Lionheart: Archbishop Cordileone Deserves the Support of All Christians

By Deacon Keith Fournier Published on April 18, 2015

On April 15, 2015, 100 men and women signed an ad which they paid to publish in the San Francisco Chronicle. Though styled as a “Respectful Appeal to Pope Francis,” the purported letter is, in reality, open dissent from the teaching of the Church which the signers freely belong to.

This public act of dissent played into the hands of those in the media who have become the propaganda arm of the dissenters. Along with the signers, they oppose the non-negotiable teaching of the Catholic Church and think they can change it by public pressure tactics. They are wrong.

I am tired of this nonsense. The efforts to use the pastoral heart of this good pope to cloak dissent as progress has got to be challenged.

What is worse than this propaganda ploy is the unrelenting character assassination of a courageous Archbishop who deserves the support of every faithful Christian across the confessional spectrum.

He’s had a target on his back since the beginning of his appointment. When the announcement was made that Salvatore Cordileone would become the Archbishop of San Francisco, shock waves rippled through the local media. Maria L. La Ganga promptly wrote an article in the Los Angeles Times entitled, “In San Francisco, Prop. 8 backer to head Catholic Church.” Here’s how it began:

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.

La Ganga was disturbed by comments made by Cordileone at a news conference where, “when discussing the cultural challenges his new diocese would present” he said that “issues of family life … 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.”

The bishop was simply summarizing Church teaching. But there is a propaganda effort to portray him — and all who adhere to the Christian vision of the human person, marriage, family and morality — as a bigot.

Faithful Christians are now routinely portrayed as proposing a return to some mythological dark age. In reality, society needs the Christian community to prevent it from descending into a dark age. It does so, in part, by offering great leaders in critical times. Leaders like Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone.

Mary O’Regan has a much fairer article in 2013 in the UK Catholic Herald, based on her conversation with the Archbishop. To get a sense of the clarity of his mind and soul, you should read her entire piece. “Fighting for marriage is our way of loving God,” she writes, quoting Cordileone, “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.”

She notes especially his ability to stand strong against the onslaught of verbal and personal attacks. “It’s not that Archbishop Cordileone is so indifferent and hard that he does not feel the sting of slurs,” she says. “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.'”

Having followed the work of Cordileone for several years, I agree with Mary O’Regan. This is a man who has earned his surname. He has the heart of a lion, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah (Rev. 5:5), the Savior whom he serves with inspiring fidelity and courage.

Watching him, I’m reminded of The Abolition of Man, the 1947 book by C.S. Lewis. In it, Lewis warned of the subjective and relativist trends in the British educational system and called for a return to the classical Christian vision of the human person and the cultivation of virtue as the path to true human flourishing and freedom. He defined “the chest” as the “higher emotions organized by trained habit into stable sentiments or character.” Without this “chest,” he argued, men and women devolve into self-idolatry, losing their human dignity and true freedom. They become slaves to disordered appetites.

Lewis’ words might just as well have been written yesterday:

And all the time — such is the tragicomedy of our situation — we continue to clamor for those very qualities we are rendering impossible. You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that what our civilization needs is more ‘drive,’ or dynamism, or self-sacrifice, or ‘creativity.’ In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.

Archbishop Cordileone is a man with a chest for an age without one. He has the heart of a lion but is now in the Lion’s Den. Now more than ever he needs our fervent prayers and our vocal support.

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