National attention was drawn to the Archdiocese of San Francisco in mid-April after a group of about 100 area Catholics placed a full-page advertisement in The San Francisco Chronicle criticizing the leadership of Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone and asking Pope Francis to remove him.
Among those watching events unfold in the city by the bay is Vivian Dudro, a book editor with Ignatius Press and a 20-year resident of San Francisco. “As someone who has...raised kids here, nothing surprises me,” she said. Even so, she criticized the Chronicle ad, noting “in every single paragraph there were misstatements.”
Dudro acknowledges that a major issue of contention in the archdiocese is the archbishop’s proposed changes to the archdiocesan teachers’ contracts, which include a list of moral teachings faculty staff must “affirm and believe.” But, she surmises: “Let’s be honest, the reason why this is such an issue is San Francisco is the mecca for the homosexual-rights movement. And the church here has had issues with trying to proclaim its message in a city with a lot of people who reject that message.”
Tom Brady Sr., an insurance executive who was among those who added their signature to the Chronicle ad (and also the father of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady), points out that the signees have all offered decades of service to the church.
He sees comments like Dudro’s as an attempt to minimize their reasonable concerns. “The Catholic Church means a ton to me,” he explained. “I’ve been involved in it my whole life. And what I see going on here is virtually every constituency being disenfranchised. Whether it’s girls and women or gays and lesbians or high schools or the parishes.... The teachers are all shook up. The parents are all shook up. The priests are depressed.”
Asked about whether he and his fellow signees had considered smaller or less public steps, Brady said: “We’ve written letters to the papal nuncio. We get no response. And the archbishop continues to disrupt and stir up Catholics. If you keep getting ignored, what are you going to do?”
A statement released by the archdiocese called the allegations in the advertisement “a misrepresentation of Catholic teaching, a misrepresentation of the nature of the teacher contract, and a misrepresentation of the spirit of the Archbishop.” According to the statement, “The greatest misrepresentation of all is that the signers presume to speak for ‘the Catholic Community of San Francisco.’ They do not.”
In response to the advertisement, a new group, “San Francisco Catholics” will be holding a family picnic in support of Archbishop Cordileone on May 16.
“As the Archbishop is saying, he’s not creating a division,” she said. “A division already exists. There are people both inside the church and outside the church that do not agree with the church’s moral teaching. So what’s the church supposed to do?”
In some ways, the conflict between these two points of view might be summarized in the ways a church of mercy is differently imagined. Brady says the role of an archbishop is like “in the prayer of St. Francis, it’s to be a channel for your peace. To be a nurturer, to foster the spiritual health of all the flock that you have been entrusted with. The pope says that we’re supposed to get down and smell like the sheep.”
Dudro sees it differently. “I love the pope’s metaphor of the field hospital. But I have a metaphor of my own: we’re the salvaging operation in a junkyard. Our purpose is the reclamation of human beings.”