Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 12 / 22 March 2018

busted for DUI


Salvatore Cordileone (Photo: Steven Underhill)
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The archbishop-elect for the San Francisco Catholic Archdiocese, a muscular opponent of same-sex marriage in California, was arrested in San Diego last weekend on suspicion of driving under the influence.

The DUI arrest prompted sharp reactions from gay Catholics and gay-rights advocates, while a parish priest voiced grief.

Police took the Oakland Diocese's currently serving bishop, the Reverend Salvatore Cordileone, 56, into custody over the weekend, after being stopped at a DUI checkpoint in the city's College district neighborhood, located near the campus of San Diego State University.

The time of the offense was shortly after midnight on Saturday morning, August 25, according a redacted police arrest report. The arresting officer was Kelly Patrick.

Cordileone was released later that day on $2,500 bond.

A San Diego native and former auxiliary bishop there, Cordileone "opted only for a breath test," said Lieutenant Andra Brown, public information officer for the San Diego Police Department, during a telephone interview on Tuesday.

"We do know what the blood alcohol level was," she explained. "But we do not release that information because it is considered a part of the investigation, and the investigation is exempt from disclosure under the California Public Records Act."

Brown said the archbishop-elect is scheduled for a court appearance at 8:30 a.m. on October 9 when he can enter a plea and "depending on what he says," the case would be set for "further trial date" or "set for a sentencing date."

The police report described Cordileone as "clean shaven," with "quiet speech" and "medium" voice. Dressed in a "white button-up shirt, tan pants, and brown loafers," he was driving a blue 2008 Ford Taurus sedan.

The case, handled by San Diego's city attorney, will go through superior court.

A spokesperson for the city attorney's office, Gina Coburn, said on Tuesday through e-mail correspondence, "Our office has not yet received the case."

In a statement released on Monday, Cordileone acknowledged that he was "found to be over the California legal blood alcohol level."

The legal limit of the state's blood-alcohol-content level is .08 percent.

"I apologize for my error in judgment and feel shame for the disgrace I have brought upon the church and myself," he said in the statement. "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."

He said that the incident occurred after dinner "at the home of some friends along with a priest friend who was visiting from outside the country and my mother."

His mother, Mary Cordileone, was in the car at the time of her son's arrest.

In an interview with San Diego's KFMB-TV, a CBS affiliate, she said, "I blame myself for that."

"He loved his wine. And they kept filling his glass and filling his glass," said Mary Cordileone. "I didn't want to seem like a bossy mother. I should have told him, 'You are drinking too much wine.'"

Meanwhile back in San Francisco, marriage equality activist Stuart Gaffney posted his reaction on Facebook: "I am looking forward to the day when we see the same apology for taking away LGBT rights and marriage equality."

Longtime gay rights activist Nicholas Renault said good timing for such an apology would be once same-sex marriage is legal again in California.

"I hope we do not have a situation where we are hounded to the gates of hell for being gay, hounded through life, denied rights, vilified and ostracized," he said in a phone interview.

Renault, who said he called the San Francisco archdiocesan offices to voice concern about Cordileone's arrest, pointed to a biblical warning against intoxication from wine and strong drink in Leviticus 10:9.

Renault also said that in raising his concerns with an archdiocesan communications person named Virginia, she suggested he seek mental health assistance for his "problem."

Reached by phone, communications manager Virginia Marshall said, "I would never say anything like that," adding, "We have been inundated with calls. I don't recall any one specifically."

Ernest Camisa, a spokesman for and secretary of Dignity/San Francisco, had this to say in e-mail correspondence: "For a man who is overly concerned about the social consequences of same-sex marriage, he should have been equally respectful of the law, especially with his mother in the car."

"This shows bad judgment in regards to the safety of all involved," said Camisa.

"I think the archbishop-elect's actions speak for themselves. He acted in a very irresponsible way," said Joe Murray of the Chicago-based Rainbow Sash Movement, a pro-LGBT Catholic advocacy group.

"My concern is only that he be treated as any other individual driving under the influence of alcohol in our legal system," said Murray in an e-mail exchange.

"Alcohol abuse is at epidemic levels in the U.S. and impacts the LGBT community as it does many other communities, including Roman Catholic priests," he said. "I don't know if Cordileone has a problem with alcohol, but this could be a teaching moment for him to give as much attention to that issue among the clergy as he has given to the gay marriage issue."

Others said Cordileone exhibited poor judgment.

"This is very sad news for the Archdiocese of San Francisco and for archbishop-designate Cordileone. His behavior exhibits very poor judgment, which endangered people's lives," said Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, a pro-LGBT ministry group.

"His vociferous opposition to marriage equality already made him a poor candidate to lead Catholics in San Francisco, with its large gay and lesbian community. He will have an uphill battle to gain the trust and respect of Catholics and others," DeBernardo added in an e-mail.

For his part, Eugene McMullan, a parishioner at Most Holy Redeemer said, "I feel sorry for him, but the main issue is his anti-gay activism."

Cordileone has come under fire in recent weeks as it became known that Most Holy Redeemer would no longer rent its social hall to outside groups, including the Castro Country Club, a sober space in the gay neighborhood that had planned to hold its fall gala there, complete with drag entertainment. The pastor at Most Holy Redeemer, Brian Costello, initially said that drag acts were being banned from the church and that he got his orders from the archdiocese. While Cordileone has yet to be installed as San Francisco's archbishop, many believe that he had a hand in orchestrating the drag ban, which church officials later clarified to mean that no outside events would be held at the Castro church.

Cordileone is no ordinary same-sex marriage detractor. For more than a year now, he has been chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.

In an interview last year with the National Catholic Register Cordileone said that same-sex marriage is "a very serious social experiment that will have dire consequences."

The story of Cordileone's DUI arrest has captured headlines locally and nationwide.

Asked for his reaction, Costello said, "This is a very sad situation."

Cordileone's installation as San Francisco's archbishop is scheduled for October 4 at Saint Mary's Cathedral.

"It's going to be a tough job," Mary Cordileone told KFMB-TV television. "You know he has always preached against same-sex marriages, and the gays are very active there."


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