Is the Pope picking a fight? I had to wonder that when I heard on Friday about the appointment of Salvatore Cordileone -- one of the nation's most outspoken foes of same-sex marriage -- as archbishop of San Francisco, the gayest city in the country.
Cordileone has called same-sex marriage a plot by "the evil one."
And as much as anyone, he led the drive for Prop. 8, the ballot initiative that banned same-sex marriage, according to a an expose in the East Bay Express. Cordileone thought up the proposition, raised money, and put a compassionate face on the campaign, the Express reported.
When he takes his new position as archbishop of San Francisco, Cordileone will find himself surrounded by people who vehemently disagree with his position.
In conversation with KQED's Stephanie Marti, Cordileone made it clear he won't back down from his fight :
It’s going to be a big challenge of course but this is what the Lord has called me to do. I hope I can respond honestly and generously and effectively. He calls every generation to serve him in some particular way in terms of what’s going on in the world. That’s what it is for me.
But what exactly does this mean for an archdiocese that stretches from Hawaii to Utah?
To get a perspective, I called Bernard Schlager, executive director of the Center for Gay and Lesbian Studies in Religion and Ministry at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley.
"I think we know a good bit about what he will do," said Schlager, himself a Roman Catholic. "He sees same-sex marriage as a profound moral threat."
The only ministry to gays and lesbians that Cordileone supports is a kind of 12-step program -- treating homosexuality as if it were an addiction, Schlager says.
As bishop of Oakland, Cordileone pressured the directors of the Catholic Association of Lesbian and Gay Ministries -- a group formed to welcome gays and lesbians into the Catholic church -- to swear an oath accepting church doctrine on homosexuality. Among Cordileone's concerns, according to the National Catholic Reporter, were the very use of the terms "gay" and "lesbian," which were "not in the church's vocabulary."
As Archbishop of San Francisco, Cordileone could put similar pressure on individual parishes that have welcomed gays and lesbians, Schlager said.
In the comments section of the California Catholic Daily, some readers called on Cordileone to "de-consecrate" the Most Holy Redeemer Church in San Francisco's Castro neighborhood, which welcomes everyone "regardless of their background, gender, race, social status, gender identity or sexual orientation," according to its website.
As archbishop, Cordileone could force priests to sermonize against gay marriage, too.
Schlager doesn't think he'll do that, because it would be too controversial.
But Thomas Sheehan, a professor of religious studies at Stanford University, isn't so sure the archbishop will refrain from meddling in priestly business on LGBT or other issues. "He could well demand that priests reinforce the church's teaching on contraception," Sheehan said.
But ultimately Sheehan thinks the effects on individual Catholics will be modest. "I doubt it will affect how people practice," he said. "People look less and less to the hierarchy."