Archbishop Cordileone Pens Letter to Catholic Students After Boycott of Pro-Life Assembly: ‘Do Not Be Victims of the Culture’
“There are powerful forces in our country that use slogans to co-opt you into being agents of their own self-serving agendas. You must see through the lies."
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — The archbishop of San Francisco has encouraged students at a local Catholic high school to reject the lies of the abortion industry and become courageous advocates for life, following a boycott of a pro-life assembly at the school.
“Do not be victims of the culture,” Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone wrote in an open letter to students at Archbishop Riordan High School.
Archbishop Cordileone met with student leaders at the high school on Nov. 8 to discuss the incident.
The meeting was “a chance for productive and thoughtful dialogue,” said the high school's interim president, Tim Reardon.
Archbishop Cordileone wrote an open letter to all students in preparation for the meeting. The text of his letter was published by First Things Nov. 19.
“There are powerful forces in our country that use slogans to co-opt you into being agents of their own self-serving agendas. You must see through the lies,” he said in the letter.
The students staged a walkout Oct. 22 to protest an all-school assembly featuring pro-life speaker Megan Almon.
According to an account of the incident by the San Francisco Chronicle, students began to exit the auditorium and file into an adjacent gym about “five minutes” into the presentation, leaving “a few dozen of the school’s more than 800 students” in the auditorium for the entire talk.
The walkout has since gained media attention after a video of the walkout went viral, with several hundred thousand views on TikTok.
“My school tried to hold a pro-life assembly,” on-screen text on the video of a throng of masked students reads, “So we walked out.”
In his letter, Archbishop Cordileone praised students for their idealism and energetic advocacy for justice. He then challenged the students to discern the truth about abortion.
“Abortion is the killing of a human life,” Archbishop Cordileone wrote. “This is a scientific fact. The fetus in the mother’s womb is a unique, growing human being, with its own unique DNA.
“The method of killing depends on the stage of pregnancy and type of abortion, but often involves such techniques as dismembering the limbs, crushing the skull, and burning the body,” he said.
But above all, abortion is a moral issue, the archbishop wrote.
“No matter the method, abortion is a horrendously violent act,” Archbishop Cordileone said. “This is not hyperbole. It is scientific fact.”
Archbishop Cordileone went on to challenge students to advocate for the truth about abortion, which is not glamorous, but fosters greatness.
“Think of the abolitionists of the mid-19th century, or the advocates of civil rights of the mid-20th century: They did not fit into the societies of their times, advocating for politically unpopular and unfashionable causes,” he wrote. “They risked, and some lost, their lives in the effort to correct the greatest injustice of their time. We now regard them as the moral heroes of their generation.”
He cited Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who once said that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
“This, though, only happens when a new generation of moral heroes rises up to correct the injustice,” the archbishop wrote. “This requires a strong backbone, great spiritual stamina. Will you be the moral heroes of your generation? Do you have what it takes?”
Archbishop Cordileone urged the students to cultivate their prayer lives. He wrote that only Christ — and His Church — can offer women true choice in the face of an unplanned pregnancy, and healing after an abortion.
He encouraged young women at the high school to cherish their fertility as a blessing that does not come at the cost of progress for women.
“God has given you the awesome gift of being able to conceive and bring to the light of day a new, unique human being, with an immortal soul,” he wrote. “I’m old enough to remember a time when our society cherished this gift and protected it; indeed, in effect, society organized itself around it.”
“It is true that back then women were deprived of many opportunities that they now enjoy, and this is progress to be celebrated. However, it should not come at the cost of women having to cancel out this awesome gift.”
Archbishop Cordileone challenged young men at the high school to respect women as equals, not as tools to be used for selfish pleasure.
“You still have a ways to go before you mature into full manhood,” he wrote. “If you want to remain a boy forever, then spend your life caring only about yourself and every little immediate pleasure that you desire, because to be a real man requires a life of sacrifice and virtue.
“It also means acting responsibly by showing respect toward women as your true equals and cherishing and respecting that awesome gift she has of bringing new life into the world,” he said.
He prayed that students at Archbishop Riordan High School would be open to learning and growing in their knowledge, “and especially open to hearing and trying to understand points of view different from your own, even points of view with which you strongly disagree.”
“I wish that is what those of you who walked out of the speech by a pro-life activist recently would have done,” he wrote. “This action put on full display one of the blind spots of youth due to young people’s lack of extended life experience: gullibility.”