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New Archbishop of San Francisco Defends Stance Against Same-Sex Marriage

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Salvatore Cordileone (QvisDevs)

The new Catholic archbishop of the Diocese of San Francisco this fall will be Salvatore Cordileone. In his new post, Cordileone, who has served as the Bishop of Oakland since 2009, will take over an area stretching from Marin to San Mateo  that includes about 500,000 Catholics.

In some respects, Cordileone is a good fit for the location, widely considered to contain more liberals-per-square inch than any other similar-sized patch of land on the continent -- and one which contains many liberal churches. He opposes the death penalty, supports the DREAM Act and has been active in  living-wage campaigns.

But on at least one very high-profile issue, Cordileone is severely out-of-step with many in his archdiocese. As News Fix's Laird Harrison wrote when Cordileone's appointment was announced:

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.

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."

Bernard Schlager, executive director of the Center for Gay and Lesbian Studies in Religion and Ministry at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, told Laird, "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." Schlager said that the only ministry to gays and lesbians that Cordileone supports is a kind of 12-step program that treats homosexuality as an addiction.

Today on KQED's Forum program, Cordileone spoke with host Dave Iverson about the issue. Iverson asked Cordileone how he made the distinction of championing the rights of immigrants and workers as opposed to those of same-sex couples who want to marry. Cordileone responded by saying that opposite-sex marriage is best for children.


"Marriage is the only institution we have that connects children to their mothers and their fathers. If you believe children need a father, if you believe children need a mother, marriage is the only institution that’s going to connect them to that. I don’t see that as discriminatory toward anyone. It’s not a judgment on how people live their intimate lives. It’s something that benefits everyone to give children this opportunity.

"It really gets down to what your idea of marriage is, doesn’t it? Is marriage about children or not? Is marriage about connecting children to their mothers and fathers? Is that important? If it is, we will be for marriage as it’s always been understood. Anything else...is not marriage: It’s something else, and why do we need to change that definition of marriage in the law?

"How much more will the definition change is another factor. That’s why I say it’s preserving the traditional definition of marriage in the law. So it’s not just a ban on gay marriage, it’s a ban on polygamy, polyandry, and polyamorous relationships."

Said Iverson: A married gay couple might argue, we're monogamous, and we're bringing up a child in a loving way, and that child is in better circumstances than if the child were in a fatherless home or a foster home.

"The social science data is still outstanding on that," said Cordileone. "We know that the ideal for a child is to be raised by a mother and a father and we should do everything we can to foster that..." (By the way, for a little bit about this debate, see here and here.)

Iverson quoted the archbishop as saying that the church's stance against same- sex marriage isn't discriminatory, but based on the idea that traditional marriage is "foundational to preserve society." Iverson suggested many gays and lesbians would consider themselves as doing something foundational by getting married and having children.

Cordileone then recounted an anecdote from his first day as the archbishop of Oakland:

"I wanted to see the city and especially many of the inner-city neighborhoods that are there. Every once in awhile I'd see a billboard that said 'take time to be a father today.' And typically it showed an African-American man holding a baby in his arms. So I was very encouraged by that... fatherlessness has so much to do with the plight of the families in those neighborhoods.

"At one point, we drove down a street where there was a public school...there was a sign on the window facing out onto the street: 'Vote no on Proposition 8.' We got to the end of the block and what did I see? 'Take time to be a father today.' You can't have it both ways. You can't say a child needs a father and a mother, and be supportive of gay marriage."

Are you saying a gay father can't be a father? Iverson asked.

"The individual can exercise a fatherly role, but when I was talking about fathers, I mean biological fathers who will take responsibility for the children they bring into the world, so that the child can have a father in his or her life. When that's not possible, society provides adoption...[But] adoption then mirrors the situation of how the child came into the world. Every child has a father and a mother. That's in the natural order. There's no other way for the child to be brought into the world then by the union of a man and a woman... There's no guarantee that the father will be near by. Society needs a cultural mechanism to connect the father to the child and to the mother...that cultural mechanism is marriage."


You can click here for comments from Forum listeners responding to today's show.

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