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The Battle for the Soul of the Archdiocese of San Francisco | Valerie Schmalz
| March 30, 2006
Videotaped recordings of some of the events reported in this article can
be accessed at this website.
SAN FRANCISCO, March 30, 2006 _ A firestorm of defiance over Church
teaching on homosexuality has been ignited following the appointment of
George Niederauer as archbishop of San Francisco and a Vatican directive
telling San Francisco Catholic Charities to halt gay adoption.
Two Catholic institutions are in open dissent on homosexuality: Catholic
Charities, which continues to assert its right to place children with homosexual
parents, and the Jesuit University of San Francisco, which has a decades-long
history of nurturing homosexual ideology and expressions. Meanwhile, at
least two pastors in San Francisco-area parishes not dominated by homosexuals
gave sermons last week supporting adoption by homosexuals.
Niederauers appointment offered hope to some advocating Church acceptance
of homosexuality. At the same time, faithful Catholics have been watching
closely and carefully, taking to heart comments from some within the Archdiocese
of San Francisco that they will be "pleasantly surprised" by how
Niederauer governs this See.
As one San Franciscan said: "We waiting to see what team he is on."
"Its a time for courage," said Father Joseph Fessio, S.J.,
editor-in-chief of Ignatius Press and provost of Ave Maria University in
Naples, Florida. "And for leaders who will speak the truth in love
despite the fierce resistance of the uncomprehending or the hostile. Archbishop
Niederauer will need the prayers and support of his flock."
Niederauer himself has barely been in San Francisco. He was installed February
15th, spent a week on a bishops retreat, and was to return March 29th
from more than a week in Rome. He was there attending the elevation to cardinal
of his predecessor, high school and seminary friend William Levada, the
prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine for the Faith.
"Give the guy time to settle into the saddle," Niederauer spokesman
Maurice Healy said March 28th in response to an inquiry from IgnatiusInsight.com.
"As he said at the news conference (announcing Niederauers appointment
in December) and afterhes got a steep learning curve. He needs
to talk with people and learn everything about the archdiocese. Thats
where he ispretty much in learning mode," Healy said.
Here's what has happened in the two months surrounding Niederauer's February
Two talks attacking Church teaching on homosexuality were
held at local parishes in San Francisco, including one on February 12
at the parish of the chancellor of the archdiocese entitled "Queer Perspectives".
Both featured openly homosexual theologians and Scripture scholars from
Jesuit universities. The second talk, given on March 26, included
a Santa Clara University lesbian Scripture scholar describing her sexual
relationship as a matter of "grace" that gave "glory
to God." The talks were paid for by the Jesuit Foundation, which
is funded by the Jesuit
community of USF.
The executive director of Catholic Charities defended placement
of children for adoption
in homosexual households despite a March 9th e-mail from the new
prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine for the Faith saying such
placements must stop. Brian Cahill, executive director of Catholic Charities
in San Francisco, also said the archdiocesan spokesman did not speak
for the archbishop in saying no more homosexual adoptions would occur.
Several self-described "practicing Catholics" on the
governing legislative body of the city, the Board of Supervisors, joined
in a unanimous
resolution condemning the Vatican for meddling in city affairs and
urging Catholic Charities to defy a Vatican directive barring homosexual
adoptions. The mayor of San Francisco, Gavin Newsom, decided not to
attend the elevation of the former archbishop as cardinal because of
Levadas directive regarding homosexual adoption.
Janet Reilly, the host of the August 2005 going away dinner for
now-Cardinal Levada (and the wife of the president of CYO Catholic Charities),
posted a March 21 statement on her campaign website supporting
homosexual adoption placements by Catholic Charities. Reilly is running
for the state assembly. Reilly previously opposed a bishop-backed November
ballot initiative to require parental notification of a minors
intent to procure an abortion.
The pastor of the flagship Jesuit parish, St. Ignatius, delivered
a sermon Wednesday, March 22, at the 8:00 a.m. Mass and again at the
9:30 a.m. Mass (the parishs "family Mass") on Sunday,
March 26, saying the Vatican teaching against adoption by homosexuals
is not infallible and does not need to be obeyed. Father Charles Gagan,
S.J., described the Magisterium teaching as "mean-spirited."
His comments were greeted with applause at the Sunday Mass. Gagan had
not returned a call for comment from IgnatiusInsightl.com at deadline.
According to a Mass goer in attendance, Father John L. Greene,
a pastor at St. Monicas parish, recently gave a similar sermon.
Fr. Greene reportedly stated that gay adoption should be allowed by
Catholic Charities. Fr. Greene refused to comment to IgnatiusInsight.com.
The Church, Marriage, and Homosexuality
The Catholic Church teaches that marriage was created by God to be solely
between a man and woman, and is an essential institution of society intended
to bring both husband and wife and their children to God through his plan
The Church also teaches that homosexual acts distort Gods plan for
creation. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "Basing
itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave
depravity, tradition has always declared that homosexual acts are
intrinsically disordered. They are contrary to the natural law. They
close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine
affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be
approved" (par. 2357).
While persons inclined to homosexuality are called to perfection through
grace, the practice of homosexuality and the expression of its inclinations
in any way is never in congruence with Gods plan, the Church teaches.
The 2003 document, Considerations
Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions between Homosexual
Persons, issued by the Congregation of the Doctrine for the
Faith and approved by Pope John Paul II, states:
There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions
to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God's plan for
marriage and family. Marriage is holy, while homosexual acts go against
the natural moral law. Homosexual acts "close the sexual act to
the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual
complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.
This has always been the teaching of the Church, the document continues:
Sacred Scripture condemns homosexual acts "as a serious depravity...
(cf. Rom 1:24-27; 1 Cor 6:10; 1 Tim 1:10). This
judgment of Scripture does not of course permit us to conclude that
all those who suffer from this anomaly are personally responsible for
it, but it does attest to the fact that homosexual acts are intrinsically
disordered". This same moral judgment is found in many Christian
writers of the first centuries and is unanimously accepted by Catholic
Seana Sugrue, associate professor of politics at Ave Maria University in
Ann Arbor, Michigan, notes that the Church opposes same sex marriage and
homosexual adoption because homosexuality goes against the God-created nature
of humans and because they undermine two of the fundamental institutions
of societymarriage and family. Already no-fault divorce and artificial
contraception have damaged childrens expectation to be raised in a
loving, stable home that is open to life, Sugrue said. Same sex marriage
and gay adoption take that degeneration in the fabric of society to another
"Its devastating on many levels," Sugrue told IgnatiusInsight.com.
"It starts with the kids. But the ramifications go beyond family life.
It ends up destroying traditional religion because children are increasingly
not reared in traditional structures. It weakens everything from business
to democracy. Its very, very destructive."
The 2003 CDF document states that placing a child in a homosexual household
is damaging to the child because of what is inherently lacking in homosexual
relationships, not matter how well-intentioned the homosexual parents. "As
experience has shown, the absence of sexual complementarity in these unions
creates obstacles in the normal development of children who would be placed
in the care of such persons," the document states. "They would
be deprived of the experience of either fatherhood or motherhood. Allowing
children to be adopted by persons living in such unions would actually mean
doing violence to these children, in the sense that their condition of dependency
would be used to place them in an environment that is not conducive to their
full human development. This is gravely immoral."
Homosexual Advocates Hopeful About Niederauer
These official teachings, however, have been ignored or even attacked by
some within the Church.
"I was probably as nervous as the next person when Cardinal Ratzinger
was elected as Pope Benedict XVI," said Rev. Cameron Ayers, S.J., pastor
of St. Agnes Church, at a gay-lesbian forum sponsored by the University
of San Francisco on March 26, 2006.
But, in the question and answer format following the formal talks, Ayers
said, "His choices of bishops in the United States have been some of
the finest choices weve had in a generation. The choice of Randolph
Calvo to be sent to Reno, Nevada, the choice of George Niederauer for this
diocese, and the choice of Larry Silva of Oakland to be sent to Honolulu"
Ayers said dialoguing with Niederauer who has "had a lot
of experience listening and dialoguing with persons in the gay and lesbian
community," during years at a homosexual-dominated West Hollywood parish
is one way to start getting the Church to change its teaching
on homosexuality. "I still think the day that the first bishop gets
up in the pulpit and comes out will be a day that will go down
in Catholic history and will be spoken of for generations to come,"
Even the San Francisco board of supervisors appears to believe the new archbishop
shares their point of view. A virulently anti-Catholic resolution against
the proposed ban on gay adoptions by Catholic Charities pointedly targeted
the Vatican and Levada but notably avoided mentioning Niederauer.
Father Richard John Neuhaus essay "The Truce
of 2005?" in the February 2006 issue of First Things outlines
faithful Catholics concerns about the new pope and some of his appointments.
In the essay, Neuhaus describes Niederauer as having a reputation in Salt
Lake City as "gay friendly" and notes, "The announcement
of his appointment to San Francisco was met with great public rejoicing
by Dignity, New Ways Ministry, and other gay advocacy groups."
But Neuhaus found hope in Niederauers May 17th statement about gay
adoption and Catholic Charities. "We fully accept and faithfully teach
what the Catholic Church teaches on marriage and family life," Niederauer
"That's an encouraging reassurance that the archdiocese is intent on
representing and observing Catholic faith and practice without compromise,"
Neuhaus recently told IgnatiusInsight.com.
"One has to hope and pray and offer every encouragement for the leadership
of Archbishop Niederauer in an extremely important See of the Catholic Church
of the United States."
Church Teaching Under Fire In Catholic Charities Same-Sex Adoptions
Theres little doubt that a daunting test of the new archbishop will
be the issue of homosexual adoptions facilitated by Catholic Charities.
Niederauer returned to San Francisco Wednesday, March 29, and now faces
a black and white situation. Directives from the prefect and his predecessor
say no more homosexual
adoptions can occur. Since 2000, five children of 136 were placed with
homosexuals by Catholic Charities. State and city laws and regulations may
require that homosexuals be considered when adoption placements are made
by any agency operating in San Francisco or California.
Cahill has said that Catholic Charities will continue to place children
with homosexuals. Archdiocesan spokesman Healy said there will be no more
gay adoptions, clarifying a statement by Niederauer issued a couple of days
before he left for Levadas elevation in Rome. Niederauers statement,
given to IgnatiusInsight.com on March 17, is as follows:
"We fully accept and faithfully teach what the Catholic Church
teaches on marriage and family life. In light of these convictions,
we currently are reviewing our adoption programs to determine concretely
how we can continue to best serve children who are so much in need of
a home. We realize that there are people in our community, some working
side by side with us to serve the needy in society, who do not share
our beliefs, and we recognize and respect that fact."
At Catholic Charities itself, there appears to be a culture of strong advocacy
for homosexual parenthood. Cahills second in command, Glenn Motola,
is a gay
adoptive father although he adopted his child through another agency.
Dissenting Institutions, Queer Perspectives
The second Catholic institution that nurtures dissent from Church teaching
on homosexuality is the Jesuit University of San Francisco.
The February 12 and March 26 LGBTQ Caucus talks, billed as "dialogues,"
were sponsored and funded by organizations of the University of San Francisco,
a Jesuit institution. The March 26 event was to feature USF President Stephen
Privett as moderator but he was invited to Levadas elevation in Rome
on March 24 and could not attend. A telephone call and e-mail to Privett
had not been answered by deadline.
In the past, Privett has likened coming out as a homosexual to living the
Beatitudes. In his homily at the 2003 Baccalaureate Mass, according to an
article in San
Francisco Faith, Privett said, "A student talked about the
difficulties he faced in coming to grips with his own homosexual orientation.
He feared the rejection of family members and the ridicule of friends. He
had to be as he was created to be by a loving God. He came out. It is not
easy for him. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness."
At the St. Agnes forum March 26, USF assistant professor of theology Vincent
Pizzuto said homosexuals should come "out" to their parish community.
"One of the basic goals of dialogue is the humanization of the other.
For us to be out to the Church. To risk disclosure in your own
communities is a form of dialogue. Letting people know that you are their
eucharistic ministers, their priests and their deacons, or their Sunday
At the same talk, self-described "Catholic lesbian" Catherine
Murphy, Santa Clara University New Testament and gender studies scholar,
advocated gay adoption and Church acceptance of the practice of homosexuality.
"I yearn for the day when my fellow Catholics and Christians can judge
my love, not by the sex of my partner, but by the quality and fruits of
the love itself, for surely these do not only testify to the source of love
but give glory to God as well," Murphy told the group of about 100
gathered inside St. Agnes church.
"On this at least (homosexuality) the teaching authority of the Church
is given no credence by so many gay men and lesbians because it does not
demonstrate its own credibility. To the contrary, its teachings on homosexuality
are so disengaged from reality as to render them utterly ridiculous,"
The February 12th talk was titled "Is It Ethical to Be Catholic? Queer
Perspectives Community in Conversation with Fr. James Allison"
and was held at Most Holy Redeemer, the
parish of the chancellor of the archdiocese,
the Rev. Stephen Meriwether.
The March 26 event was titled "Alienated Catholics: Establishing the
Groundwork for Dialogue." It included the Jesuit pastor of St. Agnes
Church as one of the three speakers. Ayers began his talk
by criticizing a Church that required his father to get an annulment of
his first marriage as a condition of entry to the Church.
"The church is the people of God its you and me. Its
the lesbian mom who brings her daughter to be baptized at St. Agnes...its
the young gay man who is afraid to inquire about entering the seminary because
hes not worthy according to Vatican documents. Hes as much a
part of the Church as Cardinal Levada is. Baptism has made us all equal,"
said Ayers. Asked about his comments and hosting of the presentation, Ayers
told IgnatiusInsight.com, "You know, I dont wish to speak to
Both talks were sponsored by the USF LGBTQ Caucus, which describes itself
as composed of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer, and allied
straight USF faculty, staff, graduate students, and alumni/ae. The Jesuit
Foundation, funded by the USF Jesuit community, underwrote both events.
Asked about his parishs participation, Most Holy Redeemer pastor and
archdiocesan chancellor Meriwether told IgnatiusInsight.com, "Youd
have to speak to USF. We werent in charge of the presentation, nor
did we see it beforehand." Meriwether told IgnatiusInsight.com on March
28th that he did see the advance flyers and did not have a problem with
them. Asked what he believes, including whether he believes homosexuals
should practice celibacy rather than engage in homosexual relationships,
Meriwether said repeatedly, "I believe what the church teaches."
According to event publicity, the Most Holy Redeemer event was funded by
the USF Jesuit Foundation "to engage USF, the Catholic public, and
civic and religious leaders in dialog, research and advocacy around gay
and lesbian rights."
Most Holy Redeemer participates each year in the Gay Pride Parade, an often
profane and obscene celebration of homosexuality "because the parish
sees it as an outreach to a disaffected portion of the Catholic community,"
James Allison began his talk by saying he converted
to Catholicism because he had a crush on a straight Catholic man. Allison,
who describes himself as an itinerant Dominican based in London, told his
audience that Pope Benedict XVI is sympathetic to homosexuality.
"His privileging of monogamous heterosexual marriage as an especially
blessed form of love in his recent encyclical should not, I think, be read
as a blow against same-sex love. It leaves room for us and I suggest
that we read it as an invitation for us to work out what the rich elements
and gifts of same-sex love can be. How we are to set about creating a Catholic
culture of same-sex love. Its up to us!" Allison said.
Navigating a safe passage for the Catholic Church in San Francisco will
be a particularly thorny job for the archbishop. Within San Francisco city
government, all elected officials publicly disagree with the Church on matters
of abortion and homosexuality.
Mayor Gavin Newsom calls himself a "practicing Catholic" who disagrees
with the Church on same sex marriage, abortion, artificial contraception,
divorce and embryonic stem cell research. Newsom was an honored guest at
the going away dinner for Levada in August, and traditionally attends the
annual Catholic Charities fundraiser dinner. This despite a history of pro-gay
and pro-abortion activism, including his speech to a pro-abortion rally
designed to stop the first Walk for Life West Coast on January 22, 2005,
his issuance of marriage licenses to same sex couples, and his work lobbying
to bring a state embryonic stem cell and cloning center to San Francisco.
Board of Supervisors members include Sean Elsbernd
Alioto-Pier, heterosexual and married, who both say they attend church
regularly. Both voted for the resolution condemning Levada and the Vatican
on homosexual adoption.
a homosexual and a former schoolteacher, rose to prominence advocating gay
rights after the slaying of Harvey Milk by a fellow supervisor. As a school
board member, Supervisor Ammiano spearheaded the implementation of a sexual
education curriculum in city schools that presents homosexuality and its
permutations as equal to heterosexuality. Calling himself a "gay Catholic"
as well as a father and a grandfather, Ammiano is a father by virtue of
sperm donation to a lesbian couple.
Running for the state Assembly is the aforementioned Janet Reilly. Reilly is running on a pro-abortion
platform that included a link to a pro-abortion site that attacked an initiative
to require parental notification of a minors intent to procure an
abortion. The measure, which failed in the November 2005 election, was backed
by the California Catholic Conference. Reilly is now using her campaign
website to support gay adoptions by Catholic Charities. In a March 21 post,
Reilly said: "For me, the choice is clear we should put our
children first by continuing the long time practices of Catholic Charities
of placing children with any stable and loving household. To do otherwise,
would be to discriminate against gay and lesbian Americans and it would
also punish our children, many of whom are languishing in the foster care
What Next in San Francisco?
Thus, for George Niederauer, the new archbishop of San Francisco, and for
San Franciscans, a challenge awaits. As he recounted at a news conference
after his appointment was announced, his predecessor and high school buddy,
William Levada had two words of advice for him: "Take courage."
At that news conference in December, Niederauer said he saw his role as
bishop as "priest, prophet and shepherd."
Asked by reporters how he would reconcile the "conservative" positions
of the Church with this "liberal" city, Niederauer said:
"I want to get past labels. I think the ministry of Christ,
the ministry of Christ in his Church is to meet men, women and children
everywhere...to each the Good News which is the Good News for right,
left and center."
at San Francisco Catholic Charities Is A Gay Adoptive Father | Valerie
Schmalz | March 20, 2006
Niederauer: No Gay Adoptions | The Moment of Truth in San Francisco
| Valerie Schmalz | March 18, 2006
Valerie Schmalz is a writer for IgnatiusInsight. She worked as a reporter
and editor for The Associated Press, and in print and broadcast media for
ten years. She holds a BA in Government from University of San Francisco
and a Master of Science from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown
University. She is the former director of Birthright of San Francisco. Valerie
and her wonderful husband have four children.
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