Cordileone Defends Marriage March Speech
San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone, who is scheduled to speak at Thursday's March for Marriage in Washington, D.C., is defending his decision to address the rally, a gathering his critics charge is anti-gay.
"The March for Marriage is not 'anti-LGBT' (as some have described it); it is not anti-anyone or anti-anything," Cordileone said in a letter released June 16 as a media advisory through the archdiocesan communications department.
"Rather, it is a pro-marriage march. The latter does not imply the former," the archbishop said. "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."
Cordileone's letter is in response to state and local officials, as well as religious leaders and heads of secular organizations, who have called on him not to attend the march sponsored by the National Organization for Marriage and the Family Research Council, which they say are among "the nation's most virulently anti-LGBT organizations."
The Southern Poverty Law Center has in fact designated Family Research Council as a hate group.
On Tuesday, local Catholic and faith community leaders delivered about 30,000 petitions to the San Francisco Archdiocese, urging Cordileone to cancel his speaking engagement.
Last weekend, local members of the grassroots group Equally Blessed handed out fliers in front of LGBT-friendly Catholic churches in San Francisco, alerting parishioners to the controversy and urging them to contact the archdiocese.
Organizers told a local TV station that they were well received by people heading into church.
Public officials who are signatories to the June 10 open letter to Cordileone include California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom; gay state legislators Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and Assemblymen Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) and Rich Gordon (D-Menlo Park); San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and gay city Treasurer Jose Cisneros, along with gay Supervisors David Campos and Scott Wiener, among nearly 100 other people.
"We respect freedom of religion and understand that you oppose civil marriage for same-sex couples," the signers wrote in the letter, which notes that some invited march speakers are not in accord with the Catechism of the Catholic Church, "which states that lesbian and gay people 'must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.'"
One such speaker is the Reverend Harry R. Jackson Jr., an African American preacher and Pentecostal bishop, who serves as senior pastor at Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Maryland, just outside of Washington, D.C. He is also founder and president of the High Impact Leadership Coalition, which exists to "to protect the moral compass of America."
During Glenn Beck's August 2012 Under God Indivisible Conference, for example, Jackson said, "Folks who cannot reproduce want to recruit your kids," according to a Human Rights Campaign news release.
Earlier that same year, he said, gay activists "want to impose their will on the culture; and if you cannot reproduce you may try to recruit, and what I mean by that is what is going on is an attempt to reshape, refashion the mind, hearts, and desires of the next generation."
He added, during a May 2012 American Family Association radio program, "Nothing But Truth," that "Many Christians are sitting back and we aren't speaking out, but the reality is just like the times of Hitler," according to HRC's opposition research.
HRC is the nation's largest LGBT civil rights advocacy group and political lobbying organization.
In addition to Cordileone, other scheduled marriage march speakers include former Arkansas Governor and Fox News host Mike Huckabee and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, both Republicans.
Another sponsor of the June 19 March for Marriage is Concerned Women for America.
Catholic LGBT Advocates Speak Out
Meanwhile, in separate correspondence, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), who is Catholic and a strong advocate for the LGBT and HIV/AIDS communities, also wrote to Cordileone, "In friendship, respect, and candor," saying, "I hope that you will not associate the revered office of Archbishop of San Francisco and your personal values with the participants' venom masquerading as virtue on Thursday."
Pelosi also said that she looked forward "to continuing our dialogue in the city of Saint Francis, in the spirit of Pope Francis: 'If someone is gay and is searching for the Lord and has good will, then who am I to judge him?'"
Cordileone, who serves as chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, has emerged as a major national leader in opposing same-sex marriage. During the Proposition 8 campaign six years ago when he was bishop of Oakland, he helped to raise $1.5 million for the ballot question that rolled back marriage equality gains granted by the California Supreme Court.
(The U.S. Supreme Court last June threw out Prop 8 on a technicality and same-sex marriage is now legal again in the Golden State.)
At the time, Cordileone said on a Catholic radio program, "The ultimate attack of the Evil One is the attack on marriage."
For all the letter writing, everyone seems in agreement on the need for mutual respect and continued dialogue.
For his part, Cordileone's letter affirmed church teaching on the "intrinsic human dignity of all people, irrespective of their stage and condition in life."
And yet, he added, "[E]ven 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 I will be doing on June 19."
Near the end of his letter, the archbishop wrote, "Please do not make judgments based on stereotypes, media images, and comments taken out of context."
"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," Cordileone wrote.
LGBTs and allies respond to the archbishop
That closing line prompted a response from Fred Sainz, HRC's vice president for communications, who said, "So, how highly ironic is this last sentence?"
Gary Buseck, interim executive director for Boston-based Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, a legal advocacy organization, offered his thoughts.
"While the archbishop's letter is disappointing on one level for repeating some rusty canards, it also offers what appears to be a genuine invitation to personal dialogue, which is very positive and should be accepted," said Buseck. "We agree that conversation is always worthwhile."
In a similar vein, Francis DeBernardo, executive director of the Maryland-based New Ways Ministry, a pro-LGBT Catholic organization, said, "Archbishop Cordileone's response is disappointing because there is no assurance from him that he will speak for the human dignity and equality of LGBT people at the NOM rally."
Moreover, DeBernardo continued, "[The archbishop] needs to be clear to distance himself from the unjust and untrue language that NOM and Family Research Council have used in regard to LGBT people and the prospect of marriage equality."
For her part, Sister Jeannine Gramick, said, "I'm pleased that Archbishop Cordileone is willing to meet personally with any of the signers as dialogue can be the beginning of transformation."
"We will take him up on his offer," added Gramick, executive coordinator for the National Coalition of American Nuns.
While Buseck, DeBernardo, and Gramick were among the signatories on the open letter to Cordileone, Sainz was not, although HRC Religion and Faith program director Sharon Groves did sign on.