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Cordileone, the Lion Hearted Archbishop of San Francisco, Teaches Us to Defend the Truth

By Deacon Keith Fournier
January 30th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone understands his mission and shows us all how to articulate the changeless truths which must be defended in this urgent hour. He is an apologist of the highest order, a defender of the faith. His courage in the face of cultural and social revolutionaries who seek to eviscerate the moral foundations of western culture is an inspiration.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA (Catholic Online) - There was a wonderful article on the heroic Archbishop of San Francisco, Salvatore Cordileone, in the January 28, 2013 edition of the UK Catholic Herald entitled  "All our detractors can do is call us names". Mary O'Regan held a lengthy discussion with the Archbishop while he was in London. His responses revealed the reason why his last name is so apropos. In Italian "Cor di Leone" means "Heart of a Lion". His incorporation of that fact into his Episcopal coat of arms is no surprise.

The article explains the influences which led to the Archbishops response to God's call by giving the reader an interesting exposure to his family upbringing. It offers an overview of the development of his priestly vocation and early service to the Church. It covers a wide range of interesting subjects including his love for the Liturgy and his understanding of the hermeneutic of continuity. It is a well written piece and well worth the read.

However, I found the responses of the Archbishop wherein he explained to the writer how he defends the unchangeable teaching of the Catholic Church to be the most instructive. There is much we can learn from his manner - and his rhetoric - in defending the truth. His courage in the face of cultural and social revolutionaries who seek to eviscerate the moral foundations of western culture is an inspiration.

When the announcement was made that he would assume the leadership of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, shock waves rippled through the main stream media. On September 22, 2012, before his installation, Maria L. La Ganga wrote an article in the Los Angeles Times entitled, "In San Francisco, Prop. 8 backer to head Catholic Church"

It began with these words:  "The announcement by Pope Benedict XVI has been dubbed the "Bombshell by the Bay." Next week, a key player in the passage of Proposition 8 - a man who has decried the "contraceptive mentality" of modern life - will become the leader of the Catholic Church here in the city that thrust same-sex marriage onto the national stage, the birthplace of the Summer of Love."

She was disturbed by comments made by the Bishop at a news conference in July, "when discussing the cultural challenges his new diocese would present" he said the issues revolved around "issues of family life and, essentially, come down to our understanding of the human person, the purpose of our human sexuality, what God calls us to do and how he calls us to live and how he calls us to love." Of course, he was absolutely correct.

Archbishop Cordileone is one of those whom I have called Benedicts Bishops. I believe he was strategically chosen by Pope Benedict XVI for the task he faces in San Francisco, and beyond. In continuity with the 2,000 year teaching of the Catholic Church and the proper understanding of the Second Vatican Council, Pope Benedict XVI is re-securing the foundation stones of the Catholic Church in the United States in strategic Episcopal appointments. 

The Pope's selection of Bishops proceeds from his conviction that the Church - and the message of authentic and true human progress which she offers the world - is the only antidote to the the collapse of the West. The task of re- building the Church so that she can in turn re-evangelize the culture has not been easy.  And, it will probably get even more difficult. The old adage is true; it always seems darkest before the dawn.

I conclude with some excerpts from the UK Catholic Herald written by Mary O'Regan. They demonstrate how Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone understands his mission and shows us all how to articulate the changeless truths which must be defended in this urgent hour. He is an apologist of the highest order, a defender of the faith. His responses to Mary O'Regans questions are instructive for our work:

"He consistently uses level-headed logic in arguing against same-sex marriage. He says: "Truth is clear. Wanting children to be connected to a mother and father discriminates against no one. Every child has a father and a mother, and either you support the only institution that connects a child with their father and mother or you don't. Adoption, by a mother and father, mirrors the natural union of a mother and father and provides a balanced, happy alternative for when a child may not be reared by their biological parents."

"I tell him that I'm searching for good theological answers against gay marriage, but he corrects this notion by saying: "If you use theology, you will play into their hands and they will say you use religion to control people. Marriage isn't primarily in theology; marriage is in nature. Theology builds on the natural institution, giving us a deeper mystical and supernatural sense of its meaning."

"I admit that I didn't step up to the plate when Channel 4 invited me on live television to debate gay marriage, because I didn't want to become a hate figure. I feared my career would suffer and I wouldn't be able to pay my rent. The archbishop sighs and responds: "You say that you can't debate it without suffering for your beliefs, so who is being discriminated against? Who is being intolerant? It is the secular orthodoxy that allows no dissent and will punish those who do."

"When I concede that I feel like a coward for passing up the opportunity to argue the case for marriage on television, Archbishop Cordileone says: "It's a lot easier for us priests to speak out. Fellow clergy are not going to marginalise us. And we're not going to be passed up for a promotion or lose our jobs!"

"While speaking out may be less daunting for priests, he encourages lay people to embrace the challenge, which for us in Britain means actively opposing the forthcoming gay marriage Bill. Archbishop Cordileone urges us to see it as a way of winning grace.

"Fighting for marriage is our way of loving God, and the struggle is the particular gift that God has given our generation. This is our particular trial, and by overcoming it we may achieve spiritual greatness. It will entail suffering if we are to oppose gay marriage, something which poses such destruction to the understanding of natural marriage, which is a child-oriented institution."

"Archbishop Cordileone cautions against over-using the term "gay marriage", advising that it should be used "only sparingly" because it is a natural impossibility and if we keep talking about gay marriage we might fool ourselves into thinking it is an authentic reality, which only needs government approval to make it legitimate. He compares it with another impossibility: "Legislating for the right for people of the same sex to marry is like legalizing male breastfeeding."  

"One could get the impression that Archbishop Cordileone is an uncompromisingly serious person. It's true that his face can be set in deep contemplation and his compelling blue eyes can seem still and sombre, but his face lights up when he laughs and his eyes shine with mirth. When I lose my train of thought, mess up a question and excuse myself as not being Mensa but Densa, he curls up in a spontaneous fit of boyish giggles. He finds the idea of going on Twitter hilarious, and says: "I don't know where I'll find the time for a Twitter account. But if I can find a way to go on Twitter, then I will!"

"Even if opponents do not agree with his stance on same-sex marriage, he commands respect for his persistence in arguing for marriage between a man and a woman, in the face of being called homophobic and charged with the erroneous idea that he discriminates against gay people and lesbians. All the same, it must be unnerving at times to be on the receiving end of such hostility in San Francisco. But he doesn't let it get to him. "All our detractors can do is call us names," he says. He throws his hands up in the air, and adds: "Big deal if they shout at us or throw insults!"

"When I say that people in Britain who oppose gay marriage have been slammed as "bigots", by people who won't allow any opinion but their own, he says: "How ironic!"

"It's not that Archbishop Cordileone is so indifferent and hard that he does not feel the sting of slurs. Rather, he knows that winning the battle is more important, even if it will mean personal suffering. Courage is writ large on his determined face, and he is living up to the demands of his Italian surname, which means "heart of a lion".

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