There’s a March for Marriage in Washington, DC today, and the chairman of the US Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, will be there as a featured speaker.
This in spite of the fact that a number of California politicians and other public figures wrote him an open letter asking him not to attend.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi wrote a similar private missive to the Archbishop, invoking Pope Francis’ “who am I to judge?” as she requested he not march.
It’s a bit chilling to have government officials telling a bishop how to bishop, but at least they were open about it. It’s hard to understand Pelosi’s action as anything other than political bullying – and sneaky to boot! Who writes a private note, then leaks it to the press so we can all know that she wrote it, but not precisely what it says? That’s not a woman having a sincere heart-to-heart with her bishop, that’s a congresswoman using the press to gin up hatred for him. So much for the separation of Church & state!
Earlier this week Archbishop Cordileone responded with a letter of his own. He opens with a point of common ground:
“I appreciate your affirmation of my Church’s teaching—not unique to our religion, but a truth accessible to anyone of good will—on the intrinsic human dignity of all people, irrespective of their stage and condition in life.”
He adds that his role as bishop requires him to tell the whole truth about human dignity, including God’s plan for human flourishing, even when it is unpopular. As scripture says, he is to preach “in season and out of season” – just what he’ll be doing at the March for Marriage.
His Excellency then refutes the specific claim of the original letter – that the March and its organizers are haters.
“The March for Marriage is not…anti-anyone or anti-anything. Rather, it is a pro-marriage March…. [It] affirms the great good of bringing the two halves of humanity together so that a man and a woman may bond with each other and with any children who come from their union. This is precisely the vision promoted by Pope Francis, who recently said, ‘We must reaffirm the right of children to grow up in a family with a father and mother.’”
The archbishop goes on to promise his interlocutors: “Rest assured that if the point of this event were to single out a group of individuals and target them for hatred, I most certainly would not be there.”
This is consistent with His Excellency’s remarks at last year’s March for Marriage, where he opened with a conciliatory word for gay marriage supporters:
“I want to begin with a word to those who disagree with us on this issue and may be watching us right now: we love you, we are your neighbors, and we want to be your friends, and we want you to be happy.”
“Please understand that we don’t hate you, and that we are not motivated by animus or bigotry; it is not our intention to offend anyone, and if we have, I apologize; please try to listen to us fairly, and calmly, and try to understand us and our position, as we will try to do the same for you.”
In his letter, the Archbishop notes it would be nice if civility and effort at understanding were a two-way street. He writes:
“It gives me assurance that we share a common disdain for harsh and hateful rhetoric. It must be pointed out, though, that there is plenty of offensive rhetoric which flows in the opposite direction.”
It would also be nice if incivility stopped at name-calling, but unfortunately that’s not the case:
“In fact, for those who support the conjugal understanding of marriage, the attacks have not stopped at rhetoric. Simply for taking a stand for marriage as it has been understood in every human society for millennia, people have lost their jobs, lost their livelihoods, and have suffered other types of retribution, including physical violence.”
His Excellency concludes by inviting those who disagree with him not to stereotype and judge, but get to know a marriage supporter first:
“Please do not make judgments based on stereotypes, media images and comments taken out of context. Rather, get to know us first as fellow human beings.”
He ends by extending an offer of “encounter,” as Pope Francis might style it:
“I myself am willing to meet personally with any of you not only to dialogue, but simply so that we can get to know each other. It is the personal encounter that changes the vision of the other and softens the heart. In the end, love is the answer, and this can happen even between people with such deep disagreements.”
Archbishop Cordileone’s response strikes me as an excellent example of proclaiming the truth boldly, but with love.