"The highest law is love of God and love of neighbor, and that law has to take precedence over the human-made law of the state when government would ask us to turn our backs on God or our neighbor in need," he noted.
"Now in San Francisco, all of us here are being put at the end of the line. No matter how rich or poor, no matter whether newly arrived or from families that have been here for many generations, it is our Catholic faith that unites us, and it is because of our Catholic faith that we are being put at the end of the line."
Priests at many parishes around the archdiocese, including the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption, are celebrating multiple Masses every Sunday- outside, and spaced out- in order to adapt to the restrictions.
Outdoor Masses pose their own health challenges, as the Bay Area is experiencing some of the worst air quality in the world, due to smoke and other pollutants coming from wildfires ravaging the West Coast.
While Cordileone has said city officials have been "cordial and respectful" in their dialogue with the archdiocese, he said the city still has not responded to the archdiocese's safety plan- outlining how churches could be safely opened for indoor services- which they submitted in May.
Becket, a religious liberty law firm, has a page tracking restrictions on public worship related to the pandemic. By their estimation, six states- California, Nevada, Virginia, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Maine- are treating religious activities unequally as compared to similar secular activities.
The City of San Francisco has been closely monitoring Catholic churches in the city and has repeatedly issued warnings to the archdiocese for apparent health order violations
Cordileone said he himself has noted "very few" violations of the city's health orders by parishes in the archdiocese, although the few that have occurred have garnered heavy criticism in the secular press.
"This willful discrimination is affecting us all. Yes, discrimination, because there is no other word for it," Cordileone said.
"We ask: why can people shop at Nordstrom's at 25% capacity but only one of you at a time is allowed to pray inside of this great Cathedral, your Cathedral? Is this equality? No, there is no reason for this new rule except a desire to put Catholics – to put you – at the back of the line."
Cordileone encouraged Catholics to continue to pray, suggesting the rosary, Eucharistic Adoration, fasting on Fridays, and availing themselves of the sacrament of confession.
(Story continues below)
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In advocating for a safe reopening of indoor Masses, Cordileone has cited a recent article on Mass attendance and COVID-19, authored Aug. 19 by doctors Thomas McGovern, Deacon Timothy Flanigan, and Paul Cieslak for Real Clear Science.
By following public health guidelines, Catholic Churches have largely avoided viral spread during the more than 1 million Masses that have been celebrated across the United States since the lifting of shelter-in-place orders, the doctors found.
They said in their article that there is no evidence that church services are higher risk than similar activities when guidelines are followed, and no coronavirus outbreaks have not yet been linked to the celebration of the Mass.
Even while protesting the city's apparent unequal application of health restrictions, the archbishop has encouraged his priests to lead their parishes in following the city's guidelines.
Many of San Francisco's problems, from homelessness to drugs to crime, stem from an abandonment of God, he said.
"Our blessed Lord is openly mocked to the gleeful grins of the cultural elites. The sacred symbol of the religious habit is blasphemed with glowing approval of those who profess mutual respect and tolerance for others who are different, while they openly discriminate against us."