A Letter to Pope Francis
4 . 16 . 15
I recall with pleasure and gratitude my visit to the Vatican in November and your moving address to our Colloquium on the Complementarity of Man and Woman in Marriage. There, gathered with leaders of the world’s great religious traditions, East and West, you reaffirmed the Church’s doctrine of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife and spoke movingly of the right of every child “to grow up in a family with a father and mother.”
Here in the United States we are blessed with many bishops who join you in bearing witness to these profound and indispensable truths. Even in the face of social and economic pressure on them to yield or go silent, they boldly and joyously proclaim the Church’s teachings on marriage and chastity. None has been more fearless or ardent in upholding these beautiful and liberating teachings than Salvatore Cordileone, the Archbishop of San Francisco.
Faithful Catholics in his archdiocese and throughout our country have been edified by his labors—particularly those addressed to ensuring that the Catholic schools under his care teach and model fidelity to Catholic doctrine in all matters of faith and morals. Unsurprisingly, however, these labors have drawn the antagonism of many who despise the Church’s moral teachings, especially those concerning marriage and sexual morality.
This morning, a group of people published an open letter to you in a San Francisco newspaper urging you to remove Archbishop Cordileone from his office. They identify themselves as Catholics and plead with you to send them a new archbishop that will be true to what they describe as “our values.” But their values, unlike the values proclaimed and upheld by Archbishop Cordileone, are not the values of the Catholic faith. Their complaint against the Archbishop finally comes down to his refusal to bow down before the values of contemporary secularist sexual morality and gender ideology. For this, however, he should be applauded and encouraged, not condemned, much less ousted.
Be assured, Holy Father, that the “prominent Catholics,” as the media describes them, who call on you to remove Archbishop Cordileone do not speak for the faithful Catholics of San Francisco. Already, a movement has emerged to support and encourage the Archbishop. It is a movement of grateful Catholics—not “prominent” people—but ordinary men and women, many of them immigrants or the children of immigrants from many lands. These men and women are grateful to have an archbishop who believes and teaches what the Church believes and teaches. They send their children to the diocesan schools because they desire for them an education imbued with a Christian spirit and shaped by the teachings of the Catholic faith. Their spirits have been lifted by Archbishop Cordileone’s tireless work to ensure that such an education is available to all who desire it.
With gratitude to God for your own witness and ministry, I humbly ask you to join those of us who are supporting and encouraging Archbishop Cordileone. It would be a wonderful thing for you quietly to let him know that he has your blessing, and that the insults and defamations he is experiencing as a result of his faithful apostolic work are a participation in the redemptive suffering of Jesus, who said: “anyone who would be my disciple must take up his cross and follow me.”
Sincerely yours in our beloved Savior,
Robert P. George
Robert P. George is McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University