Crimes and Misdemeanors: Why a DUI Charge Isn’t Detouring a Rising Catholic Church Star

The new archbishop of San Francisco is contrite and popular -- and he was driving his mother home

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Michael Short / AP

Cordileone, the Roman Catholic archbishop-elect of San Francisco, has been arrested for investigation of driving under the influence early Saturday morning in San Diego, says a police spokesman. In July, Pope Benedict XVI selected the Cordileone to replace Archbishop George Niederauer, who is retiring in October. Cordileone was most recently bishop of Oakland and several years ago was an auxiliary bishop in San Diego.

Just days after his appointment as the next Archbishop of San Francisco in late July, the Rev. Salvitore Cordileone was in Napa Valley, leading a special mass for some of the nation’s most prominent conservative Catholic leaders.

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They had gathered in the wine country to contemplate “Catholics in the Next America” and their place in the debate over abortion, marriage, sex and other hot button issues. Cordileone, 56, had already become known for his instrumental role in passing Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot to end same-sex marriage in California. And now Cordileone, the current bishop of the neighboring Oakland Diocese, had been called to head more than half a million Catholics in the San Francisco area.

“He was a rock star there. There was no question about it,” recalled Frank Schubert, one of the Napa retreat’s attendees and the political strategist who managed California’s Proposition 8 campaign.

But that ascension was shaken over the weekend after Cordileone, driving his mother home after a late evening with friends, was stopped at a sobriety checkpoint in San Diego and found to be over the state’s legal blood alcohol level of 0.08. He was booked and released after posting $2,500 bail.

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Cordileone was contrite, saying in a statement, “I apologize for my error in judgment and feel shame for the disgrace I have brought upon the Church and myself. I will repay my debt to society and I ask forgiveness from my family and my friends and co-workers at the Diocese of Oakland and the Archdiocese of San Francisco.”

Will his apology be enough? So far, it appears to be.

“People realize he is a human being and that he made a mistake,” Schubert said. “That doesn’t diminish his voice as a Christian leader.”

“It could happen to anyone” was the message that Bill May, president of Catholics for the Common Good, heard during mass at his congregation in Marin County the next morning.

“He’s responded with such grace and humility,” said May, who also met Cordileone through the Proposition 8 campaign. “It’s something that shouldn’t happen, but it does. It doesn’t change who you are as a person.”

Even those who oppose his views haven’t mustered much effort beyond lobbing a few jabs. “Hey, it could’ve been worse,” quipped Queerty, an online gay news site. “He could’ve been ministering to gay and lesbian parishioners.”

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The DUI charge is not enough to force him to resign, most Catholic observers said, and the Vatican will likely remain quiet about the arrest. Cordileone is still scheduled to be installed as the Archbishop of San Francisco on Oct. 4, the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, as well as honored at a mass in Oakland the Sunday before. A week later, on Oct. 9, he will be arraigned in San Diego Superior Court.

A San Diego native, Cordileone was ordained as a priest in the Diocese of San Diego in 1982. It was also in San Diego that Cordileone, at that point an auxiliary bishop of San Diego, began his work on Proposition 8, reaching out to key backers and helping to raise $1.5 million in donations to fuel the campaign.

A year after the ballot’s passage in 2009, Cordileone was appointed the Bishop of Oakland. He has continued his work on marriage issues as the chairman of the subcommittee for the promotion and defense of marriage for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

On immigration, Cordileone, who speaks fluent Spanish, has taken a more liberal stance, calling for reform and supporting President Obama’s DREAM Act to allow young immigrants brought to the United States by their parents to avoid deportation.

“He will be judged on what he does as archbishop. As long as this doesn’t happen again, I don’t think it will have that big of an impact on his career,” said Thomas Reese, a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University. “Five years from now, this will be ancient history.” He may yet make Cardinal.

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16 comments
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Elwyn Williams
Elwyn Williams

He didn't "make a mistake."  He committed a crime.

TheMediaReport .com
TheMediaReport .com

Simple logic reveals that you can both make a mistake *and* commit a crime.

-

Lee Gilbert
Lee Gilbert

Surely a night in jail and a day in court will go a long

way toward rounding out your Excellency’s formation. We continue to think well

of you, wish you all the best, and hold you in our prayers. Ad multos annos,  Archbishop Cordileone!

Magdalene Prodigal
Magdalene Prodigal

I guess some of you have not had wine with your dinner and did not realize you were impacted?

JohnOBX
JohnOBX

"It could have been anyone."

Sure, anyone who was an irresponsible drunk who got behind the wheel of the car when they shouldn't have.  Family values FTW.

Or maybe he is one of those "God is my copilot" idiots that actually believe Jesus takes the wheel.

Anthony S. Layne
Anthony S. Layne

 Or maybe you're just making a bunch of arrogant rash judgments based on ... what? Your dislike of religion? The Catholic Church? Men who wear black? And just how many of "those 'God is my co-pilot' idiots" do you think actually believe Jesus takes the steering wheel? Care to bank down your anti-religiousness long enough to talk intelligently?

John Shuster
John Shuster

This all sounds so innocent, like some kind of accident that befell a

really good guy. The archbishop-elect's history and personality are not

those of a "nice guy", and this is not harmless accidental activity.

Drinking and driving is a serious crime that is not at all amusing

- ask MADD for the details about the victims' shredded lives. Cordileone's lack of judgment is just one more example of the reckless

above-the-law attitude that is so common among Roman Catholic clergy.

J G
J G

 So now it is only Catholic clergy who get picked up for DUI's? You bigots don't let logic get in the way do you?

Snap LoyolaAlum
Snap LoyolaAlum

New SFO Archbishop Coridileone has more jail time than the alleged pedophile Fr. Jerold Lindner of Los Gatos, California. The Jesuit Order has paid $3 million to settle pedophile lawsuits naming Fr. Lindner. Coridileone got 9-hours in jail after his DUI arrest. Fr. Lindner, like many pedophile priests, has never seen the inside of a jail. Fr. Lindner taught Freshmen for 15-years at Loyola High School in Los Angeles.

J G
J G

 Mayor Milk was well known for picking up teenage boys. They celebrate a day in his honor in San Fran.

Sal Ruibal
Sal Ruibal

Good thing his last name isn't Corleone.

myhometoo
myhometoo

Maybe the Mayor of San Francisco can just suspend him, or is their a higher authority.

myhometoo
myhometoo

Maybe the Mayor of San Francisco can suspend him.

myhometoo
myhometoo

maybe the Mayor of San Francisco can suspend him.

myhometoo
myhometoo

Maybe the Mayor could suspend him.

Vincent Lovece
Vincent Lovece

 Nope. 1st amendment protects the church from the state in that regard.


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