I Guess He Really Meant It

Ive been waiting to read that the newly-installed Archbishop of San Francisco, Salvatore Cordileone, has offered a warm and sincere apology to the Episcopal Bishop of San Francisco, Marc Andrus. But as of today, Im still waiting.Heres what happened, as far as published sources have revealed it. Andrus issued a letterto his own people, dated the first of October, stating that he looks forward to working with Cordileone on issues of common concern. He cited global development and immigration as especially pressing subjects on which they wouldjoin in makingcommon cause. He acknowledges their differences over Proposition 8 (gay marriage) and promises that his own stand will remain firm. In light of the obvious disquiet among some over Cordileones appointment, he reminds his people in closing to welcome as brothers and sisters any who might turn up on the doorstep of the Episcopal Church. I found his message charitable, sober, andhonest.Bishop Andrus had been invited to the installation, which was held on October 4 at 2:00. He was told that he must arrive by 1:45 in order to be seated. He arrived, by his own account, at 1:40, and waited, chatting with some Orthodox bishops. The Orthodoxwere led away, and he was told to remain waiting. Two oclock arrived and he was still waiting. It became evident to him that he was not going to be seated. He left. A spokesman for the Catholic Archdiocese claimed that Andrus arrived late, and was not seated so as to not disturb the ceremony. Andruss own account clearly denies this.The incident has been reported in the Huffington Post, CNN, the website of the Episcopal Church of San Francisco, US Catholic, NCR, and a number of news sources and blogs since that time. Conspicuous by its absence is any statement from Cordileone, clarifying the matter.Now, admittedly there were a lot of people at this event, and big events always include opportunities for underlings to flub things up. If the failure to seat Bishop Andrus was actually a snafu that happened at the installation,with no offenseintended, what would you expect to happen next? I would expect Cordileone to call up Andrus the very next day and say Im sorry; I regret this happened; please forgive this lapse of etiquette; it was all due to some confusion and truly it was not an intentional slight. I would then let the press know that we had made amends, and invite him to another public event soon, so that it could be seen that the Catholic leader of the Archdiocese of San Francisco respects leaders of other, long-established religious bodies. They are our dialogue partners and local collaborators in building the Kingdom, after all.But no. As of this writing there has been no word, no explanation from Cordileone. Nothing in the press or on anyone's blog that adds substantially to the story. In terms of the news cycle, that's a long time.Reluctantly, I am coming to believe that the slight must have been intentional.This is shameful, if so. Some have suggested that the letter Andrus wrote to the members of the Episcopal Church of his diocese caused offense to Cordileone and therefore it was right not to admit him. A more puerileargument can hardly be imagined. Andrus was an invited guest. He did not crash the party. If his letter was so egregious, he ought to have been asked not to come, rather than left standing at the door when he arrived.What sort of a leader has been appointed to the Catholic see of San Francisco? What sort of bishop cares so little for ecumenism and public relations that he would sit quiet while all this unfolds? On August 25, Cordileone was arrested in San Diego for driving under the influence of alcohol. He joked about it at his installation, in fact.A regrettable mistake he called it, and of course that is true. The incident with Bishop Andrus at the installation may go down in history as another instance of bad judgment.But there are also worse consequences imaginable here. It may be the beginning of the end of ecumenism in San Francisco. And that is more than regrettable.

Rita Ferrone is the author of several books about liturgy, including Liturgy: Sacrosanctum Concilium (Paulist Press). She is a contributing writer to Commonweal.

Also by this author
Improvisation and the Passion

Please email comments to letters@commonwealmagazine.org and join the conversation on our Facebook page.

Must Reads

Politics
Culture
Culture
Books
Books
Books