Episcopal bishop signs letter denouncing the Archbishop’s planned participation in March for Marriage

By Mary Ann Mueller
VOL Special Correspondent
San Francisco’s Catholic Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone (IX San Francisco) is taking it on the chin for his strong stance on Christian marriage, defined as a lifetime union between one man and one woman.
He is scheduled to be a main speaker — one of four — at Thursday’s (June 19) March for Marriage and traditional marriage rally in Washington, DC. He is to be joined on the National Organization for Marriage platform by former Governor Mike Huckabee (R-Arkansas), former US Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania), and New York State Senator Rubén Díaz (D-The Bronx). Both Gov. Huckabee and Sen. Díaz are ordained clergymen. The Governor is an ordained Southern Baptist minister and Sen. Díaz was ordained by the Church of God-Cleveland, TN.

However, it is only Archbishop Cordileone who is receiving pressure from all sides to back down as he is being painted as “anti-gay,” a “hate monger” and “bigoted,” and labeling the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), which champions the traditional understanding of holy wedlock, as an ” anti-gay hate group.”

Last week, a letter urging the San Francisco archbishop not to participate in the pro-marriage rally was openly signed by 80 politicians, community representatives, faith leaders, and LGBT advocates including: California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom; San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee; the Very Rev. Brian Baker, Dean of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Sacramento; Episcopal Bishop Wendell Gibbs (X Michigan); and Vivian Taylor, Executive Director, Episcopal Integrity-USA.

As a Roman Catholic herself, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (D-California) weighed in on the growing controversy. The House Minority Leader, representing San Francisco in California’s 12th Congressional District, characterized the March for Marriage as “venom masquerading as virtue” and charged that her own archbishop was participating in an event that showed “disdain and hate towards LGBT persons.”

At the time that the letters were being delivered to Archbishop Cordileone’s San Francisco chancery, he was in New Orleans participating in the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) General Assembly, the Catholic version of the Episcopal House of Bishops. So the controversy churning around his participation in this week’s March for Marriage was in full swing when he returned to the Golden Gate City.

Other news agencies also report that the Episcopal bishops of California and Wisconsin signed a petition requesting that the San Francisco archbishop stay home. They have not signed the aforementioned letter, but there is another Internet petition circulating entitled “Don’t Speak at Hateful Anti-gay Rally” by Faithful America which has garnered almost 30,500 signatures. However, those names are not being published.

“Why is one of the nation’s most prominent Catholic archbishops scheduled to speak at a virulently anti-gay rally?” the online petition asks.
Posted on Faithful America’s “About Us” page is a picture in which Episcopal Bishop Vicky Gene Robinson (IX New Hampshire) clearly stands out in his purple shirt.

He is standing next to a woman who is shouting in a blow horn at a rally. However, it is curious to note that Bishop Robinson, who is a champion par excellence of the gay rights agenda and marriage equality, seems to remain silent as the controversy swirls around Archbishop Cordileone. The NOM Marriage March is taking place in Washington, DC, his new backyard. He settled in the nation’s capital following his retirement from his episcopal duties in New Hampshire and the collapse of his own gay marriage.

Faithful America seems to be a militant pro-gay online social justice website. It takes a hardline against conservative Christians. Recent petitions include: Christians Don’t Want a Right-wing Judge who Misuses Faith (20,368 signatures); Sarah Palin Doesn’t Speak for Christians (66,872 signatures); Anti-gay Hate is Unchristian — Quit World Vision (17,730 signatures); Anti-gay Hate Isn’t Religious Freedom (23,004 signatures); Don’t Use the Bible to Bash Gay Athletes (25,645 signatures); Bigotry Isn’t Christian and Doesn’t Belong on Duck Dynasty (26,181 signatures).

Monday (June 16) Michigan Bishop Gibbs, a signatory of the political letter, joined the other three Michigan Episcopal bishops in signing an amici curiae supporting marriage equality. The other Michigan bishops include: Todd Ousley (II Eastern Michigan); Rayford Ray (XI Northern Michigan); and Whayne Hougland (IX Western Michigan).

In February 2013, all the Episcopal bishops in California, lead by the Episcopal bishop in San Francisco Bishop Marc Andrus (XIII California), signed two amici curiae briefs — one to strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the other to undo California’s Proposition 8 recognizing lawful marriage between a man and a woman.

In addition to Bishop Andrus, the Episcopal ordinaries of California are: Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves (III El Camino Real); Bishop James Mathes (IX San Diego); Bishop Jon Bruno (VI Los Angeles); Bishop Berry Beisner (VII Northern California) and Bishop David Rice (III Provisional TEC San Joaquin). Los Angeles also has two bishops suffragan — Bishop Diane Bruce and Bishop Mary Glasspool, a lesbian. At the time of the signing of the twin amici curiae briefs, Bishop ChesterTalton (II Provisional TEC San Joaquin) had not yet retired. Wisconsin bishops include: Steven Miller (XI Milwaukee); Matthew Gunter, (VIII Fond du Lac); and William Lambert, Eau Claire). All Episcopal dioceses in California accept same-sex blessings while the practice hasn’t fully spread to Wisconsin. The Dairy State is still struggling with the concept of gay marriage where it is just getting a rocky foothold.

Archbishop Cordileone, on the other hand, was a strong proponent of DOMA and Proposition 8. As the chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee on the Defense and Promotion of Marriage, he is in direct theological opposition to his Episcopal counterpart in San Francisco, Bishop Andrus.

The Catholic archbishop and the Episcopal bishop have crossed swords before. When Archbishop Cordileone was reassigned to San Francisco from Oakland in October 2012, he was “welcomed” to the neighborhood by Bishop Andrus who touted the wonders of the Millennium Development Goals, which are more geared to social justice than the Gospel message.

Bishop Andrus also showed up late for Archbishop Cordileone’s enthronement, missing the entrance procession at the Catholic Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption. Although he was an invited guest — one of 2000 — he was asked to wait until all had processed in the cathedral where upon he would be seated. The Episcopal bishop left in a snit and turned to the blogosphere to decry the Archdiocese’s unwillingness to immediately seat him without mentioning his own tardiness. The Archdiocese concluded that San Francisco’s Episcopal bishop was spoiling for a fight.

The Episcopal bishop feels that the Catholic view of marriage is oppressive and that the Archbishop’s affirmation of Catholic teaching on holy wedlock and his support of Proposition 8 is “suppressing the rights of others who, too, have been created in God’s image.” So the Episcopal bishop invited any disenchanted Catholics to cross over the divide and become Episcopalians. He would welcome them with open arms and enter into solidarity with them. The Episcopal Diocese of California is inclusive and fully embraces all.

Archbishop Cordileone is holding his ground. Monday (June 16) he released a letter to some of the signatories of the original letter to him, including Dean Baker at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, addressing them as “Dear Fellow Citizens”, in which he made several specific points. The Archbishop’s personal reply apparently was not sent to Michigan’s Episcopal Bishop Wendell Gibbs nor Vivian Taylor from Episcopal Integrity-USA. as they were not mentioned in the list of recipient addresses.

The San Francisco archbishop thanked the letter writers for their thoughts about his upcoming participation in the March for Marriage. He reiterated that as a bishop, he had to “proclaim the truth—the whole truth—about the human person and God’s will for our flourishing … in season and out of season, even when truths that it is my duty to uphold and teach are unpopular, including especially the truth about marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife.”

He poignantly pointed out that the March for Marriage was not an ‘anti-gay” event but rather a “pro-marriage” happening.
“…it is not anti-anyone or anti-anything,” he explained. “Rather, it is a pro-marriage March. The latter does not imply the former. Rather, it affirms the great good of bringing the two halves of humanity together so that a man and a woman may bond with each other and with any children who come from their union.”

Much of the media coverage surrounding Archbishop Cordileone’s participation in the March for Marriage paint the event as “anti-gay” rather than “pro-marriage,” giving the headlines a built-in negative slant and the story a biased spin.

“Lawmakers ask S.F. archbishop not to attend anti-gay marriage rally” (LA Times); “San Francisco Archbishop Urged to Miss Anti-Gay March for Marriage” (LA Frontiers); “San Francisco Archbishop Outrages Community With Plans To Join Anti-Gay Rally” (Huffington Post) “San Francisco archbishop defends decision to join D.C. rally against gay marriage” (National Catholic Reporter); “SF Archbishop Makes No Apologies For Attending Anti-Gay Rally, Yet Asks For Open-Mindedness” (San Francisco Chronicle); and “San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone Spurns Appeals to Skip Anti-Gay Rally” (Associated Press)
“Unfortunately, many conclusions are being drawn about those involved in the March for Marriage based on false impressions,” Archbishop Cordileone wrote, noting that if the point of the March for Marriage were to single out a group of individuals and target them for hatred, he would not go.

He also uncategorically stated that he and his distractors “share a common disdain for harsh and hateful rhetoric.”

“It must be pointed out, though, that there is plenty of offensive rhetoric which flows in the opposite direction. In fact, for those who support the conjugal understanding of marriage, the attacks have not stopped at rhetoric,” the San Francisco archbishop reasoned. “Simply for taking a stand for marriage as it has been understood in every human society for millennia, people have lost their jobs, lost their livelihoods, and have suffered other types of retribution, including physical violence.”

Finally he pleaded, “Please do not make judgments based on stereotypes, media images and comments taken out of context. Rather, get to know us first as fellow human beings. I myself am willing to meet personally with any of you not only to dialogue, but simply so that we can get to know each other. When all is said and done, then, there is only one thing that I would ask of you more than anything else: before you judge us, get to know us.”

Last year, the San Francisco archbishop travelled to Washington, DC, to lead the 2013 March for Marriage participants in prayer. This year he encouraged his brother bishops to support the March for Marriage in an April letter he penned jointly with Bishop Richard Malone (XIV Buffalo).

“The March for Marriage will be an important means to promote and defend marriage for the good of our culture,” the bishops wrote. “… to pray for our federal and state governments and to stand in solidarity with people of goodwill.”

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