Salvatore Cordileone, the archbishop of San Francisco who is a candidate to head America’s Catholic bishops’ conference, said the breakdown of the family is the most pressing issue in society.

Cordileone, 63, said family fragmentation, whether births out of wedlock or fatherless homes, creates a variety of problems, especially bad outcomes for children later in life. Cordileone is one of several candidates for president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, known as the USCCB, the assembly that oversees America’s Catholic bishops. He told the Washington Examiner that the church needs to act as “the moral conscience of society.”

He said the decline of the nuclear family is the most “urgent, as well as important” problem facing the country.

Labeling it the “root of so many social ills we’re experiencing right now,” Cordileone also said family breakdown is “correlated with so many terrible outcomes for individuals and for society as a whole.”

A San Diego native who studied at the city’s eponymous Catholic university, Cordileone has long been active on family-related issues in California. While the auxiliary bishop of San Diego, he was a vocal proponent of Proposition 8, the 2008 California referendum that banned gay marriage but was struck down by the courts. He was also elected last year to succeed Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput as chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth, which has as part of its mandate the “promotion and protection of marriage and family life.”

And as for reaching out to young people, who are more secular than their forebears, the archbishop said the answer might surprise some people.

“I think for a lot of people it’s counterintuitive, but it’s tradition that the young people respond to,” said Cordileone.

The USCCB presidential and vice presidential elections will take place next month during the body’s general assembly in Baltimore. Ten bishops and archbishops from across the country have been nominated as candidates for these posts. Those elected will serve three-year terms starting at the conclusion of the assembly.

Full story at The Washington Examiner.