Thursday 30 August 2012


I am not, of course, a fan of drinking and driving. But I suspect that, when younger, on occasion I may not have been quite as scrupulously careful as I am now.

The case of Archbishop-elect of San Francisco Salvatore Cordileone, who committed the offence known in the US as DUI, or 'driving under the influence' has caused a certain amount of schadenfreude among the liberal Catholic Church in North America. The reason is that His Excellency is a believing Catholic who has made the Church's teaching plain in any number of areas, among them sexuality. No doubt in Texas his remarks would have gone unremarked, but he is a bishop in California, where sexual and cultural mores are rather looser than just about anywhere else in the world. And San Francisco is the epicentre. If you have a strong stomach (and are over 18), just google images with the tag 'Folsom' and you'll see what I mean. But don't say I didn't warn you.

The appointment of Cordileone to San Francisco is, then, in some senses like a purple rag to a pink bull, and he has drawn down fire on his head for his inhuman, antediluvian, views. Being stopped for DUI, then, is a gift to those who would discredit him before he even puts his rear down on the throne at the Cathedral of St Mary of the Assumption. Fr Z has something to say about this, as you would expect.

The Pastor in Valle with the Bishop.
H/T. Brothers of the San Diego Little Oratory
But so have I. And you may be surprised to learn that, slightly, I know His Excellency. At least, I have met with him, discussed some matters seriously with him, preached in his presence, and have several friends who know him rather better than I do, though no doubt he has forgotten who I am.  I met him on a visit to San Diego, where he was then an auxiliary bishop, a few years ago. I think that never have I been so positively impressed by any higher cleric; I said to myself at the time that he would go far. The then Bishop of San Diego, under whom he was working, was a complicated individual, and it was clear to me that the real father of the diocese was Cordileone.

His extraordinary name, which translates as Saviour Lion-Heart could come from St Malachy himself. His defence of the faith has been widely noted, but what has not is his personal warmth. He has in spades what is sometimes called the 'common touch'; the ability to put people at their ease, to be a man among men and not insist on being the centre of attention. He is willing to celebrate an Extraordinary Form Pontifical High Mass, but also willing to play the saxophone at the do afterwards. At a reception I attended with him (he being the guest of honour), the event was nearly scuppered because nobody had remembered to bring a corkscrew. 'Don't despair', he said, 'I just happen to have one in my car'. Ironic, given recent events.

What particularly needs stating, given the nasty things people are saying about him, is that he and I in a corner discussed his real desire to care for people in San Diego suffering from AIDS. He felt (and presumably still feels) that if the Church is going to convince with her teaching on human sexuality, it had to be presented in tandem with a real compassion for fallen humanity. It is easy to dismiss the Church as a monstrous puritan killjoy that, like the Pharisees, ties up burdens too heavy for people to bear, and refuses to lift a finger to help. We need to demonstrate that our teachings rather flow out of love for people and a desire for their greatest good. That means being prepared to kiss the leper, and the Bishop was under no illusions that many (including Catholics) in San Diego thought that as AIDS sufferers had 'brought it on themselves', they should be left to die in the gutter. This, he knew, was a deeply unchristian attitude, and he was concerned that, even if, out of prudence, the work with AIDS sufferers could not be publicized much, had to be done on the quiet, then the compassion of Christ, who sat down to eat with sinners, still needed to be applied in their case.

I suppose it is unsurprising that the devil should have sought to damage Bishop Cordileone's reputation so quickly. But the bishop has not blustered, denied, sought to hush up or distract attention away from his fault, but has frankly acknowledged his guilt and asked forgiveness. Kudos to him. May he flourish in San Francisco, and may his diocese flourish under his leadership. I think that even his critics there will discover what a treasure they have acquired if they give him a chance.


bedwere said...

I believe that the nanny-state is the arm of the devil. More than 400 people were arrested during the weekend not for taking human life or reckless driving but for the non-crime of having alcohol in their blood above an arbitrary limit. Why not testing us also for the level of dopamine or whatever chemical is responsible for our mood? After all a very sad or angry person might cause an accident.

Ttony said...

Actually, wouldn't it be great if he just asked catholics from his diocese to be volunteer drivers for him, for as long as he is banned! Just think how many noses that would put out of joint!

AndrewJ said...

Drink driving rules were introduced to try to reduce the horrific road toll, at least here in Australia. Having lived in 2 countries in the eighties where the Police did not have breathalysers (Hong Kong and Singapore), I can attest to the fact that on far too many occasions, I drove home after big nights. I now view this as very reprehensible behaviour, because excess alcohol for most people removes any sense of risk and impacts judgment.

And in the case of the Archbishop, let he who is without sin, etc.

gemoftheocean said...

Yes, let he who is without sin... but sorry, I am VERY disappointed. Bedware, it isn't just 'some arbitrary number' '.08' is pretty snockered. Alcohol affects your reaction time. No one forced him to drive, he could have taken a cab!

This is not only an 'own goal' it is a permanent 'own goal.' He just handed a gift to the so-called 'gay community'.

Dorothy B said...

Dear Father, quite off topic, but I hope your health is continuing to improve. You remain in my prayers, and I'm sure you are in the prayers of many others.

I love the new picture at the head of your blog! The quality of the light, and the sunshine, and the rich summer colours, are wonderful. It makes me want to go paddling.

All the very best,
Dorothy B