SF archbishop jokes about recent DUI arrest

Associated Press Modified: October 5, 2012 at 9:46 am •  Published: October 5, 2012
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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Amid heavy security and the splendor of his faith's most sacred rites, the new Roman Catholic archbishop of San Francisco assumed office Thursday without referring to the distress his appointment has aroused in this gay-friendly city, but offering self-deprecating jokes about his recent drunken driving arrest.

Archbishop Salvatore Joseph Cordileone, wearing gold and red robes with a matching miter, told an audience of more than 2,000 invited guests at his installation mass that he was grateful for the messages of support he had received from people of different religious and political viewpoints following the Aug. 25 arrest in his home town of San Diego.

"I know in my life God has always had a way of putting me in my place. I would say, though, that in the latest episode of my life God has outdone himself," Cordileone said with a chuckle as he delivered his first homily as archbishop.

The 56-year-old priest, the second-youngest U.S. archbishop, went on to say he did not know "if it's theologically correct to say God has a way of making himself known in this way," and asked for the indulgence of other high-ranking church leaders in the audience.

The connection, he said, was that the compassion he was shown "in the wake of the regrettable mistake I made to drive after drinking" made him hopeful the Bay Area's Catholic community has the tools it needs to be part of a broader rebuilding of the church.

Cordileone had been scheduled to appear in court on the misdemeanor charge next Tuesday. Court records show he pleaded guilty on Monday to a reduced charge of reckless driving, an option frequently given to first-time DUI offenders, said Gina Coburn, a spokeswoman for the San Diego City Attorney.

The standard sentence for reckless driving is three years' probation and a $1,120 fine, Coburn said.

As Cordileone spoke during Thursday's mass, about three dozen gay rights advocates gathered outside St. Mary's Cathedral to protest his induction opposite a much larger group singing hymns of welcome.

Cordileone, who served as bishop of neighboring Oakland for the last three-and-a-half years, has a nationwide reputation as a fierce defender of the Catholic Church's positions on homosexuality in general and same-sex marriage in particular.

He was one of the early engineers of California's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage in 2008, and since 2011 has chaired the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' subcommittee charged with opposing efforts to legalize gay unions.

Several members of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a performing arts troupe of men dressed in nuns' habits, showed up to highlight Cordileone's connection to the "dogma of bullying" they said the same-sex marriage ban represents.

Meanwhile, interfaith tensions over the marriage issue threatened to mar the Cordileone's day. The Rev. Marc Andrus, the Episcopal bishop for Northern California and a strong same-sex marriage supporter, reported that he was snubbed when he showed up for the cathedral service, which came three days after Andrus had written an open letter offering a spiritual home to any Catholics who felt disowned by the archbishop's views.

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