By: Sr. Clare Hunter
It is a strange and scary thing when civil authorities write to a bishop and tell him how to live his faith and mission. Do not let the issue of homosexuality or the politically charged same-sex marriage agenda blind you to what is really going on here. The letter written to Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone by California government leaders and various gay activists and religious groups, as well as a letter from U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, telling him not to attend the second annual March for Marriage in Washington, D.C., on June 19, 2014, was about a group telling a man how he should act as a Catholic Archbishop.
So how should we feel about government officials deciding what acceptable Catholic behavior should be? In fact, some of the signers of the letter portray themselves as faithful, devout Catholics, yet they do not agree with Catholic Church teachings. Predictably, they use Pope Francis, wrenching his words “Who am I to judge?” to mean “Anything goes!” Ironically, this does not seem to apply to Archbishop Cordileone attending the March for Marriage. Who are they to judge his attendance? The very Pope they attempt to use as a rhetorical weapon, only four years ago fought against politicians in Argentina just like them!
Let’s be honest: We all try to separate our actions from our person. We are all pretty convinced that just because we “haven’t killed anybody,” our lies, infidelities, selfishness, and inactive faith life aren’t so bad. We are “good people,” even spiritual. But following the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Ten Commandments seem, quite frankly, just too hard, rather optional really. Sometimes being Catholic can be downright embarrassing, especially when you do not agree with the truths of God’s law, or you don’t even know what they are. Without sound catechesis and an active prayer and sacramental life, attempting to live as a Catholic in the public square can be difficult. Pretty quickly, truth becomes relative. At times even hostile. We want our faith, without the truth it teaches. It is the American “right” that comes with the privatization of religion. Catholics have bought into the rhetoric: I’m Catholic, but my faith isn’t part of my public life. Wasn’t that the great demand made of President John Kennedy? And certainly many, if not most, of our Catholic politicians now live by this construct.
In the letter written to Archbishop Cordileone, the authors quoted Pope Francis, saying: “If someone is gay, who searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” What they failed to include were the strong words of then Cardinal Bergoglio, who adamantly fought against same-sex marriage in Argentina in 2010, stating:
“In the coming weeks, the Argentine people will face a situation whose outcome can seriously harm the family…At stake is the identity and survival of the family: father, mother and children. At stake are the lives of many children who will be discriminated against in advance, and deprived of their human development given by a father and a mother and willed by God. At stake is the total rejection of God’s law engraved in our hearts….let us not be naive: this is not simply a political struggle, but it is an attempt to destroy God’s plan. It is not just a bill (a mere instrument) but a ‘move’ of the father of lies who seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.”
Archbishop Cordileone is, in fact, doing exactly what Pope Francis would ask him to do; what, in fact, he himself did: act like a Catholic Archbishop. In his response to the letter urging that he not attend the March for Marriage, the Archbishop of San Francisco teaches us what that means:
“I appreciate your affirmation of my Church’s teaching—not unique to our religion, but a truth accessible to anyone of good will—on the intrinsic human dignity of all people, irrespective of their stage and condition in life. That principle requires us to respect and protect each and every member of the human family, from the precious child in the womb to the frail elderly person nearing death. It also requires me, as a bishop, to proclaim the truth—the whole truth—about the human person and God’s will for our flourishing. I must do that 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. That is what will be doing on June 19th.”
On Thursday, many Catholics, and those of other faiths, will be joining him in voicing the importance of marriage and family, and the right for a child to have a mother and a father. Incidentally, the Italian name Cordileone means “heart of the lion.” So how should we feel about government officials attempting to decide what acceptable Catholic behavior should be? Fortunately, the good archbishop answers the question for us. The Archbishop courageously imitates the “Lion of Judah,” Jesus Christ Himself, in presenting timeless essential truth, based in true love and charity.
Please see Bishop Paul Loverde’s statement in support of Archbishop Cordileone here.
 National Catholic Register. (2010, July 8). Retrieved from http://www.ncregister.com/blog/edward-pentin/cardinal_bergoglio_hits_out_at_same-sex_marriage#ixzz34v0Jfjn6
 Archdiocese of San Francisco. (2014, June 16). Retrieved from http://www.sfarchdiocese.org/about-us/archbishop-cordileone/homilies-writings-and-statements/?search=march%20for%20marriage&C=940&I=4035