When in Rome
The presence of the Catholic Church in San Francisco is as old as the city itself. For much of San Francisco’s history, the Archdiocese was the backbone of the city’s political and cultural life, and for many of its residents, it remains so today.
Given modern San Francisco’s reputation as a Progressive capital, the history of social justice movements in the American Catholic church, and the fact that most American Catholics tend to be at least centrist in their opinions on social issues, one could assume that the relationship between local Church leadership, its parishoners, and the City’s political establishment would be relatively comfortable. It was for a time — the city’s Archbishop for much of it’s recent political history, John Quinn, was a paragon of Progressive Catholicism and ardent exponent of Vatican II.
However, Quinn’s successors have not been as simpatico with the community’s expectations.
Since 1995, San Francisco’s last three archbishops have been members of Opus Dei, a conservative, mostly lay movement within the Church which was founded in Spain during the Franco dictatorship, and is influential in both Vatican City and much of the Spanish-speaking church. The first of these bishops, William Levada, was a principal editor of the Church’s most recent, post-Vatican II Catechism.
Soon after the elevation of conservative Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (another Opus Dei member) as Pope Benedict XVI in 2005, Levada rose to Ratzinger’s former post as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, becoming the first former San Francisco Archbishop to become a Cardinal. In his stead, Levada’s colleague in Opus Dei and high school classmate and friend, Joseph Niederauer, became Archbishop. While Levada was relatively low-key in his leadership, Niederauer was an activist, working to unite conservative faiths against marriage equality when it came to the California state ballot.
Niederauer’s successor, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, has made headlines over his particularly strident brand of conservatism, and his willingness to force it upon school teachers and other lay employees of the Archdiocese.
Much of the local media has expressed some surprise in addition to their disappointment with the doctrinaire turn, while at least one local outlet has published a sardonic “we told you so.”
Indeed, Bishop Cordileone is likely not much more conservative or doctrinaire than his recent predecessors, but he does appear to be more ambitious.
Originally published at b-copy.com on February 27, 2015.