Salvatore Joseph Cordileone was officially installed as the new Roman Catholic archbishop of San Francisco on Thursday at St. Mary's Cathedral during Mass – but not without protests from gay rights activists who see his appointment as an attack against same-sex marriage.
The 56-year old California native is known for his outspoken defense of traditional marriage, and he has been hailed by conservative Catholics as a staunch defender of the church. Supporters believe Cordileone will stand in contrast to more liberal parish leaders in San Francisco who favor including same-sex couples in the definition of marriage.
"God has always had a way of putting me in my place," Cordileone said about his new position. "With the last episode in my life, God has outdone Himself." About 2,000 people, including 40 bishops, attended Thursday's ceremony – but some were also there to protest against the archbishop and his support for Proposition 8, the bill in California that officially defined marriage as the union between one man and one woman.
"We all deserve the freedom to marry," read one of the signs carried by gay rights protesters.
"I'm here for gay people in general," said Billy Bradford, one demonstrator, according to the SF Appeal. "Cordileone has said we're against the natural order of things. No, we're not. We're people. We're family. I should be able to get married so that my son can be protected by two parents."
Supervisor Christina Olague, a bisexual woman, also noted that she was disappointed that "a person who has shown a great deal of intolerance for our community" has been appointed to the position, noting San Francisco's large LGBT community.
Some, however, have defended the new archbishop, who was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI in July to replace current Archbishop George Niederauer, noting that he is not a "one-issue" bishop and cares for more than the same-sex marriage debate, Reuters reported.
"The archbishop is an advocate for immigrants and an opponent of the death penalty, but he comes here perceived as a one-issue bishop," wrote Brian Cahill, former San Francisco Catholic Charities executive director.
"He can continue to be the aggressive, outspoken leader of the American Catholic bishops in their effort to prevent civil gay marriage, or he can be the shepherd of his flock. He can't be both, and if he tries, he will fail," he added.
Coincidentally, just days before his official appointment, Cordileone pleaded guilty on Monday in San Diego County Superior Court to misdemeanor reckless driving, after he was stopped by police in August on suspicion of drunk driving. He was sentenced to three years' probation and fined $1,120, and he has apologized for his actions and the embarrassment then incident caused the church.