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SF Archbishop-Elect Apologizes for DUI

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Archbishop-elect Salvatore Cordileone

Archbishop-elect Salvatore Cordileone.

Salvatore Cordileone, the new archbishop-elect of San Francisco, apologized following his arrest for suspicion of drunk driving last Saturday in San Diego. He said he was driving home with his mother and a visiting priest after dinner with friends early on Saturday when police pulled him over at a DUI checkpoint near San Diego State University, as Elliot Spagat and Lisa Leff of Associated Press report in a San Francisco Chronicle article.

A police breath test confirmed that Cordileone’s blood alcohol content was higher than California’s legal driving limit of 0.08%, Officer Mark McCullough told Associated Press, however he would not specify how much over the legal limit it was.

In an article appearing in Huff Post Religion, David Gibson of Religion News Service quotes Cordileone from a statement:

‘I apologize for my error in judgment and feel shame for the disgrace I have brought upon the Church and myself,’ the bishop said Monday.

‘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. I pray that God, in His inscrutable wisdom, will bring some good out of this.’

Catholic experts, Gibson writes, said the arrest would most likely not prevent Cordileone from being installed as San Francisco’s next archbishop on October 4 — five days before his scheduled court date — because he apologized so quickly and publicly and the alleged infraction of the law appeared to be an isolated incident. As the San Francisco Chronicle notes, October 4 is the feast day of that city’s patron saint, St. Francis of Assisi.

Bishops have been caught drunk driving in the past, Gibson writes, but they only resigned if the incident involved another crime, such as leaving the scene of an accident, or if it was part of a deeper problem, like alcoholism.

The Chronicle says that any potential discipline would have to come from the Vatican, because Catholic bishops answer only to the pope, according to Michael Ritty, a canon lawyer in private practice in upstate New York.

The Rev. Thomas Reese, a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University, told the Chronicle the following:

‘The bottom line is there is no real requirement that he resign,’ Reese said. ‘If he is an out-of-control alcoholic who can’t function, that would be an issue, but obviously he has been the bishop of Oakland all these years and he seems to be able to function. Nobody knows if he has a drinking problem or was one fraction over the (blood alcohol) limit.’

A San Diego native who was ordained as a priest in 1982, Cordileone, 56, was booked into the county jail on a misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence and was released later last Saturday after posting $2,500 bail, Gibson reports. As archbishop, Cordileone would oversee the bishops in Honolulu, Las Vegas, Oakland, Reno, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, San Jose, Santa Rosa, and Stockton, the Chronicle reports. The San Francisco archdiocese serves more than 400,000 Catholics in San Francisco and in Marin and San Mateo counties.

Cordileone has been chairman since last year of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, the Chronicle writes. HuffPost writes that “Cordileone was named [as archbishop] in part because he has been such a vocal spokesman for the hierarchy in the battle against gay marriage.” He was a prominent backer, Huffpost writes, of California’s Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot measure that barred same-sex marriage.

Image by Catholic San Francisco.

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