Back in September, when Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone began a campaign of public pressure to loosen government restrictions on the Church, I wrote ( “Two Cheers for Archbishop Cordileone”) to pose a question:
If the archbishop thinks that the city’s restrictions are unreasonable—if he thinks that it would be safe to celebrate Mass for a larger congregation in the city’s cathedral—why doesn’t he take the obvious action? Why doesn’t he go into his own cathedral, invite the public, and celebrate Mass?
In a phone conversation a month later, the archbishop answered my question, and his answer forced me to rethink my own position. Although I am still inclined to favor outright defiance of government restrictions on worship, he introduced some important complications in what I had considered a fairly simple argument.
My argument, as outlined in that September column, was threefold:
- Administrative restrictions on public worship are probably invalid; they lack the force of legislation;
- Even if the restrictions are legally wrought, they violate the First Amendment prohibition against restrictions on religious worship; and
- A law barring access to the Mass is an unjust law, and need not be obeyed.
Therefore, I suggested, defy the restrictions and face the consequences.
But what would the consequences actually be? Ah, there’s the rub.
Toward the end of our conversation, I acknowledged to Archbishop Cordileone that I was urging him to take an action that might get him arrested. He responded immediately: “Oh, if I thought that’s what I thought would happen, I’d do it.” The complication, he explained, is that he probably would not be arrested for an act of civil disobedience. An arrest would create an uproar, energizing apathetic Catholics and religious-freedom advocates. Government officials would find other, more damaging ways to punish the Church.
Civil disobedience, the archbishop reasons, must be “used very strategically.” If he had defied the city restrictions in September, he believed, it “would have been seen as reckless.” Instead he launched a publicity campaign, hoping for a victory in the court of public opinion.
At the time, the archbishop recalled, the city’s regulations were welcomed by many residents— including many Catholics— who were fearful about the spread of the Covid virus. If he defied the restrictions, political leaders would have condemned him for endangering the public, thus strengthened public opinion in their favor, and made it even harder to win a political campaign against the restrictions.
Fortunately, at about the same time, studies by the Thomistic Institute demonstrated that there had been no Covid infections— none— traced to Catholic churches. The archdiocese had adopted its own guidelines, demonstrating a determination to minimize any risk. Armed with these facts, which alleviated fears about contagion in churches, he “began agitating” for the city to lift restrictions.
The archbishop also sought to make the religious-freedom argument in a manner that would appeal to the undecided. The archdiocese recognizes the government’s authority to ensure public safety, he said; but the Church could not accept restrictions on worship that would “effectively ban it.”
The city did ease restrictions— a bit— with the new rules taking effect just before the feast of Corpus Christi. Archbishop Cordileone instructed his pastors to anticipate the new rules on the feast day: technically violating the rules that had not yet been superseded. But some parishes were cited for violations, and some received cease-and-desist orders. Reports of those alleged violations quickly found their way into the media. “This is how they hurt us,” the archbishop observed.
In September the city ruled that churches could allow no more than 50 people inside for Mass. That rule was absurd, the archbishop pointed out, for a building like the cathedral, which could easily absorb a few hundred people and still allow for ample social distancing. Moreover, the rules allowed that only one person at a time could enter a church for private prayer. There were no such restrictions on tattoo parlors. The anti-religious effect of these regulations was evident.
San Francisco’s political leaders “overplayed their hand” at this point, the archbishop believes. From Washington, the Department of Justice rebuked San Francisco for anti-religious discrimination. Archbishop Cordileone published an op-ed column in the Washington Post, setting forth his case to a national audience. In that battle for public opinion, he said, “we won that initial battle, but there’s more to go.”
Archbishop Cordileone continues to wage the battle, and today, as I write, he is celebrating the news that a Marin County prosecutor plans to bring felony charges against vandals who destroyed a statue of St. Junipero Serra at a local church. He is making some progress, in a difficult climate, in his bid to rally broad public support.
Yet the Church in San Francisco still labors under tight restrictions. And the threat of a second lockdown— already a reality in New York— raises the distinct possibility that the restrictions will be tightened once again. When I asked whether he could envision a situation that would call for outright civil disobedience, Archbishop Cordileone said that it would be a last resort. “I don’t perceive a need right now,” he said, “but I’m taking no options off the table.”
The above comes from a Nov. 13 interview by Phil Lawler on the Catholic Culture website.
The Archbishop would do well to plan for tented masses with portable heaters on the plaza of the Cathedral, and parking lots throughout the diocese.
YFC, as I asked you previously, are you Gavin Newsom by any chance?
You seem to want to be dictator of California.
If you’re not the fine diner with exceptional hypocrisy, you should know that we already have a dictator, who’s one of our fellow Catholics.
And, it seems you and he have a lot of agreement.
Obviously attendance at Mass isn’t essential to Newsom or YFC, that is compared to a dinner at a fancy French restaurant.
YFC posted his picture when he came on here years ago, and unless I did not recognize his face, or Newsome took his place, he is someone else. YFC is a lot older now and probably not as toned as he was then unless the picture was a fake all along.
Quite frankly, I suspect both YFC and his “partner” post on here at times. He said he had a male partner. Could be a lie, though, to keep the fight going.
I have no doubt we have had dissident clergy on here over the years pushing garbage also, twisting the Holy Bible like a pretzel until it was unrecognizable.
You got me. I am Governor Gavin Newsom and I have nothing better to do than to chit-chat with my beloved subjects.
How did you post your picture?
In the past people could post their pictures on this website by their chosen name. The format was changed.
Appeasement won’t solve or save anything. Ask Neville Chamberlain. The Mass is essential and any Catholic who won’t acknowledge this is weak, fake or both. We are the church militant, which means we fight.
His passivity at Serra’s toppling sure encouraged civil disobedience.
He’s not the only one that is a coward.
The local SSPX chapel that I formerly attended sent an email from the pastor reminding people to more safetly distance while standing in line for communion. Apparently, there were *gasp* strangers (!) on the grounds during outdoor Mass. He expressed concerns that these strangers migth report lack of distancing to ‘AUTHORITY / ENGSOC” and result in another SSPX location getting shutdown. Afraid of government spies! Why doesnt the Church authorities recognize that this OPPRESSION is only going to worsen. The more you give to Caesar the more he”ll want until he has it all and you have no sacrifice of the Mass anymore.
I’m still somewhat shocked at the level of quisling I observe in the Church today. Just utter fear on worldly authorities. Didnt expect that from the SSPX but this chapel shut down and stayed that way.
I have no doubt that in the current crisis the last thing the Archbishop fears is being jailed. But, were that to happen, he should wear his purple skull cap [zuchetto] and his pectoral cross over his orange jump-suit in his jail cell. Then, hopefully, someone could take a photo of him, smiling widely, with the caption “How do you like my new outfit?”. I’d bet that picture would flood the airwaves, and grace many print-press media. And as the Scriptures say, it would, “heap hot rocks on the heads” of the dumbos trying to squelch religious practice!
Here is a bishop who’s never afraid to lead his flock to truth, and who would never mis-lead them.
AXIOS! AXIOS! AXIOS!
You guys realize that California is the only state where you can’t go to Church? Now, NY is limiting attendance and being challenged in court. I think most diocese re-opened in May-June. Correct me if I’m wrong.
Based on our covid spike after re-opening, I think you should do your live streams and stay home.
You do your livestreams and stay home. The rest of us want to go to Mass!
You are afraid your iddy biddy fingers might get chilly willy if you have to go to mass outdoors?
You mean you aren’t concerned about the people who might get sick from the cold then spread illness to all their family friends coworkers neighbors and world? Guess you just think covid kills, you’re so mean.
We all want to go to Mass. You should do the Lord’s Will.
If the 1st century Christians had been so spineless as our current clerical leadership, there would have been no 2nd century Christians.
I say, the Archbishop has shown much prudence here in his steps and actions as described in this article: much more prudence in comparison to some of the commentariat of this here blog who do nothing but egg on the clergy to “defy” the civil government. What would have been gained by such a “stunt”? Nothing. Kudos Archbishop.
There is nothing more important than attending Mass and receiving the Eucharist. Our Parish San Antonio de Padua del Canyon has been forced to have all masses outside. The beautiful thing is that we have 250-300 people attend each Sunday Mass. Our daily Mass is attended via Internet as we are not able to do the daily Mass outside but we still have 200 or more who attend daily Mass that way. They will never be able to stop us from attending Mass in one form or another. The problem with video Mass is we cannot receive the body of Christ. But we will be true to our faith no matter what.
This leader of the catholic church Mr. Cordileone fails to acknowledge that many non-christians despise the institutional church for its handling of the abuse of children by priests. I for one am against the church and Cordileone because it and he are corrupt and should be outlawed.