there was the really awful William Joseph Levada, who was archbishop in San Francisco for ten years before making cardinal.  Levada is known locally (and beyond the Bay Area, as well, obviously) for his cover-up of the child-abuse scandal and for his support of others among the clergy who participated in cover-ups (I'm thinking of Mahoney of Los Angeles).  Whether it was in spite of or because of these efforts I can’t be sure, but he was subsequently made cardinal and rewarded with a prestigious job in Rome.

But that is now water under the bridge.  The current problem is Cordileone, who is now making headlines for agreeing to join NOM’s protest march in Washington, D.C. next week against same-sex marriage.

Actually, whether that is even a problem any more is now a question worth asking.  As a bishop, he is saying what bishops are required to say, no matter that most Catholics no longer dance to their tune. According to an October 2011 article in the National Catholic Reporter, fewer than 20% of Catholics believe the church’s views on abortion are authoritative.  When it comes to homosexuality, that figure drops to 16%.  On the topic of contraception, only 10% admit to taking their cue from the church.   One study showed that while there were 205,000 Catholics attending mass in San Francisco regularly in 1961, that figure had dropped to 107,000 thirty-five years later.  Another showed that while half the people in San Francisco identified as Catholic in 1950, no more than 20% did so in 2011.    Put those figures together and you have to wonder who is actually listening  to the archbishop anymore.  

At the same time, things flare up when the church actually takes steps to try to control the behavior of teachers in Catholic Schools, as was shown recently, when the church pressed its teachers into a contract that entitled them to fire them if they were caught behaving badly, according to church teaching.  At the same time, when push came to shove, the church demonstrated that it prefers not to run gay people and gay-friendly people out of their jobs.  It simply wants them to follow a don’t ask/don’t tell policy of lying by omission. If they insist on being honest about who they are, well, that's not the church's problem.

In contrast to the clericalists are Catholics like Hans Küng, for example, the Roman Catholic theologian who argues that
(t)he requirement of celibacy is not a tenet of faith.  It is a medieval canon law that should have been abrogated long ago in response to the well-founded criticism of the sixteenth-century reformers.*
Küng also argues that
(t)he traditional arguments against preaching by women and the ordination of women are not merely outdated, they are also theologically dubious and untenable.*
I wonder why it is more people don’t insist we ought to get together and pass a law requiring the Catholic Church to change these unsound practices forthwith.  They are not in keeping with our civil laws supporting marriage and equality between the sexes.  

The reason, obviously, is that we have separation of church and state in this country, and Cordileone is way over the line in suggesting non-Catholics should be governed by laws an ever-diminishing minority of Catholic clerics would impose on them.

I might wonder as well why it is that Cordileone is scheduled to address his fellow bishops next week in New Orleans to urge them to use their power and influence to get an amendment to the U.S. Constitution passed which would prohibit gay and lesbian couples from marrying.  But I know the answer.  He knows he’s right, and when you’re right, you have to get out there and make things go your way.

You have to appreciate the cojones it takes to appoint a man like Cordileone archbishop in San Francisco, America’s most gay-friendly city.  The man is, after all, the official church’s head of the USCCB's Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.  The USCCB is the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the organization that runs the Catholic Church in America, subject to the pope’s approval.  

Most people in the know seem to believe same-sex marriage rights in this country are just a question of time.  Gay liberation advocates are falling all over each other, in fact, in amazement at the speed of attitude changes.  The topic came up on Terry Gross’s Fresh Air on NPR yesterday. Gross asked Hillary Clinton if she had been pro-gay all along but had to hold back her support till the time was right.  Clinton said no.  She, like Obama, had “evolved” on the issue. She then went on to make my point - that the speed of change has been nothing short of astonishing.

In San Francisco, where gays and lesbians still flock daily to City Hall to marry, Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee are among the dozens of civic leaders urging Cordileone to disassociate himself from NOM, arguably the leading homophobic organization in the nation, and the anti-gay protest march they have scheduled for next week. The letter ends with
We ask that you will reconsider your participation and join us in seeking to promote reconciliation rather than division and hatred.
A group called Faithful America has put out a petition to Cordileone to withdraw, which the National Catholic Reporter reports  already has 20,000 signatures.  

Actually, Brian Brown, of the National Organization for Marriage, is worried not enough people will show up.    

Huckabee will be there, of course.  And Santorum.  

And Cordileone, with his photo up there with the rest of them.

I am not surprised that Cordileone would continue to toe the party line of the official church. Win or lose, the Catholic Church still holds the official position that gays are flawed human beings and he has to carry the banner, no matter how frayed it is becoming.  He still has to go through the motions.  

But surely he has had a look at how the NOM site video creates an absurd image of “Americans fighting for freedom” - cue Martin Luther King, using his photo.  What is the matter with the man that he would allow such wretched abuse of language and reason?   We stand strong.  We will not be moved.  We shall overcome.  We are church.  We are victims of oppression. We demand our right to make you buy into our notion of sin.  We will amend your constitution.

Has this man no shame?

*I have the Kindle version of Küng’s latest book to appear in English, Can We Save the Catholic Church?  Kindle, unfortunately does not show page numbers.  These quotes appear at the 36% mark, i.e., about a third of the way through.

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