SAN FRANCISCO — Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has echoed demands from California political leaders that her bishop, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, cancel his attendance at the June 19 March for Marriage in Washington.

Archbishop Cordileone, the U.S. bishops’ point man on marriage, is scheduled to give an address at the March for Marriage, sponsored by the National Organization for Marriage. And in a June 16 statement responding to calls for him to drop out of the event, he made it clear that his pastoral office required him to attend.

Pelosi, the House minority leader, issued her request in a June 13 letter that was subsequently made available to the San Francisco Chronicle.

In the letter, she urged him to cancel his participation in an event, which, she claimed, had attracted support from groups that expressed “disdain and hate towards LGBT persons.”

To bolster her demand, Pelosi cited Pope Francis’ widely publicized remark, which was made during a 2013 airline press conference on his return trip from World Youth Day: “If someone is gay and is searching for the Lord and has goodwill, then who am I to judge him?”

Pelosi told Archbishop Cordileone: “We share our love of the Catholic faith and our city of San Francisco,” and she expressed respect for his “view” of same-sex “marriage” — without noting that his position reflects Catholic teaching on marriage.

But she argued that some groups associated with the march did not share his interest in dialogue and instead embraced “vitriolic hatred as virtue.”

Pelosi’s letter followed a separate open letter signed city and state leaders, who had also called on the San Francisco archbishop to cancel his plans to address the march.

California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee were among those who asserted that the archbishop should disassociate himself with hate groups.

“We ask that you will reconsider your participation and join us in seeking to promote reconciliation rather than division and hatred,” Newsom, Lee and dozens of others said in the letter.

They claimed that the March for Marriage is “organized by some of the nation’s most virulently anti-LGBT organizations and leaders, including the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and the Family Research Council."


Proclaiming the Truth

Archbishop Cordileone is the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee on the Promotion and Defense of Marriage. He has been credited with leading the effort to secure the passage of Proposition 8, the 2008 California ballot initiative that effectively banned same-sex “marriage” in the Golden State until it was ruled unconstitutional by a district court.

In his response to the San Francisco city and California state leaders who opposed his participation in the march, Archbishop Cordileone made it clear that his responsibility as a shepherd of souls required his involvement in the event.

He stated that the “intrinsic human dignity of all people” not only required him to defend the sanctity of all human life, but “to proclaim the truth — the whole truth — about the human person and God’s will for our flourishing.”

“I must do that in season and out of season, even when truths that it is my duty to uphold and teach are unpopular, including especially the truth about marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife. That is what I will be doing on June 19th,” he stated emphatically.

His statement rejected attempts to characterize the march as “anti-LGBT,” as critics had claimed.

Instead, he said, “it is a pro-marriage march … [that] affirms the great good of bringing the two halves of humanity together so that a man and a woman may bond with each other and with any children who come from their union.”

He reminded his audience that it was Pope Francis who also said, “We must reaffirm the right of children to grow up in a family with a father and mother.”


Crossing a Line

Critics of the National Organization for Marriage have claimed that the group equated homosexual relationships with pedophilia and incest.

Archbishop Cordileone said that NOM did no such thing and that past statements had been misunderstood.

But he also contended that some activists have crossed the line in their mission to secure marriage equality.

“Simply for taking a stand for marriage as it has been understood in every human society for millennia, people have lost their jobs, lost their livelihoods and have suffered other types of retribution, including physical violence,” he charged.

His statement acknowledged that, in the past, “violence has been perpetrated against persons who experience attraction to members of the same sex, and this is to be deplored and eradicated.”

Finally, he invited the civil authorities and others who had opposed the march to  meet with him personally, "not only to dialogue, but simply so that we can get to know each other."  

In closing, he added, “When all is said and done, then there is only one thing that I would ask of you more than anything else: Before you judge us, get to know us.”

Christine Mugridge, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco Archdiocese, said Archbishop Cordileone would have no specific comments on Pelosi’s letter, which was handled as a private letter.

“I am surprised that the contents of a private letter to her bishop, by a woman who says she loves her Catholic faith, would somehow be leaked to the media,” said Mugridge, who said it was not clear how the document was made available to the press.


No Tolerance

Mugridge said it was striking that a sizable number of civil authorities would seek to censor the actions of a U.S. religious leader.

Having traveled for the Church in Russia after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1991, she said, “The last time I heard of civil servants putting pressure on a member of the Church hierarchy, I was in a country that had been dominated by the Communist Party.”

On June 16, Tony Perkins, the president of the Washington-based Family Research Council released an online message to the group's supporters that applauded Archbishop Cordileone's leadership and raised questions about the actions of Pelosi and her allies.

"[W]hat happened to the so-called 'separation of church and state?'" asked Perkins. "Liberals, the same ones demanding a wall between the two, are the first ones to breach it here."

Archbishop Cordileone’s strong response to the statements by city and state leaders marks a new phase in marriage-equality advocacy. Increasingly,  public figures are under pressure and, at times, attacked, for failing to support same-sex "marriage." 

Faithful America, an advocacy group with a focus on "LGBT" and Church-related issues, posted the letter signed by Newsom and other California leaders on Facebook and urged visitors to sign a petition calling for Archbishop Cordileone to end his involvement with the march.

According to a June 17 report posted at Crisis, an online Catholic publication, "Most of Faithful America’s causes involve gay-and-lesbian issues, including a campaign supporting the right of an 8-year-old girl to practice an alternative gender identity at her Christian school; attacking World Vision for refusing to hire openly gay employees; and protesting the new teacher contract issued by the Diocese of Cincinnati that explicitly bans teachers who are involved in same-sex marriages."

Earlier this year, Brendan Eich, the co-founder of Mozilla, resigned as CEO of the free software community best known for the Firefox Internet browser after several employees and an online dating site attacked his $1,000 donation to the Proposition 8 ballot initiative.

On National Public Radio, Terry Gross drew headlines after she repeatedly asked former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to explain why she did not come out earlier in support of same-sex “marriage.”

“I did not grow up even imagining gay marriage, and I don’t think you probably did either,” Clinton said to Gross during the June 12 interview. “This was an incredibly new and important idea that people on the front lines of the gay-rights movement began to talk about and slowly, but surely, convinced others of the rightness of that position. And when I was ready to say what I said, I said it.”

“I’m just trying to clarify so I can understand …,” Gross said, during an exchange that featured 10 questions probing Clinton's shifting position on the issue.


Added Publicity

Brian Brown, the president of the National Organization for Marriage, told the Register that the controversy sparked by Pelosi’s opposition to the march had actually helped stir publicity for the event.

“Pelosi is refusing to accept one of the core teachings of the Catholic Church. There is absolutely no chance at all that Archbishop Cordileone won’t march with us,” said Brown. “It boggles my mind that Nancy Pelosi would believe she has the right to lecture an archbishop not to stand up for a core teaching of the Church.”

Joan Frawley Desmond is the Register’s senior editor.