Salvatore Cordileone, a Catholic bishop widely known as the “Father of Proposition 8,” was arrested in San Diego early Saturday morning for drunk driving. The 56-year-old currently serves as the Bishop of Oakland and was appointed in July to be Archbishop of San Francisco by Pope Benedict XVI in a move widely seen as a thumb in the eye to the LGBT civil rights movement. Cordileone will assume the new position on October 4; he’ll be in court facing misdemeanor DUI charges just five days later.
The bishop was driving his 88-year-old mother home from a dinner party the two had attended. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Cordileone:
“. . . was headed along San Diego State University’s southern edge when he encountered a sobriety checkpoint, said Officer Mark McCullough. Cordileone was amiable but appeared intoxicated and was arrested at 12:26 a.m., McCullough said.
The bishop was released from jail shortly before noon after posting $2,500 bail.”
McCullough described Cordileone’s demeanor further:
“He was very calm, somewhat apologetic at the time. . . He said he’d been drinking. But he wasn’t a stumbling, falling-down drunk.”
In 2008, while serving as Auxiliary Bishop of San Diego, Cordileone marshaled California’s Catholic leaders and a group of wealthy donors to raise $1.5 million in seed money that kick-started the Proposition 8 campaign to strip same-sex couples of their existing right to marry in that state. Frank Schubert, the infamous anti-equality crusader who spearheaded that initiative and has had his hands in every marriage discrimination campaign since, told the Chronicle that Cordileone is a “brilliant” man who was “instrumental” in the ballot measure’s successful passage. In an interview with a Catholic radio station after Proposition 8 was approved, Cordileone bragged about his role in the amendment push and said that allowing loving and committed same-sex couples the freedom to marry under civil law was the work of Satan himself. In his words, “the ultimate attack of the Evil One is the attack on marriage.”
Cordileone also leads the American Catholic hierarchy’s national anti-gay persecution campaign as the head of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ “Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.” He told bishops at a USCCB meeting last November that the Catholic Church’s fight against civil marriage equality “affirms the inviolable dignity of every human person.” Just last June, his subcommittee announced an anti-LGBT outreach initiative targeting Spanish speakers as part of a broader effort by the bishops to undertake an extreme makeover of their public image. According to Reuters:
Outreach efforts also include a Spanish-language video, now in production, that will take the form of a tasteful soap opera, tracing one family’s interactions over generations. The drama aims to promote traditional marriage and combat rhetoric that frames gay marriage as an issue of equality, civil rights or justice, said Bishop Salvatore Cordileone of Oakland.
Reaction to Cordileone’s arrest on drunk driving charges has varied widely. The Chronicle reports that clergy in the Oakland diocese are “stunned” by the news, with one priest telling the paper that “[his fellow priests are] all kind of in shock.” In a video interview with KFMB-TV (below), the bishop’s mother Mary blamed herself and fellow partygoers for her son’s drunkenness, but not Cordileone himself. When asked how she felt about her son’s elevation to the San Francisco archdiocese, she told the reporter, “It’s gonna be a tough job because, you know, he’s always preached against same-sex marriages and then, the gays are very active up there.”
For his part, archbishop-elect Cordileone issued a statement of apology yesterday:
“I apologize for my error in judgment and feel shame for the disgrace I have brought upon the Church and myself. I will repay my debt to society and I ask forgiveness from my family and my friends and co-workers at the Diocese of Oakland and the Archdiocese of San Francisco. I pray that God, in His inscrutable wisdom, will bring some good out of this.”
In light of Cordileone’s DUI imbroglio, some in San Francisco are calling for the Vatican to withdraw his appointment, but that’s not likely to happen. After all, in the Catholic church, these guys get promotions even after being exposed for knowingly protecting pedophile priests. As far as Rome is concerned, something as “trivial” as a drunk driving charge isn’t likely to matter much.